Lucy Liu’s next career move

I watched the first season of The C Word starring Laura Linney (not bad, though some the writing is very dorky, e.g., “I couldn’t find an olive branch, so I brought you olives” when the wife wanted to make up with the husband). All of the lead cast members are white, with some featured and all peripheral characters as nonwhite — which I’ve heard is something casting people do when they do care about diversity casting, they just fill up the parts they’re allowed to with non-whiteys. The problem with getting lead actors is you need someone who has a proven track record, someone who will inspire someone to plunk down money to see you.

If you are an Asian actor (or I suppose any non-white actor for that matter, though a study in NYC casting that came out this past week said that all minorities, except for Asians, got more parts on Broadway this year except for Asians, who got fewer. Booooo.), you really have to become an activist, if you want to get parts. One of my FB friends has been working in film and TV somewhat regularly, but couldn’t break into theater before this year — now he’s in the ensemble of Wit starring Cynthia Nixon on Broadway. He had never been asked to audition for this company in ten years, which led to a public forum, study, etc. He also has won Tonys for his producing work — so dude, the guy is definitely an actor, but also an activist. I don’t even necessarily think producers and casting people are so racist (but will allow for the possibility), as they are clueless. What would motivate them to think about diversity if they are all white to begin with? Even those who do care about diversity might be clueless as to how to assuage the situation.

In casting, I think, it’s really about money once you go to a certain production level. Like if people will flock to stuff you’re in, no producer will care what race you are, because you will be making them money, you feel me? But if you are not given a chance in the first place, how on earth can you build an audience?

Hold that thought while I explore another — Showtime’s strategy has been to seek out strong female actresses with theater in their background and build a series around them, in order to be in the running at award season. They don’t necessarily make much dough with The United States of Tara, The C Word, Nurse Jackie, and Weeds (though they probably do), but they’re doing is building prestige in their program and adding value to their overall brand going this route.

SO, searching my mental data banks for Asians who’ve been around with certain cache, I thought of Lucy Liu, someone who has made Hollywood pictures and TV, but maybe never got a good quality lead before, and is really going to that no-woman’s-zone in casting of the 40s. I could see her playing, dunno, a psychic mom detective, trying to get along with her ex, communicate with her kids, but also solve crimes, b/c her psychic gifts only give her part of the picture until the very conclusion of the episode. Then they could make the family interracial, but fill all the peripheral parts with caucasian actors in a reversal of fortune.

Don’t mind me. Thinking about casting is like my version of fantasy baseball.

Happy Superbowl Sunday!!! Ha ha ha ha.

3 Replies to “Lucy Liu’s next career move”

  1. What a smart and engaging post!

    I like Lucy Liu too. She was the romantic lead in a crappy made for tv movie that I watched on Lifetime. Yes I watch Lifetime!

    I think all actors do fantasy casting!

  2. Lucy Liu is cast right now in TNT’s Southland as an LA cop. She’s looking pretty hot. And whenever I catch a rerun of Kill Bill, I forget how badass she can be.

    What I find interesting is how theatre is supposed to made up of enlightened, liberal progressives, and yet there are some REALLY boneheaded people doing some stupid, ignorant things in theatre. Recent examples: casting young white people in the lead roles in Mother-effer with the Hat, or Shakespeare Theatre Company(!!) changing the name of the characters in The Tempest to something totally stereotypical like Taco and Burrito for their Cuban version of the play (with no Latino actors in the cast). And I think there’s a theatre out in Nebraska or something that cast an ALL-WHITE Hairspray… uh. Okay.

    This may be too reductive, but sometimes I think it comes down to “who do I want to be/could be friends/hang with.” In other words, people in those casting sessions or decision-making roles are going to be attracted to people that, in a hypothetical situation, could see in their personal lives. And for some people, I think their lives are surrounded by just white people or of one ethnicity, and they want to populate their shows with the people who surround them. Meanwhile, people who have more diversity in their personal lives, would be attracted to populating their plays/shows with what their lives look like. I see this in fiction, too, when a writer has characters in her book that seem to represent different kinds of people. As opposed to a writer whose novel is default, everyone’s white.

  3. i didn’t know about lucy liu’s southland gig — imdb lists so many kung fu related pics for her, but nothing of southland. Kill Bill was great, and she was awesome in it, and i agree, she looks good! she’s in the right industry.

    i do think if a casting person doesn’t have diverse friends, they’re not going to necessarily think of mixing it up for casting. it works the other way too. b/c i only get cast if there’s diversity as part of the mission, that has shaped what i think of as normal for theater and what my friend demographics looks like. i do find it surprising that tv/film are kind of more liberal in castin g than theater people. weird.

    and m, i totally remember seeing the lifetime movie ad! i like that she’s considered for non-asian parts. apparently she auditioned for electra, which went to jennifer garner, and i think l.l. would have been really good in that part.

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