Interview: Jing Lusi
Hi Jing, how’s life going at the moment?
Life is going great, thank you! I had a very restful and restorative break over Christmas and New Year, and I am so excited for 2024.
You can currently be seen in the new film, Argylle – can you give us an elevator pitch for the film?
It is a feast of a film packed with intrigue, plot twists, fantastic action sequences to amazing music that will give the MTV video music awards a run for their money, and starring the most sublime cast who are all upstaged by a cat in a bag.
How would you describe your character?
Mysterious, glamorous, likes champagne.
What was it like playing her?
It was a lot of fun, quite naughty and may well make a lot of women (and men) envious of me. You have to watch the film to find out why.
How did you get into character/prepare for the role?
There is of course the usual script work, but for me the magic comes when you establish the costume, hair and make-up. I like to experiment with different looks and the further away I get from myself, the more I feel like I’m stepping into someone else’s skin. I was blond before shooting Argylle as I had just finished Man vs Bee, so when my hair was dyed to dark brown and I slipped into the costume, I thought, this person doesn’t look or feel like me. Immediately you get a new persona. The same thing happened on Heart of Stone. I had long brown hair which turned into a sharp red bob for the film – and had to look like that for most of 2022!
What was it like filming with such a star-studded cast?
A total honour. Some of these actors formed my cinematic experiences as a child and adult, like Samuel L Jackson, Catherine O’Hara, Sam Rockwell. It was surreal. I think Bryan Cranston is phenomenal, and when I binged Breaking Bad years ago, I got my mum into it. She doesn’t watch a lot of television as her English isn’t so good, but even she got hooked on it. That’s a huge deal in our family.
Any funny stories or stand out moments?
A standout moment would be the London premiere. It was my first time doing a premiere in Leicester Square, somewhere I pass by all the time, so that was special in itself. And on top of that, with the mother of all casts. It was also the first time I had seen everyone in one room together, we were all dressed to the nines, and it was a very proud and memory making moment.
Who was your fave person to work with?
I don’t want to choose! I’m going to say Chip the Cat.
You’ve also got Red Eye coming up on ITV1 and ITVX. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Red Eye is a six-part thriller set on a flight from London to Beijing. I play Hana Li, a Detective Constable who is tasked with accompanying a suspected murderer (Richard Armitage) on the flight. It seems to be quite a simple babysitting assignment, but as soon as the flight takes off, it becomes apparent that there is something sinister afoot. And when MI5 get involved (headed up by the brilliant Lesley Sharp, who I’m delighted to be reunited with from Scott & Bailey), things go from seemingly misfortunate coincidences to a possible global conspiracy.
What is your character like in Red Eye?
She’s strong, smart, fearless but vulnerable.
What was it like filming?
I truly had the best time. The scripts were wonderful and there was already a lot of excitement before we started filming. I didn’t realise we were filming on a real plane! I thought it would be specially built or modified with removable panels, but no, it was actually a real plane. So as you can imagine, we were all in very confined spaces for long hours, so we all bonded very quickly! The cast and crew were absolutely amazing. We laughed and joked so much for the entire shoot. My make-up artist was a giggler and I loved giving her the giggles when she was trying to be professional. When we wrapped, it felt like the end of summer camp. It’s not often that you get a project where everyone is so happy to be there and doesn’t want it to end. I was extremely lucky to have this on Red Eye. I hope the audience enjoy it as much as we loved making it.
What has been your favourite project to date?
That’s a hard one. I’ve had some wonderful experiences in my career. I still get sentimental about some of them, like Crazy Rich Asians and the family that was created from that. Now, I would have to say my favourite project is Red Eye. It was a privilege and honour to lead a show of that calibre, and I really felt myself flourish as an actor. I loved the responsibility that came with a storyline of such intensity and being part of something that is a turning point for Asian representation.
Any roles in the pipeline that you’re excited about? (If you’re allowed to tell us!)
As well as acting, I also write. I currently have a few projects in development, and one of them is a television adaptation of a very well-known film from the 90s. I can’t say what it is at this moment, but it is hugely exciting. It’s a very fresh take on a classic and I will also be starring in it.
Who has been your favourite actor to work with in the past?
I’d have to say Rowan Atkinson, on Man vs Bee. It was the first time I worked with someone who had been so influential in my childhood. I came to England in 1991, around the time Mr Bean and his elbow patches arrived on television. I didn’t speak a word of English then, which was handy as neither did he! Watching Mr Bean, I felt I belonged for the first time. I was in a foreign country, not able to communicate, but this strange funny man is making me laugh. It was profound for a 5-year-old. It was important for me to tell Rowan this when I worked with him. And to thank him for teaching me at that impressionable age, that laughter is universal.
