Interview With Jing Lusi From ITV's 'Red Eye', Which Premieres On 21 April

Red Eye, told over an adrenaline-filled six parts, is set between an all-night flight from London to Beijing, the streets of London, and the corridors of power within Whitehall



ITV Press Centre

What were your first impressions of Red Eye?

I thought the scripts were brilliant. Total page turners and very clever. I loved the character, the concept, the intrigue, and I was desperate to know what happened next.I was delighted at the prospect of playing Hana. She’s a complete breath of fresh air. I have never seen an Asian character portrayed so realistically and genuinely in a British show before. Hana is a regular girl, doing her job, minding her own business when she gets pulled into this insane story. I am so
happy to not only see an Asian character portrayed like this, but even more so that I got to play her.

You’ve described Red Eye as a ‘turning point for British Asian representation’ – why does it feel so seismic to you?

When we filmed Crazy Rich Asians, the whole cast felt that needle turning moment. I had exactly the same feeling when I read the scripts for Red Eye. And when we were filming, it was as simple as seeing so many Asian faces around me, doing their jobs, getting on with it. It sounds mundane and ordinary, but actually it is extraordinary, because you never get to see that. So frequently the Asian character is tokenistic, or fits certain stereotypes like the comic relief or the serious scientist. It was very moving to see this array of amazing Asian talent, all there for a reason that wasn’t box ticking. I truly feel Red Eye is a turning point.

How would you describe Hana?

She is spirited and authentic. She’s a real human, who is flawed, but not in a really obvious way – some characters in drama can feel quite extreme. Of course, these people exist in society, but often they seem to be the only ones that are portrayed on screen. For me, Hana is more like your everyday woman, who has her own struggles and her own history, but she feels very relatable.

Tell us more about Hana’s relationship with her sister, Jess…?

Hana feels used by Jess, because Jess keeps trying to sell stories about her without her permission. But there is a more complex dynamic going on too. Jess is mixed race – she is Hana’s half-sister and her mother is white. Hana has a real complex about that. Being a full Asian immigrant and seeing her sister enjoy half of this white privilege she thinks all white people have, it’s the source of lot of pain for Hana and shapes their sibling dynamic.

Hana is not impressed at being sent to China to escort Nolan (played by Richard Armitage), is she?

She’s really annoyed by it, not least because she has to get on a long-haul flight only to come back immediately! But there is something much deeper going on too, as we find out over the course of the series. It is quite traumatic for Hana to go back to the East. Hana left Asia when she was five, and I also left China when I was five, so when I read that in the character notes, it felt like this was meant to be. When I went back to China for the first time as a teenager, there was something really triggering about that.

Going back to my home country, even though I didn’t have any real memories, it's stored in your system, your DNA. Hana's story is devastating, so when she’s sent back East, there are some deeply buried wounds waiting to be confronted. If it weren’t handled sensitively, the way China is represented in the show could be a potential hot potato. But the series takes you on a journey and invites us all to challenge our bias, preconceptions, and judgements along the way. This is one of the aspects of the show I really liked: how media and society can manipulate the narrative and influence our thinking.

Hana makes a snap judgement about Nolan doesn’t she?

Yes, at the beginning she’s on autopilot and immediately assumes that Nolan is a cold-blooded killer. In her defence, all the evidence she has been presented with points that way, and she thinks he’s going back to China for a legitimate reason. She understands the assignment, but as things go wrong on the plane, her belief systems start to unravel, she doesn’t know what’s going on and starts to lose control. It all comes down to trust. She doesn’t know who she can trust on this flight, suspicion is cast on everyone. When I first met the producers to talk about Red Eye, it was the month after the first series of Traitors came out. I was obsessed and I kept saying, “This is like Traitors on a plane!” I love the dynamic between Hana and Nolan because just as she thinks she might be able to trust him, he breaks her trust. It’s a psychological cat and mouse.

Does it come easily to Hana to go maverick and follow her own instincts?

She is prone to insubordination. She has been a bit maverick in the past, taking things into her own hands, which has proved frustrating to the chain of command above her. That’s why her boss (Simon) told her at the beginning of the series that she needed to take the assignment of accompanying Nolan to China and not make a fuss. Hana loves to challenge authority, that’s one of the things I love most about her.

What was it like filming on the plane set?

