Born as Nguyễn Xuân Trí, his mother My Le was an actress and dancer and his father, Xuan Phat, was an actor, writer and producer in South Vietnam. The family left Vietnam in April 1975 as it fell to Communist Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army forces.
They arrived in Guam, then the family was moved to a refugee camp in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, and finally with the assistance of a Methodist church they relocated to Kirkwood, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. After Nguyen graduated from Santiago High School in Garden Grove, CA, he attended Orange Coast College and majored in communications. Nguyen practices several martial arts including Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do, Eskrima, and Jeet Kune Do.
He made his acting debut on Magnum P.I., portraying a Cambodian freedom fighter in the episode "Crouching". He was a cast member on both the television series 21 Jump Street and V.I.P., and has guest-starred on a number of other series, most notably seaQuest DSV, playing the role of Chief William Shan. Dustin also auditioned for the role of Liu Kang in Mortal Kombat, but lost out to Robin Shou. He most recently starred in the 2007 film The Rebel.