Quest for Fire
Canadian-born actress Rae Dawn Chong was seen on the small screen at age 12 on the popular 1974 sitcom “The Whiz Kid and the Mystery at Riverton” (1974). She subsequently gained recognition for her turn as the young, mud-covered Ivaka prisoner Ika in the movie “Quest for Fire” (1981). She has since played various roles in such films as “Beat Street” (1984), “The Color Purple” (1985), “Choose Me” (1985), “Commando” (1985), “American Flyers” (1985), “Soul Man” (1986) and “The Principal” (1987). She also appeared with her father (comedian Tommy Chong) in “Cheech and Chong's The Corsican Brothers” (1984) and “Far Out Man” (1990). Since then, the actress has continued to be active in television acting roles and in 2007 guest starred in an episode of Disney Channel's Emmy nominated sitcom "That's So Raven."
The 5' 8" Afro-Asian screen star, who was the central female character in the Mick Jagger music video "Just Another Night," was married to "brat pack" actor C. Thomas Howell at one time.
Childhood and Family:
Daughter of Scottish-Irish/Chinese-Canadian comedian Tommy Chong and his African-American/Amerindian wife Maxine Sneed, Rae Dawn Chong was born on February 28, 1961, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She has five siblings: Robbi Chong (model and actress), Marcus Chong, Paris Chong, Gilbran Chong and Precious Chong.
In 1982, Chong married her first husband, Owen Baylis, with whom she has one son named Morgan. After their divorce, Chong married actor C. Thomas Howell, her co-star in “Soul Man” (1986), on July 11, 1989. The marriage was short-lived and ended in divorce in 1990. As of November 2003, she reportedly has remarried and has another son. She divides her time between her home in Vancouver, B.C. and her work place in Los Angeles, California.
The Whiz Kid
Rae Dawn Chong began appearing on Canadian television as a preteen. At age 12, she was discovered by a Disney talent scout who got her a role in Disney's “The Whiz Kid and the Mystery at Riverton” (1974), based on the book by Clifford B. Hicks.
Four years later, in 1978, Chong appeared in Andrew Davis' directional debut, the musical drama film “Stony Island.” That same year, she was originally set to play Willis' (played by Todd Bridges) girlfriend on NBC’s sitcom “Diff'rent Strokes” (1978), but was replaced by Janet Jackson because producers thought that she wasn't ethnic looking enough.
In the early 1980s, Chong co-starred with Adrienne Barbeau in the made-for-television movie “Top of the Hill” (1980) and guest starred in a February 1980 episode of CBS' popular and critically acclaimed drama series starring Ed Asner, "Lou Grant." She also landed her first major screen role in “Quest for Fire” (aka “Guerre du feu, La”), director Jean-Jacques Annaud's Oscar winning adaptation of J.H. Rosny Sr.'s 1911 French novel. In the film, which also stars Everett McGill, Ron Perlman and Nameer El-Kadi, Chong portrayed Ika, a young Ivaka prisoner who escapes with Naoh (Gill). The role later earned her the Canadian equivalent of an Academy Award and a Genie award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.
Following her first big break, Chong received the recurring role of Billie Vaughn (1983-1985) on NBC’s weekly medical drama "St. Elsewhere." She also played roles in Stan Lathan's hip hop dramatic feature film “Beat Street” and Abel Ferrara's drama/thriller “Fear City,” alongside Tom Berenger, Jack Scalia and Melanie Griffith.
Chong played the role of Gypsy in her father’s comedy movie “Cheech & Chong's The Corsican Brothers” and was seen in Alan Rudolph's independent romantic drama comedy “Choose Me,” John Badham's bicycle race drama “American Flyers” (starring Kevin Costner), and Aaron Lipstadt's) and the sci-fi action/drama “City Limits” (alongside Kim Cattrall). Additionally, she supported Arnold Schwarzenegger in Mark L. Lester's action movie “Commando” and shared the screen with Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey in Steven Spielberg's acclaimed film version of Alice Walker's Pulitzer-winning novel, “The Color Purple,” portraying Squeak, Harpo's (played by Willard E. Pugh) new girlfriend. TV audiences could also catch her acting opposite James Woods and Pam Grier in the TV movie version of Philip Rosenberg's true story-based book, “Badge of the Assassin.”
