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Kato is a fictional character from The Green Hornet series. This character has also appeared with the Green Hornet in film, television, book and comic book versions. Kato was the Hornet's assistant and has been played by a number of actors. On radio, Kato was initially played by Raymond Hayashi, then Roland Parker who had the role for most of the run, and in the later years Mickey Tolan. Keye Luke took the role in the movie serials, and in the television series he was portrayed by Bruce Lee. Jay Chou plays Kato in the 2011 Green Hornet film.
Kato was Britt Reid's valet, who doubled as The Green Hornet's unnamed, mask driver and sidekick to help him in his vigilante adventures, disguised as the activities of a racketeer and his chauffeur/bodyguard/enforcer. According to the storyline, years before the events depicted in the series, Britt Reid had saved Kato's life while travelling in the Far East. Depending on the version of the story, this prompted Kato to become Reid's assistant or friend.
In the 1936 premiere of the radio program, Kato was presented as being Japanese. By 1939, the invasion of China by the Empire of Japan made this bad public relations, and Kato was referred to simply as "Oriental". The first of Universal's two movie serials, produced in 1939 but not released to theaters until early 1940, referred in passing to Kato being "a Korean". By 1941, Kato had begun to be referred to as Filipino. A long-standing, but false, urban legend maintained that the switch from one to the other occurred immediately after the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. In recent years, there has been a growing but equally erroneous belief that Kato was initially said to be a Filipino of Japanese ancestry.
Kato was a skilled driver, mechanic and fighter in all versions of the story, with the creations of both the special automobile, the Black Beauty, and the Hornet's trademark sleeping gas and the gun that delivered it attributed to him. In the television series he also became an expert in martial arts, which was implied in the first film serial with his use of a tranquilizing "chop" to the back of a thug's neck.
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