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    If it had been left to Lucy Liu's parents, she would never have become an actor. “They wanted me to have a nine-to-five job with a title,” she explains. Luckily, someone else in her family was more supportive – and is the person Liu still credits with having the most influence on her career. “My brother, John, let me stay in his apartment. There was no kitchen, it was just a room, and I slept on the floor with him, while his roommate was on a bunk bed,” she remembers. “He also paid off my credit card from college. Without him, I don't think I could have taken [acting] on.”

    Dressed down in pants and a T-shirt – Liu's mantra is: “If it's not comfortable, I don't want to wear it. I like pieces you can make downtown or uptown,” – the actress surveys the natural grandeur of Central Park laid out before us from the window of a lavish penthouse suite high up at The Carlyle hotel on the Upper East Side. “Everything is so quiet up here,” she says in awe. Growing up in the bustling New York borough of Queens, the daughter of

    Chinese immigrants, she admits to being frustrated by her parents' initial lack of support. They were highly educated, forced to do menial jobs in their new country. Her parents struggled, she explains, and they didn't want the same for her. “After their struggle, they just really wanted to see me struggle in a different way, in a more obvious way, maybe something they could understand – she's at college struggling, but then she will be a banker or a doctor. They understood that.”

    In the flesh, Liu looks younger than her 44 years (something she attributes to “good Asian genes”). On screen she can be intimidating – known for her take-no-prisoners, straight-talking personas in roles such as Ling Woo in Ally McBeal, O-Ren Ishii in Quentin Tarantino's

    “If it’s not comfortable,
    I don’t want to WEAR
    it. I like PIECES you can make downtown or UPTOWN”

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