By Hilda Clark Bowen
Science fiction fans will know Michelle from her early work on Deep Space Nine (“Time’s Orphan”) to her recent appearance as shape-shifter Nadine (also named “Seven”) on the cult-hit Fringe. That only barely begins to touch the surface of this veteran actress who has done everything from hosting a show on the Discovery Channel (Travelers) to playing the lead in the film “Saving Face”, from a recurring role on a soap opera (General Hospital) to doing guest spots on television shows and television movies, and writing and performing her one-woman show, Made In Taiwan, which sold out at FringeNYC 2010 (unrelated to the show Fringe, although a cute bit of irony). You will be able to catch her on this Thursday’s episode, “Lost and Found” on the new hit Fox series Touch starring Kiefer Sutherland.
Can you share with us a little about your character, Lanny Zheng, on Touch?
Lanny is someone who knows what she wants in life but finds herself “touched” and moved by a set of extraordinary circumstances. It’s basically the premise of the show for all of these people whose lives will intersect in magical ways.
When you are preparing for a role, what is your process for remembering lines? Do you learn the emotions/motivations of the character first or do you remember the lines first and then fill in the emotion?
Every character is different. I don’t have a technique for memorizing per se. I just work on what the character needs and look at the words on the pages as ideas. Memorizing can be tough if you just memorize words, but I think I generally look for motivations first and the words as ideas.
The premise of “Touch” expands the Chinese legend of the red string of fate of soul mates into a larger theme of tying the destiny of people together. Do you believe in destiny?
I do, but I think it’s self determined. I used to think that you were pre-destined or fated in life, but now I don’t think that. I think each day, each moment, we are given choices to change and become who we are destined to become.
Do you have your own “Touch” story?
I do. I think the biggest one being that a fortune teller told my Mother my future when I was still inside her womb and it made a big impact on both of our journeys. I’m a bit superstitious as a result.
At the end of the pilot episode of Touch, Jake says, “”Will these words be used to hurt or to heal?” In episode 2 (“1+1=3”) the peanut vendor tries to restore karma back to the time when things started falling apart for him. Do you believe in karma? Do you have an example from your own life of a positive or negative karmic experience?
I do believe in karma. Here’s a good one. It’s long!
I was filming on location in Argentina on Travelers, a Discovery channel show, I co-hosted and when we first landed we lost all of our luggage, so the producer took us shopping. I looked awful. I was wearing a real military coat that I used to love because I loved the industrial look back then and I was at this mall in Buenos Aires and there was this HOT, I mean, one of the hottest guys I’ve ever seen, working at one of the stores. He spoke no English and I didn’t speak any Spanish so it was impossible. I tried to explain that I looked awful and needed clothes, because I lost my luggage and he just kept nodding and smiling. Finally, one of the co-hosts showed up who spoke Spanish and talked to him and she said that he thought I was trying to tell him that I was a flight attendant. That made me laugh, because I realized I must have looked ridiculous in that coat.
Anyhow, this hot guy proceeded to tell her that he wanted to give me his number, but he vehemently refused to give it to me if I did not promise him that I would call. He looked me in the eyes and said passionately, “promise me you’ll call.” (My friend translated!) I was so taken by this guy. I was wearing glasses; I had zits all over my face; I looked hideous. I asked my friend who was translating for us, what am I gonna say to this guy on a date? She looked at me and said, “sweetheart, look at this man, you do not need to do any talking with this person.” So, I took his number but fretted about breaking my promise. I thought he was way out of my league and too hot for me! Finally, I decided to call him, but because I made no money at the time, I tried to call from the pay phone across from our fancy hotel because I didn’t want to pay for the phone charges. So I pulled out the slip of paper with his number and began to cross the four lane highway and that’s when a gust of wind blew that slip of paper out of my hands never to be found again. I guess I was right…he was way out of my league.
My sad karma story.
You just finished writing your play “Made in Taiwan” into a screenplay and said it was now off your bucket list. What else is on that bucket list?
Traveling to Antarctica, completing a major mountain climb, singing “On my Own” as Eponine on Broadway or really ANY song without fear of tomatoes pummeling me in the eye, performing a MJ dance piece as part of a flash mob in some place like Grand Central or Times Square, directing a film in Asia, private dinner with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, being a lead dancer on a major video for someone like Prince, honored at the Kennedy Center, taking my parents to the Oscars.
I see you’ll be working with Joan Chen again (Saving Face) on “Relative Insanity” (the contemporary interpretation of Chekhov’s “The Seagull”). Has that started filming yet?
No, it has not.
You’ve worked in so many different areas. Is there one medium you prefer over another (for example, movie versus TV, TV versus stage acting, TV series versus soap opera)?
