Lucy Alexis Liu (born December 2, 1968) is an American actress. She became known for her role in the television series Ally McBeal (1998–2002) as the vicious and ill-mannered Ling Woo, and has also appeared in several notable film roles, including Charlie's Angels, Kill Bill and Kung Fu Panda.
Lucy Liu was born and was raised with her brother John in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, by Taiwanese immigrant parents. Liu has said that she grew up in a "diverse" neighborhood. Her family spoke Mandarin at home and she did not learn English until she was five years old. Her father, Tom, was a civil engineer, and her mother, Cecilia, a biochemist, but they sacrificed those careers in Taiwan to come to the United States. Liu, at her parents' insistence, devoted her spare time to studying. She attended the Joseph Pulitzer Middle School (I.S.145) and she graduated from New York City's prestigious Stuyvesant High School in 1986. She attended New York University for one year, before transferring to the University of Michigan, where she joined the Chi Omega sorority and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Asian Languages and Cultures. At one point, Liu worked as a waitress in Michigan.
Liu began acting in 1989, after auditioning for a role in the University of Michigan's production of Alice in Wonderland during her senior year. Liu was cast in the lead role, although she had originally only tried out for a supporting part. Liu had small roles in films and TV (including The X-Files in "Hell Money" and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys in "The March to Freedom") before landing 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 not meant to be regular but the enthusiastic audience response to the actress' 'feisty' Ling Woo secured Liu as a permanent cast member. It also earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy Series. Liu cemented her reputation playing bad girls by portraying "Pearl" the sadistic dominatrix/hitwoman for the Chinese mafia in the film Payback (1999).