Julia Ling is an American actress most widely known for her television work, including her recurring roles on NBC series such as ER, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and most recently, as a series regular on Chuck. Other major guest and recurring roles in 8 Simple Rules, House, ER, Grey’s Anatomy, The O.C. and The Deep End. I sit down and talk with her about a variety of topics ranging from her work, cosplay, video games, and her background in medicine. Read below for the full interview…
I learned through many Asian actors/actresses, that in their homeland, TV is actually more prestigious work than film. In the west this view can be flip-flopped. Do you hope to branch out and do more films or are you very comfortable with television work?
Julia: Well, I am truly a performer at heart, and will enjoy any story in which I get to play a fun or challenging character, whether its television or film. I used to say that I love film because we get to travel to exotic locations to shoot, and I always love a good adventure! However, in recent years, I have had the privilege of traveling to for television filming too. It seems like more and more so, television shows are being cast in LA but filmed everywhere else.
What is it like on the set of Chuck? For those not familiar with the show, how is it different from other shows on TV today?
Julia: The set of Chuck is always very fun. There is great chemistry among the cast and crew, and the story is always well written and fun. Even our background actors have become family. Everyday I get to go on set is a humbling experience that I’m thankful for. We have good leaders, you know, our writer-producers, our actors. Because they are great at their jobs and they’re passionate about the story, it makes the creative process fun, precious and memorable.
You get to play dress up for a living, how cool is that? How big are you into cosplay?
Julia: That’s part of the fun in being a lady! We get to wear all kinds of cute things and try on different accessories. The fact that we actresses get to do it for a living is pretty sweet. And YES to cosplay! LOVE it! I was stoked my character, Anna Wu on Chuck, got to wear such awesome accessories all the time. She had all these colors in her hair, sexy tights, crazy shoes, fake tattoos. In real life, dressing like that makes people judge you funny sometimes. But I was able to get away with the fun on the show without any of the real world consequences of getting in trouble.
I saw your work on ‘The Deep End’ and I was shocked to see you playing such a serious role. What challenges do you face when taking on a dramatic role versus a comedic role?
Julia: Comedy comes naturally to me. Ever since I was a little tiny thing –and I know I haven’t grown that much because I’m still a tiny thing — I would say and do funny things. Comedy is in my blood. I live comedy. I love comedy. I breathe comedy. I’m even funny looking sometimes.
But I love performing drama just as much. Drama is much more physically challenging when it comes to crying for a gazllion hours. You can only spend so much time being angry or hysterical before you start to feel physically drained. Good dramatic stories are soulful, or uplifting, or inspirational, or touch us in ways that comedy cannot. And as a performer and somebody with deep empathy and soulful momens, I will gladly accept a good dramatic role or story any day as I believe it would enrich my life and potentially the lives of the audience as well.
For The Deep End, I really did put myself through the torment of seeing my fiance die and fearing deportation while fighting for the citizenship of my unborn son. It was very well written (by Jami O’Brien) and and very well directed (Timothy Busfield). To top those emotional challenges, there were the physical specifics to add, you know, being super pregnant, the chills, the pain in the belly and the throat, the discomfort from sitting, and fighting to hold back tears, fighting to be strong when I just wanted to crumble.
Clint Eastwood is currently casting for his film ‘Trouble with the Curve’, and we think you should audition! Aside from directors, which actors would you like to work with that you haven’t had the opportunity to yet?
Julia: I would love to work with pretty much anybody who is passionate and great at their craft. Working with great actors truly brings out new discoveries in any scene, and I love that process of discovery. A few actors that come to mind are Sands Stark, Leonardo di Caprio, Meryl Streep, Rachel McAdams, Clint Eastwood, Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron.
Do you have any favorite Asian films or anime? Care to share a few with us?
Julia: I love the Chinese movie “Secret” by Jay Chou. It’s a love story that takes place at a music university. As a fellow pianist, I truly appreciate the music. As a fellow actor, I’m just in awe that Jay Chou could stay so focused in producing, directing, composing and starring in the movie.
I enjoy a huge variety of anime, but one of my old time favorites is “Hajime no Ippo,” the boxing series. It’s hilarious and I’ve seen it a couple times. It’s about a man with a dream who doesn’t give up no matter how much it hurt or how many times he’s fallen. I’m training in some kick boxing now too and through all my dance and martial arts training, I’ve learned to adopt the same kind of discipline and perseverance.
We’ve heard a lot about Zachary Levi and Joshua Gomez playing video games on the set of Chuck. Have you gotten sucked into any of that?
Julia: I’m trying really hard not to get sucked into more video games. Last time I was there, we had a Rock Band set up. Zach is insanely good. Reminds me of the times I played Dance Dance Revolution in college. We played competitively and would always strive for a PERFECT on every beat. There are a ton of other games I love, from board to cards to video and computer games. It’s how I spend time with my family and friends. We play Munchkins, Runebound, Settlers, Taboo, Wii Mario, MMOs, RPGs, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and I could take up another two pages of your editorial if I went on with the list of games I love to play!
Were you a bit nervous leaving behind your would-be career in medicine to focus on acting? How did you know this is something you wanted to do?
Julia: Truth be told, I still miss it. I miss the pursuit of medicine. Back in high school, I participated in a youth leadership program where I was able to scrub down and witness surgery, where I got to study from real cadavers, and hold a real human brain. I was just a little girl, but I was very focused on my career and very passionate about becoming a neurosurgeon. I was fascinated by all the discussions of ethics we had. Do you operate on a patient if its the only way to save her even though surgery is against her religion? Do you save a patient who is a minor without telling the parents?
And as much as I hated the challenges of multi-variable vector calculus and chemical engineering, I truly do miss it all. It’s like a big hole in my heart. I still read scientific journals and try to keep up with engineering updates. I love math. I love physics. You know, they always say, put an engineer in a box and he will figure out how to get out. I love figuring it out.
Science vs. Performing? It’s like having two different dreams, and you could only pick one. Either way, I would have been left with a feeling of both fulfillment as well as emptiness.
Adding to that, do you have any advice for anyone who wants to chase their dream?
Julia: The biggest requirement of having a dream is that you believe in it. If you can see it, and you believe it, and you are not afraid of pursuing it, then you may very well be able to show everyone else to see what you see. You have to be willing to keep getting back up no matter how much it hurts, no matter how hard it is. You have to be willing to remove the negative people your life, stay disciplined, and always study, study, study.
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Header Image: Photographer Jim Crilly. Hair Stylist: Ahou Mofid. Makeup: Cindy Miguens. Costumer: Kait Marie. Production Assistant: Emily Robinson.
Picture #2: Chuck images courtesy from NBC.
Picture #3: Photographer Jim Crilly email@example.com. Fight Choreographer: TK Wong
Picture #4: Photographer Erik Umphery www.erikumphery.com. Fight Choreographer: TK Wong
Picture #5: Photographer Adrian Carr www.tallordersproductions.com
YouTube Video: Videographer Emily Robinson firstname.lastname@example.org