Gedde Watanabe

Active - 1983 - 2017  |   Born - Jun 26, 1955 in Ogden, Utah, United States  |   Genres - Drama

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

The character that Gedde Watanabe is most remembered for is no doubt Long Duk Dong, the spastic foreign exchange student in Sixteen Candles (1984) whose drunken fall from a tree and laughable bastardization of the English language had ninth graders of the day rolling in theater aisles. Though a few major roles followed soon after, Watanabe ultimately fell victim to the comic typecasting machine, rendering his talents muted in favor of the stereotypical "humorous foreign-guy" roles in which he would repeatedly stumble through the cursed paces of his former footprints.

It seems ironic that the actor who is remembered for these roles is a native not of Japan or some far away shore, but of Ogden, UT. Though his roles have expanded in their nature somewhat in recent years, Watanabe, a fine comic actor with a certain warm sincerity, has appeared frequently in major releases, though usually a little further down the credit list. Studying acting at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, CA, Watanabe also possesses a notable talent for crooning, appearing early on as an original cast member of Sondheim's Pacific Overtures in the 1970s.

After his breakout role in Candles, Watanabe continued to riff on his likeable but mechanical Japanese-guy persona with humorous roles in UHF (1989) and, perhaps most notably, Gung-Ho (1986) and the short-lived television series of the same name that followed. Bit parts in television and film followed fairly frequently, often appearing in such television series as ER and doing voice-over work for such animated series as The Simpsons and Batman: Beyond. The late '90s showed promise for Watanabe with a couple of small yet stereotype-busting roles in Guinevere and EdTV (both 1999).

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  • Began his career as a street singer in San Francisco's Chinatown.
  • In 1976, made his Broadway debut in Pacific Overtures, originating the role of the Boy in a Tree.
  • Attended the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.
  • Best known for his role as Long Duk Dong, the clumsy foreign exchange student in Sixteen Candles (1984).