VANESSA KAI is best known for her work on the CW’s hit series “Kung Fu”. She is a native New Yorker and a first generation Chinese American. Vanessa’s passion for acting began at an early age, performing in various school productions. She began her professional training as a drama student at Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, otherwise known as the “FAME” School. Since then, Vanessa continues to hone her craft through a variety of roles in film, television, and theater.
In theater Vanessa’s credits are numerous, notable credits include the world premieres of “The Pain of My Belligerence,” at Playwrights Horizons “Somebody’s Daughter,” at Second Stage and “The Architecture of Becoming” at New York’s City Center. She was nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as “Ruby” in
the sold-out, extended world premiere of “KPOP,” an Off-Broadway, immersive musical event produced by Ars Nova.
Vanessa’s breakthrough role came in 2021 when she was cast as Pei-Ling Zhang in the CW’s “Kung Fu”. Her powerful portrayal of the mysterious and wise mentor to the show’s protagonist, Nicky Shen (Olivia Liang), quickly made her a fan favorite. Vanessa’s performance has been praised for its depth, nuance, and authenticity, as well as her martial arts skills which she honed for the role.
Before “Kung Fu”, Vanessa appeared in a number of other television series and films, including “New Amsterdam”, “Orange Is the New Black”, “The Mysteries of Laura”, “The Blacklist”, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”, and “Madam Secretary”.
A champion of new works Kai has also helped to develop plays at New York Stage & Film, the Public Theater, Roundabout Theater Company, Steppenwolf Theatre, The New Group, The Lark Play Development Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and New Dramatists.
Off-screen, Vanessa is an advocate for Asian representation in the entertainment industry and has spoken out about the need for more diverse storytelling. She is also a fitness enthusiast and has been known to incorporate her martial arts training into her workouts.
With her talent, versatility, passion for storytelling, and commitment to diversity Vanessa Kai is a much sought after collaborator.