to Chinese 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.
Once relegated to "ethnic" parts, the energetic actress is finally
earning her stripes as an across-the-board leading lady.
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 "X Files,
The" (1993). In 1996, she was cast as an ambitious college student
on Rhea Perlman's ephemeral sitcom "Pearl" (1996).
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
spunk 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.
"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), 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).
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.