Julia Ling is something of a marvel. That rare combination of brains and beauty wrapped up in a ball of talent, creativity and raw passion for what she does… and she does a lot….. Actress, writer, dancer, martial artist and producer. Whatever she does, she does well.
Something of a child prodigy, Julia was born “Shel Wei”, which means “The little flower that rises early in the morning.” At age 3, she began to show an aptitude for drawing and in subsequent years won many awards for her sketches and drawings. At age 6, she won “Best Storyteller Award” and at age 9, was performing dance and piano recitals throughout California.
During her high school years, she became a juggernaut, plowing her way through dance, tennis, and swimming where she maintained a 4.0 GPA. She was president of her school’s German Club, National Honor Society, Amnesty Club, Literature Club and the Chinese Club.
Julia also entered and won a competition for the Chinese brush stroke and calligraphy; and volunteered over two hundred hours of community service to her local hospital every week. If that was not enough she was selected as a state finalist in the Miss Teen American Pageants Contest at age sixteen.
After High School, Julia pursued her dream to become a neurosurgeon. She entered UCLA where she majored in Chemical Engineering with a Biomedical focus. She was elected Vice President of the Engineering Society. However, the right side of her brain kicked into overdrive and she found herself wanting to pursue the arts instead. She began studying acting and martial arts. As with everything she does, she absorbed and learned everything she could and people soon took notice.
In 2003, she landed her first role opposite Sarah Michelle Gellar in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Since then, her body of work reads like a list of the best television has to offer: “House”, “The O.C.”, “Grey’s Anatomy” and many others. She guest starred in the recurring role of Kim Tao on the critically acclaimed “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” then continued on to guest star in another recurring role on the television drama “ER” playing Mae Lee Park, a surgical intern. She also starred as Anna Wu on the popular series “Chuck”.
Julia had worked on over sixty films, picking up starring roles in half of them, including the Award-Winning short “We All Fall Down” by Jake Kennedy and a number of other feature films. She produced a couple of short films, and is currently writing for a new project. For updated news and information, visit www.facebook.com/lingtime
I don’t think “rigid” is the word for it. My family was very loving and always supportive of me. I mean, there was definitely moral discipline, what was right, what was wrong. Hard work pays off.
ASIANCE: Julia, I recently read an article you wrote about martial arts and dance. You participated in the Jackie Chan Disciples competition. For those not familiar with it, the aim of the program was to find ten new stars skilled in acting and martial arts, to become Chan’s “successor” in new feature films. Contests included explosion scenes, high-altitude wire-suspension, gunplay, car stunts, diving, obstacle courses, etc. How was the experience?
Julia: Explosions and stunts driving?! Well I definitely missed that! Sign me up and I’ll practice drifting and blowing things up any time. I only participated in the wushu performance part of the show.
I had never done wushu before this “Disciples”, so it was a real challenge for me.
Fortunately, I was able to train under international champion Woody Wong who was not only a wushu master in his own right, but also a great teacher who cared about my growth as a student and pushed me mentally, physically and emotionally.
I wanted to do my best, so no matter how much it hurt, I got back up.
Coach Wong helped me create a story behind our fight choreography. It was packed with gut-wrenching emotion from the loss of a loved one, to despair, to anger and revenge, to hope and eventually to peace and joyful tears.
I met many amazing martial artists. I admired the discipline they put themselves through, their ability to be so strong and powerful, their movements so precise and quick, and yet their confident personality so peaceful and humble.
The Disciples show was what inspired me to become the best martial artist I could be. After the competition was over, I started training religiously under Coach Wong, learning the straight sword, the fan, the staff, and some wushu forms.
I trained all the time, at early sunrise, at the beach, in the mountains. I trained under the full moon in the dark midnight, alone in the park. I remembered I did not want to lie down because I was afraid I would not be able to get back up. It was like a little flame inside me that could not be quenched. I wanted to know what I was capable of. There’s always something to improve, something to work on.
Behind the Scenes with Julia Ling on the set of Command and Conquer
ASIANCE: You are also quite skilled with weapons. What kind and have you had to use any of your martial arts training on your boyfriends?
Julia: Aside from the wushu weapons, I’ve fought with tripods on “Chuck” and with a medieval sword on the set of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Outside of Hollywood, I’m an avid enthusiast in firearms. All kinds.
