Li Jun Li has been performing most of her life. Her parents enrolled her in Chinese Classical Dance classes when she was young and she then went on to graduate from LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts and State University of New York at Purchase's Acting Conservatory. Since then, she has landed role after role both on stage and on the big and small screens. Li is currently starring as Jenny Wah in the Netflix Original Series Wu Assassins.
What drew you to the role of Jenny Wah? Do you relate to your character in any way?
I've always wanted to be in projects with more action. I love being physical, and when this role came around, I went after it like a hawk. I definitely relate to Jenny Wah. Other than being Chinese-American, we both balance living in a western country while staying loyal to our traditions and culture.
What part of the show are you most excited about? The food! Just kidding. Obviously, the martial arts. If you've ever seen Iko Uwais fight in The Raid 1 and 2, and in his other films, you would be excited, too. Not only does he play our Wu Assassin, but he brought his whole team over from Indonesia to create his raw, realistic and brutal style for our show.
You've been in TV shows, movies, plays and musicals. Do you prefer one over the others? If so, why? Ever since theatre school, one of my biggest notes was that I was "not big enough." So I prefer on-camera, as I'm very much an internal actor, if that makes any sense. I prefer the same realism as we see in real life: the camera is on your face and your eyes tell the story- where in theatre you're definitely unable to see, if the house fits 1100+ people. However, I would also love to do plays and musicals again. There's not many musicals out there that I think I am right for, but I hope something comes my way soon, as I absolutely love the rehearsal process and the energy from a live audience.
What is your favorite role past or present?
I don't have one specific role that is my favorite, but I do love the comedies I've done. I'm not often considered for comedy as I think I come across very serious looking, but I'm actually incredibly goofy in real life.
Oh, and Jenny Wah.
How do you get into character? I go to Chinatown and immerse myself in Chinese food.
Who was your role model as a child? I never knew I wanted to be an actor, so I didn't really have a "role model." I went into the arts because I hated liberal arts and, for the lack of sounding cheesy, art found me!
What have been some of the challenges you've had to overcome in the acting world? Having to jump through more hoops than a non-minority. Being considered for leads, but they don't go with diversity in the end. Being pigeon-holed into playing a best friend, a co-worker, a sidekick, and dare I say, a stereotype? But as we know, there's been a lot of changes lately, and I am grateful there is a massive shift in Asian representation towards the right direction. I hope soon we can all do what we love without these same obstacles, no matter who we are.
Any advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps? Do the work: always train, always take classes, always polish your tools, so that when the time comes, (and it will) you will be ready.
Oh and be kind. And humble.