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Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa got his first big break as an actor when he was cast in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor (1987). A US Army brat, he was born in Tokyo and lived in various cities while growing up. His father was in the army, stationed at Ft. Bragg (NC), Ft. Polk (LA) and Ft. Hood (TX). His mother was an actress from Tokyo.
The family finally settled in Southern California, where Tagawa began acting in high school. He was an exchange student in Japan while studying at the University of Southern California. He has recently been involved off-screen in addressing student groups (at SFSU and Stanford). He has also been coaching the martial artist portraying Shang Tsung in the Mortal Kombat Live Tour, and in his free time developing his new form of martial arts, called "Chun Shin".
- Is a part-time masseur for the University of Hawaii football team. He often helps injured players.
- Has son Calen and daughter Brynne.
- On July 09, 2010, Cary participated in the All-Russia Channel 1 evening TV-show "Let's Marry" as lead character in search of a wife. He successfully selected a beautiful 23-year old Russian bride out of 3 preselected candidates. They were both happy to meet each other.
- He portrayed Shang Tsung in the movie based on the game Mortal Kombat (1995).