December 2, 1968
New York City, New York, USA
Actor, Artist, Aerobics instructor, Caterer
Nicholas Lea, Will McCormack, Zach Helm
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Stunningly beautiful and fiercely intelligent, actress Lucy Liu broke free of many of the stereotypes that typically pigeonholed Asian performers - particular female - in Hollywood. Following a string of early appearances on such popular series as "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009), Liu skyrocketed to fame in 1998 when she joined the cast of the quirky legal comedy "Ally McBeal" (Fox, 1997-2002) as the deliciously malicious Ling Woo. The actress quickly parlayed her sudden popularity into roles on the big screen in feature film hits like "Shanghai Noon" (2000), "Charlie's Angels" (2000) and a bravura performance as Japanese crime lord O-Ren Ishii in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" (2003). Later theatrical disappointments like "Lucky Number Slevin" (2006) and "Rise: Blood Hunter" (2007) gave way to more lucrative voice roles in such animated features as "Kung Fu Panda" (2008) and "Tinker Bell" (2008). And while starring roles on small screen efforts like "Cashmere Mafia" (ABC, 2008) failed to bear fruit, a recurring part on the critically-hailed police drama "Southland" (NBC, 2009/TNT, 2010- ) did much to reestablish her credentials as a serious actress. With her obvious beauty enhanced by with an undeniable strength of character, Liu embraced her heritage even as she refused to let it define her as an artist.
Lucy Liu was born on Dec. 2, 1968 and raised in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, NY. Her parents were Taiwanese immigrants who had left behind careers in biochemistry and civil engineering to start a new life in the State; with both encouraging their children to receive a full education and pursue professional careers of their own. Reluctant to make waves in her ambitious family, the arts-oriented Liu kept her dreams of a becoming an actress to herself, studying her favorite Charlie Chan films for inspiration. In 1986, she graduated from Stuyvesant High School in New York City and went on to New York University, but after one year, transferred to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI. While Liu closed in on a Bachelor of Science degree in Asian Languages and Culture, it was becoming harder to ignore her lifelong aspirations of acting. Her senior year she auditioned for a supporting role in a college production of "Alice in Wonderland" and was astonished to be offered the lead, particularly because the part typically called for a blonde Caucasian. In 1990, Liu broke the bad news to her parents: despite her freshly inked college degree, she was moving to Los Angeles to become an actress.
In less than a year, Liu landed her first professional acting job with a stint as a Peach Pit waitress on "Beverly Hills, 90210" (Fox, 1990-2000). Soon, she was enjoying several guest spots a year on both dramas and comedies, ranging from "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002) to "Coach" (ABC, 1989-1997). One of her more memorable turns was the recurring part of a woman whose young son was suffering from AIDS complications NBC's medical drama, "ER" (1994-2009). In 1996, Liu's up-and-coming film career began with a bit part as an ex-girlfriend in the 1996 hit "Jerry Maguire." The following year, she played an exotic dancer in the Harvey Keitel actioner "City of Industry," but she was about to achieve her big break with a role her parents would be proud of. In 1998, Liu auditioned for the role of Nelle Porter on the hit dramedy series, "Ally McBeal." The role was given to Portia de Rossi, but David E. Kelley was wowed by Liu's talent and promised to write a guest part for her in the show. The occasional appearances of Liu as Ling Woo - a hilariously bitchy, un-PC attorney - were such a winner with audiences, that Woo was added as a cast regular in the show's third season. During her run on the series, Liu's scene-stealing comic relief earned her many fans, as well as an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Had Liu not already come to the public's attention on "Ally McBeal," the 1999 Mel Gibson flick "Payback" may have proven to be her breakthrough role. She starred as Pearl, a leather-clad dominatrix who proved so likable, that the initial script was rewritten to afford her more screen time. The popular movie led to a pairing with Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson in the Wild West comedy "Shanghai Noon" (2000), before Liu snagged her most famous leading screen role alongside Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz as one of "Charlie's Angels" (2000). The girl-powered romp was a blockbuster and a respectful tribute to the iconic 1970s "jiggle" series. Even more refreshing was the inclusion of Asian-American Liu as representative of a new era of big screen female protagonists.
