Interview: Stephanie Hsu Gives It Her All in ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’
There’s a lot to love with Everything Everywhere All At Once and one is the rising star Stephanie Hsu.
I first heard of her from her work on Broadway as Christine Canigula from Be More Chill and then her role as Mei on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. As Joy Wang in this film, Hsu really gets to flex her acting chops as she gives it her all in this role. I had the pleasure of sitting down to talk with her about how bonkers an experience that is Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Check out the interview with Stephanie Hsu below:
You got to do a lot of crazy things and wear a lot of crazy things. What’s one of the most memorable things that you got to do or that they asked you to do?
Stephanie Hsu: Yeah, I would say that what we now call the hallway scene, or meeting Jobu scene where I walk out as Elvis and I’m walking a pig, and then I explode someone’s head into confetti, and then I swing dildo nunchucks at the Michelle Yeoh—I would say that that was probably one of the most memorable experiences of my life. And we shot that scene, not all in one, but all in one day. So we really worried like doing one part, quick changing, doing the other part, quickly changing to the other part. And it was so fun!
And that was one of the first things that I shot with Michelle and I remember, I had worked with the Daniels and we had worked on Jobu, and I knew how weird it would get. And I was feeling really shy. I was like, “Hey, guys, you know, you guys always tell me to be weird.” And then you’ll give me direction, like, “Blow it up or make fun of us or just do anything you want.” But make sure to announce to the room so that Michelle knows I’m about to get freaky because I don’t want to scare [her]. Yeah, so before we would shoot that scene, they would sometimes be like, “Okay, Stephanie’s gonna get weird now.” And luckily, Michelle is a total weirdo in many ways also. So it worked out okay.
With Joy, she got to go to a lot of universes and kind of was aware of all the universes. But for you, what did you connect most with Joy?
Hsu: You know, in my career thus far, I’ve gotten to do a lot of things that were very heightened or comedic. But I haven’t had as many opportunities to just tell a very simple story about a person. And Joy is very much a simple, young woman. And really, I feel like the audience’s relationship with her is so intimate and vulnerable. And she’s truly so sad and lost and has so much despair. And to get to play that and sort of share that side of a character while also getting to play like an agent of chaos as Jobu—to me, it’s always so juicy when you get to show range. And you get to kind of play with all different dimensions and complexities of a character. The mother-daughter story, I think, the intergenerational gap and being the daughter of an immigrant, I, myself am a daughter of an immigrant. You’ve seen the movie and you’re nodding in a certain way, and I have a feeling that you probably get it to some extent. So that’s that part of the storyline that hit home immediately when I read the script, and I just was so excited to share that part of to share that story.
What was it like acting alongside all this amazing talent?
Hsu: Yeah, I feel so lucky. I feel like I was in a master class every single day. You know, I would show up to work and everyone was just bringing their A-game. But also, you know, even as we’re starting to do press for the movie, I feel like I’m still learning so much from Michelle, Ke and Jamie. They’ve all been really doing this for a long time and they’re of a different generation. And it’s old school, and they’re smart. They work so hard, but they also are so humble and so willing to surrender to any process, and specifically, this process, that I feel like I got to really watch people who are excellent, do their job excellently. And it was inspiring. There are a lot of people in Hollywood who are really successful, but not the nicest, or really take people for granted. And no one in our cast does that; everyone in our cast just truly loves this project, loves telling this story, and trusts each other immensely. And I feel so grateful because I know that Michelle and Ke—and there was one scene with Jamie but we ended up cutting it from the film—but that they also trusted me immensely. And that makes a huge difference and gave me so much permission to be as weird and messy Joy and Jobu needed to be amazing.
I love how effortlessly Chinese this film is as a Chinese American myself. And I’d love to hear if there’s anything about how the culture of the movie resonates with you and what’s something you hope audiences also see in themselves?
Hsu: Yeah, I mean, I think something I’ve been loving what I love about our movie is that so multi-universal, multi-universe multiverse. I’ve been saying this is what my favorite part about this movie is that it’s so crazy, so wild, so unlike anything that we’ve seen before, that the fact that it is an Asian family just kind of blends into the rest of the story. And that, to me, is the most exciting aspect of it is that it sort of transcends identity politics. It is really important that it is an Asian family, and it’s really important that Joy’s queer, and that there is this immigrant intergenerational texture that is the bedrock of these relationships. But it’s not trying to, like prove a point or kind of rests on identity to try to convince you that we’re worth watching. It just brings you into our house in some ways and lets you be a fly on the craziest wall that isn’t even a wall ever. And it just feels so nice. I mean, it was so refreshing when I first read the script to be like, I just didn’t even think twice, because it was so familiar to me, that I just dived right into the story without even thinking about [it]. Like, I don’t know, sometimes I think you read scripts and you accidentally assimilate or like perform a version of assimilation that you don’t even realize you’re doing. And with this, it was like there’s so much going on. But the core of the story is something that is so familiar to me that it gave, I think, all of us so much space to, like, explode it even further and wider, and not worry about identity, because it was just a part of us and a part of it.
What’s something that no one has asked you about yet that you really want to talk about with this movie?
Hsu: Oh, you know, what’s really funny is that I think, you know, I’ve been on Broadway, you’ve seen me on Broadway. So there’s that community that knows a version of me, or [The Marvelous Mrs.] Maisel. And so people have seen one version of me and like the 1950s, 1960s. But this is my first like, very big feature. And it’s been really funny. This is kind of silly, but it’s been really funny because when people meet me in person, they’re like, “Wow, you’re so different than your character.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’m acting, bro.” Like. So I think that has been something really funny. And I feel, you know, we filmed it right before the pandemic. And I really gave this project and this role my all because I love the Daniels, I believe in this story, and I knew it was a once in a lifetime kind of project. And I’m still feeling like it’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of project. But yeah, I really gave a part of myself to this film. And yeah, I’m just I’m excited to keep making because there’s I am excited to feel challenged and share and kind of blow people’s expectations of what they think I might be doing or might be appearing in.
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