For Stephanie Hsu, Her Oscar Nomination Is an Opportunity to Open Doors

Article Image
Photo Source: Katie Iida (A24)

In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast features in-depth conversations with today’s most noteworthy actors and creators. Join host and senior editor Vinnie Mancuso for this guide to living the creative life from those who are doing it every day. 

Stephanie Hsu has earned her first Oscar nod for her supporting turn in “Everything Everywhere All at Once”—one of 11 historic nominations for the Daniels’ madcap multiversal epic with a primarily Asian cast. And for the NYU Tisch graduate, this Academy recognition represents much more than a personal milestone. 

“Ever since I was coming up in New York, I was taught that anytime you have a voice, you have to use it for good,” Hsu says. “That doesn’t mean the art has to be wholesome, but you have to really know why the story is being told. Especially because I was often one of so few people who looked like me who got in through the door, I always felt like every opportunity was an opportunity to bring 10 other people alongside me…. I will continue, always, to carry the responsibility and the beautiful chance to bring other people into the fold. I’m very humbled that I get to be one of the people who does that.”

On this episode of In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast, Hsu takes us through her journey from performing in experimental theater to originating Broadway roles to traversing dimensions in “Everything Everywhere.” 

Taking the Oscar nominees class photo is as chaotic as you’d expect.

“It was so funny, because the moment the second tier of people got called up, I could feel this, like, slow concern from not only the people around me, but from everyone in the audience who loves me. Because this man stood in front of me, and he was so tall. I could feel everyone go, ‘Oh, no—that man is blocking Stephanie’s face.’ And Brian [Tyree Henry] and I were joking—he was like, ‘Don’t worry, I was a cheerleader. I was a bottom, and I can do lifts really well. We’re just going to hold you to my hip and to do a quick hup! and hoist you up.’ Sarah Polley was actually standing in the back as well. She looked over and she was like, ‘Stephanie, what if they don’t see us?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know! find a window! find a window!’ ”

Hsu is hopeful that the success of “Everything Everywhere” will have a ripple effect in the industry.  

“I feel so proud to be a part of [‘Everything Everywhere,’] not only for me, but for what this movie means for the industry. I remember someone [in the industry] telling me after they saw the final cut: ‘This movie’s never going to do well in the box office, but directors you might want to work with will maybe see this movie.’ And I remember thinking to myself, I don’t know anything about box offices; I just got here. But I’m hearing that you don’t believe that something like this could possibly ever work.’ I’ve been saying that if I get to live to be 95 and I never get to make a movie again, and people are still like, ‘Oh, independent movies—whatever,’ I’m going to be that person in the room [who’s] like, ‘One time, in 2022, there was a movie…’ ” 

Everything Everywhere All at OnceCredit: Allyson Riggs

Because as artists, we just absolutely have to believe everything is impossible until we make it possible. If we as an industry—or worse, as makers—become convinced that they’ll never let us do X, Y, and Z, then we are shooting ourselves in the foot. The thing I love about the Daniels is that they truly say, ‘Who cares. We’re gonna do it anyway, because we have a vision.’ I really have fallen in love with movies so deeply. And perhaps it’s from my theater background, too. I just believe we need spaces to watch things together to feel less alone and to help us process what continues to be a very confusing time to be alive. And if those spaces die out, then we’re going to be in trouble.”

The last day of filming “Everything Everywhere” was tense. 

“That week was meant to be our last week anyhow. But Monday of that week, New York was getting reports like: Something’s happening. And L.A. was like, ‘Oh, that’s probably not real.’ Then Wednesday, Tom Hanks was like, ‘I have COVID,’ and all of Hollywood was like, ‘It’s real. It’s real.’ That was the day that toilet paper disappeared from the shelves. That Friday, we didn’t even know we had an overnight shoot. We started late at night. It was going to be our last day, and we couldn’t even hug each other. We were all so scared to touch each other, but we just wanted to finish the movie. And then a water filtration tank, like, exploded on set. 

My last shot, I’m in one of the Jobu [Tupaki] costumes and I hold [Michelle Yeoh’s] head in front of what seems like a moving train. That was the last thing I shot, and it was completely not satisfying. It was really crazy to go from making this thing that we had all been working so hard on and then we were just like, ‘Oh, God, we hope we get to finish.’ But I stayed the whole night just to be with everybody until we finished. We wrapped at 6 a.m. that Saturday in a parking lot, popped some champagne, and then didn’t see each other for almost a year. Sometimes I’ll look at pictures of us from March of 2022 just to our premiere at [South by Southwest]. We all look so different. We look like babies, all of us bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, wondering: What’s going to happen? Oh, my gosh.” 

Listen and subscribe to In the Envelope to hear our full conversation with Hsu: