The Daily Quarterly: Who was your favorite actress growing up?
Chuti Tiu: Jaclyn Smith! I loved “Charlie’s Angels,” and I wanted so badly to be Kelly. Seriously – the HAIR. I still love long curly hair…. I remember the episode where she went undercover as a belly dancer. It inspired my Halloween costume one year.
TDQ: What was your favorite movie growing up?
CT: E.T.! “E.T. phone home!” I cried and laughed so hard, all in the same movie. I’ve always loved movies that move you on a visceral level. I also loved “The Muppet Movie.” I was such a sap (still am) – I cried during the very first scene, Kermit’s “Rainbow Connection.” I was just a little kid, but the song made me feel so lonely; it spoke to me of the impermanence of life.
TDQ: What made you want to be in show business?
CT: I love rejection. Ha! just kidding. I love the craft of acting, of helping a story get told, portraying someone’s journey and eventually moving and inspiring others. Basically, stories in visual form (film, television, computer, or stage) hold up a mirror to the audience; through the story, they can hopefully see something in themselves revealed… I want to be that “mirror.”
TDQ: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
CT: Balance. Ages ago, I went on a silent retreat up in Holy Hill, WI, and I was a hot mess. Chuckling at my dramatic, overwhelmed self, this priest gave me wonderful advice: “Don’t try to do everything, everywhere, all at once. The most important thing is balance.” Still haven’t gotten there, though.
Another great piece of advice? My dear friend, Nancy, told me I need to learn to tell people to “F— off!” It’s easy to get affected by others and their opinions. So I’m still working on that one, too.
TDQ: What’s the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
CT: Hmmmm. Here’s one: when I was a kid, my dad said I looked prettier if I wore my glasses. And if I cut my hair short. I later on figured out that he didn’t want me to be too pretty, so I wouldn’t attract too many boys. You’ve gotta love dads, always protecting their little girls.
TDQ: Who are your influences?
CT: Sweet Pea – my cat. Seriously, cats know A LOT: know your worth and demand respect, food and massages. Naps are imperative. And when someone yells, “Get out of there!” give them this look that says, “Are you talking to me?” I use that one a lot when I drive.
But it goes without saying that my parents have been a huge rock for me; they taught me to always respect others and to go for my dreams (although there have been times when they didn’t agree with me!) My spirituality, my intellect, my passion and my talent – all of it comes from them.
TDQ: Tell us about your role in “The Internship”
CT: I play YoYo’s Mom (a little bit of a play on words – as in the cellist YoYo Ma.) YoYo is one of Vince Vaughn & Owen Wilson’s intern buddies – and I’m his tiger mom. In other words, nothing he does is ever good enough.TDQ: You also recently starred in “Pretty Rosebud,” which you wrote, and which was directed by your husband, Oscar Torre. What was your experience shooting that like, with your husband as the director?
CT: I literally relinquished authority to Oscar – he’s the director, so he’s the one that helms the ship. My ultimate goal is that the story be told truthfully and well. So even if that meant I needed to swallow humble pie, I imagined it was cherry pie (I love cherry pie. With ice cream on top.).
What I was really impressed with was Oscar’s ability to get the best out of everyone in the cast and crew. He had a great balance of knowing what he wanted and being just flexible enough to allow for other ideas or unexpected turns. Oscar was also very sensitive to my character’s journey: that of a career-driven woman, frustrated by the fishbowl of cultural and religious tradition she lives in, against which she eventually rebels and has to pay the consequences. And Oscar specifically wanted a mostly female crew, because he wanted people on our team who would understand and be sympathetic to the story that I wrote. I trusted him implicitly, so when he said, “Jump!” I responded, “How high?” But this only goes for on set. In the privacy of our own home? Now that’s an entirely different matter! LOL!
TDQ: You were named Miss Illinois in 1994. What was the most unexpected thing you encountered during your reign as Miss Illinois?
CT: Geez, both nothing and everything is coming to mind. Although the pageant is a great platform through which you can be involved in the community, nothing comes served on a silver platter. It’s not as 24/7 glamorous as it seems; there’s a lot of challenging work. People imagine that once you win, the pageant sets up appearances, organizes your schedule etc., but in reality I had to procure opportunities myself: seeking partnerships, finding and/or developing engagements, negotiating payment, booking events, marketing and sales, etc. They have people to help you out, but you have to go out there and hustle.
TDQ: How does being in beauty pageants prepare you for life as an actress?
CT: Every piece of you is judged when you’re in a pageant; I’ve never felt so naked or vulnerable. So, as an actress, I was a little more used to it – I may know that I’m being judged, but it’s more removed – it’s the character, it’s my performance.
TDQ: Besides films and primetime TV shows, you’ve also appeared in soaps like “Days of Our Lives” and “Port Charles.” Which is more challenging to work on, a soap or a regular TV show?
CT: Both have their respective challenges. I’d say the amount of dialogue on a soap can be daunting; also, you often get very few takes, so if you’re an actor who needs to rev up a bit through repetition of a scene, you’re out of luck. The shooting pace of soaps has to be much quicker, since they’re churning out daily episodes, whereas on other TV shows, there’s a week to ten days for an episode.
TDQ: Where do you see yourself in five years?
CT: Alive, for starters. I’ll be telling stories through acting, writing, producing and possibly directing, all via our production company, Handle With Care Productions. I like to focus on things I have control over. Of course, God willing, I’ll be collaborating with other creatives, constantly acting and working in film, television, and occasionally in theater. Another thing for certain is I’ll have my husband constantly pushing me to keep writing and creating stories that we can tell together.