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JADE Magazine interviews EKC PR client and Hollywood Royalty, Irene Tsu

Easy Transitions Q and A with Irene Tsu, Actress, Artist, Designer and Writer

Growing up in Hong Kong, Irene Tsu found what she thought would be her passion, ballet. She even won a scholarship the the Royal Academy of Dance in England at the age of 11. However, her family migrated to Larchmont, NY and it was there in high school when she discovered her talent for acting. Irene has since gone on to have a successful acting career, with a few detours into the arts and design, that continues today.

When did you start acting and what drew you to it?

My first brush with acting was in high school when a teacher of mine, Mrs. Levis, asked me if I wanted to be in the school’s theater production of the musical, Finian’s Rainbow. I was terrified and didn’t think I could do it because my English was still very novice at that time. However, the part ended up being a perfect fit because I played a deaf-mute who spoke with her feet, so all I really had to do was dance! My first professional film role, however, didn’t come until many years later when I was in the film adaptation of Flower Drum Song (1961) directed by Henry Koster. This was the project that opened the door to my first ever speaking role in Henry’s new movie, Take Her, She’s Mine (1963), in which I played opposite Jimmy Stewart and Sandra Dee.

Acting came quite naturally to me and it seemed like an appropriate transition from my experience as a dancer. Still, I studied with many renowned actors and teachers then, which really helped me hone my skills, and I enjoy learning from them even now.

What have been some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome in the acting world?

When I was first starting out, I took on any part that came my way, and through that decision, I kind of unintentionally crossed over to roles that were not specifically written for Asian actors. Now, with diversity and representation being such a priority in TV and film, the landscape for minority actors has come a long way since I began my career in entertainment. In terms of other challenges, I thankfully have never experienced any kind of sexual harassment that has unfortunately plagued numerous people in the entertainment industry.

What is your favorite role past or present?

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed so many of the projects I’ve been a part of and the characters I have had the honor to play. Some that do come to mind though are Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966) with Elvis, The Green Berets (1968) with John Wayne, and Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986) with Bette Midler. There have thankfully been so many and I’m unbelievably grateful for the amazing opportunities I’ve been rewarded with in my long career. Recently, I just completed two projects for Netflix. One is the anticipated animated film Over the Moon, directed by the legendary Glen Keane and set to premiere on their platform this summer. The other is a new series called Away, which stars Hilary Swank and is slated to premiere later this year.

You’ve branched out into many different fields including being a fashion designer, a watercolorist, and author. Is there one career you have enjoyed more than the others? Why?

I’ve loved all the careers I’ve had. I’m a true artist in more ways than one, as I admire every form of expression. My mom was a wonderful artist herself, so I grew up around art. I also love working as a real estate agent because I get to meet and interact with so many incredible people on a daily basis. I’m just very blessed to have been able to flow so seamlessly through so many different career paths, and so appreciative of the people who helped me on my journey along the way.

Please tell us a little about your book.

A Water Color Dream will cover everything from all my experiences working in Hollywood, to my amazing but challenging fashion career, and even some more personal matters like my spirituality, motherhood, family, and close relationship with Frank Sinatra. It is expected to be released this April 2020, so keep an eye out!

Is there a favorite childhood memory that you think shaped who you are today?

My mother is really the best memory I have from my childhood. She was an absolutely incredible mom. Not only did she teach me some amazing skills like painting, but she also taught me very important life lessons. From her, I learned to be independent and that I can only ever really rely on myself.

What piece of advice have you found to be the most helpful throughout your life?

Some advice I live by each and every day is to always follow your passion, work hard, live hard, love hard, love God and above all, be grateful.

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To read the original article on the JADE Magazine website, click here

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