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Lucy Liu
American actress and model

Lucy Liu

Lucy Liu
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American actress and model
A.K.A. Lucy Alexis Liu
Is Actor Television actor Film actor Voice actor Painter Film director Film producer Singer Screenwriter Stage actor Industrialist Businessperson Business executive
From United States of America
Field Arts Business Film, TV, Stage & Radio Music
Gender female
Birth 2 December 1968, Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City, USA
Age 53 years
Star sign Sagittarius
Mother: Cecilia Liu
Father: Tom Liu
Children: Rockwell Lloyd
Height: 160 cm
University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Stuyvesant High School
New York University
Hungarian Order of Merit  
MTV Movie Award for Best Villain 2004
The details


Lucy Liu (born 2 December 1968) is an American actress, voice actress, director, producer, singer and artist. She became known for playing the role of the vicious and ill-mannered "Ling Woo" in the television series Ally McBeal (1998–2002), for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series. Liu's film work includes starring as one of the heroines in Charlie's Angels (2000), portraying "O-Ren Ishii" in Kill Bill(2003), and starring roles in the main casts of Payback (1999), Chicago (2002), and the animated film series Kung Fu Panda (2008) portraying the character "Master Viper.", The Man with the Iron Fists (2012), and Set It Up (2018).

In 2008, she starred in an ABC comedy-drama, Cashmere Mafia, which ended after one abbreviated season. The show was one of only a few American television shows to have an Asian American series lead. In 2012, Liu joined the cast of the TNT series Southland in the recurring role of "Jessica Tang," for which she won the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Drama Guest Actress. In the years 2012-2019, she co-starred in the Sherlock Holmes–inspired crime drama series Elementary as "Joan Watson" for which she won the Seoul International Drama Award for Best Actress.

Early life

Lucy Liu was born as Lucy Alexis Liu on December 2, 1968 in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City, New York. In high school, she adopted a middle name, Alexis. She is the youngest of three children born to Cecilia (1925–1986), who worked as a biochemist, and Tom Liu (1913–1975), a trained civil engineer who sold digital clock pens. Liu's parents originally came from Beijing and Shanghai and emigrated to Taiwan as adults before meeting in New York. She has an older brother, Alex, and an older sister, Jenny. Her parents worked many jobs while Lucy and her siblings were growing up.

Liu as a high school senior in 1986

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 5. She studied the martial art kali-eskrima-silat as a hobby when she was young. Liu attended Joseph Pulitzer Middle School (I.S.145), and graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1986. She later enrolled at New York University and transferred to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she was a member of the Chi Omega sorority. Liu earned a bachelor's degree in Asian languages and cultures. Liu worked as a waitress at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase club circa 1988–89.

Acting career


Liu was discovered by an agent at the age of 21 while traveling on the subway. She did one commercial. As a member of the Basement Arts student-run theater group, she auditioned in 1989 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. Her screen debut came in 1991 with a the role of "Courtney" in "Pass, Not Pass" episode of the TV series Beverly Hills, 90210. In 1993, she appeared in LA Law, where she appeared as a Chinese widow giving her evidence in Mandarin.

She was cast in both The X-Files in "Hell Money" and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys in "The March to Freedom," before landing a role on the TV series 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 a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor 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 film Charlie's Angels, 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 $100 million in the U.S. and a worldwide total of more than $259 million. Liu also starred with Antonio Banderasin Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, a critical and box office failure.

In 2000, she hosted Saturday Night Live with Jay-Z. In a 2001 episode of Sex and the City entitled "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda" she guest starred as herself, playing new client of Samantha Jones (played by Kim Cattrall). She starred in the Sex and the City–inspired TV show Cashmere Mafia on ABC. Liu also made a cameo appearance on Futurama (as herself and robot duplicates) in the episodes "I Dated a Robot" and "Love and Rocket", and on The Simpsons in the season 16 episode "Goo Goo Gai Pan."

In 2002, Liu played "Rita Foster" in Vincenzo Natali's Brainstorm (a.k.a. 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. Liu guest starred as lawyer "Grace Chin" on Ugly Betty in the 2007 episodes "Derailed" and "Icing on the Cake."

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.

