Born to immigrants in Queens, New York, Lucy Liu has always tried to balance an interest in her cultural heritage with a desire to move beyond a strictly Asian-American experience. Lucy's mother is from Beijing, and her father is from Shanghai. Once relegated to "ethnic" parts, the energetic actress is finally earning her stripes as an across-the-board leading lady.
Liu graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1986 and enrolled in New York University; discouraged by the "dark and sarcastic" atmosphere of NYU, however, she transferred to the University of Michigan after her freshman year. She graduated from UM with a degree in Chinese Language and Culture, managing to squeeze in some additional training in dance, voice, fine arts, and acting. During her senior year, Liu auditioned for a small part in a production of Alice in Wonderland and walked away with the lead; encouraged by the experience, she decided to take the plunge into professional acting. She moved to Los Angeles and split her time between auditions and food service day jobs, eventually scoring a guest appearance as a waitress on "Beverly Hills, 90210" (1990). That performance led to more walk-on parts in shows like "NYPD Blue" (1993), "ER" (1994), and "The X-Files" (1993). In 1996, she was cast as an ambitious college student on Rhea Perlman's ephemeral sitcom "Pearl" (1996).
Liu first appeared on the big screen as an ex-girlfriend in Jerry Maguire (1996) (she had previously filmed a scene in the indie Bang (1995), but it was shelved for two years). She then waded through a series of supporting parts in small films before landing her big break on "Ally McBeal" (1997). Liu initially auditioned for the role of Nelle Porter, which went to Portia de Rossi, but writer-producer David E. Kelley was so impressed with her that he promised to write a part for her in an upcoming episode. The part turned out to be that of growling, ill-tempered lawyer Ling Woo, which Liu filled with such aplomb that she was signed on as a regular cast member.
The "Ally" win gave Liu's film career a much-needed boost--in 1999, she was cast as a dominatrix in the Mel Gibson action flick Payback (1999/I), and as a hitchhiker in the ill-received boxing saga Play It to the Bone (1999). The next year brought even larger roles: first as the kidnapped Princess Pei Pei in Jackie Chan's western Shanghai Noon (2000), then as one-third of the comely crime-fighting trio in Charlie's Angels (2000).
When she's not hissing at clients or throwing well-coiffed punches, Liu keeps busy with an eclectic mix of off-screen hobbies. She practices the martial art of Kali-Eskrima-Silat (knife-and-stick fighting), skis, rock climbs, rides horses, and plays the accordion. In 1993 she exhibited a collection of multimedia art pieces at the Cast Iron Gallery in SoHo (New York), after which she won a grant to study and create art in China. Her hectic schedule doesn't leave much time for romantic intrigue, but Liu says she prefers to keep that side of her life uncluttered.
As her family spoke Mandarin Chinese at home, she did not learn English until the age of 5.
Graduated from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor with a degree in Asian languages and cultures.
Graduated from New York's prestigious Stuyvesant High School (1986).
Attended New York University for a year.
Her mother is a biochemist; her father works as a civil engineer.
Grew up in the Jackson Heights section of Queens County, New York.
In 2000, she became the first Asian-American female to host "Saturday Night Live" (1975).
She once worked as an aerobics instructor.
Plays the accordion.
Practices rock climbing, skiing, and horseback riding.
Is an initiated sister of Chi Omega Fraternity.
Announced that she plans on marrying Zach Helm, her boyfriend of one year (April 2004).
Mentioned in Outkast's hit "Hey Ya".
Is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, English, Italian, Spanish, and a little Japanese.
Ranked #56 in FHM's "100 Sexiest Women in the World 2005" special supplement (2005).
Ranked #79 in FHM magazine's "100 Sexiest Women in the World 2006" supplement (2006).
Lives in New York with her brother Alex Liu and his wife.
Has had gallery exhibitions, showing her collage, paintings and photography.
Was named a U.S. Fund for UNICEF Ambassador (2005).
Considers herself multitasking.
Chosen by Goldsea Asian American Daily as one of the "100 Most Inspiring Asian Americans of All Time" (ranked #51).
Speaks 6 languages.
I grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens, with no money. I was taught not to take anything for granted. If you are too busy being a diva or a freak, then you are not enjoying it.
Everything I buy is vintage and smells funny. Maybe that's why I don't have a boyfriend.
[about "Ally McBeal" (1997)] It's so much fun playing her [Ling], but I have this fear that people are going to run away from me in terror on the streets. They think I'm going to bite their heads off or something.
I'm so proud of my heritage, but yes, I think there's always a danger when people put you on a pedestal. Especially when you're just trying to live your life and pursue your dreams. The intention is not to represent Asian Americans, but to be an Asian American who is working as an actress. People often confuse the two. When you are "representing," you have the burden of some people projecting their hopes onto you. This can eventually lead to a certain amount of disappointment. I strive to not deny myself experiences that open up to me. I hope to live without looking back in regret. If people want to join me on the ride, then I'm happy to have them along.
Martial arts are art forms and require a great deal of discipline and dedication. I so admire people who focus their lives on it, because it's not an easy thing to do.
Producing is like pushing jello up a hill on a hot day.
It's really taking a while but I do think it's becoming more acceptable to cast Asians in roles that weren't originally slated for someone who is Asian, which is so great.
I try to believe like I believed when I was five...when my heart told me everything I needed to know.
[on playing a female version of the "Dr. Watson" character in "Elementary" (2012)] I think flawed characters, having a history and a mysterious past, are always going to keep the audience engaged. Naturally, the connection between the two of them [i.e. with "Sherlock Holmes"] is his oddities and, you know, his inability to be as stable as most people would like to be. She's just as unstable, but not as obvious, because she's trying to distract her own problems with his problems.
|Shanghai Noon (2000)||$2,500,000|
|Charlie's Angels (2000)||$1,000,000|
|Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003)||$4,000,000|
|Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)||$5,500,000|
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