Lucy Liu
Liu in 2008
Lucy Alexis Liu

(1968-12-02) December 2, 1968 (age 55)
New York City, U.S.
EducationNew York University
University of Michigan (BA)
New York Studio School
Years active1991–present
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese劉玉玲
Simplified Chinese刘玉玲 Edit this at Wikidata

Lucy Alexis Liu /ˈl/ (born December 2, 1968)[1][2] is an American actress. She has received several accolades including a Critics' Choice Television Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and a Seoul International Drama Award, in addition to a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award.

Liu has starred as Ling Woo in the television series Ally McBeal (1998–2002), Alex Munday in two Charlie's Angels films (2000 and 2003), and Joan Watson in the crime-drama series Elementary (2012–2019). Her film work includes starring in Payback (1999), Shanghai Noon (2000), Chicago (2002), Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003), Lucky Number Slevin (2006), Watching the Detectives (2007), The Man with the Iron Fists (2012), and Set It Up (2018).

She voice acted as Master Viper in the Kung Fu Panda franchise (2008–2016) and Silvermist in the Tinker Bell series (2008–2014). Her other voice credits include Maya & Miguel (2004–2007), Mulan II (2004), as well as the English and Mandarin-dubbed versions of Magic Wonderland (2014) and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013). She also voiced Callisto Mal in the Disney-animated film Strange World (2022). Most recently, she starred as Kalypso in Shazam! Fury of the Gods and directed the Disney show American Born Chinese.

Early life

Liu as a high school senior in 1986

Lucy Liu was born in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of the New York City borough of Queens.[3][4] In high school, she adopted a middle name, Alexis.[5] She is the youngest of three children born to Cecilia, who worked as a biochemist, and Tom Liu, a civil engineer who sold digital clock pens.[6] Liu's parents originally came from Beijing and Shanghai and immigrated to Taiwan as adults before meeting in New York.[6][7][8] She has an older brother, John,[9][10][11][12] and an older sister, Jenny.[13] Her parents had many jobs while Lucy and her siblings were growing up.[14]

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 five.[15] She studied the martial art kali-eskrima-silat as a hobby when she was young.[16] Liu attended Joseph Pulitzer Middle School (I.S.145), and graduated from Stuyvesant High School.[17] 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 and studied Asian languages and cultures.[17]


At the age of 19, while traveling on the subway, Liu was discovered by an agent. She appeared in one commercial as a result.[18] As a member of the Basement Arts student-run theater group,[19] 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 role,[20] Liu was cast in the lead. While in line 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."[21] In May 1992, Liu made her New York stage debut in Fairy Bones, directed by Tina Chen.[22]

Liu had small roles in films and TV, marking her debut. In 1992, she made her big-screen debut in the Hong Kong film Rhythm of Destiny, which starred Danny Lee and Aaron Kwok.[23] In 1993, she appeared in an episode of L.A. Law as a Chinese widow giving her evidence in Mandarin.[24] Liu starred on the sitcom Pearl, which lasted one season. Shortly after the end of Pearl's run in 1997, Liu was cast in a role on 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[25] 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.[20]

Liu speaking at the USAID Human Trafficking Symposium in September 2009

In 2000, Liu starred in Charlie's Angels along with Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz. In 2001, Liu was the spokeswoman for the Lee National Denim Day fundraiser, which raises money for breast cancer research and education.[26] In 2004 Liu was appointed an ambassador for U.S. Fund for UNICEF.[27] She traveled to Pakistan and Lesotho, among several other countries.[20] In 2002, Liu played Rita Foster in Vincenzo Natali's Brainstorm. She appeared as O-Ren Ishii in Quentin Tarantino's 2003 film, Kill Bill. While in negotiations for Kill Bill with Tarantino the two joined to help produce the Hungarian sports documentary Freedom's Fury.[28] She won an MTV Award for Best Movie Villain for her part in Kill Bill. 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.[29]

