Lucy Liu On Balancing Parenting, Her Career, and Kung Fu Panda 3

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Dreamworks Animation

Dreamworks Animation

After defeating Lord Shen and coming to grips with his past, Kung Fu Panda 2 teased that Po’s long-lost father is seen living in a land in which pandas live in a hidden enclave and senses that his son is still alive.  On January 29, Po and the gang return pick up where the cliffhanger left off in Kung Fu Panda 3.

Po (voiced by Jack Black), now a highly revered hero and fulfillment of the prophecies of the Dragon Warrior/Warrior of Black and White, reunites with his father (Bryan Cranston), who takes him to the secluded land in which pandas live in peace and harmony…just to realize that he doesn’t fit in there.  In order to defeat an ancient evil spirit, Kai, Po and his friends must train his newfound family and equally clumsy compatriots into an army of kung fu pandas.

 

On a recent afternoon at the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park, we had an opportunity to screen the film and ask Lucy Liu-the voice of Viper-about the film and her most coveted role as a new mother.

Mommynoire: How do you balance being a parent and the many projects that you have going?  Do you have a schedule or do you just find a way to make it work?  

Lucy Liu:  The reality is that my work was crazy before.  My schedule was 16 to 18 hour days and very little sleep.  And then, when I did have free time, I was learning my lines or doing publicity or whatever it was.  

And so, when I had my son, it wasn’t really significantly different.  He wasn’t messing up my schedule, you know?  He’s already on a schedule even though he’s very young.  But, he gets up every four hours and he eats.  And he’s already sleeping, like, seven hours overnight, which I don’t understand.  I’m like *pantomimes feeling his head* Is he alive?  Is his head warm?  

Enjoy it, yes.  

I know.  He’s sleeping way more than I am. But, he wasn’t really in any way fostering more stress for me.  I already had a very rigorous and intense schedule.  So I knew that when I took the job that I was considering having a family.  So, I was kind of like, okay, so the best thing to do is lay the groundwork and have a job that is in one place, which would be television and something that is secure for the time being.  

Since the schedule wasn’t necessarily a shock, how else did you prepare for this new little person in your life?

I’m honest with myself and I tell myself that I’m not going to be able to do it alone, period.  I’m not going to do that.  I’m not going to sacrifice his health and well-being because my schedule is so crazy.

So I have one person that helps me on a regular basis.  And I have a team of people that I’ve been working with since my initiation into this business 20 plus years ago who I trust and rely on.  But, you know, my schedule even without him has been crazy.  And I’ve asked for the ability to cut down on my lines or something like that but that hasn’t happened.  

It’s never going to be easy.  And if I acknowledge that, I’m aware of what I’m doing.  And I know a lot of people want to be there every second.  But, now since he’s fairly portable I take him to location and to set with me.  And if it’s going to be a night shoot, I don’t take him.  I’m realistic about it.  

Are you one of those guilty moms who feels bad about working?

I’m always going to be connected to him.  I have to trust that, and I know that.  I don’t ever feel like, “Oh, my gosh!  I haven’t seen him all day.”  I’m not that kind of mother.  I’m somebody who really trusts that our connection was meant to be in the way that it is and he’s going to know that I’m always going to be with him no matter where he is.  And his job in life is to become the best person that he can be in his life.  And it’s not going to be me, like, hovering over him necessarily.

I think that sometimes as parents, for some reason people guilt each other into feeling like you have to be there at absolutely every single second, you know?  I think that it can be smothering and it also can create an unhealthy environment for yourself, because eventually your child is going to go to school and they’re going to break away from you.  That’s their job, to be independent.  And you have to allow them to be that, because they’re going to be who we are, like here in this room having a conversation without your parents with you.

You have to be able to socially engage with other people and go to work, get a job, have confidence in yourself.  You should always have them in your heart and your spirit, but you have to really be aware of that.

What do you love most about your son?  

I’m not going to pretend that I know everything about him.  He’s getting to know himself every day, what his quirks are.  And, if you listen, you really understand what it is that he needs, because he doesn’t need a lot right now.  Those are the things I can absolutely provide.  It makes you feel good that you can.

But down the road when he’s feeling sad or has gotten heartbroken, you can’t provide anything but your security.  That’s down the road, but I’m going to be in the present moment now.

And I’ve been hearing a lot, “You’ll see.”  And I’m like, “You know what?  Let me see then.  Let me just be here now.”

Everything that we do as parents, I think, is the right thing, you know?  

 

Kung Fu Panda 3 can be seen in 3D at theatres nationwide on January 29.

Chad Milner is a New York-based writer who founded the blog Single Dadventures, where he pens his (mis)adventures with his daughter, Cydney. He regularly contributes to Madamenoire, as well as various websites, giving insight on parenting, dating, relationships and music from the perspective of a young, single black father. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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