What's the worst thing about being Kelly Hu? Being mistaken for Lucy Liu and asked to sign autograph. Hu, the star of The Scorpion King and X-2, and a villain on the DC Comics superhero TV show Arrow, star says she is asked for the Kill Bill star's signature "more often" than her own.
"That happens a lot," says the American actress. "You can tell when a person looks at you and they know you're someone, but they don't know who you are exactly. So when they stop me for an autograph I'll ask, 'Who am I?' – and more often than not I'll get 'you're the girl from Charlie's Angels, right?' I just write 'Lucy Liu', and they go away thinking they met Lucy Liu."
Isn’t it against the law to impersonate someone else?
“Is it? I don’t think I can get sued for that,” she said. “I think Lucy’s got a pretty good sense of humour – I’ve met her and she’s a cool chick.
“As Asian girls we get mixed up all the time – I’ve been called Ming-Na [Wen], Tia [Carrere], Maggie [Q] – we all look alike. I mean, I know we don’t really, but ... you can’t take it personally, it’s never personal.”
It’s a refreshingly down-to-earth attitude from a Hollywood star, who was in Dubai to meet fans at the Middle East Film & Comic Con.
“It’s been great,” she smiles. “What surprised me most was just how big this convention is, in only its fourth year, how many people have come in from outside the country for this event, from all over the world.”
And what about the city?
“There’s a lot of brand new buildings in Dubai, and it seems they’re all competing with each other to be the fanciest.”
The “pretty fancy” building Hu was staying at is the Fairmont Dubai – although the room she saw most was the gym, with a rigorous workout regime in place to prepare for her role in a forthcoming comedy-thriller.
Reportedly the first US-Russian co-production to be shot in Moscow, the as-yet-unnamed project will reunite Hu, who plays a secret agent, with Cradle 2 the Grave director Andrzej Bartkowiak – to play a scantily clad secret agent.
“I found out that I have to wear a little crop-top and miniskirt for three-quarters of the film, so there’s no better incentive to lose weight than public humiliation,” she laughs. “It’s humiliating to be on screen in front of millions of people and have a little bit of fat hanging out the sides. It’s work, let me tell you – and the older you get, the harder you have to work at it.”
Now 47-years-old – but looking younger – Hu found fame in her teens as a model. An early acting break came in 1997 with an 18-month stint on the US police drama Nash Bridges, before hitting the big screen in 2002 alongside The Rock in The Scorpion King.
Today Hu remains a cult favourite from TV series including The Vampire Diaries and Arrow, on which she stars as lethal mercenary China White.
“I always seem to get cast as an assassin or a gun-wielding cop – I’m always killing people or getting killed,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve been killed so many times on film, one day I’m going to get all my death scenes together into a video and have it played at my funeral.”
One "death scene" stands out as her favourite – Lady Deathstrike in 2003's X-Men sequel X-2. "Getting shot up, leaking out of eyes, falling to the bottom of the tank – that's pretty epic".
But despite the drama of her demise, Hu doesn’t rule out a return to the franchise.
“I always said my character has regenerative powers, so she could always come back – in this kind of fantasy world, anything could happen. I’m not keeping any secrets.”
As fans flock around Hu in Dubai, it’s easy to imagine such recognition can be a drag – even when she is correctly identified.
“If you get tired [of the fans] you shouldn’t be doing this – don’t come to conventions,” she says, “and don’t be an actor.
“Maybe it’s because I haven’t had such a huge career that I’m not bothered by it. I have such a great balance, a perfect position that I have enough recognition, that I have a fanbase and can go to these events, but I’m not so famous that I can’t live a normal life. If there is paparazzi taking pictures of me, it’s a really slow day.”