In China, fans shout to Jonathan Kos-Read: "Cao Cao!" they call him by his nickname, which he chose for himself to honor a member of the Han Dynasty.

Kos-Read, 43, is a go-to actor for the white character in many Chinese films and TV shows. As a minority character, he says, those roles can be unflattering. In Oakland, where the Chron interviewed Kos-Read, his roles are more normal. He's married and has two young children.

“I just wanted to go do something interesting, and then I never left,” he said of his move to China after graduating from NYU with a degree in microbiology. He was born in Torrance, California.

During his travels — teaching English and more, Kos-Read discovered his niche. The foreigners playing roles in movies and on television, he observed weren't as fluent with Mandarin as he was. Nor were they as good looking. These days, in Oakland, Kos-Read tells the Chron that “I would love to do a movie here..But I have a specific skill set — I can speak Chinese really well.”

Kos-Read has faced criticism for reinforcing negative stereotypes with his roles. But, as the actor told NPR in 2011 those roles are getting better. "How do I — how do any foreign actors in general here — deal with the Uncle Tom question? We are helping to shape Chinese peoples' perceptions of what foreigners are. The simple answer is we all draw a line in the sand, and where my line is — I won't play anybody who's bad because he's a foreigner," he says.