Lucy Alexis Liu is an American actress, voice actress, model, and producer, who portrays Joan Watson on Elementary.
Early life and career
Lucy Liu was born in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York. In high school, she adopted her middle name "Alexis". She is the youngest of three children born to Cecilia, who worked as a biochemist, and Tom Liu, who was trained as a civil engineer but sold digital clock pens. Her parents worked many jobs when Lucy and her siblings were growing up. Both of Liu's parents were immigrants of Taiwanese or Chinese descent. She has an older brother, John, and an older sister, Jenny.
Liu has stated that she grew up in a "diverse" neighborhood. She learned to speak Mandarin at home and began studying English when she was five years old. Liu attended Joseph Pulitzer Middle School (I.S.145), and graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1986. She enrolled at New York University and transferred to the University of Michigan, where she was a member of the Chi Omega sorority. Liu earned a bachelor's degree in Asian languages and cultures. In Michigan, Liu worked as a waitress.
In 1989, Liu auditioned for the University of Michigan's production of Alice in Wonderland during her senior year of college. Although she had originally tried out for only a supporting part, Liu was cast in the lead role. While queuing up to audition for the musical Miss Saigon in 1990, she told The New York Times, "There aren't many Asian roles, and it's very difficult to get your foot in the door." In May 1992, Liu made her New York stage debut in Fairy Bones, directed by Tina Chen.
Liu had small roles in films and TV, marking her debut. She was cast in both The X-Files (in the episode "Hell Money") and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (in the episode "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 temporary, but high audience ratings secured Liu as a permanent cast member. Additionally, she earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy Series. In Payback (1999), Liu portrayed Pearl, a high-class BDSM prostitute with links to the Chinese mafia.
Liu was cast as Alex Munday in the Charlie's Angels films, alongside Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz. The film opened in November 2000 and earned more than $125 million in the United States. Charlie's Angels earned a worldwide total of more than $264 million. The sequel, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, opened in June 2003 and also did well at the box office, earning more than $100 million in the U.S. and a worldwide total of more than $259 million. In contrast, Liu starred with Antonio Banderas in Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, a critical and box office failure.
In 2000, she hosted Saturday Night Live with Jay-Z. Liu 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. Liu also made a cameo appearance 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 16 episode Goo Goo Gai Pan).
In 2002, Liu played Rita Foster in Vincenzo Natali's Brainstorm (aka Cypher). Soon thereafter, she appeared as O-Ren Ishii in Quentin Tarantino's 2003 film, Kill Bill. She won an MTV 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 films. She also had minor roles as Kitty Baxter in the film Chicago and as a psychologist opposite Keira Knightley in the thriller Domino. In Lucky Number Slevin, she played the leading love interest to Josh Hartnett. 3 Needles was released on December 1, 2006. Liu portrayed Jin Ping, an HIV-positive Chinese woman.
In 2007, Liu appeared in Code Name: The Cleaner, Rise, a supernatural thriller co-starring Michael Chiklis in which Liu plays an undead reporter (for which she was ranked number 41 on "Top 50 Sexiest Vampires"), and Watching the Detectives, an independent romantic comedy co-starring Cillian Murphy. She made her producer debut and also starred in a remake of Charlie Chan, which had been planned as early as 2000.
In 2007 Empire named Liu number 96 of their "100 Sexiest Movie Stars." The producers of Dirty Sexy Money created a role for Liu as a series regular. Liu played Nola Lyons, a powerful attorney who faced Nick George (Peter Krause). Liu voiced Silvermist in Disney Fairies and Viper in Kung Fu Panda.
In March 2010, Liu made her Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning play God of Carnage as Annette on the second replacement cast alongside Jeff Daniels, Janet McTeer, and Dylan Baker. In March 2012, she was cast as Joan Watson for Elementary. She also has played police officer Jessica Tang on Southland, a television show focusing on the lives of police officers and detectives in Los Angeles as a recurring guest actor during the fourth season. She received the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Drama Guest Actress for this role.
In August 2011, Liu became a narrator for the musical group The Bullitts. Liu's double duty as an NYPD consultant on Elementary and an LAPD officer on Southland won her praise from TV Guide in their "Cheers & Jeers 2012" issue, which cheered her "arresting performances".
- Lucy Liu has directed Elementary episodes "Paint It Black", "The Female of the Species", "Turn It Upside Down", "Moving Targets", "The Adventures of Ersatz Sobekneferu" and "The Visions of Norman P. Horowitz".
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