Kathy Luu is an actor, director, photographer, and writer. Born in Sydney to Vietnamese refugee parents, she studied law and film at UNSW, before becoming an actor. Creating innovative short content videos and visuals for social media is part of Kathy’s creative practice. She is inspired by work that is bold, funny, unique, playful, and crazily creative. Her film The Real Zombie Housewives has won international awards for its originality and comedy.
She can be last seen acting in the NBC comedy The Good Place, and domestically soon to be released, the first Asian-Australian lead rom-com, Rhapsody of Love as the lead and associate producer. She is currently in post-production for her web series Zombie Therapy as director, co-producer, and actor.
FilmCentral Magazine recently caught up with Kathy to discuss her journey in the industry and here’s what went down:
Can you tell us more about yourself?
They say we carry the unlived lives and dreams of our parents. My parents, though factory workers by day in their early years of living in Australia, were at heart romantics, poets, artists, philosophers, dreamers, and great humanists. This explains my love for the arts and also why I did not finish law school! So love, art, beauty, creativity, movement, care for humanity, delight, and freedom (when I remember!) is who I am in more core essence – to express and live that in my daily life and through my art is what I am about in a paragraph.
How did you get started in the entertainment industry?
My first acting gig was when I was 6 years old – cast as Dorothy in The Wizard of OZ in the primary school play. My first adult acting gig was in a music video with a very talented Australian director Luke Eve, who has become a great friend.
What do you like most about acting?
Acting is so much an exploration of being human. Getting to experience something new through the characters – the process of transformation and embodiment is something else. Getting to work and create with other people and the ability to tell new stories. Filmmaking and movies are a way for people to see and experience something new. Like any art or experience, a moment of new truth or beauty in a movie can shift the way you see yourself and thus the world. Movies can be a very positive force.
How different is it to act in a movie and to act in a TV series? And which one do you prefer?
I don’t feel it is that different – same delicious cake, different packaging. If I have a delicious cake to sink my teeth into, I don’t mind what the packaging is like. Sometimes the cake needs to be made and eaten fast, and other times you get to slow down a bit and enjoy the unexpected custard and surprise layer that is in the cake. I just try to make sure that I enjoy whatever cake I am eating!
What are your strong points as an actor?
Anything involving going deep is my strength, as well as going sideways and very silly. I have no fear in going deep into a scene, nor making a fool of myself for a laugh. I’m also very good at falling over.
What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?
The same difficulties you’d probably find in other areas of life! But they don’t have to be. Any difficulty presents an opportunity for strengthening or renewal of our character. Difficulty changes a person – I do what I can to let it change me in a positive way and it becomes a blessing. Plus, once you are forged between fire and iron, you bring something else to who you are and your work that hasn’t been there before. What a gift! ‘Waiting’ is a big difficulty for a lot of people in this business I feel. For me waiting changed me significantly and allowed me to discover all these other skills and potentials I had inside me.
What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?
As an actor, finding your character I feel is key and also one of the most challenging and satisfying experiences. If you can find the movement and essence of your character this adds an incredible life and world to the life of a script. As a director, having a very clear vision and mood – the translation and execution of the script into a tangible form – so what you produce is as good or better than what you and the scriptwriter imagined.
What do you do when you’re not filming?
I enjoy life as much as I can. I am one for celebrating simple pleasures, as well as great ideas. Creativity, love, care, and being happy is my lifestyle. I direct, I photograph, I write, I make art, I explore human consciousness with my cup of coffee. I take great pleasure in people. I find people so rich with beauty, stories, and interesting things. So I spend a lot of time alone and spend a lot of time with people. I’d love to spend more time in nature.
What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?
Getting my first US TV job (The Good Place) was very memorable. But right now Rhapsody of Love has been one of my favourite projects to work on – I got to work and play with so many amazingly beautiful people, and it is also the first time I got to lead a film – and that has been one of the most satisfying experiences.
Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far and what have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?
Joy Hopwood, the director/producer for Rhapsody of Love has been one of the most interesting people I have met. Her tenacity and passion are on another level. Our producer, Ana Tiwary has both extraordinary kindness and as well as strength and vision- she is amazing at what she does. Jeneffa Soldatic, another amazing director and dramaturg has such a beautiful way of guiding actors into deep and open places and has done this for me. All these women have been so true to themselves, and I have seen the ripple positive effects it has on all those around them. It has shown me what one person can do.
If someone is going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?
Firstly, it would have to be an animation or a stop motion animation. I pretty much would like Rudolph the rednosed reindeer from the 80s Christmas stop motion to play me. If he’s unavailable then Emmett from The Lego Movie. And if he happens to be on the 6th Lego movie, then probably Emilia Clarke would be wonderful.
What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.
This morning I woke up thinking, “Let’s just live and love the heck out of life”. That’s my plan for now.