July 19, 2001
Fantasy role for ER actress
By LOUIS B. HOBSON
HOLLYWOOD -- Thanks to a pair of animate alter egos, there are days when Chinese-American actress Ming-Na feels like a rock star.

Ming-Na voiced the heroines of Disney's Mulan and the new science fiction epic Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

"Because of Mulan, I have a huge fan base with preteens. I'm like a rock and roll star for that generation of young girls," says Ming-Na, who stars as Deb Chen on ER. Her fan base for sexy Dr. Aki Ross in Final Fantasy is considerably older.

"Just recently, this big burly traffic cop asked my driver if he could say hello.

"I thought he was an ER fan but it turned out he's a huge fan of the Final Fantasy video games.

"As I was signing an autograph for him I suddenly realized why the producers of Final Fantasy put Aki Ross into Maxim magazine."

Though her computer-generated character became the first animated star to be featured in Maxim, Ming-Na insists she is not jealous. "I have never had any desire to be in Maxim. Aki Ross can pose for them any time she wants."

Ming-Na says it was her association with Japanese producer Jun Aida that got her the contract for Final Fantasy.

"I worked for Jun in the 1994 movie Street Fighter with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raul Julia. Jun said they created the role of Aki Ross with me in mind because they wanted her to have some Asian connection."

Ming-Na is proud that she has been at the forefront of roles for Asian actors in America.

She was the first Asian actor on As the World Turns and her ER character was so popular she was brought back to the series after a hiatus of several years.

"I feel very privileged but it is still very much an uphill battle for Asian actors in America. We barely constitute one per cent of the actors currently working on television.

"I constantly push for more Asians to be used in TV and feature films.

"My husband and I are trying to create an Asian boys band called At Last.

"Asians have to be more visible if we hope to become an important part of the fabric of the entertainment business."

Ming-Na is married to Chinese-American actor Eric Michael Zee. The couple had a daughter, Michaela, eight months ago.

"Michael and I have been together for six years but we still weren't planning on starting a family this early. We're in that one per cent who conceive even when they are practising strict birth control. We couldn't be happier but we were genuinely surprised."

Ming-Na is hoping she will be at the next MTV awards.

"It's my newest fantasy to accept the MTV Award for best screen kiss on behalf of Aki Ross. I understand the kiss is already the talk of cyberspace."

Aki Ross has a passionate kiss with the buff Captain Gray Edwards voiced by Alec Baldwin. "I've never met Alec. I only know his virtual reality counterpart but I can tell you Gray Edwards is no slouch in the hunk category."

Ming-Na begins filming the new season of ER this fall.