One to Watch: Ying Ying Li, star of The Knick

Clive Owen and Ying Ying Li get into more than a little trouble together in HBO’s latest smash hit, The Knick, where he plays Dr. John Thackery, the genius drug addict and antihero at New York City’s Knickerbocker hospital, and her character Lin-Lin is the most beautiful kind of enabler. From the wild state of medicine at the turn of the century, to the gorgeous Victorian-inspired clothes, we’re kind of obsessed. We fell for Ying Ying Li in the very first episode so we had to find out more about her. Turns out she’s Canadian, totally funny, not afraid to rock a mohawk, and has collected some amazing stories since starting her acting career a few short years ago. We talked to Ying Ying about acting with Clive Owen, her “life is a buffet” motto and her favorite places in New York’s East Village.

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START IN ACTING? There were a lot of dips and forays along the way, but in my mind my real “jumping in with both feet” moment was when I went to my first audition. After I finished theatre school, I kept making excuses why I wasn’t ready to audition – no agent, no credits, not even a professional headshot. Eventually, I got so sick of making excuses that I finally submitted myself to a bunch of castings, and lo and behold, I was invited to audition for one of them. And I just kept going after that! The thing with a creative career is that there is no automatic treadmill to take you around the bases. So you just have to repeatedly pick yourself up by the scruff of the neck and throw yourself into the gaping maw of the world you want to enter.

ANY TOP MEMORABLE MOMENTS SO FAR? One of my earlier gigs was shooting a commercial with Coco Rocha. I was an office girl with Velma Dinkley glasses, and Coco was supposed to dance on my desk. So basically she did all the work and I would just kind of duck if her limbs swung my way. I was really impressed by how quickly she learned the choreography, but you know what was the craziest thing? Coco was the hardest working person on set, but she never complained or acted like a baby or even joked about being tired. It was awesome. I’d seen diva behavior before, and wondered if that was how actors are supposed to be. But working with Coco showed me that the stronger choice is to hold yourself to a higher standard. I do cringe at how shy I was when I talked to her, though! I was like the mousy nerd girl in high school who’d just been approached by the head cheerleader. I remember hoarsely whispering, “I am from Canada, too,” before collapsing back into total silence.

WE LOVE YOU IN THE KNICK. CAN YOU TELL US WHAT IT’S LIKE WORKING WITH CLIVE OWEN? Thanks! It’s a small role, but I’m honored just to be involved and value the opportunity to work with such a fantastic creative team. I’ve always been a huge fan of Clive’s work, and a part of me still can’t believe that I got to work with him. To be honest, on my first day, I felt like a huge imposter! Like it was just a matter of time before I would be found out and kicked off the set. I had to give myself a pep talk, like, “Ok, so yes, that’s Clive Owen, but you belong here too.” Working with Clive has been an incredible learning experience. He is everything you’d think a leading man should be – professional, kind, down-to-earth, and a quick-study, so smart.

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NEXT?
I live by the “life is a buffet” motto and try to work on a variety of projects, including theatre, on-camera work, even once modeling for Imitation of Christ at NYFW despite my non-modelesque proportions. My ultimate goal is to be an actor/writer, so the project I’m most excited about right now is making a short film based on one of my short stories. Coming up, I have a feature film coming out in early 2015 that I am pretty psyched about!

YOU’VE BEEN LIVING IN NEW YORK CITY FOR YEARS. WHAT NEIGHBORHOOD ARE YOU IN NOW? TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE PLACES. Right now I live in the East Village, close to Noho and NYU, and I LOVE IT! My favorite neighborhood places are Colombe for coffee, Mighty Quinn’s BBQ for wings and ribs, Veselka for pancakes and borscht, Soba-ya for healthy but delicious lunches, Angel’s Share on a weeknight for quiet cocktails with friends, and Grassroots for a spacious, unassuming dive bar right on St. Marks. Oh, and if you like the idea of impeccable sushi served in a raucous and merry environment, go to Sushi Dojo and ask to be seated at the bar with Chef David, you won’t regret it. Muji is a godsend for household goods and of course I love browsing the boutiques around East 9th Street.

Canadian actress Christina Sicoli on being a woman in comedy

She’s been nominated for Leo Awards, Canadian Comedy Awards (five times!) and is a regular on the film fest circuit. Next up, she adds writer to her resume with her first feature film in pre-production. Christina Sicoli is one funny leading lady to watch. She also happens to be a seriously cool chick with enviable style. Christina stopped by the Garmentory HQ to nab a hot little number for a red carpet appearance recently and sat down with us to talk about being a woman in comedy and her love for Rag & Bone.

YOU’RE AN ACTRESS, COMEDIAN AND WRITER WITH AN INSANELY COOL RESUME. TELL US HOW YOU GO YOUR START. My grandma told me that when she held me in her arms for the first time she said, “Our little clown is coming home”. I think she magically planted the seed. Grandmas are special that way.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE AS A FEMALE COMEDIAN IN THE INDUSTRY? Dyslexia. AND probably being categorized. When you are introduced into the acting world as a comedic actress, of course you’ll get pigeonholed. Comedy is second skin to me, but there are a million and one other sides that I can push, contort and explore. Being able to go from one extreme to the other go hand in hand. At the end of the day it’s about putting on a pair of shoes, creating a character and working on roles that excite, scare, and challenge me. That’s what I’m interested in doing.
I’m beyond the point of feeling like I need to prove myself to anyone. I am who I am, and if someone is to turn a “blind eye” because they don’t think I’m right for a certain role or I don’t posses those human emotions that’s their opinion. Their job is to think outside the box and discover something that may be a little more unexpected or unconventional. I’m not a fan of the word, “No” or waiting around for someone to tell me what I can or can’t audition for. My job is to keep creating opportunities for myself and continue to collaborate with those who inspire me.
The more fun I have, the more at ease I am, and the less I worry about things that are out of my control. This makes me the best that I can be while keeping true to who I am. It feels good knowing that I’m capable of taking creative control over my career. Just like I’m taking control over my shoe collection.

IF YOU COULD WORK WITH ANYONE, DEAD OR ALIVE, WHO WOULD YOU CHOOSE? Bill Murray.

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW? I’m currently starring in Convos With My 2yr Old (Editor’s Note: Click here to watch episodes, they’re too funny!), and the Sci-fi comedy, Paranormal Solutions Inc. Also, my first feature film that I’ve written, Small Cop, is in pre-production.

WHAT ARE THE TOP 3 THINGS ON YOUR SHOPPING WISH LIST RIGHT NOW?
Black Rachel Comey Mars boots, a curling iron and the entire Rag & Bone flagship store.

christinasicoli.ca