Makoto Iwamatsu (December 10, 1933 — July 21, 2006), commonly known simply by Mako, was a Japanese-American actor and voice actor. He was born in Kobe, Japan. He immigrated to The United States as a young child, later becoming a citizen. He also had married actress Shizuko Hoshi, and left two daughters (both actresses) and three grandchildren.
Mako's first film role was an uncredited one in the 1959 movie Never So Few. He went on to appear in many other productions, starting with the 1966 movies The Sand Pebbles and The Ugly Dachshund, and also including The Hawaiians, The Killer Elite, Highlander III: The Sorcerer / Final Dimension (as well as Highlander The Series), Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, Under the Rainbow, Sidekicks, RoboCop 3, Seven Years in Tibet, and Pearl Harbor. His television appearances include M*A*S*H, The Time Tunnel, I Spy, Hawaii Five-O, The Green Hornet, Kung Fu, Mannix, Ironside (1967), and Columbo.note He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in The Sand Pebbles, and a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a musical for his role in the original of Pacific Overtures.
Mako's last leading role was in the 2005 film Cages. The last work he contributed to was the animated movie TMNT, in which he recorded the voiced role for Master Splinter mere days before his death. The finished film was later dedicated to his memory. An episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender (in which he voiced the character Iroh, until his death between the second and third seasons) also had the send-off, 'In Honour of Mako', and gave a major character in its sequel series his name. Mako has a motion picture star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7095 Hollywood Blvd.
Mako was also well-known as an advocate for Asian-American representation. Along with several other actors, including James Hong and Soon-Tek Oh, in 1965 he co-founded the East West Players, an Asian repertory theater company in Los Angeles and served as its artistic director until 1989.
Greg Baldwin would serve as The Other Darrin for other animated works that Mako was previously involved in.
Not to be confused with the Japanese voice actress of the same name.
Tropes associated with Mako:
- Cool Old Guy/Cultured Badass: His role as Iroh in Avatar: The Last Airbender and his final role as Splinter in TMNT.
- Ending Narration: For Dexter's Laboratory."Enter at your own peril, past the bolted doors, where impossible things may happen, that the world has never seen before!"
- Evil Sounds Deep: As he said about voicing Aku, "Evil comes from the belly."
- Evil Sounds Raspy: Aku again. Then again, he always sounded raspy even when he voiced good guys, which brings us to...
- Guttural Growler: This apparently stemmed in part from smoking, which unfortunately may have done him in, as he died of esophageal cancer.
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": It's "Mah-ko." "May-ko" is the shark.
- Large Ham: While he was certainly capable of subtlety, his background in kabuki theater earned him a lot of scenery to chew on in his later roles. Phil Lamarr remarked how his Evil Laugh would start big, go until he had no breath left, and then just keep going!
- Nice Guy: As those who knew him will tell you, Mako-san was a true gentleman, in every sense of the term.
- His own personality may have influenced the development of Iroh; Word of God states that the character was initially thought of as a gruff Mentor Archetype figure to Zuko (and, at one point, even a Treacherous Advisor), but after Mako was cast, he morphed into the wise, warm, merry old soul we all know and love.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Yes, that was his real accent and not an exaggerated put on. There's a reason he kept it through all of his roles regardless of character.
- You Look Familiar: He had multiple recurring appearances on M*A*S*H but never played the same character twice.