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Wednesday, 8 May 2019

B-Movie Actress Feature Spotlight: Lucy Liu

Celebrity Net Worth: $16 million

Born in Queens, New York on December 2, 1968, Lucy Liu, with the Chinese name of Liu Yuling, is an actress, director and actress whose famous role is Ling Woo in Ally McBeal and Joan Watson in Elementary. In high school, she adapted 'Alexis' as her middle name and is the youngest of three kids, whose parents met each other in the U.S from Taiwan. Growing up in a diverse neighbourhood of Jackson Heights, she learnt to speak Mandarin at home and studied English at the age of 5. Liu graduated in 1986. After transferring to the University of Michigan from New York University, Liu developed an interest in performing arts through dancing and acting, whilst also undertaking fine arts and voice classes.

After moving to Los Angeles, Liu landed brief stints on various TV shows such as Home Improvement, Hercules, The X -Files and Beverly Hills 90210 and made her onscreen debut in 1993 in an episode of legal drama, L.A Law as a Chinese widow.

Her performance on the medical drama, ER where she played the mother whose son is suffering from AIDS, helped her land her first actual TV role and in the main cast in the 1996 CBS sitcom, Pearl alongside Cheers' Rhea Perlman and Malcolm McDowell as Amy Li. Whilst the show received positive reviews, it ran only for one season and 22 episodes in total.

Right after Pearl ended, came further movie appearances on the shelved indie flick, Bang (1995), Payback as a BDSM prostitute, boxing drama Play It To The Bone & Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire opposite Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger. Following on from that Liu was cast in legal comedy, Ally McBeal as the ill-tempered and acid-tongued lawyer, Ling Woo in 1998. Woo was initially a temporary role, but high viewing figures of Ally McBeal meant Liu was promoted as a series regular. Her performances garnered her a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and a Screen Actor's Guild Nomination.

Ally McBeal's run and its enormous worldwide success went into overdrive as Lucy Liu's stardom and appeal skyrocketed to widespread recognition and it was the platform that transformed her from obscurity to commercial success, with mainstream offerings in Kill Bill, Shanghai Noon and Charlie's Angels boosting her career.


After several seasons, Liu left Ally McBeal to focus and turn her attention to films; however, 2002's releases, Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever (cited by many as the film that ended her and Antonio Banderas's Hollywood movie careers) and Cypher received negative reviews, whilst lukewarm fare in crime thriller, Lucky Number Slevin, fantasy martial arts actioner The Man With The Iron Fists, and the much-maligned comedy, Code Name: The Cleaner starring Cedric The Entertainer, and a film wherein Liu acted as executive producer, all bombed at the box office.

''No, it's amazing to have somebody on your side doing things you don't even know you can do. & it just shows persistence pays off. You do have to really push hard in order to get anywhere. & you have to continue to push.'' - Lucy Liu 

Seen by many as the Asian trailblazer for Asian American actresses and celebrities in Hollywood, Lucy Liu has stood out as the most prominent Chinese-American female performer on the big and small screens of the 21st century. Between the periods of Ally McBeal and Charlie's Angels, Liu was at the forefront as leading Asian American onscreen representation and who was on a roll and things were looking up. Having said that, for someone who many have cited as being as the Asian American actress with the biggest potential and hype, with her relatively short movie career in mostly so-so B-movies and not so many bigger box office films, one may argue that Liu hasn't had a single substantial major role but for Ling on Ally McBeal. As Asian American actresses go in terms of popularity and familiarity status, to me she was the Asian American equivalent of Julia Roberts - if not as hugely successful as her. Any or every time people are asked the question of name an Asian American movie star or actress, pretty much 9 times out of 10 Lucy's name is mentioned. & I sort of expected her film career to go a little further. Lucy Liu did, however, auditioned for the role of Elektra in 2003's eventual comic book flop, Daredevil, but she lost out to Jennifer Garner. 

To some, Ling broke stereotypes of Asians and Asian-Americans, but also to others that character reinforced a whole load of others: dragon lady, being a lawyer, hardworking, dominant. Liu's marketability as a movie star was never really tapped into, although with Asian American representation at a stage in the early 2000s wherein major roles were still few and far between, thanks to Charlie's Angels, Shanghai Noon, Liu was still carrying the torch for Asian and Asian American cinema.

Liu seemed to make better progress in TV roles and thus, yet she hasn't had much luck and success in finding and securing work as a leading actress in feature-length commercial hit films and transitioning from TV to film. She is an actress who waited far too long for a meaty & challenging role on the big screen, and even to this day, reflecting back on her previous roles and characters, with Alex and Charlie's Angels, that truly ought to have been that one film that should have amounted to even far greater latter success on the Hollywood movie front. The world of TV and voiceover casting, however, offered her more opportunities that she took on, and in Elementary as Joan Watson, she triumphed and she had found her footing on the smaller screen.

In 2019, Liu finally secured her Hollywood Walk of Fame star and she became the second Asian American female actress to do so, following on from Anna May Wong.

Whilst her movie career could have been far more prolific, all in spite of dedicating most of her time to promoting her fine artwork and being a mother to her son, Rockwell, there is little doubt that Lucy Liu is a multi-talented performer who has let nothing and no one stand in her way in achieving and accomplishing success on the small and big screen, and giving Asian Americans and people of East Asian descent hope and the realisation that anything is possible, if you work hard to pursue your goals and break down stereotypes. 

Because Asians and Asian Americans and people of Asian descent aren't just good at maths, play the piano, good at basketball, but we excel in other areas too.... especially ones society doesn't expect us to fulfil and go into. 

And Lucy is living proof of that

Notable Favourites:

Kung Fu Panda, Charlie's Angels, Kill Bill, Ally McBeal, Jerry Maguire, Set It Up, Cypher

Notable Non-Favourites

Mulan II, Ballistic Ecks vs Sever, Hotel, Molly, Shanghai Noon, Futureworld, The Cleaner


Lucy Liu - Wikipedia

Lucy Liu Biography and Life Story - Aces Showbiz 

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