Which co-star did you learn the most from?
I learnt a lot from Constance Wu. Which is ironic, as our characters in Crazy Rich Asians are not pleasant to each other, but in real life she’s a great friend. She is extremely dedicated to her craft and work. She is a beautiful mother who has an adorable family and a trailblazing career. She is incredibly well disciplined; she knows her worth and doesn’t compromise her standards. Watching Constance achieve all that she has personally and professionally, whilst staying true to herself is nothing short of inspirational.
What’s your dream role?
There isn’t one specific type of role, but more what impact the role has on the viewer. My dream roles would move people, wake them up, make them think. I grew up without siblings in quite an isolated upbringing, and television and film felt like a friend, a teacher, an adventure. Stories of people overcoming adversity, how far we go for love, the limitlessness of human potential – they shaped my outlook on life and made me a stronger, more optimistic person. I would love to be a part of that for other people.
What’s a genre you’d like to do more of?
Romantic comedy, for sure! I’m quite goofy in real life and love to find the comedy in every situation, so it makes me laugh when I play badass, fierce women. I love action films and playing strong women that can fight and handle weapons, but I would also love to come to work, put on some couture and be wooed by charming men in dapper suits in restaurants with fancy tablecloths.
Do you get to spend much time at home?
Yes. I love being at home. It’s where I recoup and replenish. I love travelling and bonding with the families that form overnight on projects. But home is where I reconnect with myself and calm the nervous system. And the best thing about home – is that my dog lives there.
Do you live in the town or the country? Which do you prefer?
I live in London and I also spend a lot of time in Surrey where my parents live. I love having both city and country and I truly believe the only way to enjoy both is to be able to leave once in a while! I love the vibrancy of the city life, but it can get overwhelming and too fast paced, so an escape to the country is perfect medicine. I love the nature and serenity of the country, but I can also get too chilled there and lose momentum so then I go back to London and get a hit of that frenetic energy.
What’s your interior design style?
I like to think my taste is bold, not shy. I like bright colours for walls, prints and a mix of antique and modern furniture. I adore anything by Kit Kemp. I also love walking into spaces that are very neutral and minimalist. However, I’m too messy to maintain that vibe so I like to distract with patterns.
How do you find balance in your personal and work lives?
I used to be defined by my work. If I wasn’t on a project or didn’t have anything lined up, I would think I was a failure. I worked back-to-back for two years before Covid, culminating in Gangs of London, and hit burnout as that series was wrapping.
Covid was a great time for me to reassess everything, as I’m sure it was for a lot of people. I realised that my false belief of being productive came from a place of insecurity rather than integrity or passion. Now, I take time out after a project ends and enjoy the space that I used to be afraid of. I like to travel, go completely off grid and live a very simple life of walking my dog, reading books, journaling, cooking. I find the further away I get from being an actor in my downtime, the more I appreciate it when I come back.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I was very lucky, I knew what I wanted to do when I was 10 years old. I was in my school choir and the next thing I know, we were in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat performing every night at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton.
I knew then I wanted to act. However, as the only child of Asian immigrants, that was not an acceptable option. So, I studied law. I nearly did become a lawyer, panicking at the eleventh hour after graduation and half-heartedly applying to law firms for training contracts. I’m sure they could tell my applications weren’t serious (or any good) as I got rejected across the board. It hurt at the time, but now I see those rejections as a godsend. It forced me to embark on the path of my childhood dream.
If you could give advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be?
Worry is the most useless, redundant endeavour. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. Worrying will only drain the vital resources you will need to draw upon when it does. If it doesn’t happen, what a waste of time! So much of my younger life was consumed with worry for things that never came to fruition. One day, I had enough. I looked at all the time I had spent crippling myself with worry, and put it firmly in the bin.
How can we all live a little bit better?
By getting a dog.
Anything fun in the pipeline – professionally or personally?
I’m going to Portugal in a few days for a little break. I stayed in Lisbon for a month filming Heart of Stone and absolutely fell in love with that city and the people. I cannot wait to go back, catch up with friends and eat my body weight in bacalhau.
Jing Lusi Recommends…
I’m currently watching… I just finished season two of The Traitors. Masterfully played!
What I’m reading… Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle
The last thing I watched (and loved) was… I unexpectedly ugly-cried at Barbie.
Favourite film of all time… Home Alone 2
Favourite song of all time… Bridge Over Troubled Water
Band/singer I always have on repeat… Adele
My ultimate cultural recommendation… Gail’s rosemary and potato sourdough bread.
Cultural guilty pleasure… Full English breakfast and Eastenders (not necessarily at the same time).
Jing Lusi stars in Argylle, in cinemas now. Coming soon to Apple TV+.