About eight months ago, I was watching The Sopranos on DVD, and one of the guest stars looked really familiar. I was sure I had seen him in some other role, but couldn’t place him. And then it hit me — maybe it was the freighter guy from LOST, the one who could get in touch with ghosts.
And so it was.
In this episode of The Sopranos (Remember When, originally airing on April 22, 2007), Ken Leung plays a patient in a mental hospital. He latches onto a fellow patient who he greatly admires, the former mob boss Uncle Junior, who had been placed in the hospital after shooting his nephew Tony Soprano. Uncle Junior entertains himself in the hospital by organizing secret poker games for the patients, and Leung’s character, Carter Chong, eagerly assists him.
Chong at first appears quite normal, to the point where you wonder why he is in the hospital at all. And then, in the middle of an ordinary conversation, he suddenly snaps. Leung gives a very interesting performance in this role of a character whose whole demeanor can change on a dime.
After seeing this episode of The Sopranos, LOST producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse were so impressed with Leung’s performance that they decided to offer him a role on LOST. Actually, it was even more than that — they created a new role especially for him.
On a lighter note, here is Ken Leung, seven years earlier, in a short and funny clip from the movie Keeping the Faith. Watch the clip past the 1:45 point to see a couple of twists at the end.
Screen cap of Ken Leung as Carter Chong, with Uncle Junior, played by Dominic Chianese, in the background. (c) HBO