In a New York Minute’s Celia Au and Ludi Lin Talk Filming Romance Drama

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Our interview is a reunion of sorts for actors Celia Au (Wu Assassins) and Ludi Lin (Mortal Kombat). Although they both star in Ximan “Mandy” Li’s In a New York Minute, Au and Lin really only share one scene together. Set in New York, the romance drama follows the intersecting storylines of three different Asian-American women as they navigate life and love in the big city: Amy (Amy Chang) is a food journalist who, fresh from a break-up, finds herself unable to eat or enjoy food; Angel (Yi Liu) is a budding actress who is unhappily married to an older and wealthy businessman (Erik Lochtefeld); and Nina is a young woman who works as an escort in order to support herself and save enough to finally escape the family that has been unkind towards her. Au leads the film’s third storyline as Nina, while Lin plays David, the young writer with whom Angel has a passionate affair.

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“We have a bunch of mutual friends,” says Au of Lin. “I remember when [Ludi and I] first met, we were like, ‘Hey, I’ve heard about you! Nice to finally meet you in person.'” Similarly, Lin recalled immediately “hitting it off” with Au. “We met on this film, and I think there’s something really, really deep in that no matter where we are or where we’re brought up, we share the same fundamental culture, and that comes from our roots.” Indeed, Lin was born in Fuzhou, China before moving to Hong Kong when he was three, whereas Au was born in Hong Kong. What’s more, both emigrated early in their childhood — Lin, to Australia for boarding school and then Vancouver for university; Au, to Brooklyn when she was three-and-a-half.

The immigrant experience is at the forefront of In a New York Minute, with each character navigating the mercurial scale of identity that inherently comes with being an immigrant, no matter where you’re from. “It doesn’t matter if you’re from Italy or Spain, [I think] as long as English isn’t your first language, you will run into the same problems,” Au says of the film’s nuanced depiction of things like language barriers or the struggle to adapt. “So, I kind of think: just because we’re Asian characters, it doesn’t make it an Asian film. It’s pretty universal because of [its] immigrant storyline.”

In a New York Minute Offers Much-Needed Asian Representation

“We see a lot of Asian comedies and Asian action films. There’s not [a lot] of Asian dramas that focus on female characters, their lives, and the struggles they go through,” says Au of, as she puts it, “mainstream” films about Asian characters. Of course, the last handful of years has seen a tremendous push forward by Asian-led movies and TV series in the mainstream in North America. Just last year, Squid Game became one of Netflix’s best original series, and, now, Everything Everywhere All at Once is already looking like one of 2022’s best movies. While the latter does spotlight its women characters, the film is still action-heavy. This isn’t a bad thing, but Au does make a good point about a lack of Asian representation in grounded dramas.


That is perhaps what’s most remarkable about In a New York Minute: it approaches its characters’ lives with a sensitivity that shines Asian and Asian-American characters in a light that isn’t often seen. In fact, the movie immediately brings to mind Lulu Wang’s The Farewell and Wayne Wang’s The Joy Luck Club, weaving through the quotidian existence of belonging to two different cultures and, at the same time, feeling like you don’t belong anywhere at all. “Growing up, you always think that you’re the only one that’s experiencing these things,” says Lin of how his own nomadic history brought with it a set of struggles related to identity. “That’s why the film medium is such a good way to unify people in their experiences and know that you’re not alone.”


Related: Best Movies by Asian-American Directors You Can Stream Right Now

Positive Shifts in the Industry

Historically, Hollywood movies and TV shows often only ever featured one Asian character — if at all — on-screen. As such, older generations of Asian-American actors know all too well the feeling of either playing roles that weren’t culturally specific and that purposefully avoided discussions of race, or being the only Asian person in a room, at best. These are experiences, in fact, that Sandra Oh spoke openly about with Kerry Washington on Variety’s Actors on Actors special in 2020. At worst, as a study by Geena Davis Institute found (via NBC News), Asian characters were often inserted to serve solely as the punchline of a joke. Fortunately, there’s been recent, positive shifts in the industry, which both Au and Lin can attest to.


“I remember, when I first started in the industry, I was one of the only Asian people on set, [between the] crew and cast,” says Au. “My closest friends right now are people I’ve met on set, and it was like, ‘Oh, you’re Asian, let’s be friends’ [because] there was only a handful of us. In the last five years or so, that dynamic has changed completely changed.” Indeed, back in 2019, Au starred in Netflix’s series Wu Assassins, playing one of the titular assassins, Ying Ying. Just like In a New York Minute, Wu Assassins featured a predominantly Asian and Asian-American cast and crew. “It’s great to feel like [in a space with other Asian people] everyone has an understanding of our culture.”

“I also think that, as much as we’ve made progress in the last few years, there needs to be more exposure,” says Lin of the need to not “sit on our laurels” when it comes to pushing for more (and better) opportunities and representation in the industry. “Where [In a New York Minute] is different from projects like Mortal Kombat, like Wu Assassins, and other studio-backed films, is that Mandy is a first-time director. She’s a new voice. […] It’s time for us to explore new talents.”


In a New York Minute is available on digital on May 3, 2022.


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