Liu at Kung Fu Panda premiere

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 — an American Sherlock Holmes adaptation, and the role Liu was offered is traditionally played by men. She has gained great praise for her role as "Watson" winning many awards including 3 consecutive nominations for the People's Choice Awards for Favorite TV Crime Drama Actress.

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.

In 2013, Liu was invited to become a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Liu was named Harvard's 2016 Artist of the Year. She was awarded the Harvard Foundation’s prestigious arts medal at the annual Harvard Foundation Award ceremony, during the Cultural Rhythms Festival in Sanders Theatre.

She also part of the star-studded cast in the post-apocalyptic thriller, Future World,directed by James Franco and Bruce Thierry Cheung.

Until August 2019, Liu was seen frequently on the TV series Elementary, appearing as "Joan Watson" alongside Jonny Lee Miller, Jon Michael Hill, and Aidan Quinn. In 2019, she was also seen portraying "Simone Grove" in 10 episodes of Marc Cherry's Why Women Kill.

Liu was last seen on the screen Stage Mother (August 2020), starring as "Sienna" with Jacki Weaver and Adrian Grenier.

Currently, Liu is filming for a workplace comedy by British director Christine Gernon, based on the screenplay by Shana Goldberg-Meehan. The title is not yet announced.

Directing career

Lucy Liu kicked off her directing career in 2011. The movie titled, Meena, was based on a true story, about an eight-year-old Indian girl who is sold to a brothel. The movie was screened in New York City in 2014. The character of Meena was played by Tannishtha Chatterjee.

Lucy Liu's other directed credits include 7 episodes of Elementary and an episode each of Graceland, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Luke Cage, Why Women Kill,and New Amsterdam.

Career as visual artist

Liu had previously presented her artwork under a pseudonym, Yu Ling (which is her Chinese name). Liu, who is an artist in several media, has had several gallery shows showcasing her collage, paintings, and photography. She began doing collage mixed media when she was 16 years old, and became a photographer and painter. Liu attended the New York Studio School for drawing, painting, and sculpture from 2004 to 2006.

In September 2006, Liu held an art show and donated her share of the profits to UNICEF. She also had another show in 2008 in Munich. Her painting, "Escape", was incorporated into Montblanc's Cutting Edge Art Collection and was shown during Art Basel Miami 2008, which showed works by contemporary American artists.

Liu has stated that she donated her share of the profits from the NYC Milk Gallery gallery show to UNICEF. In London, a portion of the proceeds from her book Seventy Two went to UNICEF.


In 2001, Liu was the spokeswoman for the Lee National Denim Day fundraiser, which raises money for breast cancer research and education. In 2004 Liu was appointed an ambassador for U.S. Fund for UNICEF. She traveled to Pakistan and Lesotho, among several other countries.

Early in 2006, Liu received an "Asian Excellence Award" for Visibility. She also hosted an MTV documentary, Traffic, for the MTV EXIT campaign in 2007. In 2008, she produced and narrated the short film The Road to Traffik, about the Cambodian author and human rights advocate Somaly Mam. The film was directed by Kerry Girvin and co-produced by photographer Norman Jean Roy. This led to a partnership with producers on the documentary film Redlight.

Liu is a supporter of marriage equality for gays and lesbians, and became a spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign in 2011. She has teamed up with Heinz to combat the widespread global health threat of iron deficiency anemia and vitamin and mineral malnutrition among infants and children in the developing world.

Personal life

In 1991, Liu underwent surgery after a breast cancer scare. "The doctor sort of felt and said it was cancer and it needs to come out. I went into shell-shock. It was pretty traumatizing." The lump was removed just two days after the doctor's examination and was found to be benign.

Liu has studied various religions, such as Buddhism, Taoism and Jewish mysticism. She has stated, "I'm into all things spiritual—anything to do with meditation or chants or any of that stuff. I studied Chinese philosophy in school. There's something in the metaphysical that I find very fascinating."

She has been a member of the Chinese-American organization Committee of 100 since 2004.

Liu announced the birth of her son, who had been born via a gestational surrogate, on August 27, 2015.

Since the birth of Rockwell, Liu has been heavily involved in celebrating diversity in modern families. One major campaign she was involved in was the Tylenol's #HowWeFamily Mother's Day Campaign.




