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Chinglish - Broadway

David Henry Hwang's new drama receives its Broadway premiere.

Chinglish’s Jennifer Lim on Finding Her Voice and a Broadway Debut that Shows Her Sexy Side

Chinglish’s Jennifer Lim on Finding Her Voice and a Broadway Debut that Shows Her Sexy Side
Jennifer Lim photographed by Jenny Anderson for at Setai Fifth Ave Hotel
I know how competitive [acting] is and I never knew if I was good enough.

Age & Hometown: 32; Hong Kong

Current role: Making her Broadway debut as ball-busting Chinese official Xi Yan in David Henry Hwang's bilingual comedy Chinglish.

Mama's Girl: Lim's parents were in business in Hong Kong, but thanks to an arts-loving mother who was “very open-minded and ahead of her time,” she grew up seeing the best her hometown’s performing scene had to offer. “It was all well and good to get good grades,” she says “but [my mother] thought it was important to see all sides.” Lim's father didn’t feel exactly the same way. “He never quite understood it,” she says of her fascination with theater, “but because he loved me, he was like, ‘Whatever makes you happy. I don’t know why you can’t be in the math club instead of the drama club, but okay.’”

Unleashing the Actress Within: After completing a “very academic” drama program at U.K.'s University of Bristol, Lim knew she wanted to stay in the theater, but looked into graduate programs in dramaturgy and lighting design as well as acting. “I loved it,” she says of performing, “but I know how competitive it is and I never knew if I was good enough.” An acceptance letter from the Yale School of Drama changed everything, including helping Lim discover a new side of herself. “I was fine when acting, but in real life I was very much [drops voice way down] a product of my nice, traditional upbringing,” she says. “But you fake it till you make it. It was like, ‘Oh, sweet, shy Jenny,’ and then after a couple drinks I’d be dancing on tables. So it’s not like I didn’t have it in me!”

Not a Broadway Baby: Lim is always on the lookout for challenging roles, like the lead in This Isn’t Romance in London and now Xi, the buttoned-up but secretly sexy official in Chinglish. “I often play parts younger than myself, and I've played stereotypical things like the manicurist, but these are intense, sexy women,” she says. Lim has portrayed the “strong, driven and complex” Xi—a demanding role that requires her to juggle Mandarin and pidgin English—since the first reading of Chinglish, and calls her ride to Broadway with the play “a total Cinderella story.” One of the best stamps of approval along the way came from her father. “After he saw it, he said ‘I wasn’t bored,’” she says with a laugh. “And I was like, ‘I will totally take that.’”

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