Celebrity Corner: Chatting with Michelle Krusiec

16 04 2012

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.

Michelle Krusiec

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.

Random Thoughts

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

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/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.





So You Think You Can Dance — Top 14 Performance

7 07 2011

Tonight viewers were in for a special treat. Travis Wall, previous contestant on So You Think You Can Dance Season 2 and choreographer for the last few years, was asked to sit in to judge tonight. Is there anywhere Travis does not fit like a hand in a glove? His critiques were deadly accurate with lavish praise for the high points and technical pointers for the weaker points to help the dancers learn. When I heard Carmen Electra was going to judge, I had no idea she had a background in dance. I enjoyed her in “Meet the Spartans.” I loved Cat Deeley’s earrings tonight that had the number 8 on them for season 8.

Tonight we will find out more about the contestants. There are also new choreographers to the show. According to http://www.markmeismer.com, Justin began his training in South Carolina. He was the winner of Star Search and Destination Stardom in Hawaii. In 2001, he worked with the Poz Dance Theater in Seoul, Korea. Soon thereafter he opened a dance company in Dallas, Texas and has been with LA Dance Magic for the past 5 years. Ray Leeper has worked in film and theater and for big names singers such as Cher and Elton John.

Dancers: Boys’ Group Number
Song: “Prague”
Artist: Damien Rice
Choreographer: Justin Giles
Story: The seven stages of grief after a breakup: Shock, anger, denial, depression, guilt, bargaining, and acceptance.

It was a beautiful contemporary number. Chris, unfortunately, was off in his timing with the other dancers. Although the judges are not offering critiques, performances in the group number will be taken into consideration for elimination eve. A warm welcome to Justin. I hope we see more of his work on this show.

Dancers: Melanie & Marko
Song: “Americano”
Artist: Lady Gaga
Choreographer: Ray Leeper
Style: Jazz
Story: Young Latin couple whose families have been fighting like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, now run off and want to get married.

Marko had auditioned before but had not won over the judges until this year. He is from Guam and most of his family became lawyers and doctors. There were not many dance opportunities on the island. The one job he had was on a cruise ship and the hazing ritual was dressing up as a girl (in homage to the drag queen show where he was not–and he repeats was NOT–the drag queen). Melanie is from Marietta, Georgia (woo-hoo, my sister lived there for many years), but she left to attend Fordham University in New York City, majoring in art. Her boyfriend, Mitchell, whom she has dated since the 10th grade in high school, came to see her perform last week, the week of the Marko kiss.

There was a moment at the beginning of the dance where I thought, “Oh my” with regards to hand placement. She had to be deadly accurate or risk incapacitating her partner!

Melanie & Marko

Hand placement must be precise!

It was a fantastic way to start the show off on a high note. Cat Deeley says Marko looks like a sexy fireman in that outfit. Travis tells Melanie she is, by far, his favorite dancer in the competition. He also comments that he has been taking Ray’s class since he was 9 years old (great way to make someone feel old, Travis!). Mary loved their passion and heat. I enjoyed this number a great deal. This was Ray’s first appearance on SYTYCD as well and a hearty hello to him as well. Nigel reassures Marko that he is a fan now.

Dancers: Sasha & Alexander
Song: “To the Moon”
Artist: Miguel
Choreographer: Shawn Evaristo
Style: Hip-Hop
Story: A first date and Alex wants a kiss at the end of the night from Sasha.

Sasha spoke lovingly of her family, especially of her sister and having her sister with her through her journey on SYTYCD. She comes from a large Trinidadian family who now lives in Bakersfield, CA and there is always a party going on–lots of food, drinks, dancing, and singing. It sounds like Sasha’s family knows how to live in the moment and express joy of just being alive. Dancing began for Alexander at the age of 17. Instead of going to college, he was accepted into a ballet school where he fell in love with ballet. He grew up in Alhambra. His father used to be an actor on such shows (that I remember) as Barney Miller, TJ Hooker, Hill Street Blues, shows Alex says he has never heard of. Psssst. Alex. I probably saw your dad at some point on those shows and not on the reruns.

