Amazing Asians in the Arts: Karen Huie
Karen Huie is an actor, writer, photographer, and filmmaker based in Los Angeles!! Her versatility allows to work in voiceovers, looping, video games and anime. Her voice can be heard in the last five “Star Wars” movies, Moana, Onward, The Incredibles 2, and more! All in all she has voiced over 1500 films and TV shows! She also teaches voice over classes at East West players. Keep reading to find out more about what makes Karen an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Karen Huie
Heritage: Chinese American
Hometown: New York City
Current City: Los Angeles
Current Project: Getting up to speed on social media to respond to fans of “Ghost of Tsushima” and anime projects. Writing an animated feature for hire.
What are some of your favorite credits/projects?
- Yuriko, Ghost of Tsushima, video game, my first time portraying a character in a video game
- Writer, “Songs of Harmony,” play that CBS and Castle Rock gave me a sitcom pilot deal for
- Voice work on last five “Star Wars”
- Every project I work on is a favorite project!
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
- I ran away from home and the second time never went home to live with my parents.
- I hung out with a street gang
- I dropped out of HS twice
- A boy in 11th grade English class convinced me I could be the lead singer of his folk rock band
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you’d like to share?
On a looping (voice over) job with Chinese brought in to speak Chinese, the coordinator would say “Chinese up” or “Americans up”. I was feeling a little pissy that day and the next time they said, “Americans up”, I got up to the mic”. I ignored the eyes boring their stares into my head. At the end of the session, the coordinator said, ‘if you can get good at these things, I can use you more.’ I just wanted to stand up for myself, as I am American and that launched a lucrative career in looping. Who knows what can happen if you dare to stand up for yourself?
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Study. Learn. Ask. If you’re interested in animation, watch animation and repeat everything you hear. If you want to draw, pick up a pencil and draw on opened envelopes, paper bags, sidewalks, walls…. If you want to act, find an acting class, enroll in a program, watch great films, TV shows…observe people and behaviors. Understand the relationship between things. Maybe your local community college has classes. Find opportunities to do what you say you really want to do. If and when doubt emerges, know that it comes from fear and its opinion isn’t necessarily accurate. Do it and don’t tell people you’re doing it. If they offer opinions, ask yourself quietly if they speak from experience. If they don’t, set aside what they’re saying. And look at the person offering the opinion. Do you want their life? If you don’t, then don’t take what they say as anything more than their opinion.
Do you have any organizations or non profits you work with you’d like to highlight?
East West Players is the oldest Asian American theatre company in the country. They can always use help and donations, especially during the pandemic when they can’t produce shows.
I try to elevate my fellow humans as a daily practice by complimenting or acknowledging their efforts. You can see them instantly relax or reveal their inner joy, which is rewarding. Some ignore me
How did you get your start?
A guy I met when I ran away came to visit when we all went home. He told me he was going to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts to study acting. He had to explain what it was. When I started college, I took a Dramatic Arts class. I later dropped out and went to HB Studio where I studied for four years. My acting teacher told me I wasn’t there to be a professional student and kicked me out to work.
Who do you admire?
I admire people who have their own core confidence, aren’t as susceptible to what others think and take on challenges. Heroes are everywhere. They’re easy to spot. Just tune out of the people who are complaining and you’ll see them working at solving a problem.
I watched a news anchor lean over to ask what the weather was going to be over the weekend because she was giving her husband a surprise outdoor birthday party. “And you’re saying that on the air?” the weatherman was incredulous. She looked into the camera, and then waved him off. “Oh, he never watches me on TV. So is it gonna rain?” Her ego was not dependent upon her husband watching her anchor the news.
Do you have any mentors?
Not a particular one. Whenever I got to a crossroads, someone would usually appear to point me in a direction. Anyone in the world can be a mentor and lead by example. You may not know them but you learn from how they are in the world. All you have to do is notice them. And you will, as soon as you take a breath and look outside your own issues.
Did you always want to be in the arts or did you have another path before you got here?
I was born into art. My Dad wanted to be a fine artist and later did photography and made family films. He and my grandmother loved movies. My mother’s father had a small Chinese opera company. I am one of five children and we all became artists. Three are fine artists, one sister was a violinist till she had a family and I’m an actor, writer and also was a photographer and filmmaker. I started off wanting to be a fine artist. Because I cut out of school and smoked, my Dad tore up all my drawings and broke all my cigarettes. Then I started writing poetry because my English teacher gave me a 95 on my poem. When that fellow runaway told me about acting, I started studying acting. I’m primarily an actor and writer.
When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts?
There was a sense of belonging when I studied acting at HB Studio. I later realized more than anything, I belonged to the nation of artists. I’m shy by nature, but I really enjoyed making things with other people. More than anything, I love process. As a photographer, I rarely printed and hung any of my photographs. I enjoyed seeing the image, capturing it and printing it. It’s like they say of gamblers, it’s not about winning or losing. It’s about the action. Alfred Hitchcock said he found brainstorming the script with the writers the most exciting part of filmmaking.
Did you have any interesting “odd jobs” you worked at between shows to pay the bills?
I worked at several Temp agencies when I first got to Los Angeles. It allowed me to observe microcosms. I find people endlessly fascinating.
