Q&A with Lucy Liu

The 'Elementary' star talks fit secrets and her toughest fight scene.

In addition to filming 24 episodes of Elementary each season (the fourth season of the Sherlock Holmes series kicks off on CBS this week), Lucy Liu is also spending some time behind the camera. She's directed a couple of installments of Elementary, as well as a recent episode of USA's Graceland. Her dream show to direct? That would be Game of Thrones. "Something that’s fantasy—that has really huge set pieces in a different country with green screens," she says. "I think that would be really challenging. And I love a challenge." Speaking of difficulties, we recently spoke with the new mom (son Rockwell Lloyd was born this summer) about her toughest fight scene and—even harder—choosing the best Lucy Liu shout-out song.

What’s the biggest difference between you and your Elementary character, Joan Watson?
I think she’s probably a little more patient than I am. She understands that things take time and sometimes I feel like I’d like things to happen more immediately.

You do a lot of meditation though, right?
Yeah, I do.

That probably helps with patience?
Yeah, and meditation just helps with absolutely everything. In the world of Joan, if I were her, I’d be like, "okay this is taking too long." Because, you know, even the way the character developed from being a sober companion and then she sort of transitioned into becoming a detective. It was a very sort of…a sit back and unravel sort of situation. Usually in entertainment they jump much faster to “oh now she’s solving her own cases.” So I kind of liked that level of patience.

And to work with someone like Sherlock you have to…
Exactly, you have to be on your toes! And you have to be patient because he’s not the nicest person in the world all the time.

I remember one scene last season where Joan got into a scuffle and she defended herself with, what was it? A baton?
Yeah, a baton that she had learned to work with because Sherlock insisted on her learning. That was a very strange moment for my character, I thought. I even asked them about that and they’re like, “No, no it’ll work.” I was like, “okay.” She doesn’t normally just go into action.

Especially in the middle of the day!
Yeah, in the middle of the day on a busy street corner. Is she really going to pull out a baton and beat someone up?

What’s the hardest fight scene you’ve ever done?
I think Charlie’s Angels was one of the hardest because I’d never really done Kung Fu before and I didn’t know anything about it. I just had no idea. It requires a lot of…your body has to recognize vocabulary in movement and since I didn’t train when I was younger I knew nothing. And in order to be able to sell those shots you need to really be flexible and keep yourself in shape on every level.

How do you stay fit?
I do a lot of indoor cycling and running. But I do a lot of stretching in between, because when you cycle they don’t really give you a lot of time to stretch. Cycling is fun and I like being trapped in the room. No matter how you’re feeling, you get through it and you come out on the other side. It’s a really good workout. I think running is really meditative and a much more full-body sport. And I really like doing Pilates as well because it helps you keep the strength and the flexibility in tandem with one another. That’s been the best balance for me.

If you were creating a song playlist and you had to pick one of these songs would it be "Hey Ya!" or "Independent Women, Pt. 1?"
Oh that’s really tough! That’s not fair!

You have connection to both of them!
I know. But I love both songs and they’re both very different. I would do a mash-up! [Laughs] That’s completely feasible nowadays.

This interview has been condensed and edited.