Alex is swagger-challenged. One might say because of the natural of ballet, it is trained out of them because posture has to be perfect, lines have to be straight, etc. However, one day ballet dancer Alex Wong walked into our lives and performed one of the best routines ever in the history of SYTYCD with Twitch, choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon. Click here to watch. Alex Wong made a bold statement that ballet dancers CAN do hip-hop. Compared to the level of what we’ve seen in the competition thus far, this was below the bar. I think it will put them in danger. Carmen articulated it best when she was not feeling them as a couple. When I see Alex in his natural environment, he seems like a different person than he is on stage. The “ballet face” comes on when he dances on stage and because Sasha is operating from a different point of view, trying to get into whatever character she needs to be, that is where the disconnect is happening.

Dancers: Jordan & Tadd
Song: “Nocturne”
Artist: Secret Garden
Choreographer: Toni Redpath
Style: Smooth Jazz
Story: Jordan is a siren, a black widow spider of the deep sea.

Jordan’s story brought tears to my eyes as she shared the depth of her family’s sacrifices so she could dance and the level of appreciation she has for it. After seeing the fun side of Jordan, it was moving to see she has a vulnerable side. She hopes that this is a reward for them as well after all they have done. Tadd grew up in Salt Lake City and because of the lack of Filipino culture there when he was young, grew up thinking he was Caucasian. Once he got to meet extended family in San Francisco, California, his world grew much bigger.

Let’s think of Jordan being a siren of dance (not voice, LOL, sorry babe, your talent is in dancing, not singing). I loved the hair extensions; I don’t think I would have recognized her on the street with them. Her costume was beautiful; she did look like a goddess from the sea. Being a hip-hop dancer, Tadd did a super job. His posture was superb; his arms were high. He died well.

Dancers: Clarice & Jess
Song: “Light Through the Branches”
Artist: Celeste Lear
Choreographer: Justin Giles
Style: Contemporary
Story: A super intense love affair that is coming to an end.

Clarice also appreciates the sacrifices her family has made for her.  Although she grew up in Hollywood, California, she now studies dance at California State University at Long Beach. After a long day, she drives her sister to dance and then teaches dance later on after that. Clarice enjoys spending time with her family after a long day. Jess grew up in Little Falls, New Jersey with family members who are also entertainers. Jess’ father was an actor, but is now a teacher. While many of us would like to forget our high school experience, Jess has wonderful memories, being part of all the performing arts clubs.

Clarice is a contemporary dancer and Jess is used to Broadway. My eye was drawn to Clarice during the routine. Jess is growing as a dancer in this area but I would compare his performance to Tadd’s in ballet. Although not his style, he did try to rise to meet the challenge. Unlike Alex and Sasha, Clarice and Jess are developing chemistry between them and that shone through during the routine. In this routine, it demanded that it did or it would have fallen apart. I agree with Travis that it is my favorite routine they have done all season. Carmen and Mary said they felt the anger they were feeling. Maybe that was true in the studio. As a TV viewer, I saw the anger between the two of them, but they did not bring me along for the ride.

Dancers: Ashley & Chris
Song: “Mambo Beat”
Artist: Tito Puente
Choreographer: Liz Lira
Style: Salsa
Story: None, just fast, lots of tricks, etc.

From Antioch, California, Ashley grew up as the daughter of a deacon, surrounded by music and dance her entire life, her mom being director of the dance program. She loves to cook (perhaps we will see her on a future episode of Masterchef). Chris comes from a large family in Dallas which gives them always something to do and always something to clean. He was diagnosed with dyslexia and credits his parents for him graduating high school because the challenges for him were that difficult.

I understand the choreographers wanting to do a challenging dance, but they also need to take into consideration the level of ability of the dancers. Latin dances need a strong male partner who is sure of himself and Chris even verbalized his awkwardness in this style. I was worried for them seeing the rehearsals. The actual dance was better than rehearsals. You could see Chris thinking all the steps so he could complete the dance without his partner getting hurt, but because of that, the heat was missing. Ashley did a nice job and it was so lovely of her to tell him how proud she was of him as they stood next to Cat Deeley. Sadly, I think this is going to put them in the bottom 3. I’m certain that if this is the case, Chris will be the guy going home because of the comment Nigel said last week about him needing to grow faster, and because of the off-timing in tonight’s group routine.

