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Why Hank from Tigertail looks so familiar

Contains mild spoilers for Tigertail

Tigertail debuted on Netflix on April 10, 2020 to widespread acclaim. Written and directed by former Parks and Recreation scribe Alan Yang in his feature directorial debut, Tigertail tells a moving and deeply personal tale of the immigrant experience (Yang himself is the son of Taiwanese immigrants) that has resonated with viewers of all backgrounds.

The film follows Pin-Jui (Hong-Chi Lee), an individualist young man who leaves behind his life (and love) in Taiwan to move to America in hopes of a better future. As Pin-Jui grows older (this version played in the film by Tzi Ma) — living in an arranged marriage to Zhenzhen (Fiona Fu) without true love or care, working a tedious job, and struggling to connect with his daughter Angela (Christine Ko) — he knows he must find himself again. In the past lies Pin-Jui's future — one he hopes will be filled with happiness.

There are a few well-known faces among the cast of Tigertail, but one in particular is likely to be quite familiar — if perhaps a bit difficult to place. The character of Hank, Zhenzhen's new husband after she and Pin-Jui divorce, is a relatively minor one. However, if you've watched television in the last four decades or so, you've definitely seen the actor who plays him before.

That man is James Saito. His miles-long film and television resume is a testament to the fact that he's one of the most capable and reliable character actors in Hollywood. Saito might have held down more than a few bit parts over the years, but he always makes an impression no matter how big or small his roles are; '90s kids in particular will probably remember him as the villain in an early and beloved entry into the genre of superhero cinema.

Here's why Hank from Tigertail looks so familiar.

James Saito has been all over TV since the '70s

Saito's career in Hollywood began with a small role in the 1976 TV movie Farewell to Manzanar, and after parlaying that appearance into a guest spot on the Korean War comedy M*A*S*H*, his phone apparently began to ring off the hook with offers to guest on just about every network television series of that era. In the '70s and '80s alone, Saito popped up in minor roles on shows like The Fall Guy, T.J. Hooker, Charles in Charge, MacGyver, The A-Team, Hill Street Blues, Airwolf, and Miami Vice — and that's not even the full list.

Beginning in the '90s, the actor began to split his time a little more evenly between television and films, thanks to a fairly high-profile feature gig in 1990 (which we'll get to in a moment). But Saito has never stopped lending his veteran chops to minor characters on the small screen. In more recent years, you might have seen him appear on series like Law & Order: Criminal Intent (as Mr. Miyazaki), Third Watch (as Sergeant Yee), Blue Bloods (as Dennis Eng), Hawaii Five-0 (as David Toriyama), Person of Interest (as Glen)and Grey's Anatomy (as Herschel Katano), among others.

James Saito was an iconic villain in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

That 1990 feature gig previously mentioned will ring some bells for any kid who grew up in that decade. If that describes you, chances are that you've seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — the first big-screen adaptation of the comic series of the same name by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird — more times than you can count. This might be why Saito's expressive eyes look so darned familiar: he was the man behind the mask of Oroku Saki, the villainous Shredder.

The role was a bit of a double-edged sword for Saito — no pun intended. While it certainly his most high-profile part to date, the role of Oroku Saki required Saito's face to be partially obscured for most of his time on screen. Like the Ninja Turtles and their rodent sensei Splinter, his dialogue was also dubbed over by a voice actor. But the part still allowed Saito to showcase his physicality, and it also gave him plenty of screen time. 

While his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles role remains one of Saito's most substantial, it's not an exaggeration to say that after his turn in the beloved flick, the feature offers began to pour in.

James Saito went on to appear in a ton of feature films

Saito was no stranger to feature work pre-Ninja Turtles. He'd previously appeared in the 1980 musical drama The Idolmaker, the 1984 ski comedy Hot Dog... The Movie, and the 1987 biographical drama Beyond the Next Mountain. But post-Ninja Turtles, the bit parts started to come in bigger productions. Over the next dozen years, Saito popped up in Die Hard with a Vengeance (as a Korean proprietor), the bonkers Keanu Reeves-starring horror flick The Devil's Advocate (as Takaori Osumi), and the hit heist film The Thomas Crown Affair (as Paul Cheng). He even landed a small role in Michael Bay's mega-budget historical drama Pearl Harbor.

More recently, Saito has appeared in Tim Burton's 2014 biopic Big Eyes, playing a judge; Marc Webb's intriguing 2017 drama The Only Boy Living in New York, portraying James; and the hit 2019 romantic comedy Long Shot, appearing in an uncredited role as Minister Kishido. Incidentally, that wasn't Saito's only appearance in a rom-com that year: Netflix viewers almost certainly recognize him from his featured role in a film that happens to be one of the best offerings from that genre of the last decade or so.

You've probably seen James Saito on Netflix before

That film is Always Be My Maybe, the hilarious, heartfelt Netflix original starring Randall Park and Ali Wong as longtime friends (and sometime lovers) who reconnect after being absent from each others' lives for 16 years. Saito portrayed the father of Park's Marcus Kim, who employs his son at his heating and air conditioning company. His awkward interaction with Wong's Sasha Tran, who has become a celebrity chef in her adulthood, as the father-son pair install air conditioning in her new home is a fine illustration of Saito's underrated, deadpan comedy chops.

Streaming viewers might also recognize Saito from his guest appearance as Dr. Krebs on a 2016 episode of House of Cards, from his guest spot as Yu-Ti on Marvel's Iron Fist, or from season 2 of the brain-bending sci-fi series Altered Carbon, on which he appears in a main role as Tanaseda Hideki, a centuries-old Yakuza boss who has a bit of a history with the series' main character, Takeshi Kovacs.

Saito is an actor who has never failed to keep himself plenty busy for over 40 years, and he doesn't appear to be slowing down. Next on tap for Saito is a supporting part as Dr. Stein in the upcoming film Algorithm: BLISS, plus an appearance as Arthur Mori on the Netflix series Dash & Lily, an adaptation of a YA novel series from authors David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. Even though the actor's career has been going strong since before many of you were born, viewers will certainly continue to see Saito's face on screens big and small for years to come.