Lucy Liu is getting sick and tired of being asked about being an Asian-American actress. She gave a lengthy explanation why during a post-screening panel discussion of her hit show “Elementary” at PaleyFest 2016 this Saturday.
Responding to a question from the New York Times’ Mike Hale about the “whitewashing of Asian characters and stories,” and her being an Asian actress in her current show. Lucy Liu did not mince words in expressing her frustration, NY Mag reported.
“That obviously is a hot topic. It’s hard because often times I’m asked not how I feel or how I pride myself as an artist but how I feel as an Asian artist — there’s always some sort of a hangman before the actual thing,” said Liu. “That disturbs me a bit. It’s never about the art itself, it’s about the adjective. I’m playing the main act of what’s happening.”
Liu expressed that she feels caught in a weird position receiving recognition for her work as an actress and/or as an Asian-American actress.
“When you’re asked to go a festival and it’s Asian-American, or it’s an award, it’s specific to ‘that.’ Because I’m ‘that.’ It’s difficult to swallow.”
Looking back into her recognition from the Academy, Liu felt honored that she was recognized even before talks about diversity have began. “It was just a big honor. Then, with all that’s been going on, they sent a letter out, basically saying they wanted members to then open up and send a list of people that were ethnic in diversity.”
“I had this moment of, I was just thinking about it. I was just so glad I was accepted into this wonderful group because of my work, not because I am Asian, and now they’re trolling the fields for people who fit that. I want to be acknowledged for my work, not for my ‘fill in the blank,’” she said.
Liu found it frustrating to be constantly asked about her cultural identity and not by her performance. So for all future questions that border on similar topics, she delivered her ultimate response:
“It’s exhausting, to have to explain it. Is it difficult? Absolutely. There’s less to have, and there’s more to do, in order to get that less. It’s hard because it’s rare that I’ll be asked a question that is not with that before it. I always have this hyphen, even if it’s a great periodical — sorry to sound so geeky — if it’s a great something that people really respect and admire, they still will ask that as opposed to ‘How does it feel to be an actress in the business?’ It’s never that. ‘How does it feel to be an Asian person in the business?’ I don’t know. I don’t know what it is to be ‘Asian’ because I am a person. I’m a human being. I don’t look in the mirror, honestly, and say, ‘Oh, before I say something, I better remember that I am Asian.’ The whole joke is, like, when you go to China, you don’t order Chinese food, you’re just ordering the fucking food. So, yes, it’s not easy. I want to get the job. I want to get the thought or the acceptance because of my work, not because I have a hyphen before my name.”
In “Elementary”, Liu plays Doctor Joan Watson, a modern day iteration of Dr. John Watson’s character from the lore of Sherlock Holmes. The show enjoys high ratings with critics lauding the series for its quality of writing and the performances of its two leads, Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu.