Hollywood Exclusive - Lucy Liu Finds 'Southland' Tough Duty
Lucy Liu has just finished shooting her first episode of TNT's "Southland" -- and has found the show testing her mettle.
"You definitely get the grittiness, the reality of it," she says of playing a cop in the January-debuting fourth season of the police drama. "You just jump in headfirst. I've done a couple of stunts, and, you know, it's not about padding you up. It's about throwing you around.
"I don't think my martial-arts training is going to save me in this environment," she adds with a laugh. "They can be running around using their guns."
The "Charlie's Angels" star recently went on a police ride-along with fellow "Southland" actor Michael Cudlitz to get to know her character's territory. They cruised through some of the most crime-infested South Central Los Angeles neighborhoods. She found the experience heart-rending.
"First of all, Michael Cudlitz and I drove together," Liu says. "He was with me and the sergeants, and he let me sit in the front seat. I was like, 'Thanks a lot.' It was scary because you see children running around in these neighborhoods. There's an unpredictable atmosphere, where you don't know if something is going to happen. They tell you, 'There was a shooting at that corner last week. There was a tree right there and it literally got blown away.' And these kids live there.
"It gives you an immediate feeling of wanting to protect all these children and the other people in the neighborhood who aren't involved in criminal activities, aren't involved in gangs. You see all the dogs and cats running around on the streets that are obviously strays, and it's easy to associate that with what's going on in the neighborhoods themselves. And you just sense the fact that there's less opportunity there than in Century City or Beverly Hills, and it's just such a shame."
Liu has a definite soft spot for kids. It's one of the reasons she's being heard on Nickelodeon's new CG-animated comedy series, "Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness." The afternoon show, being done in partnership with DreamWorks, carries on the big-screen "Kung Fu Panda" characters and story, with Liu voicing the character of Viper.
"I adore working on it," Liu says of the show, "and I think kids can enjoy the little snippets of stories and not having to wait four or five years for the next movie." She adds that she has friends whose kids have watched "Kung Fu Panda" 50 times. Fortunately for them, "Kung Fu Panda 2" is coming out on DVD and Blu-Ray Dec. 13.
Liu enjoys her character. She notes, "Viper's back-story is that she was born without fangs, and her parents said, 'Oh my gosh!' But she made up for it with her kung fu." (But not in South Central LA.)
MEANWHILE: On an entirely different note, the actress/producer/artist is pleased with the response to her "Lucy Liu: Seventy Two" art book, showing off her abstract black-and-white illustrations inspired by the 72 names of God in the Kabbalah, the mystcial branch of Judaism.
"It's really exciting to be able to do so many different things," says Liu, who credits a friend of hers with helping her take her art instillation and make a book of it. "If he hadn't done that, it probably would still just be sitting on a wall. It opened up a new arena for me. I love to learn about everything, and sometimes I think the best way to learn is to get involved yourself."
LOOKING FOR THE PERFECT FAMILY: Lifetime is going forward with the Melanie Griffith pilot, "This American Housewife," with casting under way for a bundle of roles. Those include her prospective series husband -- an up-and-coming politician -- and her three young-adult children: eldest daughter Harper, described as a smart, blond overachiever; adopted daughter Nelle, a beautiful, Somali-born Columbia University student; and son Lee, a talented artist. There's also hubby's attractive campaign manager in the picture.
Antonio Banderas will appear as a character named Javier. Griffith plays a woman who has a seemingly perfect life but is carrying on conversations with an inner voice that's telling her things she doesn't want to know. Griffith and Banderas are among the producers on the series.
NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT: With Johnny Depp's "Lone Ranger" on its way to the cameras at long last, they're filling out subsidiary roles. Among those: Ray, a dangerous African American outlaw in the Cavendish gang and in his late 30s. They're calling for the actor to work from February through July.
A SLICE OF REALITY: The producers of the highly popular series, "Antiques Roadshow," are getting into the reality competition business with an upcoming program called "Antique Market Wars." Right now, they're looking for antiques experts who'll go out on nationwide treasure hunts. And may the best bids win.
COPYRIGHT 2011 MARILYN BECK AND STACY JENEL SMITH
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