Do you have any other “special skills?”
I’m a writer. I speak Chinese and studied some Japanese. I am a keen listener, adept at accents, mimicry and creating voices. I’m tuned into peoples’ abilities, tendencies, and personalities and enjoy imagining what they would be good at. You know, producing.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
Myself. We’re all raised with ideas that may not be helpful outside the context from which they sprang. Our parents teach us things they were taught, which is already probably 20-40 years out of date considering they learned them from their parents. They gave us the best of what they know. Or they tried best to give their best. It’s our job to distinguish what is useful for our growth. We can’t expect anyone else, including people closest to us to know who we are when in fact, we are still discovering who we are. And who we are constantly changes. The challenge for us is to interpret information as accurately as we can. There’s a lot of stimulus in the world, some adverse and some inspiring. But sometimes we interpret things based on our own fears, prejudices and lack of information. We make the information fulfill what we want to believe. It doesn’t mean it’s true. A friend once told me to move towards the things I’m afraid of. Moving away from them reinforces the fears. Other people act out of fear and prejudices also. Just because someone says something or needs to believe something about you doesn’t mean it’s true. Likewise for ourselves. In some instances, we choose to believe something we were told by others. It could be because we’re afraid to move forward, so we grab at that untruth to prevent us from moving forward because the fear of the unknown is greater than hanging onto an old belief.
What skills did you find to be the most helpful in your career?
Being interested in other people. So many people are self-absorbed and are only interested in what others can do for them. That’s easy to spot. They treat different people differently based on who they think they are.
Also, being secure. It’s easy to get off balance when curves are thrown at you. They’re usually not personal. Keeping your eye on your goals and not letting your own insecurity or anger rob you of energy you need to keep going is vital. Sadly, we’re only given a certain amount of time on this earth. Nobody knows how long each person has. So hang onto your precious energy for things you want to do. Don’t choose to give it up to anger or other peoples’ drama.
My ability to speak other languages and do accents has also helped me in my work.
Where did you study at?
HB Studio in New York City. I’ve taken many classes at LA City College. I like learning. I’m currently teaching voice classes at East West Players, which I find so rewarding. Finding ways to teach in a short period of time and links for the participants to further their knowledge refreshes my resources, expands on what I learned and allows me to find ways to help them love the art of voice work as I do.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Making a good living as an actor.
Also, I have given hundreds of thousands of dollars in jobs and started a lot of Asian American actors in looping.
Inspiring others to discover their own skills and deepen their confidence and conviction in who they are and what they want to accomplish.
What are some goals you hope to achieve?
I’m currently learning about the video game and animation world.
I’ve been teaching voiceover at East West Players. I’m looking forward to teaching two new classes. One is completely on sound and efforts.
I’m hoping to write another memoir, this time about my voice work.
What do you love most about what you do?
That each audition and each job is different. I love to audition because I get to find out who people are, what they have created and how I can try to fit myself into what they’re looking for. It allows me to interact with people in the world. I get to keep learning and challenging myself. “Ghost of Tsushima” is the first time I have actually been in a video game and not just did voice work for other characters. Anime is something I’m discovering more. Also, I was hired to write an animated feature film. I’ve written other forms but never an animated feature. I love research and watching and reading other scripts.
What helped you most to rebound from what you considered your biggest failure or mistake in your career?
I allowed my mother to talk me into marrying a man I was living with. He proposed about 30 times and on a good day, I said yes and the momentum started. I didn’t know how to back out of it. Finally, after three years of marriage, I ended it. I had ended other relationships. It’s just a gut feeling sometimes. Every time a relationship ended, my life blossomed. I’m not saying it was easy. Each break up was anguish, regardless of who broke up with whom. But my life kept revealing things to me. And each time when I thought that was it, my life would bloom more. I thought I had already established my careers. I didn’t see a videogame and anime in my future!
What made you take the leap from acting to writing or directing, and how did it change your way of thinking?
I was a writer before I was an actor. Writing was always my best friend. Kind of like a Ouija board, my pen would reveal to me what I was thinking and feeling. In addition to being an actor I’ve directed, was a photographer, and made short films. They’re all forms of storytelling.
What inspires you?
I think everything informs everything else. Writers are inspired by paintings, dancers are inspired by sculptures, actors are inspired by music, etc. When I write, I find music in that era or vein and it elevates my writing. Other people inspire me. Reading memoirs or watching documentaries about how other people live their lives, seeing how they handle things in their lives, their values, and their joy all inspire me.
If you could name one point in time when everything changed for you, what was it?
When I divorced my husband. He was a good husband and adored me, but it wasn’t the life for me. When I first told him I wanted a divorce, he said I didn’t know how to take care of myself and when I learned, we would get a divorce. I agreed I didn’t know how to take care of myself. The following year, I asked again and again he said I didn’t know how to take care of myself. This time I said, “I know. I want a divorce anyway.” And we got a divorce.
Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself?
I sat in for my husband once, to play mah jong with gamblers. I was a beginner and each time I won a full house hand, one of them would say with disgust, “once again Karen Huie stumbles into victory!” It is has become an apt theme in my life.
To find out more about Karen, please visit her at: