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Lucy Liu — Read About the Actress, Artist and Mother Who Does It All

The 'Charlie's Angels' star has too many talents to count!

She’s got a graceful beauty that’s one of a kind, a sense of confidence that’s clear in the way she carries herself, the charm of a romantic leading lady and the skills of an action star in movies and TV shows — what can’t Lucy Liu do?

The 55-year-old actress, born and raised in Queens, New York to Chinese immigrants never imagined she’d one day grow up to star in some of the biggest blockbusters to date.

During her senior year of college at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, she auditioned for their production of Alice in Wonderland. Earning the title role, she was bit by the acting bug.

Lucy Liu, 1999, actress in movies and TV shows
Lucy Liu, 1999Getty

“We rarely went to the movies,” she recalled of her family life in a 2014 interview with Metro.

We did watch television but becoming an actor wasn’t something that was even in the stratosphere as a career idea. What came after high school was college; what came after college was a job. Acting was never a job that was ever considered. It was completely out of the ballpark, completely alien to my family. And, I think, to a certain extent it still is.”

Lucy Liu early movies and TV shows

From her on-screen debut in 1991 in an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 to the time in which she had her big break into the mainstream, Liu filled her resume with parts in television and movies.

Lucy Liu, 1999, actress in movies and TV shows
Lucy Liu, 1999Getty

She could be seen in guest roles in series like L.A. Law, Home Improvement, ER and The X-Files, and had more significant roles in series such as Pearl from 1996 to 1997.

Also in 1996, she could be seen in a small part in Jerry Maguire opposite Tom Cruise, but it was in 1998 when she got her breakout role in the legal dramedy, Ally McBeal, playing the part of Ling Woo.

“I had auditioned for a more regular role on Ally McBeal and I didn’t get it, but then they came back a few weeks later with this guest-star role and at the same time I was being offered a play,” Liu recalled to Metro.

Lucy Liu, 1999
Lucy Liu, 1999Getty

“The TV role was only eight days’ work; the play was running for three months and I wanted to do the play because it was more artistic. But my manager insisted I take Ally McBeal – she told me I was going to pass on the play that time and I was going to do this show, and that was that. Then, of course, it became such a part of the zeitgeist and changed my career.”

The series ultimately kickstarted her career, and the films and television shows that came in its wake would make Lucy Liu a household name.

Lucy Liu the film star

Ally McBeal opened up the door for some of Liu’s most prolific career highlights: In Charlie’s Angels (2000), Liu was at the forefront alongside Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz, and it’s a line of her resume that she holds dear to her heart.

Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu, 2000
Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu, 2000Getty

In an essay she wrote in 2021 in The Washington Post, in which she discussed Asian representation and stereotypes in Hollywood, Liu said: “Hollywood frequently imagines a more progressive world than our reality; it’s one of the reasons Charlie’s Angels was so important to me. As part of something so iconic, my character Alex Munday normalized Asian identity for a mainstream audience and made a piece of Americana a little more inclusive.”

After bringing the action hero to life, Liu stayed busy in Hollywood. Films like Chicago (2002), Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) and shows like Elementary defined her film career and showcased her unique range.

Her most recent credits include the series A Man in Full, Presence (2024) and Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023).

Outside of acting

Away from life on the screen, Lucy Liu is a talented artist, producing work under her Chinese name, Yu Ling.

It was a form of protection and also to allow the viewer to have a very clear and open mind when they came to see the works,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2019.

Lucy Liu and Rockwell Lloyd, 2019
Lucy Liu and Rockwell Lloyd, 2019Getty

On top of artist and actress, Lucy Liu had a son, Rockwell, via a surrogate in 2015. What can’t she do?

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