Bad Girl in Disguise

-- from Lufthansa Magazin

-- Not just a pretty face, Chinese-American actor Lucy Liu also packs a pretty strong punch-

Her first role was Alice in Wonderland. Since then, we haven’t once ceased our wonderment. Has there ever been an actress who looks as much like a sweet, Chinese princess yet plays the biggest bitch on American TV? Who snarls politically incorrect primetime one-liners and yet is an icon for many young women? You just have to love 33-year-old Lucy Liu because you really wouldn’t want her as your enemy.
There are people, she says smiling, who actually hold their breath when she walks into the room – for fear that she will make one of the malicious remarks with which she has been abusing her film partners in the US series Ally McBeal for over two years. That she is now starring as one of the three wild women in Charlie’s Angels isn’t exactly comforting, either. There, she shows audiences that in addition to making nasty comments, she can also shoot, hit and kickbox.
Of course, the “bad girl” role isn’t Lucy Liu’s invention – cinema history is full of them. But playing a bad girl adored by the good ones who has three guy, both good and bad, lying at her feet – that really takes talent. As dainty and girl-like (such freckles!) as she may otherwise appear, on screen Lucy Liu embodies wildness with verve, like in the Mel Gibson movie Payback (1999) where she plays an ice-cold dominatrix in black leather and high heels.
Her characters are right with the trend. The pop world is teeming with amazons – quarrelsome, smart, sexy and about as cuddly as a pin cushion. Just recall, besides the three quick-witted Angels, the cool, leather-clad lady in The Matrix, the kung-fu warrior in Ang Lee’s Chinese epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or the young female boxer in Girlfight. In television series we are suddenly confronted by stars who can dish it out like kung-fu legend Bruce Lee. “There are some pretty tough women out there,” wrote the New York Times, predicting that the aggressive, muscle-toned heroines would be “doing some damage”.
We’ll see about that. For the moment, all we have is some refreshing unease. Lucy Liu is well aware that this is her strength. “I send out a certain energy…”, she once said. And she doesn’t just put it into her roles, it also drives her to take up strenuous hobbies such as mountain climbing, skiing, riding and martial arts. The daughter of Chinese immigrants who grew up in Queens, NY, is pursuing a second career as a photo artist, and has already held exhibitions in NY and LA.
She studied art at college – and Chinese literature. Until she was six, she and her older sister spoke only Chinese. This was quickly incorporated into her roles: in Ally McBeal, snake-in-the-grass Ling is contemptuous of ignorant Americans who cannot properly pronounce her name. And in the eastern western Shanghai Noon by Hong Kong superstar Jackie Chan, she plays a Beijing princess who is kidnapped and taken to the States. At least half of her lines are delivered in Chinese, and she looks really loveable in her beautiful clothes, enveloped in chaste veils.
It need hardly be said that this princess can also be dangerous.

by Nina Weber - © Lufthansa 2001.