I loved the plane! We were there for six weeks, and it became a bit of a running joke because I loved that plane so much, I practically moved in. The little nook under the seat in front of me was like my second bedroom, full of my belongings: slippers, hoodies, snacks, umbrellas... They even got caught in a shot one time and the crew had to cut and clear all my stuff out! As much as I love filming on location, it’s nice to get homely in a studio and really settle in. Before we started filming on the plane, we weren’t too sure how the space was going to work, because it wasn’t a purpose-built set where you can remove the walls for cameras, it was a real plane. For example, every time we filmed a scene, someone would have to close the doors manually, so it didn’t look like there was a door open on the side of the plane in mid-air! Thanks to the director, cinematographer, and the phenomenal crew, they made true magic out of that small space.

Was it surreal to shoot at an airport while passengers were still going about their business (Stansted Airport stood in for Heathrow)?

Going from the plane straight to Stansted was like leaving a cosy cocoon and stepping into chaotic madness! It was a real working airport, they didn't shut it down for us, so we were filming among real people with flights coming in. It was completely unpredictable. There’s a big scene in the first episode where Nolan stands on the chairs in the departures lounge and gives an impassioned speech when Hana storms in with armed police to arrest him. There were about 150 supporting artists around Richard and everyone else was a real passenger waiting for a flight.
We had a sign up saying we were filming, but if they were anything like me when I’m travelling, they might have had noise cancelling headphones and their head in a book. Then they would have suddenly seen Richard yelling like a crazy guy and people dressed as armed police swooping in… I would have probably wet myself but there were people applauding after the takes. It was like being part of a violent flashmob!

There’s a fair bit of action in this show, was it a physically demanding job for you?

Yes, there was a lot of running and lots of walking up and down the plane, I definitely got my steps in! I had done a few action projects before Red Eye so I knew how demanding it can be and how important it is to take care of yourself and stay in peak condition. I made sure not to injure myself and get sick, however in the first week, I tripped over going to the bathroom in the middle of the night and ripped off my toenail! I had to do the entire shoot with a freshly ripped-off toenail - that was definitely not part of my self-care regime!

Had you worked with Richard before?

No, we hadn't worked together. I was always intrigued by who Nolan was going to be played by, and when I found out it was Richard, I could not wait to see him bring Nolan to life. Even though we didn’t rehearse before shooting began, it quicky became apparent that we had a very similar way of working and approach. We would often have the same specific thoughts on scenes, even from the opposing perspectives of our characters. Between Richard, the director Kieron Hawkes and I, I felt there was an unspoken synergetic shorthand. It was a joy to play scenes with him.

Did you do any research ahead of playing Hana?

Yes, I like to do physical research for my roles where possible. My first TV role was on Holby City and for that, I watched open heart surgery and shadowed a heart surgeon. Having the visceral experience of something unknown, rather than relying on your imagination, is perhaps the most important key to understanding a character for me. I’ve played detectives before; I had experience from Scott & Bailey and Gangs of London. In the earlier Red Eye scripts, Hana was written as a Special Firearms Officer, and I had done a lot of gun training for previous projects. Even so, I thought if Hana was a specialist, then I should learn as much as I could outside of a stunt training on set. I was in LA a couple of months before filming, so I enrolled in tactical training classes and did shooting simulations. The devil is in the detail, things like knowing how to hold a gun, move with a gun, reload a gun. It’s like anything, practice makes perfect. It’s just somewhat harder to practice going about your day with a gun, for obvious reasons!

How do you hope the audience will respond to Red Eye?

Red Eye is a fantastic, refreshingly original story and I certainly haven’t read scripts like this before. I hope the audience is captivated. Even though it's a thriller, it’s very character driven, so there is a lot for the audience to invest in emotionally. For me, the most exciting part is that this is going to be a real watershed moment in British Asian representation. We're seeing a wealth of successful Asian-fronted shows and films in America now, but we have yet to see this in the UK, until now. I believe this is the beginning of something really amazing and important. I hope the audience will embrace and enjoy this show as much as we loved making it, and that Red Eye will open the door for more Asians to have a voice and tell their stories.


Red Eye is set to premiere on ITV1 and ITVX in the UK on the 21 April.

April 15, 2024 4:43am ET by Newsdesk  

, ,

  Shortlink to this content:


Latest Press Releases

We may earn a commission from products purchased via links featured on our pages