Kathy Luu is an actor, director, photographer, writer and designer. 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 recently wrapped on the first Asian- Australian lead rom-com, Rhapsody of Love as the lead and associate producer.
1) Who were your role models on T.V. & film when you were growing up?
I grew up on a lot of Hong Kong TV and cinema (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style). These TV shows were epic adventures – adventures that were absolutely romantic in the sense of characters going on journeys bigger than themselves. It was like Asian Star Wars for character journeys. Despite going through so much pain, heartbreak and mishaps, these characters still had so much dignity, honour and love – and even the antagonists you felt for. It was pretty much like watching philosophy, ethics and human behaviour classes disguised as films!
2) Who inspires you and why?
My late mother inspires me. She escaped Vietnam with my dad and came to this country at 21 without knowing the language or money or any family, and did everything to create a life and a living. She had such a strong spirit and a love of life, and was the kindest, sweetest and most loving person I knew. There’s a story of her making her very first paycheck in Australia for one months work – she got paid in cash and was so happy that she somehow left her wallet with all the money on the bus on the way home! She was crying at the bus stop and a kind woman saw her and called the bus company. The wallet was found and they went together in a taxi to collect it, and all the money was still there! She was extraordinary in heart and courage. I try to live more of these traits of hers every day.
3) Do you think there’s enough diversity reflected in Australian film and T.V.? (If no, why not, what do you think we should do to make change / if so why do you think that?)
I feel we all know the answer to this! As mentioned below, if my co-star and I are the only Asian-Australians to be kissing on screen in the history of film here, there is something very wrong. We have an industry stuck in it’s old ways, an industry that has failed to keep up with the changing society around it, and thus failed the community it’s meant to serve. But things are changing rapidly, people are now being woken up to the truth of these old systems, the inherent biases, and no one is putting up with it. I have to give my utmost respect to my BIPOC industry friends who have stepped up fiercely to bring this awareness about. Awareness is like turning on the light in a dark room, and if the dark room is a metaphor for the industry – what will key decision makers in that dark room do now that they can see?
I also feel filmmakers should start listening to their true hearts more. Not echoes of the heart of a white dominated film industry. But listen to your deeper heart that is of your experience, DNA, culture, something uniquely yours… each heart is different, the idiosyncrasies of who you are and your dreams will guide you to create work that is made of your diverse combination of being – you will not follow the old system. This will bring diversity not only in nationalities on screen, but also in ideas, stories, ways of telling the stories – there’ll be new stories and they will be diverse in every way. But we all have to be brave enough. So how to make change? Be brave and listen to your true heart more. And follow it through!
Something interesting to consider: Buckminster Fuller said “You never change things by fighting against the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.”… so maybe it’s also time for us to build a new industry model.
And lastly (I have been contemplating this question a lot!), I feel we have to come together and celebrate our achievements more, celebrate each other more. There are a lot of BIPOC performers, as well as story makers now with more coming into the industry, and what we can do is love and celebrate each other’s achievements more. Love each other, care for each other, look out for each other and show the world what we are capable of, set a better example other than what we’ve been up against, because we know better. We (diversity) are where it’s at now. We’re the future of this industry.
4) What was your last acting gig and why did you want to do it?
My last gig was on romantic comedy feature Rhapsody of Love earlier this year. I’ve known Joy Hopwood the director for quite a few years, and have admired her determination and desire to write uplifting funny stories. So when the opportunity came up to work on a project that cast diversely, that wanted to break Asian stereotypes while telling a love story (I’m a romantic at heart), it was a no brainer. I honestly don’t think I’ve seen two Australian-accent speaking Asian-Australians fall in love or kiss on our screens, but yes unlike what we don’t see on TV, it is a fact that we do fall in love and make out in Australia 🙂
5) What have you been doing during Covid19 to keep yourself creative?
I have been doing a lot of cleaning actually, which I have found very creative and cathartic. I feel as humans we all have so many gifts inside us that we don’t get a chance to open, so Covid was a good time to unwrap these. It’s been a great chance to update my dreams too – dream new dreams! Saying that, I did manage to create a 5-part short content series called “Love In The Time of Covid-19 Love Song Dedications” as a segue for a friend’s streaming channel. It was an ironic silly fun show as we didn’t even play music, we just showed the titles of the dedications! The idea was actually better than the results, but I nonetheless was still pleased to come up and create something so ridiculous and apt for our times.
6) What are your favourite films and why?
I love thoughtful science fiction movies – a good one makes you think and feel something more on a whole different level. I’m a big fan of foreign cinema too – the story and filmmaking is different to mainstream US cinema and usually more intimate – it’s a luxury to pay $17 and get to glimpse and experience a totally different world and culture and feelings for two hours, very interesting to me! And lastly, romantic comedies – nice light-hearted spritz for the soul!
7) What advice do you have for anyone wanting to break into the entertainment industry?
Do it for the right reasons. Do it for a personal reason. Be full of passion, joy and really really love and enjoy what you do – that is the fuel you need to get break into anything. I have actor friends who break into it early, and other who don’t. You might think it is sad if you don’t break into it straight away – but life is all experience. So trust your journey.
Secondly, a more practical advice – consider the idea of making a meaningful feature film, or create your own work or media. Don’t break into the industry. BE the industry. This will literally make our industry more diverse immediately too. If you get picked up by a big agent and land a netflix series overseas, then great. But if you’re here, don’t wait around. Go learn how to make films, find out what you love, check out other parts of the industry that interest you, check out other parts of life that interest you, go to do other fun things, go enjoy your life and being you – this will all add up to your acting and more.
And thirdly, be an artist. An artist in the sense of connecting to yourself and bringing something forth that is yours. To be attracted to this industry already means that you are full of ideas, dreams, stories and creation of new worlds. We are much more than we realise. So connect to your artist inside and bring forth something new for our industry and this world. Humanity needs nourishing food. We need you!
8) Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time and why?
Being a thought-feel-creative-compassionate non-leader leader and visionary in my art, practise and work. Continued great collaborations with friends and peers. And beautiful happenings and experiences that I can’t even imagine yet.
9) What is your motto that you live by?
Choose life. Be easy, be playful. Reality is only temporary. And always say yes to dessert.