Year Title Role Notes 
1992 Rhythm of Destiny Donna  
1993 Protozoa Ari Short film 
1995 Bang Hooker  
1996 Jerry Maguire Former girlfriend  
1997 Gridlock'd Cee-Cee  
City of Industry Cathi Rose  
Flypaper Dot  
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 The Female's Friend (Lydia)  
Play It to the Bone Lia  
2000 Shanghai Noon Princess Pei Pei  
Charlie's Angels Alex Munday  
2001 Hotel Kawika  
2002 Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever Agent Sever  
Cypher Rita Foster  
Chicago Kitty Baxter  
2003 Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle Alex Munday  
Kill Bill: Volume 1 O-Ren Ishii  
2004 Mulan II Mei (voice) Direct to video 
2005 3 Needles Jin Ping  
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 The Year of Getting to Know Us Anne  
Kung Fu Panda Master Viper (voice) English and Mandarin version 
Tinker Bell Silvermist (voice)  
2009 Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure  
Redlight Herself/Narrator Also producer 
2010 Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue Silvermist (voice)  
Nomads Susan  
Kung Fu Panda Holiday Master Viper (voice)  
2011 Detachment Dr. Doris Parker  
The Trouble with Bliss Andrea  
Kung Fu Panda 2 Master Viper (voice) English and Mandarin version 
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You Hilda Temple  
2012 Secret of the Wings Silvermist (voice)  
The Man with the Iron Fists Madame Blossom  
2014 The Pirate Fairy Silvermist (voice)  
Magic Wonderland Princess Ocean (voice) English and Mandarin version 
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya Lady Sagami (voice) 
Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast Silvermist (voice)  
2016 Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Scroll Master Viper (voice) Short film 
Kung Fu Panda 3 English and Mandarin version 
2018 Future World The Queen  
Set It Up Kirsten Stevens  
Sherlock Gnomes  Special thanks 
2019 QT8: The First Eight Herself Documentary 
2020 Stage Mother Sienna  


Year Title Role Notes 
1991 Beverly Hills, 90210 Courtney Episode: "Pass, Not Pass" 
1993 L.A. Law Mai Lin Episode: "Foreign Co-Respondent" 
1994 Hotel Malibu Co-worker Episode: "Do Not Disturb" 
Coach Nicole Wong 2 episodes 
1995 Home Improvement Woman #3 Episode: "Bachelor of the Year" 
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys Oi-Lan Episode: "The March to Freedom" 
ER Mei-Sun Leow 3 episodes 
1996 Nash Bridges Joy Powell Episode: "Genesis" 
The X-Files Kim Hsin Episode: "Hell Money" 
High Incident Officer Whin 2 episodes 
1996–1997 Pearl Amy Li Main cast; 22 episodes 
1997 The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest Melana (voice) 2 episodes 
NYPD Blue Amy Chu Episode: "A Wrenching Experience" 
Riot Boomer's girlfriend TV movie (segment "Empty") 
Dellaventura Yuling Chong Episode: "Pilot" 
Michael Hayes Alice Woo Episode: "Slaves" 
1998–2002 Ally McBeal Ling Woo Main cast (seasons 2–5); 72 episodes 
2000 MADtv Herself Season 6, episode 6 
Saturday Night Live Episode: "Lucy Liu/Jay-Z
2001–2002 Futurama 2 episodes 
2001 Sex and the City Episode: "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda" 
2002 King of the Hill Tid Pao Souphanousinphone (voice) Episode: "Bad Girls, Bad Girls, Whatcha Gonna Do" 
2004 Jackie Chan Adventures Adult Jade Chan (voice) Episode: "J2: Rise of the Dragons" 
Game Over Raquel Smashenburn (voice) 6 episodes 
2004–2007 Maya & Miguel Maggie Lee (voice)  
2004–2005 Joey Lauren Beck 3 episodes 
2005 Clifford's Puppy Days Teacup, Mrs. Glen (Voices) Episode: "Adopt-a-Pup/Jokes on You" 
The Simpsons Madam Wu (voice) Episode: "Goo Goo Gai Pan" 
2007 Ugly Betty Grace Chin 2 episodes 
2008 Cashmere Mafia Mia Mason Main cast; 7 episodes 
Ben & Izzy Yasmine (voice)  
Little Spirit: Christmas in New York Leo's Mom (voice) Television film 
2008–2009 Dirty Sexy Money Nola Lyons Main cast (season 2); 13 episodes 
2009 Afro Samurai: Resurrection Sio (voice) TV movie 
2010 Kung Fu Panda Holiday Master Viper (voice) 
Marry Me Rae Carter Miniseries; 2 episodes 
2011 Pixie Hollow Games Silvermist (voice) TV movie 
2011–2016 Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness Master Viper (voice)  
2012 Southland Jessica Tang 10 episodes 
2012–2019 Elementary Joan Watson Main cast 
2013 Pixie Hollow Bake Off Silvermist (voice) TV movie 
2016 Girls Detective Mosedale Episode: "Japan" 
2017 Difficult People Veronica Ford 4 episodes 
Michael Jackson's Halloween Conformity Voice role, TV special 
2019 Why Women Kill Simone Lead role (season 1) 
2020 The Drew Barrymore Show Herself Upcoming episode 