Liu had previously presented her artwork under her Chinese name, Yu Ling.[6][30] Liu, who is an artist in several media, has had several gallery shows showcasing her collage, paintings, and photography.[31] She began doing collage mixed media when she was 16 years old, and became a photographer and painter.[32] Liu attended the New York Studio School for drawing, painting, and sculpture from 2004 to 2006.[33] In September 2006, Liu held an art show and donated her share of the profits to UNICEF.[32][34] 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.[33] Liu has stated that she donated her share of the profits from the NYC Milk Gallery gallery show to UNICEF.[35] In London, a portion of the proceeds from her book Seventy Two went to UNICEF.[27]

Early in 2006, Liu received an "Asian Excellence Award" for Visibility.[36] 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.[37][38]

In 2007 Liu appeared in Code Name: The Cleaner; Rise: Blood Hunter, a supernatural thriller co-starring Michael Chiklis in which Liu plays an undead reporter[15] (for which she was ranked number 41 on "Top 50 Sexiest Vampires");[39] 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.[20] In 2007 Empire named Liu number 96 of their "100 Sexiest Movie Stars".[40] 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).[41] Liu voiced Silvermist in Disney Fairies and Viper in Kung Fu Panda.[20]

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.[42] Liu is a supporter of marriage equality for same-sex marriage, and became a spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign in 2011.[43] 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.[44]

Liu at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con

In March 2012, she was cast as Joan Watson for Elementary. Elementary is an American Sherlock Holmes adaptation, and the role Liu was offered is traditionally played by men.[45] She has gained praise for her role as Watson, including three 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.[46] She received the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Drama Guest Actress for this role.[47] Liu's other directorial credits include 6 episodes of Elementary, an episode of Graceland,[48] the episode "Dearly Beloved" of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and the second-season premiere of Luke Cage.[49]

In August 2011, Liu became a narrator for the musical group The Bullitts.[50][51] In 2013, Liu was invited to become a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[52] Liu was named Harvard's 2016 Artist of the Year. She was awarded the Harvard Foundation's arts medal at the annual Harvard Foundation Award ceremony, during the Cultural Rhythms Festival in Sanders Theatre. She is also part of the cast in the post-apocalyptic thriller Future World, directed by James Franco and Bruce Thierry Cheung.[53] Her first national museum exhibition was held at the National Museum of Singapore in early 2019[54] and was titled "Unhomed Belongings."[55]

In April 2021, Liu was cast as the villainess Kalypso in the superhero film Shazam! Fury of the Gods.[56] In 2022, she was cast to voice a role in the Walt Disney Animation Studios film Strange World,[57] and in Jake Kasdan's upcoming film Red One.[58]

Personal life

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."[16] She has been a member of the Chinese-American organization Committee of 100 since 2004.[59]

Liu is a single parent. She has a son, Rockwell, who was born in 2015 via gestational surrogate.[60][61] She has stated that surrogacy was the right option for her because, "I was working and I didn't know when I was going to be able to stop."[62] She was involved in Tylenol's #HowWeFamily Mother's Day Campaign, which celebrated non-traditional families.[63]

Liu has been vegetarian since childhood.[64][65]


In 1991, Liu had 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.[66]



