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 went on a police ride-along with fellow “Southland” actor Michael Cudlitz to get to know her character’s territory recently — cruising 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 — 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 ivolved in gangs,” says Liu. “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 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, and I think kids can enjoy the little snippets of stories, and not having to wait four or five years for the next movie,” says Liu. 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 backstory 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 L.A.)
MEANWHILE: On an entirely different note, the actress-producer-artist is pleased with 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 for 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.”