Hong Chau (Vietnamese: Hồng Châu; born June 25, 1979) is an American actress whose breakthrough was her supporting role in the 2017 film Downsizing as Vietnamese amputee and political activist Ngoc Lan Tran. For her performance, she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture, the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role, and several other awards.
Before Downsizing, she appeared in the television series Treme (2010–2013) and the film Inherent Vice (2014). In 2018, she appeared as a guest star in several TV series. In 2019, she played a supporting role in the limited series Watchmen. She also had leading roles in the 2019 films American Woman and Driveways, and for the latter, she was nominated for Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead. In 2020, she had a starring role in the second season of the TV series Homecoming, having had a supporting role in its first season in 2018.
Chau was born to Vietnamese parents who lived in a refugee camp in Thailand after fleeing Vietnam in the late 1970s. A Vietnamese Catholic church in New Orleans, Louisiana in the United States arranged for a family to sponsor Chau and her family. After growing up in New Orleans, Chau majored in film studies at Boston University and pursued an acting career.
Before Hong Chau was born, her parents and their two sons were living in Vietnam. In 1979, the family was among the Vietnamese boat people who fled their country, and Chau's mother was six months pregnant with her. During their escape, Chau's father was shot and nearly bled to death. Chau was born in a refugee camp in Thailand later in the year. A Vietnamese Catholic church in New Orleans, Louisiana in the United States organized for a local Vietnamese family to sponsor her family. Chau grew up speaking Vietnamese as her first language, and later learned English in school. Her family lived in government housing and used subsidized lunch programs.
Chau was raised in the eastern part of New Orleans, where she attended Eleanor McMain Secondary School and Benjamin Franklin High School. She finished at Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Her parents worked in menial labor to ensure that the children could attend college. Chau said her parents, who speak in heavy Vietnamese accents, were shunned as Asian migrants. She said, "My whole life, I've always felt like I was the more acceptable of my parents, and they were always the people who had to stay in the background, or hide in the broom closet."
Receiving student financial aid in the form of Pell Grants, Chau attended Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts, where she initially studied creative writing. She changed her major to film studies when her parents requested that she study something more practical. She explored acting to challenge her introvertedness; she acted in other students' short films and was encouraged to pursue acting. After college, Chau got a job with PBS and anticipated a career in documentaries. She later moved to New York City, where she studied acting.
Documentaries, videos and podcasts
Downsizing character - Hong Chau
January 15, 2018
Hong Chau Shares Her Story as a Refugee Coming to America
December 12, 2017