Following the phenomenal success of "Charlie's Angels," however, Liu's film career weathered its share of ups and downs. She starred opposite Antonio Banderas in the little-seen sci-fi thriller "Ecks vs. Sever" in 2002. She nabbed a part in the Oscar-winning film adaptation of the Broadway hit "Chicago" (2002), turning in a juicy if all-too-brief performance as murderess Kitty Baxter. In 2003, Liu reunited with Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore for the action-packed sequel "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" - a film that was more laughable than anything else and all but killed the franchise off. Undeterred, Liu got on board Quentin Tarantino's long-awaited fourth feature, "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" (2003), giving a bravura performance as Japanese-Chinese-American O-Ren Ishii, Queen of the Tokyo Underworld and leader of the Crazy 88 Fighters. Liu also enlivened the 2004-05 first season of the doomed "Friends" spin-off sitcom "Joey" by playing the compulsively clean TV producer Lauren Beck on several episodes.
Making a shift, Liu began to focus more on dramas, playing a role as an FBI psychologist in the feature film bounty hunter chronicle "Domino" (2005) and as a Mandarin black market blood dealer in "3 Needles," which was not widely released but impressed the festival circuit with its gripping profiles of the international AIDS epidemic. Liu made her first foray into producing with the well-received documentary "Freedom's Fury" (2006), which centered on a 1956 Olympic water polo tournament between Russia and Hungary that paralleled the nations' struggle over power. Liu returned to the screen as a fast-talking coroner trying to help Josh Hartnett survive a case of mistaken identity in the thriller "Lucky Number Slevin" (2006) before taking an executive producer credit (and a supporting role) on the unfortunate Cedric the Entertainer flop, "Code Name: The Cleaner" (2007).
A straight-to-video thriller "Rise: Blood Hunter" (2007) found undead journalist Liu on a quest for revenge against the vampires that took her life, until a waning film profile was interrupted with a return to series television on "The Cashmere Mafia" (ABC, 2008). From the executive producer of "Sex and The City" (HBO, 1998-2004), the highly anticipated hour-long drama promised to make the most of Liu's persona as a strong, independent woman and a loyal friend - albeit, with a great wardrobe. Unfortunately, "Cashmere Mafia" failed to attract the same loyal demographic "Sex and the City" had courted so well and was cancelled by the end of its first season. Liu enjoyed far greater success, surprisingly enough, in a pair of animated feature films. She voiced Viper, one of the animal warriors known as the Furious Five in the smash hit, "Kung Fu Panda" (2008) and delivered another audio performance as the water fairy Silvermist in Disney's highly anticipated direct-to-DVD release "Tinker Bell" (2008).
With her schedule freed up by the axing of "Cashmere Mafia," Liu took another chance on a weekly series when she joined the cast of the avarice-themed melodrama, "Dirty Sexy Money" (ABC, 2008-09). It was, however, another short-term endeavor, as the show was yanked by the end of season two. Returning to the more dependable and less demanding world of vocal work, she contributed to the animated sequels "Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure" (2009) and "Kung Fu Panda 2" (2011) - the latter of which led to continued duties on the animated series, "Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness" (Nickelodeon, 2011- ). While it was not a fulltime commitment, Liu earned praise for her recurring role on acclaimed Los Angeles cop drama "Southland" (NBC/TNT, 2009- ), which she joined during its fourth season. She returned to feature film work with a supporting turn opposite Adrien Brody in "Detachment" (2012), an indie drama examining daily life at an urban high school, before returning to series television to play Dr. Watson to Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock Holmes in the modern day revamp, "Elementary" (CBS, 2012- ). Liu continued making movies, co-starring in the little-seen indie drama "The Trouble with Bliss" (2012) starring Michael C. Hall as an aimless slacker, and "The Man with the Iron Fists" (2012), a martial arts action flick set in 19th century China that marked the directing debut of Wu Tang Clan leader RZA.
The Man With the Iron FistsMadam Blossom
Someday This Pain Will be Useful to YouHilda Temple
The Trouble With BlissAndrea
DetachmentDr. Doris Parker
Kung Fu Panda 2Viper
Kung Fu PandaMaster Viper
Rise: Blood HunterSadie Blake
3 NeedlesJin Ping, the Blood Smuggler
Lucky Number SlevinLindsey
DominoCSI Taryn Miles
Kill Bill Vol. 2O-Ren Ishii/"Cottonmouth"
Kill Bill Vol. 1O-Ren Ishii/Cottonmouth
Shanghai NoonPrincess Pei Pei
The Mating Habits of the Earthbound HumanThe Female's Friend
GuyWoman at Newstand
City of IndustryExotic Dancer
Watching the DetectivesViolet
Tinker BellVoice of Silvermist