Lucy Alexis Liu (born December 2, 1968) is an American actress. She became known for her role in the television series Ally McBeal (1998–2002) as the vicious and ill-mannered Ling Woo, and has also appeared in several notable film roles, including Charlie's Angels, Chicago, Kill Bill, and Kung Fu Panda.
Lucy Liu was born and was raised with her brother John in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, by immigrant parents from Taiwan. Liu has said that she grew up in a "diverse" neighborhood. Her family spoke Mandarin at home and she did not learn English until she was five years old. Her father, Tom, was a civil engineer, and her mother, Cecilia, a biochemist, but they sacrificed those careers in Taiwan to come to the United States. Liu, at her parents' insistence, devoted her spare time to studying. She attended the Joseph Pulitzer Middle School (I.S.145) and she graduated from New York City's prestigious Stuyvesant High School in 1986. She attended New York University for one year, before transferring to the University of Michigan, where she joined the Chi Omega sorority and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Asian Languages and Cultures. At one point, Liu worked as a waitress in Michigan.
Liu began acting in 1989, after auditioning for a role in the University of Michigan's production of Alice in Wonderland during her senior year. Liu was cast in the lead role, although she had originally only tried out for a supporting part. Liu had small roles in films and TV (including The X-Files in "Hell Money" and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys in "The March to Freedom") before landing a role on Ally McBeal. Liu originally auditioned for the role of 'Nelle Porter' (played by Portia de Rossi), and the character 'Ling Woo' was later created specifically for her. Liu's part on the series was originally not meant to be regular but the enthusiastic audience response to the actress' 'feisty' Ling Woo secured Liu as a permanent cast member. It also earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy Series. Liu cemented her reputation playing bad girls by portraying "Pearl" the sadistic dominatrix/hitwoman for the Chinese mafia in the film Payback (1999).
Liu played Alex Munday in the Charlie's Angels film, alongside established Hollywood stars Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz. The film opened in November 2000 and was a hit, earning more than $125 million in the U.S., and a worldwide total of more than $264 million. The sequel, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, opened in June 2003 and was a box-office hit again, earning more than $100 million in the U.S., and a worldwide total of more than $259 million. In between the two films, Liu starred with Antonio Banderas in Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, a critical and box office failure.
Liu next played Rita Foster in Vincenzo Natali's Brainstorm (original title Cypher) in 2002. This was followed shorty after by her role as O-Ren Ishii, one of the major villains in Quentin Tarantino's 2003 film, Kill Bill. She won an MTV Movie Award for "Best Movie Villain" for the part. Subsequently, Liu appeared on several episodes of Joey with Matt LeBlanc, who played her love interest in the Charlie's Angels movies. She also had smaller roles as Kitty Baxter in the film Chicago, and as a psychologist opposite Keira Knightley in the thriller Domino. In 2006, she played leading lady and love interest to Josh Hartnett in the crime thriller Lucky Number Slevin. Other appearances include a cameo on the animated shows Futurama (as herself and/or robot duplicates thereof in the episodes "I Dated a Robot" and "Love and Rocket" and The Simpsons (on the season sixteen episode "Goo Goo Gai Pan"), and a guest host on an episode of the NBC sketch show Saturday Night Live in 2000 (musical guest: Jay-Z).
Her film 3 Needles was released on December 1, 2006. In the film, she plays Jin Ping, an HIV-positive Chinese woman. Liu agreed to star in the film for lower than usual pay because she wanted to spread awareness about the way AIDS is improperly treated in China and Thailand. Liu's other recent roles, which met with less success, but later gain cult followings among her fans, include Code Name: The Cleaner, an action comedy released January 5, 2007; Rise, a supernatural thriller co-starring Michael Chiklis in which Liu plays an undead reporter (for which she was ranked number forty-one on "Top 50 Sexiest Vampires"); and Watching the Detectives, an independent romantic comedy co-starring Cillian Murphy. Liu has also signed on to star in a new version of Charlie Chan which has been in pre-production since 2000; she will produce both films.
Liu has guest starred as lawyer Grace Chin on Ugly Betty in the episodes "Derailed" and "Icing on the Cake". In a 2001 episode of Sex and the City entitled "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda" she guest starred as herself, playing a new client of character Samantha Jones, who does public relations. She starred in the Sex and the City inspired TV show, Cashmere Mafia on ABC. In 2007, Empire magazine named her among the "100 Sexiest Movie Stars".
