The Wylde Interview: Jing Lusi
Interview and photographs by Etienne Gilfillan
How does an actress get from Holby City to Hollywood in one simple move? Ask Jing Lusi, the Chinese-British performer, whose life is getting crazier by the minute with the gradual worldwide release of Crazy Rich Asians, the word-of-mouth smash-hit movie, notable for its all-Asian cast, not to mention Asian director and co-writer. We grabbed her for a quick shoot and chat in London…
Tell us about your movie Crazy Rich Asians, and the character you play…
Crazy Rich Asians is a romantic comedy set in Singapore. It follows an American couple (Rachel Chu and Nick Young) as they navigate through the world of the super rich and its accompanying family politics. I play Nick’s ex-girlfriend Amanda Ling, who as you can imagine, has some thoughts on his new partner.
Had you read the book before filming the part? And did you meet the author, Kevin Kwan?
I was aware of the book and read it as soon as I was offered the part. Kevin Kwan was with us for a short period during filming, mostly at Langkawi [Malaysia] during the bachelorette party shoot. It was great to get to know him; his journey to writing the book is nothing short of inspirational. He told me that Amanda was based on a dear friend of his. I think that’s why the books and film have been so well received. Even though everything is surrounded in glitter, gold and couture, at the root is real people, in a very real world.
Is the premise of the film – where your parents strongly disapprove of your partner – more prevalent in China than in the West?
There is certainly a strong sense of filial piety in Asia, while the West is more focused on independence and autonomy. Neither are better or worse, they’re just different and dependent on which culture surrounds you. But this culture clash was an issue for me growing up in England. My parents believed children should obey their elders no matter what, but I was nurtured in an environment where lateral thinking and question asking was encouraged. It led to a lot of teenage angst and my school friends could not relate to my private struggles at home. But as I grew up, travelled and learnt more about the Chinese culture, I was finally able to appreciate it. My parents were only teaching me what they’d been taught. I think filial piety conflict is universal for all Asian immigrants. So universal, we made a film about it!
Did you get to wear some great fashions in Crazy Rich Asians?
I did! The costume fittings were comical... especially for the wedding scene. There were racks and racks of high-end designer labels just waiting for an actor to don. It was not too dissimilar to the scene in the film where Rachel has a make over with Peik Lin and Oliver. I tried on a divine Valentino, but at the last minute fell in love with the Alberta Ferretti I ended up wearing. With haute couture coming out of our ears, we were so spoilt for choice. The costume designer joked that she couldn’t face putting the Valentino on an extra if an actress didn’t wear it! Luckily it ended up on Carmen Soo.
Do you have any favourite designers? What’s your style like?
I have quite a hectic lifestyle and a dog to walk, so most of my daily clothing decisions are based on what can I get covered in mud, unexpected rain, and/or coffee. I do believe in buying good quality clothes and accessories though. Not only do they last but they turn your self esteem around in second. A pair of Louboutins and a Miu Miu handbag will dress up any outfit and make you feel a million dollars.
Do you ever wear your red carpet outfits to walk the dog?
I can barely walk down the red carpet in my red carpet!
What was your first red carpet event like?
Disastrous! In the early days I didn’t know how a red carpet worked, let alone stylists, red carpet glam squads. No one teaches you these things! No one warns you either that these photos get uploaded online immediately where they remain forever. The Inside Soap Awards was my first event when I was on my first TV show Holby City. I was directing a short play at the time and popped into a high street store to grab a dress. On the day, I brought curlers to the rehearsal room, doing my hair as I directed the actors. I got dressed in the toilets, and did my make up in the car on the way... it was so dark! The only lighting I had were the street lights! As soon as I arrived, I’m ushered onto the red carpet, which had one of the biggest photo lines I’ve seen, even to this day. I was blinded by the flashes. Everyone is screaming at you but you can’t see anything. It’s very disorientating. Later, when I saw the photos, I thought: “Yup. Looks like I got ready in the back of a cab, and I hate my dress. How long are these photos around for? Forever? Oh great!” It was a lesson learnt the hard way. You do not mess with the red carpet!
Did you have other aspirations when you were 12 or 13, hidden talents that you thought you’d be taking further, apart from acting?
I came to England when I was 5 and have been writing ever since I learned the alphabet. I wrote short stories, poems, and have kept a diary since Year 5, after I did a project on Anne Frank. I’ve written a few scripts since I began acting, but only recently did I start taking it very seriously. I was so overwhelmed by the response to Crazy Rich Asians and the power storytelling has, that I sent my pilot script to LA. I’m now planning my next trip there to meet with producers.
What writers inspired you, growing up?
Roald Dahl. Enid Blyton. Louisa May Alcott. Anne Frank. All of these writers shaped my formative mind and heavily influenced my style and voice. They portray a wide range of strong women in their works. From feminine yet headstrong Matilda and Miss Honey, to tomboys George and Jo March, and the heroic struggles of a very real, very honest young woman living through one of the most heinous chapters of humanity.
Have you ever thought of directing a TV show or film?
Yes, in due course. I’m not ready for it now as there are many aspects I need to gain a deeper understanding of, like the technical stuff. For now, I want to focus on my writing, as that is the lifeline of any project. Without good writing, no matter how brilliant your actors, cinematography and vision is, you can’t polish a turd!
Photography: Etienne Gilfillan
Hair: Zoheb Jetha
Make-up: Danielle Deadman
Photographer's assistant: Paolo Navarino
Thanks to The King's Canary Salon and The Marylebone Hotel
Jing Lusi wears her own clothes, except in Picture 2: Tweed bodysuit: Deborah Lyons