After escaping from Vietnam with his family on the day Saigon fell in 1975, Dustin Nguyen (pronounced "Gwen") went on to establish himself as one of Hollywood’s premiere Asian-American actors, having starred on such hit shows as "21 Jump Street,” "Seaquest DSV" and “V.I.P.”
This summer, Nguyen will star in the Porchlight Films feature LITTLE FISH opposite Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett. Nguyen will play ‘Jonny,’ Cate’s love interest in a story that revolves around her ‘Tracy,’ an ex-heroin-addict trying to rebuild her life. Nguyen will play her first love and fellow recovered addict, a successful stockbroker that re-enters ‘Tracy’s’ life determined to convince her that they are still meant to be together.
Nguyen’s most recent television appearance was a guest-starring role in the hit CBS drama “JAG.” Before then, he starred in the one-hour syndicated action series “V.I.P.” opposite Pamela Anderson. Nguyen played 'Johnny Loh,' an action movie star from Hong Kong who joins forces with V.I.P., the elite professional bodyguard agency led by Pamela Anderson. As a result of his work on the show, Nguyen won a 2000 Ammy Award, the Asian equivalent to the Emmy, for Best Male Actor and was again nominated in 2001.
In recent years, Nguyen has also found success in feature films. He landed a pivotal role in Warner Bros.' HEAVEN AND EARTH, directed by Oliver Stone, followed by the action-drama NO ESCAPE, NO RETURN. In addition, he also starred in the independent romantic-comedy ONE HUNDRED PERCENT.
Born in South Vietnam, Nguyen enjoyed a comfortable existence where his father was one of the nation's top film and stage actors. Leaving the country behind on a moment's notice, the Nguyens became the first Vietnamese family to settle in St. Louis, Missouri. During his junior high school years, Nguyen found "personal excellence" through martial arts, which he describes as "the first awakening of my soul." Following high school, he moved to Southern California to attend Orange Coast College, and at the suggestion of a friend, he took an acting class, or as he describes it "the second awakening of my soul." And the rest, as he puts it, "was a series of fateful events."
After making his professional debut on a special two-hour "Magnum P.I.," where he portrayed a young Cambodian freedom fighter, Nguyen went on to enjoy enormous popularity as "Suki" on "General Hospital." His breakthrough role, however, came when he was cast as "Detective Harry Ioki" in the new FOX network's flagship show "21 Jump Street," on which he starred for four seasons. It was here that Nguyen became the first primetime Asian heartthrob, and his official introduction to fame!
What is more to his liking is testing his limits on his Ducati motorcycle, or practicing his Muay Thai kickboxing. "You can't make a mistake doing 100 plus on a superbike, or when your opponent is trying to take your head off," Nguyen emphasizes. "For me, if you really want to know yourself, this is it. You can talk all day about techniques this and philosophy that, and it's nothing but an intellectual and theoretical mess! You've got to go out and DO."
When not out navigating hairpin turns on his bike, Nguyen spends his spare time practicing several styles of martial arts. In addition to Muay Thai, he also trains in Tae Kwon Do, the Filipino-based styles of Kali and Escrima, and, most of all, Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. Nguyen states that “martial arts always will be my way of life.” Nguyen's little known martial arts expertise was showcased when he starred in the Levi Jean's European "Hero" campaign, which expanded upon his ever-growing international profile. The campaign was uniquely ground-breaking in that it was the first time Levi's had used an Asian lead. For Nguyen, it offered the first opportunity to apply his love for the martial arts along with his dramatic training as he collaborated with the director on the fight choreography.
Nguyen and his wife, former model/actress Angela Rockwood-Nguyen, are also very involved with The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. Several years ago, his wife was involved in a car accident that left her paralyzed, rendering her quadriplegic. Since then, they have worked closely with the foundation and have recently become the spokespersons for The Paralysis Resource Center’s Minority Communities Outreach Campaign, which aims to increase awareness of and access to the PRC amongst minority communities in the US. On the business side, Nguyen is partners with designer Jebran in a custom leather and silver jewelry endeavor called Skkin. With a boutique located in Los Angeles, a display in the rock-star hotspot Sunset Marquis Hotel lobby, and rabid popularity in Japan, Skkin is quickly becoming one of the most in-demand suppliers of customized leather and silver clothing and accessories. So far, Skkin has outfitted rockers Billy Idol, Godsmack, Nine Inch Nails and guitarist Slash. Will Smith is also one of Skkin’s A-list clients and a fan of their unique designs. Dustin and his wife Angela live in Los Angeles.