In 2008, after pitching an interest in being part of the hit new show Dirty Sexy Money, the producers immediately created a role for her as a series regular. She played the role of Nola Lyons, a powerful attorney that faced Nick George (played by Peter Krause). She is the voice for Silvermist in Disney Fairies franchise. She also appeared in the Kung Fu Panda franchise, an animated film series in which she voiced Viper. A role she would later reprise for the TV Series.
March 2, 2010, Liu made her Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning play God of Carnage playing Annette as part of the second replacement cast along side Jeff Daniels, Janet McTeer and Dylan Baker.
In a Jane interview, she is quoted as saying,
"I think people sometimes get the wrong impression when they're like, 'Oh, well, so-and-so was straight and then she was gay, and now she's straight again,' you know? But it's like, how many times do I have to kiss a woman before I'm gay? Everybody wants to label people. Sometimes you just fall in love with somebody, and you're really not thinking about what gender or whatever they happen to be. I think that if I happen to fall in love with a woman, everyone's going to make a big deal out of it. But if I happen to fall in love with a man, nobody cares."
With her parents' work ethic, Liu continued, "I'm always multi-tasking, doing 10 things at once". She speaks Mandarin Chinese and English natively, and "a little bit of Spanish, a tiny bit of Italian, a little bit of Japanese," for her role in Kill Bill. She also rock climbs, practices martial arts, skis, and plays the accordion.
Liu is also an artist in several media, and has had three gallery shows showcasing her collage, paintings, and photography. She started doing collage mixed media at 16 and then moved to photography and later painting. Lucy Liu had an art show in September and she donated her share of the profits to UNICEF. She also has another show in 2008 in Munich and has stated that she will also donate her share of the profits to UNICEF.
In 2001, Liu was the spokesperson for the Lee National Denim Day fundraiser which raises millions of dollars for breast cancer research and education. In 2005, Liu was appointed a U.S. Fund for UNICEF Ambassador; in that capacity, she has traveled to Pakistan and Lesotho, among other countries. She also hosted an MTV documentary for the MTV EXIT campaign in 2007, produced to raise awareness of human trafficking in Asia. Early in 2006, Liu received an "Asian Excellence Award" for Visibility. She is also the first Asian American woman to host Saturday Night Live.
Liu has said about her background, "when you grow up Asian American it’s difficult because you don’t know if you’re Asian or you’re American. You get confused... You need to recognize where your background is from. I think it’s important. Just for yourself. It makes you more whole. It does."
She lives with her brother and his wife in New York.
|1992||Rhythm of Destiny||Donna||Hong Kong film|
|1996||Jerry Maguire||Former Girlfriend|
|Riot||Luke Perry's Girlfriend|
|City of Industry||Cathi Rose|
|Guy||Woman at newsstand|
|True Crime||Toy Shop Girl|
|The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human||Lydia|
|Play It to the Bone||Lia|
|2000||Shanghai Noon||Princess Pei Pei||Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Supporting Actress - Action|
|Charlie's Angels||Alex Munday||Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Action Team|
MTV Movie Award for Best On-Screen Duo
Nominated - MTV Movie Award for Best Dressed
Nominated - Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress
|2002||Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever||Agent Sever|
|Chicago||Kitty Baxter||Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast|
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Nominated - Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
Nominated - Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Hissy Fit
|2003||Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle||Alex Munday||Nominated - MTV Movie Award for Best Dance Sequence|
|Kill Bill: Vol. 1||O-Ren Ishii||MTV Movie Award for Best Villain|
Nominated - Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress
|2005||3 Needles||Jin Ping, the Blood Smuggler|
|2006||Lucky Number Slevin||Lindsey|
|2007||Code Name: The Cleaner||Gina||Also executive producer|
|Rise: Blood Hunter||Sadie Blake|
|Watching the Detectives||Violet|
|2008||Kung Fu Panda||Master Viper||(voice)|
|The Year of Getting to Know Us||Anne|
|2009||Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure|
|2010||Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue|
|East Fifth Bliss||Andrea|
|2012||Secret of the Wings||Silvermist||(voice)|
|2011||Kung Fu Panda 2||Viper||(voice)|
|2011||Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You||Hilda Temple||
TV guest appearances
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