Wonder Woman

Ming-Na Wen went from acting in an elementary-school play to portraying peace-keeping agent Melinda May in ABC’s original series “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”




 

 

Is adaptability a super power? If so, Mount Lebanon’s own Ming-Na Wen might be as special as the other-worldly heroes she lives among in her new action-adventure TV show “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

From an early age, the 49-year-old TV and film actress learned how to deal with change. Wen was born in Macau, China, and moved to Hong Kong at age 3. She and her family then relocated to New York when she was about 6; they lived there for five years before settling in Pittsburgh. Though her clan operates the Chinatown Inn, a mainstay downtown, she developed a passion for acting. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, Wen was on her way to launching a successful career.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for 20 years, it’s an easy bet that you’ve seen Wen in action. She appeared on “As The World Turns” from 1988 through 1991. She was featured on NBC’s “The Single Guy” throughout its two-season run and played one of Charlie Sheen’s love interests on “Two and a Half Men.” Her five-year “ER” gig came after an initial stint as a guest star. As for film, she kicked butt in Street Fighter, tugged at heartstrings in The Joy Luck Club and voiced the title character in Disney’s Mulan franchise. If you haven’t seen her at work, you might remember spotting Wen, a mother of two, in People’s 1994 and 2008 Most Beautiful People lists.

A self-professed “geek,” Wen won over the SyFy universe from 2009-2011 in her role as political attaché Camile Wray on “SGU: Stargate Universe.” That gig helped her prepare for what may be her biggest opportunity to date: a starring role on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” which centers around Agent Coulson, famous for his role in The Avengers, and his crew as they try to protect the world from bad guys.

 

What was it like adjusting to your family’s move from Hong Kong to New York to Pittsburgh during your childhood?  
I didn’t speak a stitch of English when I came here, so it was a challenge going through special classes. The cultural differences were also challenging for my whole family, and the move from the diversity of Queens to a much more suburban life in Pittsburgh was another harsh leap.

How did you first discover your love for acting?   
I played a bunny in my third-grade play. I’ve always been kind of clumsy, and when I made my entrance on stage, I tripped and fell. People laughed, and I wasn’t embarrassed at all. I loved it! I thought it was so cool that I could get that kind of reaction, and I’ve wanted to entertain people ever since.

What’s the main thing you miss about living in Pittsburgh?  
My family’s restaurant. It’s one of the last remnants of the old Chinatown area, and I basically grew up there. We lived in a predominantly white suburban area, so that was the only place where I felt like there were people of my background. I felt comfortable and safe there. [Chinatown Inn has] the best egg rolls, and I miss those, too!

Do you have a passion for cooking?  
Absolutely. I am a complete foodie, and it pains me whenever I have to go on a diet for a part. I have a huge wok in my house, and we use it all the time.

You’ve built an eclectic resume throughout your career. Did you intend to keep a varied body of work?  
I get work wherever I can, honey! Honestly, I’ve done a lot of different things but I’ve always tried to stay true to the things I really wanted to do. When I read The Joy Luck Club, I wished I could be a part of the movie someday, and it came true. I’m a huge sci-fi geek. I played “Dungeons & Dragons” and hung out in arcades, so it’s a huge blessing that I’m now on [“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”].

Are you ever recognized strictly for your voice-over work?   
[Yes], and it’s kind of odd to be recognized for playing an animated character. I recently did a photo shoot, and a wardrobe woman told me that her roommate freaked out that she was working with me … because I was Mulan!

You’ve worked in everything from sitcoms to soaps. Which project required the toughest schedule? 
Definitely “S.H.I.E.L.D.” [“Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division”] because anything with this much action requires long hours setting up stunts and explosions — plus, you’re never shooting in a pretty place. You need a lot of mental focus, as well as physical strength and endurance. But it’s also so much fun!


Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

With so many options in and around the city, every couple can find the special space that feels just right — whether they’re looking for nature, rustic charm, fairytale romance, stained-glass beauty, treasured religious ritual or classic tradition.
Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Delve below the surface to explore the underground areas that serve as vital pathways to our region.
Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Chefs who grew up in Pittsburgh are shaping the culinary scene in other cities across the country — and gaining national recognition in the process.
Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

The meat-centric restaurant in the Strip District is helping to redefine Pittsburgh's dining expectations.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Great Catch: Easiest Way to Tasty Lenten Fish Frys

Great Catch: Easiest Way to Tasty Lenten Fish Frys

Looking for a delicious battered fish sandwich or golden-brown pierogies on Friday? Here’s a handy guide plus a few fun facts about our fascination with fish.
Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