I prefer process over non, so it’s more that I like showing up on set and having a creative collaboration with a director. If I can get that from doing one great scene in TV than I’m a happy camper, but if I’m on a job where I’m just expected to hit a mark and go home, that’s not so interesting to me. Usually, films afford you more of a process, but since every production is hurting for money, you can show up on a film set and still have that impersonal experience. Stage really and truly is the actor’s medium, so if you want a full process, that’s the one to experience. I always go back to my stage show or back to theater because it’s where I grow the most as a performer. I’ve had 2 months to prepare for my next film project and it’s been a luxury.
You also have great comedic timing. Do you have a preference between comedy and drama?
Thank you! I love both, genuinely. They each satisfy a different appetite and they’re both so different. Sometimes, I can go from one job and think I’m definitely a comedic actress and then work on a drama and just sit in the “pain” of it all and think, oh, yeah, I’m a drama girl, definitely drama all the way. I’m very lucky I can do both, so I do really try and hone both genres. And truthfully, in life, I really am light and dark, very serious but then really goofy. I think maybe a little “bipolar” runs in my family?
What charitable organizations do you support?
The primary one I am most closely connected to is Center for the Pacific Asian Family. I completed their state certification program to work with Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault survivors as well as volunteering as a SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) advocate. I am currently developing a stage show not unlike the Vagina Monologues focusing on the children of domestic violence survivors. My goal…if you can believe it or not, is to make it entertaining. See, there’s that light and dark again.
Where can we see you in the upcoming future?
I’m about to begin filming a project with Sandra Oh called A Helping Hand and you can see the comedy series Nice Girls Crew, dramatic feature Sunset Stories, both at the Los Angeles Asian Film Festival. Shuffle a magical film about a man living his life out of order will be released later this year.
I’m most creative….?
I’m most creative when I’m well rested and well fed.
I often imagine myself….?
I often imagine myself as a big clown with a sad face but happy nose.
I really wish I knew how to….?
I really wish I knew how to make shoes.
I’d love to spend a lazy Sunday…?
I’d love to spend a lazy Sunday with my entire family laughing and telling stories.
My secret talent is…?
My secret talent is calling people by the wrong names.
Best spontaneous decision was…?
Best spontaneous decision was buying my condo in NYC. I just flew to NY on a Friday and bought it on Monday.
Best way to express myself is….?
Best way to express myself is through dance. I love to dance.
The best advice someone gave you was….?
1) Don’t wait to be picked.
2) Smile in the mirror and then grab that smile you see and eat it. Every day. And make sure it goes down to your belly where your passion lives.
3) Find out what you do best in life and then do it like Hercules.
Michelle Krusiec’s biography: Writer/Performer
The “Chinese American Sandra Bullock” (NY Post). Michelle Krusiec is best known for her starring role opposite Joan Chen in the romantic comedy Saving Face, directed by Alice Wu. The role garnered her a Chinese language Oscar nomination for Best Actress in the 2005 Golden Horse Ceremony.
Ms. Krusiec is sole creator and performer of her original solo show Made in Taiwan (MIT). The show is a darkly comedic coming of age story based on Krusiec’s own family. The show has been workshopped at theatre festivals all over the country including the 2002 HBO Aspen comedy festival, the 2007 New York Asian American Theatre Festival and most recently at the 2010 NY City International Fringe festival. MIT was featured on CBS News as a festival highlight and experienced a sold out run and extension into the Fringe Encores, playing Off Broadway at the prestigious Lucille Lortel Theatre.
Born in Taiwan and raised in America by her Taiwanese aunt and American uncle, Ms. Krusiec works in Los Angeles, New York and Asia. Michelle is known for her intense character portrayals and her uncanny ability to shift seamlessly between comedy and drama. In features, Ms. Krusiec has starred opposite the likes of Michelle Yeoh, Sean Bean, Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher, Drew Barrymore, Eva Mendes, Ben Stiller, Reese Witherspoon, Cristina Ricci, James Cromwell, Christian Slater, Ray Liotta, Donald Sutherland, Anthony Hopkins. In television, Ms. Krusiec globetrotted to over 50 destinations as the host of the popular travel series Travelers for the Discovery Channel. She starred on the NBC sitcom, One World and has graced critically acclaimed shows like Touch, Fringe, Community, Blue Bloods, Secret Life of the American Teenager, Dirty Sexy Money, Nip Tuck, Grey’s Anatomy, Weeds, Mind of the Married Man, Monk.
Ms. Krusiec works closely with CPAF, Center for the Pacific Asian Family, in hopes of advocating on their behalf in issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. She is currently writing her next stage play Nakid on the subject matter. Michelle’s next features are Relative Insanity with Helen Hunt, David Duchovny, Joan Chen and Maggie Grace and A Helping Hand with Sandra Oh.
You can follow Michelle’s blog at http://theprocess.michellekrusiec.com/
Her website: http://www.michellekrusiec.com/projects.html
Michelle’s Twitter: @michellekrusiec
Thank you, Michelle, for taking time out of your hectic schedule for this interview. Don’t forget to watch Michelle’s episode of Touch on April 19, 2012 “Lost and Found.” Check local listings for times.