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Lucy Liu: From Angel To Devil

Adding the number one movie "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" to a string of hits that include "Charlie's Angels" and "Shanghai Noon," Lucy Liu is on her way to becoming queen of the action film.

The Early Show's entertainment contributor Jess Cagle sat down with Liu to discuss her high-flying act.

In "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" Liu plays O-Ren Ishii, a Japanese/Chinese mobster, who at age 7 witnessed her parents' murder. After taking revenge on their killers, she grew up to become boss of the Tokyo underworld.

It was her character's background that Liu said helped make the deadly assassin real.

"She's sort of a survivor, I think," Liu says. "I think it's a nice way to make [the movie], even if they're going to be an assassin when they get older...they're a survivor and they sort of kill or be killed."

Liu describes O-Ren Ishii as being a little sensitive about her background because Japanese men usually rule in Japan's underworld.

"[O-Ren Ishii] is dangerous but she's feminine," the actress explains. "I think those are nice qualities to bring to the character to make her a little more colorful and a little more unpredictable."

Liu says she couldn't believe Quentin Tarantino called her before making the movie to offer her a specific role that he wrote just for the actress.
"He's the type of person that really opens his arms up to somebody and is a huge fan of your work and is hungry to know more about you and to understand more about your craft," Liu says.

"It makes you feel really special. That's something that he has. He makes people feel special. It's a great quality about him."

This is not the first time Liu has played a martial arts heroine. She gave a few beatings in "Ballistic" "Payback" and two "Charlie's Angels" movies. But, some say Liu walks a fine line between playing strong female characters and reinforcing stereotypes of Asian women as calculative femme fatales.

"I think that because I'm Asian, people will immediately sort of label it as a dragon lady," Liu says. I think if it was Renée Zellweger playing this role, nobody would say dragon lady. They might say she's sort of a tough character … mixed with the other part of it.

"I would like to take that and change it around and just say that I think that there's two sides of it, and not to make it Asian specific but to actually acknowledge that it is a character that is funny and also dramatic. And that's what life is."

Liu is also called a role model, a title she says is a risky responsibility.

"It becomes dangerous when people sort of put you on a pedestal and they want you to represent at all times the perfect behavior and the perfect manner," she explains. "That's not something that I even try to attempt to do. I just don't want to be, sort of, put up on a pedestal where suddenly they're just ready to pull you down. I think as long as I'm honest about what I'm doing and my work, then that's the most important thing to me."

With "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" now in theaters and Vol. 2 being released in February, Liu is now focusing on her next project, starring as the classic detective Charlie Chan.

In the past, Caucasian actors played the Asian Charlie Chan.

"I think people really enjoyed his character and loved [Charlie Chan]," Liu says. "But I think it's going to be dynamic and interesting and maybe kind of fresh to have somebody who's named Charlie Chan be played by somebody who is Asian."