Actress Yi Liu was born and raised in China but with encouragement from her father, headed to New York to pursue her career. “My father had encouraged me to go abroad and see the world. He used to tell me to not be “井底之蛙” – a frog who stays at the bottom of the well and thinks that the sky is tiny”, says Liu, who recently appeared on TVs The Blacklist. “So, I came to New York, a place I had never been, and just like that 10 years has gone by. More than the differences, I see similarities in people and societies. There is so much to this journey. I am forever grateful for my father.”
The actress, currently starring in the relationship drama In A New York Minute, says “I am always happy when I am acting.”
How did the role in IN A NEW YORK MINUTE, come about?
It started when I received the casting call. The role really resonated with me. I would be playing an actress who’s going through a lot similar struggles that I go through every day – as an immigrant, as an Asian actress, as a person who pursues love and freedom. I read the sides with our casting director Wayne Chang. It was my favorite scene for my part in the move, where Angel Li auditions for her breakthrough part. I remember I got very emotional. Then I got a call back where I met Ximan (director) and Wayne(producer) for the first time. The next thing I know, they cast me for the role of Angel Li!
And did it take much preparation?
Yes. Besides learning the lines and rehearsing with my scene partners, I learned how to fake smoke a cigarette. As soon as I was cast, I bought a few packs of prop cigarettes, and I made sure that every day I spent some time holding a cigarette in my hand. I pretended to smoke without inhaling while I walked around New York City.
Angel Li was a very realistic person to me. I had reached inside of me to find those similar struggles, love, and stress in life. I saw how much I resonated with this character, even more than when I first read the script.
Ximan and I were pretty much on the same page about the character since the beginning. I worked with my accent coach. I slowed down my speech more than I normally would when speaking English.
Anything you had to learn how to do on the film that you hadn’t done before?
Well, there are a few scenes where I had to smoke. I’m a non-smoker and so I had to get the hang of pretending to smoke. As soon as I booked the part, I bought a pack of prop cigarettes, and I pretended to smoke while I walked around New York each day.
How much you could relate to the character?
Very much. Angel Li and I are both immigrants. English is a second language for both of us. We are both actors. Although I didn’t have a husband, let alone an affair, I understood the feeling of meeting someone who has a similar background to me and also works in the same field.
Tell me about your director. Did she encourage ideas and input from the cast?
Yes she did. We have always had great communication. We were also very much on the same page about Angel and what she was like as a person. For example, we decided together that Angel’s English speech should be very deliberate. We also did certain blockings together.
And what lovely locations – all New York?
Yes, shot exclusively in New York. I loved the choices! The townhouse that many of my scenes were shot in was a great contrast to the pho place and the more gritty street scenes. New York as a city definitely adds a kind of charm to the film. How could a story like this happen anywhere else!
IN A NEW YORK MINUTE is available now on digital from Gravitas Ventures.