Year Title Role Notes
1992 Rhythm of Destiny Donna
1993 Protozoa Ari Short
1995 Bang Hooker
1996 Guy Woman at Newsstand
Jerry Maguire Former Girlfriend
1997 Gridlock'd Cee-Cee
City of Industry Cathi Rose
1998 Love Kills Kashi
1999 Payback Pearl
True Crime Toy Shop Girl
Molly Brenda
Flypaper Dot
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 Kill Bill: Volume 2 O-Ren Ishii
Mulan II Mei (voice) Video
2005 3 Needles Jin Ping
Domino Taryn Mills
2006 Lucky Number Slevin Lindsey
2007 Code Name: The Cleaner Gina
Rise: Blood Hunter Sadie Blake
Watching the Detectives Violet
2008 The Year of Getting to Know Us Anne
Kung Fu Panda Master Viper (voice)
Tinker Bell Silvermist (voice) Video
2009 Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure Silvermist (voice) Video
2010 Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue Silvermist (voice)
Nomads Susan
2011 Detachment Dr. Doris Parker
The Trouble with Bliss Andrea
Kung Fu Panda 2 Master Viper (voice)
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You Rowena
2012 Secret of the Wings Silvermist (voice)
The Man with the Iron Fists Madame Blossom
2013 The Tale of the Princess Kaguya Lady Sagami (voice)
2014 The Pirate Fairy Silvermist (voice) Video
Magic Wonderland Princess Ocean (voice)
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya Lady Sagami (voice)
Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast Silvermist (voice) Video
2016 Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Scroll Master Viper (voice) Short
Kung Fu Panda 3 Master Viper (voice)
2018 Future World The Queen
Set It Up Kirsten Stevens
2020 Stage Mother Sienna
2022 Strange World Callisto Mal (voice)
2023 Shazam! Fury of the Gods Kalypso
2024 Presence TBA Post-production[67]
The Tiger's Apprentice TBA In-production
Red One Jacqueline Frost Post-production
TBA Old Guy Anata Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1991 Beverly Hills, 90210 Courtney Episode: "Pass, Not Pass"
1993 L.A. Law Mei Lin Episode: "Foreign Co-Respondent"
1994 Hotel Malibu Co-Worker Episode: "Do Not Disturb"
Coach Nicole Wong Episode: "It Should Happen to You" & "Out of Control"
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 Recurring cast (season 2)
1996 Nash Bridges Joy Powell Episode: "Genesis"
The X-Files Kim Hsin Episode: "Hell Money"
High Incident Officer Whin Episodes: "Father Knows Best" & "Follow the Leader"
1996–97 Pearl Amy Li Main cast
1997 The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest Melana (voice) Episodes: "The Bangalore Falcon" & "Night of the Zinja"
NYPD Blue Amy Chu Episode: "A Wrenching Experience"
Riot Tiffany Episode: "Empty"
Dellaventura Yuling Chong Episode: "Pilot"
Michael Hayes Alice Woo Episode: "Slaves"
1998–2002 Ally McBeal Ling Woo Main cast (season 2–4), recurring cast (season 5)
2000 MADtv Herself/Host Episode: "Episode #6.6"
Live & Kicking Herself Episode: "Episode #8.8"
Saturday Night Live Herself Episode: "Lucy Liu/Jay-Z"
2001 Sex and the City Herself Episode: "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda"
2001–02 Futurama Herself (voice) Episodes: "I Dated a Robot" & "Love and Rocket"
2002 Rank Herself Episode: "25 Toughest Stars"
VH-1 Behind the Movie Herself Episode: "Chicago"
King of the Hill Tid Pao (voice) Episode: "Bad Girls, Bad Girls, Whatcha Gonna Do"
2003 Biography Herself Episode: "Bernie Mac: TV's Family Man"
Bo' Selecta! Herself Episode: "Episode #2.5"
2004 Jackie Chan Adventures Adult Jade Chan (voice) Episode: "J2: Rise of the Dragons"
Game Over Raquel Smashenburn (voice) Main cast
2004–05 Joey Lauren Beck Recurring cast (season 1)
2004–06 Maya & Miguel Maggie Lee (voice) Recurring cast (season 1–4)
2005 Clifford's Puppy Days Teacup (voice) Episode: "Adopt-a-Pup"
2005 The Simpsons Madam Wu (voice) Episode: "Goo Goo Gai Pan"
2006 Getaway Herself/Celebrity Traveller Episode: "Episode #15.38"
2007 Ugly Betty Grace Chin Episodes: "Derailed" & "Icing on the Cake"
2008 Cashmere Mafia Mia Mason Main cast
Ben & Izzy Yasmine (voice) Main cast
Little Spirit: Christmas in New York Leo's Mom (voice) TV movie
2008–09 Dirty Sexy Money Nola Lyons Main cast (season 2)
2009 Afro Samurai: Resurrection Sio (voice) TV movie
2010 Marry Me Rae Carter Episode: "Part 1 & 2"
Ni Hao, Kai-Lan Bear Queen (voice) Episode: "Princess Kai-Lan"
Kung Fu Panda Holiday Master Viper (voice) TV movie
2011 Pixie Hollow Games Silvermist (voice) TV movie
2011–16 Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness Master Viper (voice) Main cast
2012 Southland Officer Jessica Tang Recurring cast (season 4)
2012–19 Elementary Dr. Joan Watson Main cast
2013 Pixie Hollow Bake Off Silvermist (voice) TV movie
2014 Huading Awards Herself/Host Main host
2015–16 Jeopardy! Herself/Video Clue Presenter Episodes: "Episode #31.163" & "#33.9"
2016 Girls Detective Mosedale Episode: "Japan"
2017 Difficult People Veronica Ford Recurring cast (season 3)
Sesame Street Cinderella Episode: "Cinderella's Slippery Slippers"
Michael Jackson's Halloween Conformity (voice) TV movie
2018 Animals Yumi (voice) Recurring cast (season 3)
2019 Why Women Kill Simone Main cast (season 1)[68]
2020 A World of Calm Herself/Narrator (voice) Episode: "The Coral City"
2021 Star Wars: Visions Bandit Leader (voice) Episode: "The Duel" [69]
Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? Herself (voice) Episode: "The Tao of Scoob"
Curb Your Enthusiasm Herself Episode: "The Five-Foot Fence"
Death to 2021 Snook Austin Television special
TBA A Man in Full Joyce Newman Main cast

