Stephanie Hsu: HIFF’s Breakthrough Artist Talks ‘Everything Everywhere’

Actor Stephanie Hsu, a star of this year’s award-winning breakout Indie film “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” will be honored with the 2022 Hamptons International Film Festival Breakthrough Artist Award. 

The Hamptons International Film Festival Breakthrough Artist Award honors emerging talent within the arts, highlighting their rising career and outstanding work on stage and screen. Throughout its history, HIFF has had a strong focus on young talent, highlighting dynamic actors each year. 

In “Everything Everywhere All At Once” — which was written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, and released earlier this year — Hsu plays Joy Wang / Jobu Tupaki in a multitude of multiverse characters in this fantastical absurdist science fiction comedy-drama. Since its release, the film has garnered critical acclaim, has hit over $100 million at the box office, and has sparked Oscar buzz. The film also stars the legendary Michelle Yeoh. 

Hsu is also well known for her beloved role as Mei Lin in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” for which Hsu and the cast were awarded the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. More recently, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” was nominated for the 2022 Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. 

A still from “Everything Everywhere All At Once.”

Hsu began her career in the arts on Broadway, where she played Karen the Computer in “SpongeBob The Musical,” and Christine Canigula in “Be More Chill.” She was born in California and moved to Brooklyn to study at NYU and spent 11 years living in New York.

“We could not be more thrilled to continue highlighting the rising careers of talented young artists by honoring Stephanie Hsu with this year’s award,” said Anne Chaisson, executive director of HamptonsFilm. “It is an amazing honor that HIFF can give deserving performers a platform to showcase their talents and work here in the Hamptons.”

Hsu took time to talk with James Lane Post about the start of her career, the filming of “Everything Everywhere,” and so much more.

Can you talk a little about your background as an actor? How you got your start? Tell us about your time on Broadway.

Even up until this point, people kept opening doors for me that I didn’t know existed… I ended up doing drama in high school. An upper classman said I should think about acting in college. I didn’t know you could study acting in college. I was like, “I don’t know, let me just see what happens.” 

I decided to go to NYU. I’ve always loved New York and really felt a spiritual connection with that place and the vibrancy and artistic nature of New York. 

My main mentor was Elizabeth Swados, known for a musical she wrote in the ’70s, “Runaways,” where she took kids off the streets of New York City and brought them into a room where they told their story, and they developed a musical together that premiered at The Public and ended up on Broadway. She really instilled in me the importance of art as a tool to heal, and to be subversive and challenge what isn’t working in our career at the time. Broadway was never even on my radar. I was not going to be in “Miss Saigon,” that’s not my wheelhouse, and that’s kind of what was available at the time. So, I decided to stick with experimental theater, which is a very international community. Basically, along the way I was thrown into a table read in the Viacom building for a potential “SpongeBob Musical” and I ended up sticking with that development process for five or six years. Then I got a phone call one day, “Hey, do you want to come to Broadway?” 

Weirdly enough, I never saw myself on Broadway and then ended up on Broadway two seasons in a row. The next season I was fortunate enough to play the female lead in a musical called “Be More Chill.” 

My life has been like that. The same with “Everything Everywhere” and “Mrs. Maisel,” it’s always been like randomly I’ll get a phone call and someone will say, “We think you’ll be really perfect for this, will you please come in?” 

Within a week of me going to LA, The Daniels called me and said, “This is really random, but we’re working on a movie and we think you’ll be really perfect for it. No pressure if you’re not into it.” And the rest is history.

Photo by Jonny Marlow

You’re being honored at the Hamptons Film Festival. Congratulations! This is among many honors and praises for the film “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” Can you talk a little about the reaction to the film and how it feels to be honored?

