Kelly Hu has been a working actor for over 30 years and had already been in the business 10 years when she won the role of Dr. Rae Chang on the Aaron Spelling-produced daytime sudser, SUNSET BEACH. After wrapping her run, Hu found great success, and went on to appear in such blockbuster films as The Scorpion King and playing the super-villainess Lady Deathstrike in X-Men 2, while recurring on such hit shows through the years as THE ORVILLE, ARROW, HAWAII FIVE-0 and THE VAMPIRE DIARIES.
“I’ve been so lucky,” she says of her lengthy career. “I’ve played some great characters and worked with so many terrific actors and directors, but to tell you the truth, I don’t think I really knew what it was to work and to be an actor until I got that job [on BEACH]. That was when I realized how hard the work really was. Acting is a tough job, but doing a soap is even harder. In soaps, you’re memorizing 30 pages of dialogue a day sometimes, and it is grueling! And, all that medical jargon was the worst. It was my absolute nightmare [laughs]. But, it was an invaluable lesson for me to learn about the work ethic.”
What’s Up, Doc? On BEACH, Rae fell in love with lifeguard Casey (Timothy Adams), which greatly upset her
Besides honing her chops, Hu took away several lifelong friendships from the gig, as well. “Adrienne [Frantz, ex-Tiffany, BEACH et al] and I are great friends,” Hu beams. “I just celebrated my 50th birthday and she was there. She had a baby, and I go to her baby’s birthday parties. I was at the baby’s christening. And, of course, Laura Harring [ex-Paula, BEACH et al] has been a friend of mine since I was 16, from the pageant days.”
These days, “I’m working on a new AMC show with Julianna Margulies called DIETLAND [which will premiere on June 4] and an independent film [Go Back To China, due out in 2019],” she reports. “Indie films are so important. When you have less people with their hands in the film, you get a more pure creation. It’s really a labor of love. Nobody is there for a huge payday; they really believe in the project, and I think that shows in the work.”
She also donned a white coat again in F.R.E.D.I. (which stands for Future Robotics Engineering Design Innovation), a flick that also stars fellow soap vets Tyler Christopher (Stefan, DAYS et al) and Texas Battle (ex-Marcus, B&B). “I play a scientist who creates this robot, and my mission is to save the robot and in turn, save the world,” smiles Hu. “I love this whole new era of female empowerment, especially since this is a film designed for kids to enjoy. It’s done in such a great way to show young girls that all of this is possible. Nowadays, when you think of doctors and lawyers, you don’t just think of men, which wasn’t necessarily the case when I was growing up. Now, you think of women in all kinds of power positions; judges and scientists and computer coding. There are all kinds of things going on in the fields of STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics], and given the opportunity, I think girls can really blossom in these fields.”
Poster Child: Hu, along with DAYS’s Tyler Christopher (Stefan), appear on the movie poster
for their family flick, F.R.E.D.I.
Hu says it’s one of the reasons she is excited to see what will come next for her. “My mom turns 80 this year; I turned 50 this year,” she reports. “I could not be happier. I truly did not think that this career was going to be this awesome — and I’m so encouraged about the future. Women are getting better and better, and more empowered. I remember when I was in my 20s and thinking that at 50, I’d be retired, because this industry would retire me. Now, I feel like I’m nowhere near that. I’m stronger and better than ever.”
Oh, Baby: Hu attended the christening of Adrienne Frantz’s (ex-Amber, B&B/Y&R et al) and husband Scott Bailey’s (ex-Sandy, GUIDING LIGHT) daughter, Amélie, in 2016.
JUST THE FACTS
Birthday: February 13
Hails From: Honolulu, HI
Her Secret For Looking So Young At 50? “A really good dermatologist!”
Role Closest To Her Heart: “It was in a tiny little indie film, The Haumana. It was written, produced and directed by a good friend, Keo Woolford, who passed away unexpectedly. The character I played was originally written for a linebacker-sized transgender Hawaiian, and when I was playing it, it was the first time that I ever got to use the accent that I was born and raised with.”
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