‘Fresh Off the Boat’ Actress Lucille Soong on Becoming an Accidental Actor


This interview has been edited for length and clarity by XFINITY.


Lucille Soong as Grandma Huang on “Fresh Off the Boat.” (Image Credit: ABC)

CAAM had the pleasure of catching up with Lucille Soong over email. Soong plays Grandma Huang on ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat,” which is now in its fourth season and airs on Monday nights. Since the first season, her character has charmed audiences with her humor, hipness and Mandarin-speaking ways.

What made you want to become an actor?

Lucille Soong: I’m an accidental actress—it just happened. Right after I moved to London from Hong Kong, I went grocery shopping on a street when an agent chased me down. He asked me to go to Spain for the movie “55 Days at Peking.” That was the second time I was put in a movie, so it seems to be fate.

You’ve acted in movies with Orson Welles, Ava Gardner and Sammy Davis, Jr. What were those experiences like?

LS: When Ava Gardner was filming she did not allow people to watch her on set. As for Sammy Davis Jr., he was the nicest actor, very considerate, and giving.
I was 23 years old. It was my first job and the first time I was in an English movie. In “Ferry to Hong Kong,” Orson Welles played the captain of the ferry boat. I played the wife of a newly married couple. Welles was very friendly and would call me “the bride.” I had just left China only one and half years before that so I hardly spoke any English. I smiled a lot while filming on that ferry boat for two months. I learned how to be a non-speaking actor.

How do you think the media landscape has changed over the decades, as far as opportunities for Asian-American actors and representation?

LS: It has changed tremendously. When I was filming “55 Days at Peking” in 1962, the studio cast an English actress to play the Chinese Empress. Now we have Asian actors playing Asians. It has been a long journey.

Lucille Soong and guest star George Takei on “Fresh Off the Boat.” (Image Credit: ABC)

Your character on “Fresh Off the Boat” brings a lot of humor and joy to the show. What’s your favorite thing about playing Grandma Huang?

LS: My role as a grandma in a wheelchair in “Fresh Off the Boat is so much fun. She has so many different faces—she is kind, smart and crafty. An interesting old lady who passes on her wisdom to her grandsons.

What was it like working with George Takei?

LS: George Takei is very amusing.

What kinds of reactions have you received from fans, family members and friends based on your role on the show?

LS: I often meet fans in stores, restaurants and everywhere else. They all ask for selfies and tell me that they love my character on the show the most. They say, “You’re my favorite!”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

LS: I am happy that my character is so interesting, and I enjoy being a grandma on TV.

“Fresh Off the Boat” Season 4 airs Monday nights on ABC. (Image Credit: ABC)


This Q&A is a crosspost from the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible. CAAM does this by funding, producing, distributing and exhibiting works in film, television and digital media.

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