After guest starring in a 1986 episode of the short-lived anthology series "Tall Tales and Legends," Chong returned to the wide screen and costarred with C. Thomas Howell in Steve Miner's comedy “Soul Man” (1986). She was then seen with Mick Jagger in Julien Temple's independent musical “Running Out of Luck” (1987) and opposite Michael Keaton in Roger Young's crime comedy “The Squeeze” (1987), as an inexperienced private investigator named Rachel Dobbs. She was also cast in Christopher Cain's crime drama “The Principal” (1987), alongside James Belushi and Louis Gossett Jr., and David Greenwalt and Aaron Russo's independent comedy “Rude Awakening” (1989), with Robert Carradine.
The new decade saw Chong in two independent films, writer-director Erin Dignam's “Denial,” opposite Robin Wright Penn and Jason Patric, and Allan A. Goldstein's “Chaindance.” Afterward, she appeared in John Harrison's horror anthology “Tales from the Darkside: The Movie.” On the small screen, she starred in the made-for-television movies “Curiosity Kills” and “Prison Stories: Women on the Inside,” as well as guest starred in an episode of USA Network's mystery anthology series "The Hitchhiker."
From 1992 to 1993, Chong played the recurring role of Carrie Fellows on Fox’s hit soap opera "Melrose Place." During that time, she hosted the TV show "Nitecap" and supported Louis Gossett Jr. and Blair Underwood in the TV movie “Father & Son: Dangerous Relations,” playing Gossett's love interest. She also starred in the independent films “When the Party's Over,” a drama comedy by Matthew Irmas in which she acted opposite Sandra Bullock, and “Time Runner,” a sci-fi thriller by Michael Mazo in which she played a scientist named Karen McDonald.
Rae was then cast in Joe Holland's drama thriller “Amberwaves” (1994), Walter Avancini and Zalman King's indie drama “Boca” (1994), Penelope Buitenhuis' crime drama “Boulevard” (1994; Chong starred as a hardened hooker named Ola), Howard Himelstein's independent crime drama “Power of Attorney” (1994), Brett Leonard's adaptation of Dean R. Koontz's novel, “Hideaway” (1995), Lee H. Katzin's independent tennis drama “The Break” (1995), Christophe Gans' crime action based on the Japanese comic, “Crying Freeman” (1995), Jonathon Kay's independent sci-fi film “Starlight” (1996), David Mitchell's action/thriller “Mask of Death” (1996), Jeffrey Reiner's dark comedy “Small Time” (1996), Thierry Notz's romantic action drama “Goodbye America” (1997) and Enrique Oliver's comedy “Things I Forgot to Remember” (1999; aka “Cosas que olvidé recordar”).
She also appeared in an episode of the TV series "Lonesome Dove: The Series," "The Outer Limits," "Highlander," "Poltergeist: The Legacy" and co-starred in the short-lived series "Crazy Love." Additionally, she could be seen in the TV movies “For Hope” (1996), “Alibi” (1997) and “Valentine's Day” (1998).
In the new millennium, Chong snagged the regular role of Dr. Peggy Fowler on NBC/Pax's sci-fi series "Mysterious Ways" (2000-2002). During that time, she appeared in the films “Dangerous Attraction” and “The Visit,” the latter of which nominated her for Theatrical - Best Actress at the Black Reel Awards. She was also spotted as a guest in an episode of CBS’ serial drama "Judging Amy." She also stepped behind the screen to write and direct the horror/comedy film “Cursed Part 3,” starring Chris Pratt.
From 2003 to 2004, Chong starred as Sophie Mason in a Canadian Global Network TV series starring Joely Fisher, "Wild Card." Afterward, she starred in the thriller TV movie “Deadly Skies” (2005; opposite Antonio Sabato Jr.), co-starred with Ever Carradine and David Clennon in writer-director Jordan Walker-Pearlman's drama film, “Constellation” (2005) and supported Mickey Hardt in Terry Ingram's independent action film “Max Havoc: Ring of Fire” (2006).
More recently, she appeared as a guest in a March 2007 episode of Disney Channel's Emmy-nominated sitcom "That's So Raven."
Genie: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, “Guerre du feu, La,” 1983