And no, I don’t fight boyfriends. I’d only fight aliens, zombies and evil.
ASIANCE: You keep yourself fit and well trained. What is your daily routine like and how do you manage your time so well?
Julia: Before I go to bed, I figure out what the next day’s schedule is like. I take lots of dance classes. Eat healthy, work out lots, be strong and never give up.
Shin Dance Academy is my favorite because they have Chinese traditional dance, which is what I love the most. The teacher, Shin, is famous for being an amazing dancer. She’s also a great teacher. They have everything from zumba to ballet to Chinese traditional dance, which is what I love the most. www.shindance.com
For toning every muscle in the body, I highly recommend Pilates with Kara Wily: www.karawilypilates.com
I also tried surfing with compliments of Blue Fin Surfboards and teacher Lisa Tuttle. That’ll definitely get you in shape! You can burn 1000 calories easily!
ASIANCE: Although amazingly strong, you also come across as graceful. Would you attribute this to your dance training?
Julia: Ballet definitely improves posture and grace. Being stealthy, flexible and nimble has always been my personality since I was a little girl. I’m more ninja than I am samurai.
ASIANCE: Tell us about your first role in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. How did you land the part?
Julia: I have to thank casting director Deedee Bradley and director Joss Whedon for that. Ms. Bradley brought me in to read for another part when I was just a teenager. She was willing to see me before I ever had anything on my resume, and that meant the entire world to me. I did not look right for the part I read for, but they offered me another role which I enjoyed more. I got to slay ubervamps!
ASIANCE: You grew up in a rigid Chinese family. How much do you think this led to your exploration of the arts?
Julia: I don’t think “rigid” is the word for it. My family was very loving and always supportive of me. I mean, there was definitely moral discipline, what was right, what was wrong. Hard work pays off.
Don’t steal. Don’t cheat. Dress like a lady. But that’s just good parenting. Because growing up, I enjoyed lots of freedom to play and do as I wished.
I’m thankful my parents put me in all the different classes growing up though. I learned to swim, to dance, to sing, to play the piano, to draw. Outside of public school, I took classes for geometry, calculus, biology, foreign languages, mental speed arithmetic, English grammar, etc.
And it was the trust and support and love my parents gave me that inspire me.
ASIANCE: Out of all the roles you have played, any favorites?
Julia: I loved playing Kim Tao from “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” because I got to work with mastermind Aaron Sorkin and Timothy Busfield and Tommy Schlamme. My co-stars were amazing actors (John Goodman, Steven Weber, DL Hughley, Bradley Whitford, Nathan Corddry, Amanda Peet, Sarah Paulson) so it was fun to work with all of them.
Of course I love some moments of Anna Wu on CHUCK, not only because of the fun personality and crazy outfits, but because of the hardworking, great team of writers and producers behind that show.
My new favorite role was on “I Hate My Teenage Daughter”. My character ended up getting cut from the pilot and may be coming back, so that’s all I’m saying. I put about 240 hours into preparing for that role!
ASIANCE: You are an inspiration and a role model to many. Do you have any role models yourself?
Julia: Clint Eastwood. My parents.
ASIANCE: You are also very passionate about writing. Do you find this as a way of expressing your feelings and thoughts?
Julia: I love writing and reading. Writing is an art, like singing or dancing or acting. It has its structure, but the structure must not limit the freedom of creativity.
And like painting or directing a movie, every writer will tell the same story very differently.
Actress Julia Ling stars as Anna Wu on Chuck
ASIANCE: You also speak a number of languages fluently, a skill that has come in handy on set a number of times. Are you self taught?
Julia: Triu Chow was my first language as that’s what my parents spoke to me in. English is my second, which I started learning in kindergarten.
I started taking Mandarin classes when I was in first grade, learning to read and write in Chinese. Then I started German in high school and continued studying German throughout college. I took Japanese in college too. Outside of that, I do continue to study as much as I can in German, English and Chinese.
ASIANCE: Where do you want to be in 5 years?
Julia: New Zealand
ASIANCE: Any advice for those who may want to follow in your footsteps?
Julia: Work hard, be humble, enjoy the journey.
(Main photo above: Photographer: Jim Crilly, Hair Stylist: Ahou Mofid. Make-up: Cindy Miguens)