The Queens, New York, native began acting in college and landed her first leading role during her senior year at the University of Michigan. The play was "Alice in Wonderland," and Liu was cast as Alice. It was then that Liu began to see herself as someone who could be in the spotlight, and after college, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting.
In the years that followed, Liu scored guest appearances on numerous television shows, and then in 1997, she joined the cast of "Ally McBeal," where she played Ling Woo, a role for which she earned an Emmy nod 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. Her acting career took off from there, with notable credits including: "Charlie’s Angels," "Kill Bill," "Chicago," "Kung Fu Panda" and "The Man With the Iron Fists."
Liu made her debut as a producer with the film "Freedom’s Fury" in 2006, and a few years later, she made her Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning play "God of Carnage." Currently, she plays Dr. Joan Watson alongside Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock Holmes in CBS’s "Elementary," where she has also directed two episodes of the show.
But her latest and most important role to date is that of mom. Liu recently welcomed her first son Rockwell Lloyd Liu via surrogate, something she kept a secret until announcing it on Instagram. The birth of her son led to her working with Tylenol on the #HowWeFamily campaign to celebrate the different ways that moms become moms.
Liu recently joined Rebecca Jarvis on “Real Biz With Rebecca Jarvis” for a conversation about her career, being a new mom and what she hopes to leave as her legacy. Below are excerpts from the conversation. For more of Liu’s interview with Jarvis, watch the video above.
b>Rebecca Jarvis: How did you [get] from Queens to Hollywood to becoming an actress?
Lucy Liu: It was a long journey. I mean, it started off with public school and roaming around the alleyways and hanging out. That’s how we played, and then sort of, not really having an idea of what I wanted to do until I really went to college. I mean when I was younger I wanted to be an actress, but it just wasn’t something that was going to be feasible.
Rebecca Jarvis: It’s so far out there, how does one even achieve that?
Lucy Liu: Yeah, and my parents didn’t understand that. I didn’t even mention it to them. I didn’t actually bring it up until I started pursuing it because it would just be, you know, this kind of blob that they couldn’t really connect to. You have to give them something tangible. Like I have a stethoscope on, I’m going to be a ... you know, doctor. Or I’m going to be a lawyer. But I think the arts is not something they really understood or focused on. My parents were very focused on education and business, things like that.
Rebecca Jarvis: You started to fall in love with acting and actually performing while you were in college?
Lucy Liu: Yeah, while I was there I just did some, you know, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Hair,” you know, stuff in the background. I was probably one of the tribe members. You know what I mean? I just ran around in the background with long hair and sang and, you know, had a really good time. It was sort of a break from the classes I took, but I loved it and I was always in rehearsals. Not until really towards the end did I realize this was something I could really do and that was sort of my senior year when I did a play called “Alice in Wonderland.” And I was cast as Alice. And before that I’d never seen myself as somebody who could be the lead, you know, because on television and film there was never anyone that represented what I thought I could be. So I thought, you know, "Oh I’ll just always be somebody in the background." And that’s the first time I thought, "Wow, I can do something and change how I perceive myself in the world."
Rebecca Jarvis: How did you manage to break through? What was it?
Lucy Liu: I think it was just about this passion that I had for the arts. I really knew that this was what I wanted to do and I was going to pursue it with everything that I had and I also wanted to show my parents and prove to them that I could do something. I was going to do something. I mean I had no evidence, I had no proof of it....