Interview with Michelle Krusiec and Lynn Chen of “Saving Face”

Wil (Krusiec) and Vivian (Chen)

AE: What
did you think when you found that Joan
Chen
was going to be involved, and Will Smith was one of the film's
producers? Because doesn’t that raise the movie to a whole other level?

LC: Yeah. It was at that point when I was really wanting the
part, I was ready to die if they didn’t give me the part.
But
initially, I didn't know. My manager at the time didn’t really know what
was going on. He was like, "There’s Will Smith." I was like, "the
Will Smith?" He was like, "I don’t know, maybe just a Will Smith."
I was like, "Okay whatever."
MK: That’s funny. Willard Smith.
LC: I was having dinner with my cousin who is in the business,
and he is over at the Smith’s company. I asked him, "the Will
Smith?" He was like, "Yeah." He told me "Joan Chen is going
to play the mother" and I was like, "the Joan Chen?"
At that point I was going to seriously die or go into a coma if I didn't
get this part. I had been picturing it to be this very, very indie film that
I didn’t think was going anywhere, but I liked the part and I wanted to be a
part of it anyway. Then to find out Will Smith and Joan Chen were involved,
I thought, "Wow, this is a chance to work with someone I have admired since
I was very young, and Will Smith’s production company. This could go someplace!"
It was a tough time waiting for the call.
MK: I had heard early on, on a hush-hush level that Joan Chen
was being considered for the mother role, but it was never confirmed and I wasn’t
really supposed to know. I actually thought she was wrong for the part, as well.
Only because I envisioned this stocky mom, sunk to the earth, with a kind of
harshness. Maybe not harshness, but a strength about her that to me…when I
think of Joan and her work, I think of ethereal beauty and I think of strength,
but I think of something that is still very feminine and very sensual. I saw
his mother as not that. I also thought Joan was so young still, she couldn't
be old enough to look like my mother. But again it is sort of Alice’s ability — she
sort of subverted what I initially interpreted and created a whole different
take on that.

AE: I have to say, watching the film, I thought "Wil is not old enough to be a doctor."
MK: Alice and I actually talked about that. The character was always conceived as someone who was very intelligent and skipped a couple of grades. She was a very young, sophisticated doctor. In the beginning you see the two doctors saying, "Is she a surgeon?’ and he says, "Well, by 40.’

AE: Was
the close-knit Chinese community portrayed in the film is something you could
relate to, that made you think, ‘Oh yeah, I know communities like that’?

LC: I think if I had grown up in an urban setting, it definitely would have been more like that. But I grew up in a New Jersey suburb of New York that was mostly white. But my parents only hung out with other Asian families from towns that were surrounding. I think if we had been in a place where it was just Asian people, we would have definitely been like that.
MK: I grew up in a pretty different environment, it was upper-middle class in the suburbs of Virginia.
I was one of a few Asians in my school, excluding a large community of Filipinos, and they tended to stick to their own community. In terms of an Asian community, I didn’t really feel like I had that kind of resource to tap into growing up. The world which Alice created in this movie was very different from my own upbringing.

AE: Did you have any qualms about playing lesbian roles?
MK: No. I didn’t have any qualms.
LC: If anything I feel like, because I was a women studies major, I felt like I had a background that would enable me to really understand this role, that if there were mostly straight girls going in, which I am assuming most of the girls that did go out for this part were straight, that I felt like I had an advantage, because I understood gay culture a lot more and took a lot of classes. I had a lot of gay friends, I know the music, I experimented myself. I felt like, if there is going to be any straight Asian actress to do it, it’s me.

MK: I think with my own sexuality, I don’t see it as impossible
that I would ever be in a relationship with a woman. It’s not something I thought,
"Oh my god that could never happen." In my own imagination, it's…

AE: More of a continuum type of thing?
MK: Yeah. It doesn’t feel like a boundary to me. That is something
I feel pretty comfortable expressing simply because to me that never seemed
like a factor. I never really thought of it as, "Oh my gosh I am going
to play a lesbian role." I just thought of it as playing someone who falls
in love with another person, and the gender is two women, but it never was an
obstacle. In fact, I loved it. I thought it was a unique story line. For me
as an artist, I found it to be provocative to be playing that kind a role.

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