10 THINGS – Lily Ji
Lily Ji plays Chinese Cadet ‘Mei Lin’ in the Legendary and Universal Pictures sequel “Pacific Rim Uprising” releasing wide theatrically on March 23, 2018.
You’re originally from China, which is a long ways from Hollywood. What made you want to have a career as an actress and how did you get your start?
My hometown Yunnan has the most minority groups in China. They all love dancing & singing. I guess the passion for performance of all kinds has been deep in my veins since the beginning. I studied dancing for 11 years from eastern styles to western. You name it, I’ve probably studied it. I’ve also been singing for 8 years. I did most types of sports, so yeah, I had typical Asian parents. But now, I finally learned to appreciate all of that. Because I grew up from an “ordinary” family, I was taught that more skills means more opportunities. My dad used to work for the Yunnan Arts University in the acting department, and I remember watching with him “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Million Dollar Baby”, those kinds of films when I was a kid. I enjoyed them all, and I guess from a young age, I decided to be very serious about my acting career just like the actresses in those pictures. Then, I did acting in my arts high school, auditioned for the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Acting as the first Chinese international student and came back to China after graduation to start my career.
Which actors’ work impressed you and motivated you to follow in their footsteps?
So many great female actresses such as Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Judy Dench, or Chinese actresses you guys are more familiar with here in the states like Li Gong, Ziyi Zhang, Michelle Yeoh, etc.
If you had the opportunity to create your own role and produce a film, which actors would you include and what would it look like?
Jackie Chan again for sure! As well as the aforementioned Cate & Natalie. Also, Benedict Cumberbatch…my gosh, that would be a super crazy big budget. Maybe some kind of super girl thing!! LOL.
Speaking of Jackie Chan, how was your experience on that film project and what did you learn from working with him?
He’s always a legend to us, since he’s been working in the industry for so long and still remains very proactive and positive. He’s always very kind to everyone, encouraging and fun to work with. Most importantly, I learned from him to “never giving up.” There’s no easy way, so I believe to always work hard and keep learning, just like Jackie always does.
Your latest film is Pacific Rim Uprising. How were you first introduced to the project and what made you excited to be a part of this?
They were looking for real 18-years-old girls to do the audition. I was maybe just 19, hahahaha…joking!! Honestly, I gave up before even trying at first because of that, but a few friends encouraged me, so I just self-taped without expecting anything. Then, to my surprise, I got into the second round of casting. So, then, I needed to get back to Beijing to meet with Steven [S. DeKnight] our director, but I was shooting a big TV project in Hengdian at that time. I couldn’t actually go back, so I was really frustrated. Then, all of the sudden, I got a phone call, “Lily you don’t have to come back Beijing now.” I felt my heart drop into pieces, but then the casting lady said, “You got it! Steven had a look at your audition tape again, he loved it, and so you got it.” I was like WHAT?????? Yeah, I still remember the first day I met Steven which was in Sydney at FOX Studios. He came up to me and said, “Congratulations Lily, you are the only one we cast out of an audition tape!” I love our film because it’s very multicultural! Just like the core message in the movie. No matter where you come from, who you really are or who your parents are, we all have to unite together to fight back.
In the film, you play the role of Mei Lin. What can you tell us about her personality?
Our film is full of strong, independent, fierce, hard working ladies and that’s exactly who ‘Mei Lin’ is. She is from China and had to study very hard to get into the PPDC (Pan Pacific Defense Corps), the international department organized to fight our common enemy, the Kaiju. She’s totally a pioneer in life, some might call her a tomboy. And she’s super competitive.
What is the film about and what can expect to see from Mei Lin and the rest of the characters in the movie?
The sequel is of course about saving humanity and the world from another Kaiju attack. It’s about team work, friendship and searching for your own identity in the very multicultural world, just like nowadays. ‘Mei Lin’ is finally, not the typical stereotype, like I’ve seen especially while I was at school.
If you were not working on a career as an actress, what type of work would you be doing?
Probably some sort of producing or something in the healthy lifestyle space. I am and always will be a storyteller. Managing a team for sure as well. Apparently, my team sometimes call me “bossy lady” – HA! I guess I’m just a perfectionist. And, since I got into working out and eating healthy, those are for sure my future areas of interest too. I’d definitely want to be on the creative side of things and not be the passively waiting type.
When it comes to fashion, which designers and style fit your personality?
Simple, comfortable, sometimes sporty or rebellious types of outfits and designers. I love fashion surprises. But, I’m not a big fan of following every single seasons’ trends. It’s about finding the pieces that really showcases who you are in a winning fashion.
Besides Pacific Rim Uprising, what other projects do you have coming up?
I’m about to start my new comedy television series as the lead role in China, in which I finally get to showcase my comical talent! I also just wrapped two films to be released later this year, as well as another Chinese TV drama called “The Gods.”
Photo Credits: Jasin Boland / Legendary Pictures / Universal & PanLong Yang