Donald Li is an American actor who appeared in several films and television shows and is perhaps best known for his role as Eddie Lee in the 1986 John Carpenter film “Big Trouble in Little China”.
Li was born in 1961 in Hong Kong China. He studied in the advance training program at the American Conservatory Theater.
Donald started acting in 1983 with his first roll in the TV movie Cook & Peary: The Race to the Pole.
This television movie was about the historic race to the North Pole between United States explorer Frederick Cook and US Navy engineer Robert Peary. Donald Li portrayed the character Etukishook an Inuit man who help Frederick Cook reached the North Pole on April 21, 1908.
He followed that up with a role in 80’s TV series “ The Equalizer”. This show served as the inspiration for the reboot of The Equalizer trilogy staring Denzel Washington. Donald played Joe Boy on the show for an episode.
Big Trouble in Little China
In 1986 , his most well known role came next as Eddie Lee in Big Trouble in Little China.
Eddie is Wang Chi’s friend, and also the new maitre’d at the Black Pool Restaurant. The first line he utters in this movie is “ Good Afternoon, Mr. Wong.”
Wang then introduces him to Jack Burton (Kurt Russell). Eddie then realized this is the same Jack Burton that Wang was always telling him about. He tells Jack his abandon truck was stolen by the Lords of Death much to Jack’s chagrin. Eddie tells Jack they were caught in a triad war and if they hadn’t run away Jack and Wang would have joined Lem Lee in the Hell of Being Cut to Pieces. Chinese have lots of hells!
Another great scene is when Eddie meets ups with Wang and Jack at David Lo Pan’s place and he picks up a shotgun, while Jack ask Wang if wants to trade his pistol for Wang’ semiautomatic. They trade and Wang takes Eddie’s shotgun and gives him the pistol instead much to his dismay.
It’s at about this point in the movie when Jack tries to use the semi-automatic and can’t get it to work. Eddie tells him the safety is still on. Jack switches the safety off and unwittingly fires it, killing some of Lo Pan (James Hong)‘s men. Jack is completely shocked by this, and Eddie ask “ Is this the first time you ever plugged anybody?” Jack replies sheepishly of course not!
Eddie seems to be a fountain of info. He knew why the Lords of death took Mao Yin, he knew they stole the truck, and he knew it was just a joyride and nothing from the Wing Kong. He really is a whole lot more like he told Jack when they first met!
Donald initially wanted to play one of the Storms. He auditioned for Lighting, but John Carpenter was looking for a smaller actor, so John Carpenter offered him the role of Eddie Li, and the rest is history.
What Did He Do After Big Trouble in Little China?
After Big Trouble in Little China, Donald had a role as cab driver in Memoirs of the Invisible Man staring Chevy Chase and Daryl Hannah.
He played a guard in Rapid Fire staring Bruce Lee’s son Brandon Lee. In 1992 he was in the Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style with the kids from Bayside.
His next notable role was playing a detective in U.S. Marshals staring Tommy Lee Jones. The sequel to the smash hit The Fugitive.
He has appeared in various television shows over the years from The Practice, The Bold and The Beautiful, to Southland and Days of our Lives.
In 2012 he appeared in the biggest move of the year The Avengers which went on to gross 1.5 billion dollars at the worldwide box office. He played a member of the World Security Council who was talking to Nick Fury about the Avengers Initiative.
What is Donald Li Doing Now?
Recently he has been a voice actor for the anime series Record of Ragnarok voicing the characters Zhang Fei and Seigen Toda. His most recent work comes from a Starz series called Gaslit which is about the Watergate Scandal staring Julia Roberts and Sean Penn in which he plays a biopsy doctor.
He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife Jennifer and, son Steward. He says he still keeps in touch with his Big Trouble in Little China co-stars Kurt Russell and Kim Cattrall.