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Lucy Liu

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Basic Information

Lucy Liu

Date of Birth: 2 December 1968
Place of Birth: Queens, New York, USA
Birth Name: Lucy Alexis Liu
Height: 5' 3" (1.60 m)


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.

Early life

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 Kung Fu Panda, an animated film in which she voiced Viper.

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.

Lucy Liu is currently (September 15th, 2010) in Atlanta, Georgia filming 'Marry Me', a new Lifetime four hour TV movie.

Personal life

In a Jane interview, she is quoted as saying,

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.


Year Film Role Notes
1992 Rhythm of Destiny Donna Hong Kong film
1993 Protozoa Ari
1995 Bang Hooker
1996 Jerry Maguire Former Girlfriend
1997 Flypaper Dot
Riot Luke Perry's Girlfriend
Gridlock'd Cee-Cee
City of Industry Cathi Rose
Guy Woman at newsstand
1998 Love Kills Kashi
1999 Payback Pearl
True Crime Toy Shop Girl
Molly Brenda
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 TeamMTV Movie Award for Best On-Screen Duo

Nominated—MTV Movie Award for Best Dressed Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress

2001 Hotel Kawikar
2002 Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever Agent Sever
Cypher Rita Foster
Chicago Kitty Baxter Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best CastScreen 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

2004 Mulan II Mei (voice)
2005 3 Needles Jin Ping, the Blood Smuggler
Domino Taryn Mills
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
Tinker Bell Silvermist (voice)
2009 Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure
2010 Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue
Nomads Post-Production
East Fifth Bliss Andrea
2011 Detachment Dr. Parker Filming
Tinker Bell and the Mysterious Winter Woods Silvermist (voice)
Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom Viper (voice)


Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You Hilda Temple Post-production


Year Film Role Notes
1996-1997 Pearl Amy Li
1998–2002 Ally McBeal Ling Woo Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Comedy Series Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

2004 Game Over Raquel Smashenburn
2004–2010 Maya and Miguel Maggie Lee
2008 Cashmere Mafia Mia Mason
2008–2009 Dirty Sexy Money Nola Lyons
2009 Afro Samurai Resurrection Sio

TV guest appearances

Year Film Role Notes
1991 Beverly Hills, 90210 Courtney
1993 L.A. Law Mai Lin
1994 Coach Nicole Wong
Hotel Malibu Co-Worker
1995 Home Improvement Women #3
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys Oi-Lan
ER Mei-Sun Leow
1996 Nash Bridges Joy Powell
The X Files Kim Hsin
High Incident Officer Whin
1997 The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest Melana (voice)
Michael Hayes Alice Woo
Dellaventura Yuling Chong
NYPD Blue Amy Chu
2000 MADtv Herself
Saturday Night Live Herself - Host
2001 Sex and the City Herself
2002 King of the Hill Tid-Pao
2001–2002 Futurama Herself (voice)
2004 Jackie Chan Adventures Adult Jade (voice)
2004-2005 Joey Lauren Beck
2005 The Simpsons Madam Wu (voice)
2007 Ugly Betty Grace Chin


Year Film Role Notes
2006 Freedom's Fury Co-executive producer Documentary
2007 Code Name: The Cleaner Co-executive producer


  • 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.
  • Was 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.
  • Auditioned for a role in Shanghai Knights (2003), but lost out to Fann Wong.
  • Is an initiated sister of Chi Omega Sorority.
  • Announced that she plans on marrying Zach Helm, her boyfriend of one year (April 2004).
  • Shares a birthday with Britney Spears
  • Mentioned in Outkast's hit "Hey Ya".
  • Good friends with Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore since Charlie's Angels (2000)
  • One of the guests at Ashton Kutcher's and Demi Moore's wedding in 2005.
  • Graduated Stuyvesant High School the same year as Yelba Osorio and Zorikh Lequidre.
  • Is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, English, Italian, Spanish and a little Japanese.
  • Is close friends with her "Pearl" (1996) co-star Rhea Perlman and her husband Danny DeVito
  • Ranked #56 in FHM's "100 Sexiest Women in the World 2005" special supplement (2005).
  • Auditioned for the role of Elektra in Daredevil (2003), but lost out to Jennifer Garner.
  • 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.