Video games

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


Year Title Role Notes
2004 My Date with Drew Herself
2009 Redlight Narrator Producer
2019 QT8: The First Eight Herself [70]
2022 If You Have Herself [71]


Year Title Notes
2011 Meena Short film
2014–19 Elementary 7 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: "Marriages Don't Break Up on Account of Murder - It's Just A Symptom That Something Else Is Wrong"
2020 New Amsterdam Episode: "Hiding Behind My Smile"
2023 American Born Chinese Episode: "Hot Stuff"

Art exhibitions

Year Title Location Notes
1993 Unraveling As Liu Yu-ling, Cast Iron Gallery, SoHo, New York, US[72] Collection of multimedia art pieces, photographs
2006 Antenna Emotion Picture Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada[73] Incorporating paint and drawing into photographs. Seven pieces of which two new. March 5 to June 30.
2007 Art Basel Miami, Casa Tua in South Beach Miami, US as part of Montblanc's Cutting Edge Art Collection[74] Painting Escape, a black and white abstraction
2008 je suis. envois-moi As Yu Ling, Six Friedrich Lisa Ungar, Munich, Germany[75][76][77] Six oil paintings, four prints and ten sculptures. Revenue was donated to UNICEF. May 8 to 31
2010 As Yu Ling. Painting included in the Bloomsbury Auctions 20th Century Art and Editions sale in New York, US[78] Painting
2011 Seventy Two Salon Vert, London, UK[79] Personal canvases – hand-stitched and stuck with funny little found objects, pieces of rubbish
2013 Totem The Popular Institute gallery, Manchester, UK[80] Series of work on linen, explores the fragility of the human form
2019 Unhomed Belongings National Museum of Singapore[81] First museum exhibit, included works by Shubigi Rao
2023 what was The New York Studio School, New York City, US[82] Collection of multimedia art pieces, acrylic on canvas, books and found objects

Awards and nominations

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Year Award[citation needed] 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

See also


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