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9 Things We Learned About The Original Voice Of Uncle Iroh: Makoto Iwamatsu

Updated August 20, 2021 357 votes 37 voters 2.1k views9 items

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Most people of this generation probably know the late Mako Iwamatsu best for his voice acting roles as the iconic Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender and Aku from Samurai Jack, but there's so much more to the man than just that. Mako has a very storied history that's not only interesting, but even helped shape the film industry as we currently know it. Here are a few tidbits about Mako's life that you just might be hearing about for the first time.

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    Mako Has A Star On The Walk Of Fame

    Photo: Luijtenphotos / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Mako Iwamatsu had a long and storied career, one that helped shape Hollywood into what it would become today, and for his efforts, he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

    Even after that, he never stopped acting, and up until his passing, Mako provided people young and old with an example of what Asian actors were truly capable of.

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  • 2

    Mako Founded The East West Players To Give Asian American Actors A Fair Shake

    The biggest contribution Mako made to the world of acting was the work he did to give Asian American actors a chance at the spotlight, and that all started with his founding of the East West Players in 1965. In the era in which Mako first started acting, Asian actors were only ever cast to play villains or offensive stereotypes, so Mako and his friends founded the East West Players to nurture the acting abilities of Asian American actors and "to show we are capable of more than just fulfilling the stereotypes - waiter, laundryman, gardener, martial artist, villain." 

    Many people agree that if it weren't for Mako, there would be no Asian American theater, which is why, as such, he's so highly regarded as the godfather of Asian American theater.

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  • 3

    Mako’s Parents Were Political Dissenters

    Photo: Avatar: The Last Airbender / Nickelodeon

    Mako's life is plenty interesting on its own, but his parents, Mitsu and Taro Yashima, are also worth taking a look at. Mitsu and Taro were both progressive political dissenters of Japan's militaristic government, something that drew a lot of negative attention their way, to the point that they were once arrested and beaten by the secret police.

    When WWII started, the two fled to America to join the war effort with the OSS, even though it meant leaving a young Mako behind in Japan to be ridiculed for having parents who were "traitors." It wouldn't be until 1949 that Mako was reunited with his parents, and one can only imagine how the experience shaped all three of them.

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  • 4

    Mako Discovered His Talent While In The Military

    Photo: Unknown / Wikipedia / Fair Use

    Mako's parents weren't the only ones involved with the military, as Mako, himself, served briefly in the 1950s. He didn't accomplish much as a soldier, but it did end up being a major step forward for his career either way, for the love his friends showed for the little performances he would put on for them convinced him to take on acting as a serious career

    Mako started training at the Pasadena Community Playhouse after his service ended, and the rest, to a certain extent, is history.

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