Onscreen Lucy Liu has played a plethora of strong and sexy, and yes, sometimes bitchy women. Who can forget her kick-ass toughness in the movie version of Charlie’s Angels. Her brief foray into the complete bitchiness that was the short-lived Dirty Sexy Money? Or her tour-de-force as the assassin in Kill Bill Vol. 1?
C’mon, she’s badass.
Offscreen, however, Liu is polite, warm and willing to talk, even if it’s in the middle of a sunset cocktail party across from the Beverly Hilton. A STAR WAS BORN sits down and chats briefly about what it’s like to work with Jonny Lee Miller, her Brit import co-star on Elementary, the most recent American take on the Sherlock Holmes story. This time a modern tale with a twist – Holmes is in New York dealing with the NYPD instead of Scotland Yard and Watson, well, isn’t Jude Law, it’s Liu.
Before that, though, we talk to her about her growing up in Queens, New York.
Minutes away from Manhattan by subway, but worlds apart by style, Queens is the largest boroughs in New York, and one of the most ethnically diverse urban neighborhoods in the world.
“It was really diverse and it really shaped who I am, quite a bit.”
The iconic Unisphere, standing at 12 stories high, greets Queens visitors as a symbol of world peace, which is fitting for one of the most ethnically diverse urban neighborhoods in the world.
Liu was born in Queens, the daughter of a civil engineer and a biochemist. Her family was one of the first Asian residents of Jackson Heights, a neighborhood in Queens, which now has more than 170 languages spoken there. After graduating from the University of Michigan, she came to Hollywood and worked as waitress before finally landing a role on 90210 as, guess what, a waitress at the show’s fictional Peach Pit. It’s cliché but other roles followed.
ASWB: What was it like growing up Queens?
LL: It was really diverse and it really shaped who I am, quite a bit.
ASWB: Are there any places in Queens that hold any special memories for you?
LL: I used to hang out in the park on, I think, it was 78th street or something like that — the monkey bars and handball – I used to play all the time; I don’t remember much how to play it anymore…
Entry to Gantry Plaza Sate Park, a 12-acre waterfront park in Long Island City (not to be confused with Long Island, NY), a neighborhood in Queens. The park sits just across the East River and has spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline.
An artists’ escape from Manhattan’s prices, Queens is home to many museums and art galleries.
ASWB: Any foods you remember eating,……or favorite places you went to eat?
LL: We used to go down to the diner and get a cheeseburger deluxe. That was our big thing. We didn’t have a lot then, but that was our big thing — have a cheeseburger deluxe. My father still does that to this day.
ASWB: How often do you go back to Queens?
LL: ……I live in the city now, and that’s really great, but a lot of people I know live in Queens. We were shooting in Queens so I guess we kind of frequent the neighborhood.
ASWB: Do you keep in touch with any of your friends from school?
LL: I do keep in touch with someone who was a neighbor of mine in Queens. I knew her since she was really, really young. Her name is Donna and she is living in the city now and I know her family. Her family owns a restaurant that I always go to – it’s very nice.
ASWB: Are there are any must-see places in Queens.
LL: ……..so many of the places are gone, but I did recently go to a restaurant in Queens called The Crabhouse. It’s very nice.
Known for it’s memorabilia, as well as its bathtub full of unshelled peanuts and peel & eat shrimp, the Waterfront Crabhouse serves up seafood delicacies, as well as all-time favorites.
Liu’s favorite food when she was growing up in Queens was a cheeseburger deluxe – this cheeseburger from The Crabhouse certainly looks deluxe!
ASWB: You and Jonny Lee are together for this version of Sherlock, what’s that like?
LL: We are having such a good time on it. This is our first week and I really adore him. He’s such a great actor and he’s such a great person and very warm and incredibly sharing so I really enjoy my time with him.
“Elementary” is shooting in New York, and Liu can be spotted filming in and around her old neighborhood of Queens, which means Liu has come full-circle to her hometown. While Queens may have been named for Queen Catherine, by the British, the reigning queen of this borough, is Lucy Liu. So on your next visit to the Big Apple, you may want to take a bite out of Queens, and experience what it has to offer.
Photo credits: Unisphere and Queens Theatre photos, courtesy of Dominick Totino Photography; The Crabhouse photos courtesy of Arthur Rosenfield; The Citbank Mets Stadium courtesy of Marc Levine. Gantry Plaza State Park courtesy of Chris Sahar.