An endlessly imaginative and compelling actor, Tzi Ma has created a score of memorable film, television and stage characters. From his recent roles as Hinh, a deadly efficient assassin and nationalist spy masquerading as Michael Caine's ever-invaluable assistant in The Quiet American (2002) to his hilarious, lit-cigarette-swallowing take as The General in Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's The Ladykillers (2004), Ma always delivers the unexpected.
So far, 2005 is offering Ma even more opportunities to brand his indelible stamp on widely diverse projects. This year will see him in a slate of shows, including a multi-episode cliffhanger for the critically acclaimed hit series 24 (2001); the inspirational Lions Gate family drama Akeelah and the Bee (2006); Nick Cassavetes' Alpha Dog (2006); the indie experimental film by new filmmaker Juwan Chung, Baby (2003), in which Ma will also function as associate producer; an episode of JAG (1995) that aired in the spring, and the indie movie Red Doors (2005), which premiered at the Fourth Annual Tribeca Film Festival and won for best narrative feature made in New York. Red Doors (2005) is the work of writer/director Georgia Lee, who served as director Martin Scorsese's apprentice on the set of Gangs of New York (2002) in Rome. She approached Ma to play the part of vulnerable, emotionally bankrupt father Ed Wong, who is desperately trying to mask his incessant suicidal compulsions from his three grown daughters. On the pulse-accelerating season closer for 24 (2001), Ma is the main protagonist, the relentless head of security for the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles. Shedding his diplomatic correctness to go eyeball to eyeball against Kiefer Sutherland's Agent Jack Bauer, Ma's character engages in a searing, deadly duel of wit, intimidation and lies. In Baby (2003) and Akeelah and the Bee (2006), starring Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett, Ma again interprets fatherhood, first as an intensely competitive "sports dad" driving his small son to win at any cost, then as an alcoholic who sees his son embracing a similar path of failure and waste. It was a personal invitation from director Cassavetes that led to Ma's cameo in Alpha Dog (2006), based on the headline-grabbing activities of Jesse James Hollywood, an alleged drug dealer accused of masterminding a kidnap-murder.
Tzi Ma was born in Hong Kong and raised in New York City. Surrounded by music, diverse cultures, and an eclectic lifestyle, he defied tradition to study classical theater and dance. Drive and versatility resulted in steady stage and film work and since that time he has appeared in such television series as The Practice (1997), JAG (1995), The Bernie Mac Show (2001), Chicago Hope (1994), Millennium (1996), Jake 2.0 (2003), Martial Law (1998), ER (1994), Law & Order (1990), Boomtown (2002), as the star of the series Yellowthread Street (1990), and in the popular recurring role of Det. Harold Ng on NYPD Blue (1993). His numerous feature films include Rush Hour (1998), Golden Gate (1998), Dante's Peak (1997), Rapid Fire (1992), Chain Reaction (1996), and the acclaimed indie feature Catfish in Black Bean Sauce (1999).
On stage, he garnered critical and popular acclaim with his starring role of "Master Wang/Sammy Fong" in the revised version of "Flower Drum Song" by David Henry Hwang, at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Ma also appeared in two plays written especially for him, "The Dance and The Railroad," by Tony award-winning playwright Hwang (M. Butterfly) and "In Perpetuity Throughout The Universe" by Eric Ellis Overmyer (executive producer of Law & Order (1990)).
Ma has received numerous awards and nominations for his work, including the Cine Golden Eagle Award for Best Actor in "The Dance and The Railroad"; an Ace Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in The Forgotten (2004), a TV film directed by James Keach; a Dramalogue Best"Choreographer/Best Director Award for "The Dance and The Railroad"; and a Garland Award nomination for Best Actor, as well as a Los Angeles City Council Citation, for "Flower Drum Song." Ma maintains homes in New York and Los Angeles.View Full Bio