Chi-Lan Lieu on What’s ‘Fact or Faked’

Chi-Lan Lieu on What’s ‘Fact or Faked’
April 15, 2011
By Nalea J. Ko
Pacific Citizen

Television personality Chi-Lan Lieu was taught to revere spirits growing up in a traditionally Chinese family in California, but her work on Syfy’s “Fact or Faked” has sent her on the hunt for the paranormal.

The “Fact or Faked” team — comprised of a former FBI agent, lead scientist, photo expert (Lieu), journalist, stunt expert and tech expert — is challenged with debunking or authenticating paranormal footage.

Over the years Lieu has worked as a TV host for numerous outlets, but it was her photography expertise and curiosity in the paranormal that led her to join the cast of “Fact or Faked.”

In a search for the truth, Lieu has worked on cases involving Sasquatch, a Bayou beast and ghosts, among other things.

But as Lieu shared with the Pacific Citizen during a recent phone call, some of the most unsettling and humorous moments often occur off camera while cast members conduct investigations in the wilderness.

Pacific Citizen: How did you get involved with Syfy’s ‘Fact or Faked’ team?

Chi-Lan Lieu: The way that I got involved was literally an audition. I saw a posting and I replied to it because it just said: someone that was interested in the paranormal. Ever since I was a kid I always kind of believed in it because I grew up really traditionally Chinese. So I always believed the spirits are around us. So I had an interest in it, applied, went through a couple of rounds, got a really bad haircut in the meantime [laughs] and I somehow got the job.

P.C.: What interests you about the paranormal?

Lieu: I really just found the idea of just life on other places besides earth really fascinating and a big possibility.

P.C.: On the show, though, you seem to be a huge skeptic.

Lieu: Huge, huge skeptic when it comes to these stories that we do. Because again I mean the way that a lot of the stories that we’re chasing after are presented to me, it just seems like a falsehood. It’s doesn’t seem like always so true and always so honest. So it’s like I’m always the one that goes [laughs], ‘that really looks like CG [computer generated], guys.’

P.C.: Despite some of the doctored footage, you’ve had some scary moments during your investigations. You were startled during the Symphonic Spirits case when you heard a noise in the dark.

Lieu: That was crazy! Honestly, [laughs] I’ve been doing TV for a couple of years now, so when I heard that noise I thought, ‘OK someone dropped something.’

Then finally the boys realized that something had happened. When it first happens because we are so in the zone of like thinking, ‘What do we do next?’ We’re talking. We’re deep in this conversation. You’re not paying attention to that ambience stuff as much.

P.C.: Growing up in a Chinese home, are your parents supportive of your work in the paranormal?

Lieu: My dad doesn’t believe it. But mom — I kind of didn’t tell her what I was doing.

She never watches the stuff I’m on. She doesn’t. She used to watch some of the stuff. And I’d be like, ‘Mom come on! I’m on TV. Come watch now.’ She goes, ‘All right. I’m finishing something!’ She’d come out of the kitchen or wherever she was. And she’s like, ‘You’re not even there!’ I was like, ‘Yeah mom because you missed me on TV.’

She knows I’m on TV. She knows I’m not lying. It’s not like a big deal in my family. They’re just like, ‘whatever, it’s a job.’

My sister [Ying] is saying they do. She’s like, ‘You’re totally wrong.’ My parents are super supportive of what I do. They’ll watch. But they can’t get into certain subjects. My dad does believe in spirits, like the Chinese way.

P.C.: Is your sister sitting there with you?

Lieu: Yeah, she’s working from home.

She’s in entertainment, too. I always make the joke that our parents must have wronged the gods somehow to end up with two daughters in entertainment and no one in either medicine nor law.

P.C.: Were they hoping for lawyers and doctors?

Lieu: Oh, my God. They’re Chinese. Of course they were. [They wanted] someone that is revered in the Chinese community for being successful, not foolish artist people.

P.C. Did you always have your sights set on an entertainment career?

Lieu: I wanted to direct and then I went on ‘Wheel of Fortune [during high school].’ I think I was inspired by some magazine article. Then I went into journalism for my last year of high school.

I went to college and got really into art, filmmaking and all that stuff.

P.C. You also have been trained in photography, right?

Lieu: I have a degree in it.

It’s what I studied. It’s what I loved. It’s what I’m really practiced at. I used to be like a crazy maven in the darkroom. I remember like even though I showered every night after coming home from the darkroom, like eight hours in there, my sheets always still smelled like fixer [laughs].

P.C. Using your photography training on the show, you must be able to spot a fake case easily.

Lieu: Not always. CG has kind of gotten pretty hardcore [laughs]. It’s really hard to tell now-a-days. Not always. But a lot of times I can or I can guess at the technique they used, especially darkroom techniques.

P.C.: Some of the ‘Fact or Faked’ fans have posted comments online saying the team is quick to debunk everything. Do you agree with that?

Lieu: No. Jesus Christ, no. I think it’s half and half. Half of the cast believes straight off like, ‘Oh my God. This is solid proof that ghosts exist! This is the smoking gun!’

Seriously I am literally the way I appear on the show: a total skeptic. I’m very skeptical about these videos and stuff. You have to be in this world. If you had all believers on the show, what point is that? Boring TV.

P.C.: It seems very exciting to be a part of the team and get to travel and investigate these bizarre cases.

Lieu: You would think so, yeah.

P.C.: What do you mean? It’s all hard work and no fun?

Lieu: It’s a lot of hard work because it’s a lot of devising these experiments, figuring out what will and won’t work at the time. It’s also playing with a lot of equipment. Being a tech reporter — I started in technology reporting for TechTV — you know that whenever you’re shooting equipment decides to fail. It doesn’t matter if your cell phone is working all of a sudden you’re going to walk into the Bermuda Triangle of no reception [laughs].

So sometimes you’re like constantly working with like equipment problems and stuff. So it can get really grueling. Our average is 14 hour-long shoots, 16 hours.

P.C.: And in some of the episodes that take place in the wilderness you have additional stresses like wild animals.

Lieu: That is crazy! I’m usually the only chick on the entire crew.

So it’s like, I pray to God they ordered a Porta-Potty [laughs].

P.C.: I hadn’t thought of that. What’s the bathroom protocol when you’re on assignment in the forest?

Lieu: There’s no toilet paper because no one is like, ‘I got it.’

This is the worst part, sometimes I’ll tell the soundman to shut me down because I have to go to the bathroom and we’re in the woods and stuff.

If the soundman doesn’t shut you off you hear everybody’s business — well all the producers and stuff hear everybody’s business.

My sister is like, ‘Why are you telling her all these things?’ Am I pulling aside the curtains and showing you the Wizard of Oz?

P.C.: I was going to ask if the cast got along. But, you must if you’re working in those intimate conditions.

Lieu: Yeah. I’d say luckily [laughs]. If we totally didn’t it would really suck.

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