It has been the most surreal explosion of experiences, I think for all of us. We filmed this movie before the pandemic, right until the day that everything shut down. We’ve also been sitting on the movie for two years and even then I certainly knew that it was really special. Pre-pandemic, knowing nothing about the film industry or what the concept of box office really meant, I remember pulling Dan Kwan aside and saying, “This movie is going to bring people back to the movie theater.” I couldn’t have possibly foreseen that it would become what it has become, not only this crazy phenomenon with indie films, but folding into the cultural zeitgeist. I’m seeing googly-eyes everywhere and I can’t help but think it’s related to “Everything Everywhere.” It’s been really wild and I’m just really, really grateful that we all love each other so much, so it feels joyful to be on this ride together. 

Do you visit the East End often? Is there anything that you’re looking forward to doing while you’re here for HamptonsFilm?

Oh my gosh. I lived in New York for 11 years and I’ve never been to the Hamptons. So I feel really excited to be there. I’m really excited to witness the legendary East End.

The film is like nothing we’ve seen before. A wild journey where the audience laughs and cries and goes through an array of emotions. Can you talk a little about the filming of the Multiverse? Did you have a favorite scene to shoot? 

A lot of people often ask if the script is crazy or confusing or totally different from what we see on the screen. But a testament to The Daniels, the script feels very close to what you’re seeing on the screen. 

My favorite scene is the introduction to Jobu, when she comes down the hallway with an Elvis suite and a pig. We also shot that whole scene in one day, so every costume change, that all happened in real time. 

What I love about that scene is that it gave us so much permission to unleash chaos and really completely surprise ourselves. It was also nerve-racking because it was the first I shot with Michelle. It’s probably the weirdest I am throughout the entire movie. She and I had had dinner before, but all of a sudden I was like, I am about to unleash a really weird multiversal creature onto the legend Michelle Yeoh, and we’ve never acted together. I made The Daniels announce to the room that we were unleashing Jobu.

One of my other favorite moments was toward the end of the scene. There is a moment when the character of Jobu is describing this very strange thing called “The Bagel.” We decided there would be an extreme close-up. You can think that you’re going to know what’s going to happen or what a scene is going to be like, but then when you put the pieces together sometimes something completely surprises you. I remember shooting that ultra, ultra close-up and something really magical happened. The scene turned into something else that was a lot darker and weirder and more vulnerable than we were expecting going into it. 

Can you talk a little about the costume design and the process? 

Shirley Kurata is a genius… It really was a collaborative process. This movie works perfectly for Shirley’s strengths because she’s a couture maximalist herself. One of the moments was when we had some free time on set, which is unheard of. I had some time to kill, so I went into Shirley’s office. We started to create a vocabulary where some pieces of Jobu’s would overlap to tell the story that she is everything in everywhere, and there was one costume where she gave me these converse sneakers that Joy wears, but in this Jobu version of Joy the laces were made out of internet cables. It’s so subtle, but made so much sense. 

I went into her office and asked, “What if we made earrings out of the internet cables too?” And she said okay… They made it into the movie. It’s so funny because no one would ever notice unless they watched it 300 times. For us it was such an embodiment of the spirit of making the film. We knew why philosophically and intellectually that made sense for the journey of the character. 

I think my favorite costume that embodied the texture of the story of itself — the one that feels the most complex, is the one we called Jumble Jobu, which happens at the end when the character of Joy and Jobu are sort of melding together… The makeup is very Picasso-esque, and my bangs are long on one side and short on one side, and the whole costume is built of pieces of every single costume that I had worn up until that point. 

It’s one of the most artistic experiences I’ve ever had.

Jessica Mackin-Cipro


Jessica Mackin-Cipro is an editor and lifestyle writer from the East End of Long Island. She was previously the Executive Editor of The Independent Newspaper and co-founded James Lane Post in 2020. She has won multiple NYPA and PCLI awards for journalism, design, and social media, including the Stuart C. Dorman Award for Editorial Excellence. In 2023, she was a recipient of the President's Volunteer Service Award at the United Nations 67th Annual Commission on the Status of Women. She aims to share the stories of inspirational people and places on the East End and beyond.

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