Video games

Year Title Role Notes 
2001 SSX Tricky Elise Riggs Voice 
2003 Charlie's Angels Alex Munday 
2012 Sleeping Dogs Vivienne Lu 


Year Title Notes 
2011 Meena Short film 
2014-2019 Elementary 6 episodes 
2015 Graceland Episode: "Master of Weak Ties" 
2018 Luke Cage Episode: "Soul Brother #1" 
2019 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Episode: "Dearly Beloved" 
Why Women Kill Episode #8: "Marriages Don't Break Up on Account of Murder - It's Just A Symptom That Something Else Is Wrong" 
2020 New Amsterdam Episode #33: "Hiding Behind My Smile" 

Art exhibitions

Year Title Location Notes 
1993UnravelingAs Liu Yu-ling, Cast Iron Gallery, SoHo, New York, USCollection of multimedia art pieces, photographs 
1995CatapultAs Yu Ling, Purple Gallery, Los Angeles, USCollage mixed media exhibition 
2006AntennaEmotion Picture Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, CanadaIncorporating paint and drawing into photographs. Seven pieces of which two new. March 5 to June 30. 
Glass OnionAs Yu Ling, Milk Gallery, New York City, USPaintings, with a duration of two days and benefits for UNICEF. 
2007Art Basel Miami, Casa Tua in South Beach Miami, US as part of Montblanc's Cutting Edge Art CollectionPainting Escape, a black and white abstraction 
2008je suis. envois-moiAs Yu Ling, Six Friedrich Lisa Ungar, Munich, GermanySix oil paintings, four prints and ten sculptures. Revenue was donated to UNICEF. May 8 to 31 
2010As Yu Ling. Painting included in the Bloomsbury Auctions 20th Century Art and Editions sale in New York, USPainting 
2011Seventy TwoSalon Vert, London, UKPersonal canvases – hand-stitched and stuck with funny little found objects, pieces of rubbish 
2013TotemThe Popular Institute gallery, Manchester, UKSeries of work on linen, explores the fragility of the human form 
2019Unhomed BelongingsNational Museum of SingaporeFirst museum exhibit, included works by Shubigi Rao 

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result 
1997 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Ally McBeal Nominated 
1998 Won 
1999 Nominated 
NAACP Image Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series 
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series 
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series 
2000 Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series 
Blockbuster Entertainment Award Favorite Supporting Actress – Action Shanghai Noon Won 
2001 Favorite Team Charlie's Angels 
MTV Movie Award Best On-Screen Duo 
Best Dressed Nominated 
Saturn Award Best Supporting Actress 
2003 Broadcast Film Critics Association Award Best Cast Chicago Won 
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award Best Cast Nominated 
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Won 
Teen Choice Award Choice Hissy Fit Nominated 
MTV Movie Award Best Dance Sequence Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle 
2004 Best Villain Kill Bill: Volume 1 Won 
Saturn Award Best Supporting Actress Nominated 
2011 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Marry Me 
2012 New York Women in Film & Television Muse Award Best Actress Elementary Won 
2013 Prism Awards Female Performance in a Drama Series Multi-Episode Nominated 
Seoul International Drama Awards Best Actress Won 
Teen Choice Awards Choice TV Actress: Action 
Critics' Choice Television Award Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series Southland 
NAACP Image Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Nominated 
2015 People's Choice Awards Favorite TV Crime Drama Actress Elementary 
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