Currently playing the character Melinda May on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., self-proclaimed “geek gal of all trades” Ming-Na Wen got her first major recurring role as Lien Hughes on As The World Turns, becoming the first Asian-American actress to land a contract role on a daytime soap opera.
Wen moved on from the series in 1991, eventually scoring two big screen gig as June Woo in The Joy Luck Club and Chun-Li in Street Fighter. Around the same time, she costarred on the sitcom The Single Guy and began her first run as the character Deb Chen on the NBC medical drama ER.
In 1998, Wen acted as the voice of the title character in Disney’s critically acclaimed animated film Mulan. Her voiceover work earned her an Annie Award and led to future jobs as Detective Ellen Yin on The Batman, Jade on HBO’s Spawn and Aki Ross in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. She would reprise the role of Mulan in the 2005 direct-to-video sequel, as well as a 2014 appearance on the Disney Channel series Sofia the First (alongside her daughter Michaela Zee, who has a recurring role on the show as Princess Jun).
Mulan was not the only role Wen came back to, however. The producers of ER decided to revive her character in 2000, bringing her back as a series regular up until the show’s eleventh season. Dr. Jing-Mei Chen has been described as “one of the program’s most enduring characters“.
Wen has also starred in Stargate Universe as Camille Wray, the first openly lesbian in the Stargate franchise. Beyond that and her current stint on S.H.I.E.L.D., she has held brief roles on Eureka, Two and a Half Men, Boston Legal, Private Practice and Nashville.
Reflecting on her career, Wen once expressed interest in eventually returning to her roots as a stage actress: “I’ve been lucky, knock on wood. But you have to have a sense of humor and grounding about all this
stuff. I have a gypsy spirit. That’s why I keep an apartment in New
York for when I want to get back to theater, because Broadway always
will be my final fantasy.“
Okay, because I’m in the middle of my rewatch, I need talk about two of my favorite friendships on ER.
Carol and Mark! Aw, Carol and Mark! They’re like brother and sister; he says he’d probably miss her more than Doug if they left together, he’s her lazame coach, they both were the third wheel on each other’s dates! There’s just something I truly love about a man and woman being friends with no romantic undertones, just buddies who work together and platonically love each other. They go jogging together. They support each other and give each other prep talks and guidance on their relationships (with Doug and Elizabeth). They’re so sweet.
Now on to Carter and Deb, (sorry, Jing-Mei, I always go back and forth on what to call her), hands down one of my favorite fictional friendships in any medium ever. In season 1, they’re both med students, and so competitive with each other. But their dynamic is so great! When Deb comes back in season 6, they butt heads again but there still is respect underneath that. They go through a lot after her return to the ER, Carter and Lucy’s stabbing, Lucy’s death, then Carter’s painkiller addiction; later on Deb gets pregnant and gives up the baby for adoption. Carter is even her lamaze coach just like Mark was for Carol! They both grow up and have each other’s backs.