On Sunday 22 February, Jing Lusi will be hosting a six hour extravaganza to celebrate Chinese New Year in Trafalgar Square to anticipated audience of 20,000. Here she talks about the honour, her breakthrough role as Doctor Tara Lo in BBC’s Holby City and being the focus of a new BBC 1 documentary to be screened on 1 March
How did you come to be involved with the Chinese New Year extravaganza?
I was approached by the London Chinatown Community Association (LCCA) to host the ceremony. It was such an honour, as they felt I was the best representation for the Chinese community. It also provides the focal story of the BBC1 documentary I am currently filming on the topic of Chinese New Year.
What can we expect to see during the six hours?
A whole host of exciting performances. There are many acts being flown in from China, including the winner of China’s X Factor, musicians, dance, martial arts performances, and flying lion and dragon dance, to name just a few things. There will be food and drinks stalls all around and lots of family friendly activities set up too.
How excited are you about presenting it?
I’m extremely excited, but also very nervous. It’s not something I have done before, but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity of standing on a stage at Trafalgar Square. I guess that’s one for the Bucket List. It’s quite a scary thought when I really think about it, as you are entrusted with the responsibility of not only ensuring that the audience have a great time, but also trying to communicate your heritage and culture to others who may not understand it.
How do London’s Chinese New Year celebrations tend to compare to around the world?
I am told that London’s celebrations are one of the biggest outside Asia. The organisers of the event have been given Trafalgar Square to host their venue since 2002 by the Mayor of London, which just shows how much London embraces other cultures and the Chinese community. This makes me very proud of London – I think this city is so wonderful for making every culture feel like they have a slice of home.
What has it been like to be the focus of the BBC documentary?
It’s been quite surreal. The documentary production team have been following me around going to work engagements etc., as they want to capture me going about my every day life. However, I think you start to question how normal your life is when you have a camera crew following you around!
Why were you happy to do it?
I was happy, but like the Chinese New Year Trafalgar Square celebrations, I was hesitant at first. I think as an actress, you can always hide behind your character and the audience are not really seeing you. However, when being the focus of a documentary like this, you do let the audience see a very personal side of you, and that was the hesitation.
How important is your Chinese heritage to you?
It becomes more important as I get older. When I was at school (I went to a very ethnically un-diverse school) all I wanted to do was to be the same as everyone else. I didn’t understand why my family would feed me rice instead of chips. I think as a child, you don’t want to embrace any of your culture if you’re different – the language, the food, and the traditions – because that’s not what your friends are doing. But as you grow up, you realise that what makes you different is what makes you so special. I really wish children would understand that and not try to fit in with the crowd for fear of being ostracised.
It hit me most in 2009 when I was filming in Asia for three months. Hanging out with the locals, being able to speak my mother tongue daily, and eating the foods I grew up with. I came back to England thinking, ‘My roots are pretty damn cool.’ And that was a defining point.
Talking of heritage, and in turn family, was acting something you always wanted to do?
Now that I have done it for so long, I think it was definitely the right choice for me as it suits my personality perfectly. The job of ‘acting’ is only one part of the whole lifestyle – and the rest, i.e. not knowing what you’re doing next, everyday being so different, the ups and the down, all that ‘life’ stuff – I couldn’t imagine having it any other way.
However, my parents are both academics and I studied Law, so it could have all been very different. A lot of my friends work in the city earning great salaries and working long hours, whereas I can go for long periods with no work or income. For me, that is the thrill – it forces you to sharpen your survival instincts, creative skills and business acumen to secure the next project. For most others, they see it as unemployment and no money.
Do people still talk to you about the Holby City role?
Yes, it definitely still comes up. I went straight into theatre after Holby, which doesn’t reach the same mainstream audience, and most of the work I have done since hasn’t been released yet. Holby afforded me to play a very memorable character and I am very grateful to them for the opportunity. When I got a dog this summer, I suddenly came into another influx of recognition from fellow dog walkers. I guess I always underestimate the vast appeal of the show and how well people remember, and it is really nice that viewers care enough to say hello even after all this time.
You have also written and directed a play Jing – something you want to do more of in the future?
Yes it really is, that’s my ultimate ambition. I suppose the usual cherished accolade for an actor is to win an Oscar, but for me I want to write a story and have it made. Whether it’s a novel or film, or even storybook. I think there is so much magic in writing – you’re creating something from nothing. But it’s also very powerful. On the same token, you are creating ideas or images in people’s minds. So you must be very careful that you’re sending out the right messages. Love, live, laugh – that’s what we need to encourage people to do more of these days.
Jing Lusi hosts the Trafalgar Square Chinese New Year Celebrations on Sunday 22 February 2015, from 11am-6pm