The first thing I noticed when meeting actress Lucy Liu on the set of the Ghost House movie Rise is that she’s just breathtakingly gorgeous in person, with a devilish grin and beguiling eyes that convey an uncommon wisdom.  She’s also very petite, almost small enough to, say, put in your pocket and sneak out of the studio before security stops you and you have to quickly come up with a clever explanation for stealing the film’s diminutive and exquisite star.  I’m not saying that happened, of course.

Anyway, in Rise from writer-director Sebastian Gutierrez (read my interview HERE!), Lucy plays an investigative journalist named Sadie whose encounter with a vicious cult lands her in the morgue… where she wakes up.  No longer living and not quite dead, she goes on a hunt for the bastards responsible, which brings her across the path of renegade cop Rawlins (played by Michael Chiklis – read my interview HERE!), who is seeking retribution on the same gang of villainous vampires.

We briefly chatted about Comic Con, where I was heading the next day and where Lucy had visited years earlier to promote Ecks vs. Sever, but with the accelerated schedule of Rise’s production (a 30-day shoot with a modest seven-figure budget), she only had a few minutes to chat before my attempted larceny – er, before she had to return to shooting.  

Q: Tell me how you got involved in Rise.

Lucy:  I’d just gotten back from Montreal, doing Lucky Number Slevin there with Sir Ben Kingsley and Morgan Freeman, and I got back and got the script and read it at about three in the morning and loved it.  I asked my managers what was going on with it and they set up a meeting.  We met two days later and made the deal, it was really easy.  We just clicked, understood what the story and the character were.  We also understood it wasn’t just pure horror, it was a genre that was going toward thriller, like The Hunger.

Q:  Every since Charlie’s Angels you’ve had a number of kickass female roles.  Is that something you’ve looked for?

Lucy:  No, it really wasn’t.  I actually feel like this movie is less action-oriented, it’s more psychological, more of an emotional place.  You see where she comes from and where she goes.  I know that something like Kill Bill, it was a very action-oriented movie and it gave the character such a strong history as a child and why she became what she was, it offered such a great psychology of who she was.  See, I never look at something as just an action movie.

Q:  Does that appeal to you more than something like a John Woo type of movie?

Lucy:  I think in anything you do, if it has action in it that’s great, it’s always fun to watch and be a part of, but I think more than anything you need to have a character that’s dynamic in a way that has an emotional trajectory.  Otherwise it’s just – you want the audience to follow you and be invested in you.  Which is what I think is so great about Sadie, she’s not just a pure heroine.  She’s not just clean, she’s killed, murdered… she’s committed suicide, trying to get out of it.  She’s pushed into this situation, which is a cool way to introduce it to the audience.

Q:  This movie is a little more grounded in reality for a vampire movie, right?

Lucy:  Yes, there’s no teeth, no garlic, it’s not like that.  We don’t have wooden stakes through the heart [Sadie does use a crossbow to dispatch her enemies].  We hit it off immediately, it just seemed natural.

Q:  This movie has quite a pedigree for a smaller genre movie.  You, Michael Chiklis, cinematographer John Toll, Carla Gugino…

 Lucy:  Carla is amazing.  And James D’Arcy.  I think it’s because it’s a great script, and when you see something with so much potential you want to be a part of it.  Obviously it’s a really low budget movie, but I think in some ways that unites us even more, we’re all here for one reason and one reason only.

Q:  There’s a sort of freedom with that too, right?  More than you would if you were on a $100 million movie?

Lucy:  Maybe.  We’re shooting three or four scenes a day, normally you’d be lucky to get one scene a day done.  I think we’re all there getting things done and working as a team, which is really nice.  We’ve got 30 days to shoot it.  It’s a very small crew and an intimate set, which helps.  It’s nice to work on a bigger budget movie, but this is something that has a lot of heart in it.

Q:  You’re involved in producing movies now, right?

Lucy:  I have been for a few years now.  It’s an incredibly painstakingly long process.  We’ve worked on Charlie Chan for almost four years and we’re just now starting to get a script.  And Asian Brides, and Devil To Pay, which is coming up in the Fall or next year.

Q:  Tell me about those.

Lucy:  Devil To Pay is about a woman whose kids are kidnapped and she takes matters into her own hands, she has to rob a bank she works at, it’s a thriller.  Asian Brides is over at Imagine and Universal, it’s been a long process.  And then Charlie Chan is still in the works.  I also did this great independent movie called 3 Needles, it’s basically about AIDS and HIV and what’s going on in the world, and I only speak Chinese in the movie.  I don’t know when it’ll come out, it should be hitting the festivals.