From a hotel “Love Lockdown,” to a museum breakfast in bed, to a rooftop singles event - there's plenty to eat, drink at do in Pittsburgh on this weekend for love.
Beer News: East End Brewing Moving to Bigger Space in Strip District

Beer News: East End Brewing Moving to Bigger Space in Strip District

The new space, called the East End Brewery Taproom, will offer lunch and dinner service, expanded hours and a place for customers to sit and enjoy a pint of beer from one of the brewery’s 12 taps.
See How Pittsburghers Used to Get Around

See How Pittsburghers Used to Get Around

This rare video gives you a passenger's perspective of street car trolley travel in the 1960s.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

With so many options in and around the city, every couple can find the special space that feels just right — whether they’re looking for nature, rustic charm, fairytale romance, stained-glass beauty, treasured religious ritual or classic tradition.
Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Delve below the surface to explore the underground areas that serve as vital pathways to our region.
Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Chefs who grew up in Pittsburgh are shaping the culinary scene in other cities across the country — and gaining national recognition in the process.
Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

The meat-centric restaurant in the Strip District is helping to redefine Pittsburgh's dining expectations.
Cranking Out Old School Valentines Sealed with a Quirk

Cranking Out Old School Valentines Sealed with a Quirk

In Lawrenceville, a love for letterpress leads to a business whose greeting cards reach audiences across the country.
Pittsburgh's Third Renaissance and Complaints from 2007

Pittsburgh's Third Renaissance and Complaints from 2007

This third Renaissance has allowed us to be spectators as Pittsburgh changed from a city suffering the damages wrought by the collapse of its steel industry to a vibrant, active place known for its academic, medical and technology sectors.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Great Catch: Easiest Way to Tasty Lenten Fish Frys

Great Catch: Easiest Way to Tasty Lenten Fish Frys

Looking for a delicious battered fish sandwich or golden-brown pierogies on Friday? Here’s a handy guide plus a few fun facts about our fascination with fish.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: Yikes! Imagine This Instead of a Fountain at the Point

PittGirl: Yikes! Imagine This Instead of a Fountain at the Point

City leaders considered many options for Pittsburgh's confluence including something that looked like it was designed by the Jetsons, or an absolutely bonkers, batpoop insane idea by the one and only Frank Lloyd Wright.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pittsburgh Chef Move: Lily Tran New Executive Chef of Soba

Pittsburgh Chef Move: Lily Tran New Executive Chef of Soba

Tran takes over big Burrito's Ellsworth Ave. restaurant from Dustin Gardner, who moves back to Casbah on Highland Ave.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
7 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

7 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

Easy access from universities, wallet-friendly prices and really good food make these our favorite choices for the university set.

Comments


End Your Work Day at Muddy Waters' Oyster Happy Hour

End Your Work Day at Muddy Waters' Oyster Happy Hour

Some of the best oysters available in Pittsburgh can be yours for a steal at the new East Liberty spot.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Super Bowl Predictions: Can I Have That One Back?

Super Bowl Predictions: Can I Have That One Back?

Denver's upset win over Carolina -- predicted by hardly anyone (including yours truly) -- should be interpreted as good news for Steelers' fans.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Shirts We Love For Valentine’s Day

Shirts We Love For Valentine’s Day

Let your heart do the talking with these fun sweaters from Rosewood Boutique.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
George Clooney, Jane Austen, Nicholas Sparks and Some Zombies Walk Into a Multiplex

George Clooney, Jane Austen, Nicholas Sparks and Some Zombies Walk Into a Multiplex

Our reviews of "Hail, Caesar!," "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and "The Choice."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Behind the Lens: Wedding Ring Photography

Behind the Lens: Wedding Ring Photography

On Day Five of our Week of Wedded Bliss, we spoke to wedding photographers about their inspiration for these five enticing ring photographs from our Real Pittsburgh Wedding Couples.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Say Hello (and Goodbye) to These Home & Lifestyle Shops

Say Hello (and Goodbye) to These Home & Lifestyle Shops

Divertido and Jack + Jules close in Lawrenceville, while the neighborhood welcomes Brambler Boutique. Plus, Splurge expands to a new location in Fox Chapel.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Mock Crime Scene to be Held at Waynesburg University

Mock Crime Scene to be Held at Waynesburg University

The event is for high school students who are interested in criminal justice, law enforcement and forensic science.

Comments