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.’
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'sâ€¦
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.