Stephanie Hsu skyrocketed to fame this past year with her role in the critically acclaimed indie darling “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” But the California native is no newby to the world of acting. She recently sat down with TheWrap for an exclusive one-on-one interview to discuss that career-changing film, her newfound celebrity and the Hollywood bias that she refuses to slow her down.
Sitting high in the Hollywood Hills, Hsu overlooked the city of Los Angeles and uttered one word — “Wow.” But the “wow” that should be talked about is her phenomenal performance in the 2022 film “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which has gotten her awards buzz that includes a SAG nomination and puts her in contention for an Oscar nomination as well. Hsu plays opposite Hollywood veteran Michelle Yeoh in one of the year’s most talked about films directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.
The success didn’t come overnight, and it was a long journey for Hsu. Having grown up in Torrance, California, in an immigrant household, the arts weren’t encouraged the way one would hope. “It was 100% not encouraged at all,” she said. “It’s hard enough to be an artist but it’s even harder to be an artist who is marginalized. I think my mom was just trying to protect me.” But that didn’t stop the now 32-year-old actress from pursuing her dreams.
At a young age, she packed her bags and left California for New York City, where she enrolled at New York University. While at NYU, Hsu gained a friendship with her mentor — the well-known writer, composer, musician and theatre director Liz Swados — who gave her a great piece of advice that will forever stick.
“I learned from her that if you have a voice, you absolutely have to you use it for good and it doesn’t have to be wholesome,” Hsu said. “It can be wild and crazy but, hopefully on the other side of that, it is for the benefit of humanity.”
Hsu graduated NYU Tisch School of The Arts in 2012 and trained at the Atlantic Theater company which prepared her for many roles on stage and screen, but nothing could properly prepare her for the sudden fame she has received in the past year. “Highs lows, highs lows, inside I still feel like Stephanie Hsu,” she said, “but sometimes I’ll walk out of the house and go to the grocery store and it is harder for me to have a day where I’m not being stopped. I’m so proud of our film and love our movie so much but I think it’s disorienting because people are not used to being so hyperaware that they are being watched.”
Hsu is very open about the progress the industry has made with diversity, remembering back to when she saw “Crazy Rich Asians” and weeping “because everyone was beautiful, and everyone was epic on this big screen.” She has since come to really like the industry has been making big steps in the past 5-10 years when it comes to Asian representation.
Although she is proud of the progress that has been made through films like “Crazy Rich Asians,” she has still fallen victim to certain biases that have plagued Hollywood. Like when about walking the red carpet at a film festival and a photographer had mistaken her for another actress – Lana Condor — and she shyly corrected them. She laughed at the moment, but it still left a mark, which she spoke about in her a New York Times interview. “I somewhat get it; even my mom has said that we look alike,” Hsu joked. “I somewhat get it; even my mom has said that we look alike,” Hsu joked.
There was, however, another moment that left her flabbergasted. She recounted an instance when a reporter said to her, “You were great in this film but you were also fantastic in “Babylon,” referring to Li Jun Li. Hsu was in shock and didn’t know how to react. “It happened so fast and all I could say to them was say, ‘Yeah, it has all been so much fun.”
It was a heartbreaking experience for Hsu, but she made light of it, “I wish it didn’t happen but what I wish I said was, ‘Yeah you must have me confused with Margot Robbie,’” Hsu Joked.
But when really diving deep into the encounter, Hsu did not hold back on the disappointment she felt that day. “What made me so sad about that experience was that in that moment, a person wasn’t able to see the whole body of my craft, the person is conflating me as the first thing that they see is my identity or my race but not the whole scope of what I brought to the role.” Yes, she was disappointed with the experience, but she does have high hopes that in the future the industry will change its course.
Hsu has been the buzz of awards season, and she is not taking the accolades and nominations for granted but rather living in the joy and excitement of the moment.
“Todd Field said at the Gotham Awards, ‘We must eradicate the word ‘best’ in how we measure art and the hard work of artists,’ and I strongly believe that. However, in the meantime, I am so infinitely proud of our movie, of Michelle, of Ke, of the Daniels, of all of us. Because I know that this kind of movie and its success paves so much space for other independent movies and other movies centered around marginalized voices and wacky ideas that studios don’t typically sign off on.
“If that is the thing that can happen for our movie, then I am excited for what that signals to other people who are afraid of big ideas, big weirdos, big beautiful people… Big Bagels!”
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is now available to stream on Showtime.