Who's Hot -- Lucy Liu of "Ally McBeal"

By N.F. Mendoza (nfm@ultimatetv.com) (UltimateTV News)

She's smart. She's sassy. She's rude. She's narcissistic. She growls when unhappy (which is often). She's short -- literally and figuratively. She's utterly unapologetic. People cringe when she walks in the room.

But she's drop-dead gorgeous. And yes, boy, is she smart.

"Ally McBeal's" Ling is one of those nearly despicable, yet startlingly compelling characters -- and it's to actress Lucy Alexis Liu's credit that she not only won a role on one of TV's biggest hits, but that creator, executive wunderkin David Kelley created the character just for her.

Petite Liu (she's 5'1) was actually one of the "finalists" for the role of Nelle Porter (played by Portia de Rossi), and was skeptical when she was told that Kelley planned to write a role specifically for her -- Liu thought it was a convention of Hollywood to an actress who wasn't selected for a role.

But write a role for her Kelley did and what a role it is.

Ling was introduced to the hipster dramedy as a petulant client, out to sue a Howard Stern-like disc jockey (played by Wayne Newton -- yes, Wayne Newton).

When Nelle casually remarks that Ling was the editor of Law Review, the cries around the firm reverberated: "Ling is a lawyer?"

Damn straight.

And Ling isn't only a lawyer -- but Fish (obsessed with Ling, of course and played by Greg Germann) convinces John Cage/The Biscuit (Peter MacNicol) to let Ling join the firm. She'll bring in lots of clients, which can translate into lots of $$.

And maybe, randy Fish assumes, she'll sleep with him.

Just how hot is Liu? Not only has she added a welcome spice to "Ally," but she graces the big screen opposite hearthrob Mel Gibson in the currently-in-theaters "Payback."

The Queens, New York native, 31, graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1986 and later graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Asian languages and cultures while also studying acting, dance and voice. She also attended NYU for a year.

Liu effectively used her many talents in the acting roles she began to win: she's fluent in Mandarin Chinese and practices martial arts, including Kali-Eskrima-silat, which is knife and stick fighting. AND, she also plays the accordian.

Whatta woman!

One of her first television roles was on "Beverly Hills, 90210" in 1991 as "Courtney, waitress at the Peach Pit."

Guest roles on top series followed: "L.A. Law;" "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys;" a recurring, memorable role on "E.R." as a mother whose baby dies of AIDS; "The X-Files;" "Nash Bridges;" "NYPD Blue," and even a voice role in "Jonny Quest: The New Adventures."

In 1996, Liu began getting film roles. Although she started with small parts, "Woman at Newstand" in 1996's "Guy," and "The Hooker" in "Bang," she soon got what she deserved: to win parts with actual names.

She was a regular on the short-lived (1996-97) series "Pearl," which starred Rhea Pearlman; played a "former girlfriend" in "Jerry McGuire," and had roles in "Riot," "City of Industry," "Gridlock'd," and "Flypaper."

Look for Liu in three upcoming films: Clint Eastwood's "True Crime," Elisabeth Shue's "Molly" (in which Shue plays an austistic temporarily turned into a genius), and Mike Meyers hotly anticipated "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me."

Believe it or not, Liu's talents extent to being an acknowledged artist. She's shown her work at at the Cast Iron Gallery in SoHo in 1993, which resulted in an art grant to study in China, which she turned into an exhibit of mixed-media photography chronicling her experiences. The work featured pictures laid in the center of an original frame and intermixed with ceramics, paints, wood collages and papers and was shown a Venice, Calif. art gallery in 1997.

The print mouthpiece for the industry, Entertainment Weekly dubbed Liu "one of the sexiest women on television."

UltimateTV heartily agrees.