Interview: London-based actor Julie Cheung-Inhin

Julie Cheung-Inhin is a London-based actor who recently graduated from Drama Studio London. She is currently performing in No More Lotus Flower!, a solo show which she created for The Camden Fringe. Julie was born and raised in London, her parents were born in Mauritius and her grandparents were born in China.

How did you get into acting?

I had always enjoyed acting as a hobby ever since I was 16 and my school did a production of The Crucible. Playing Betty was quite a highlight for me, and for a few years I spent time working in various theatre projects as a volunteer. After I finished university (where I took, dare I say it, a more traditional approach, and did a law degree at UCL) I took part in a few community projects with Yellow Earth Theatre. My acting during the next few years was always around my full-time job, where I worked at the University of London collecting statistics and reporting on graduate destinations. I soon started to realise that actually I wanted acting to be a career rather than a hobby, and eventually realised that I would like to go to drama school.

How did No More Lotus Flower! come into being?

It started off during a character class at drama school. We were told to pick a subject we felt passionate about, find a few people talking about the subject and then present them verbatim to the class. It had recently become evident to me from the media (for example, The Orphan of Zhao casting controversy), and from talking to my peers in the industry, that there is a problem with diversity and the representation of East Asians on stage and screen. I therefore chose this as my subject and my teacher suggested it was worth turning it into a full show upon graduation. Considering the state of affairs with regards to East Asians on stage, screen and radio, it felt like the time was ripe for something like this.

No More Lotus Flower! is an interesting title. What made you choose this name?

Earlier this year I had been texting an actor friend about something that had nothing to do with acting; in an attempt to strike me with more confidence and proactivity he wrote “No more lotus flower!!” and I joked that one day I’ll use that as the title of a show that I might one day possibly create.

It resonated with me as the show is not only about wanting to break the East Asian lotus flower stereotype (your pretty, submissive, docile China doll!) but also about speaking out generally and making a proactive change.

Tell us a bit more of how it was created?

My research and development focused on speaking to other East Asian actors and interviewing them. All the situations and anecdotes within the play are based on reality, whether they are my own experiences or experiences I collected from other East Asian actors. I then created a script which was re-worked numerous times so that all the scenes flowed together as one piece (hence one main character has morphed into representing many characters myself or my peers have encountered).  During rehearsals myself and my director devised it so that the situations and characters became absurd , thus reflecting the absurdity of the real-life situations we as East Asian actors often face in the industry. It was always the aim to highlight a serious topic in a way that was insightful yet also funny.

Do you have any plans for No More Lotus Flower! in the future?

The topic being what it is, with new developments and new stories coming to light constantly, I feel the project is definitely something that can and should be added to. Indeed, there were a lot of other anecdotes that were in original drafts that had to be cut out in the interests of story structure and flow. It would be great to add these in, make a longer show, and take it further.

Any other plans?

I would love to see more East Asians on screen and stage, so it would be great to be part of that change. During drama school it became evident that awkward comedy is something I enjoy doing so maybe one day I’ll get to play that?! I’ve been told I’m like an East Asian Miranda Hart or Zooey Deschanel – I’ll take either!

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