Dancers: Ryan & Ricky
Song: “Fashion”
Artist: David Bowie
Choreographer: Chucky Klapow
Style: Jazz
Story: Two members of a cult of fashion. Following what was hot and hip eventually “did them in.” They got hit by a car they were so into themselves they wouldn’t even take the time to look left or right to cross the street. Elaborate story.

Ryan was raised in Morgan Hill, California. She went to Sacramento and got an opportunity to work with Mia Michaels during a convention. Because of economic hardships, Ryan had to give up dancing for awhile. She reunited with Mia Michaels on the “House” episode “Bombshells.” Ricky is from Miami and loves the beach because it allows him to spend time with his family. When he was 15, his mother said they were moving to Tampa (and they made it sound like it was such a horrible thing to happen. I lived in St. Petersburg for a year of my life; Tampa is not a bad place). But apparently there is not a lot of dancing in Tampa (ah, code word for a lot of old people live there). He was not only the first male cheerleader at his new high school, but also became co-captain.

This dance was “Ghouls Gone to Vogue Hell” to the PERFECT song choice. It was so enjoyable. It made me want to learn the steps so I could follow along. How do you judge such a thing? Fun? Check. Did I believe they were zombies? Check. Did I believe they were once fashion icons? Check. When they were required to dance in sync, did they? Check. Bonus points: It was quirky; I adore quirky. They are absolutely safe with this one.

Some trivia about Chucky Klapow. He was one of the main dancers in Michael Jackson’s tour “This Is It” and has been Kenny Ortega’s co-choreographer in the High School Musical movies. Kenny Ortega did a season of judging on SYTYCD. He also choreographed another Fox show, Bones, “The Girl With The Curl.”

Dancers: Caitlynn & Mitchell
Song: “To Love You More”
Artist: Celine Dion
Choreographer: Mandy Moore
Style: Contemporary
Story: A couple falling in love.

Caitlynn was a tomboy growing up in Moses Lake, Washington and loves engaging in outdoor activities from snowboarding to fishing. Her father works overseas and is home only every other month. Thank goodness she lives in an age where there is Skype and other type of networking; back when I was her age there was two methods of communication: Telephone and snail-mail. Mitchell’s backstory made me cry. His father died when he was 2. When he was 8, he and his mother moved from Chicago to Atlanta and wound up sleeping in their car for a full year. They were homeless. His mother was able to find a job and wanted Mitchell to fulfill his dreams there. His mother is so inspiring. It is so difficult to break out of the cycle of homeless and there is such a horrible stereotype about the face of the homeless, people mischaracterizing the group as lazy, not wanting to work, etc. I know that just is not true and to hear people’s ignorance when they speak of such things irritates me greatly. Mitchell, to his credit, could have turned to a life of drugs or gangs, but did not. It says a lot about his personal character as a mere 8-year-old child. He is such a great role model.

Wait, what? Caitlynn spills secrets that Marko reads romance novels. Too funny.

Remember that Mitchell is still trying to recover from his injury from week 1, but he continues to push through to stay in the competition. Caitlynn has complete trust that he will be there for her as her partner. They have the coveted last spot of the evening, so I’m preparing to be wowed. I love this song and the romantic in me loved this dance. It was my favorite of the evening. I know it is a wonderful dance when I’m breathing with the dancers. It was absolutely PERFECT and Mitchell knows they NAILED it. He is overwhelmed with emotion.

Dancers: The Girls aka “The Beasts”
Song: “My Discarded Men”
Artist: Eartha Kitt with Bronski Beat
Choreographer: Ray Leeper
Style: Jazz
Story: Seven girlfriends ridding the world of evil men. (Hmm, femme fatales?)

It was a great dance and everyone worked well together as a group. A nice way to end the show.

So based on their dancing tonight, I think Sasha and Alexander and Ashley and Chris are in trouble. But Sasha has a lot of Adam Lambert fans voting, so I’m not sure if they will be in the bottom 3. I’m not sure who the other couple would be. I am certain Chris is going home Thursday night if he is among the bottom 3 males.

Who were your favorites? Who do you think will be in the bottom three?