Chi-Lan Lieu on Whatâ€™s â€˜Fact or Fakedâ€™
Chi-Lan Lieu on Whatâ€™s â€˜Fact or Fakedâ€™
April 15, 2011
By Nalea J. Ko
Television personality Chi-Lan Lieu was taught to revere spirits growing up in a traditionally Chinese family in California, but her work on Syfyâ€™s â€œFact or Fakedâ€ has sent her on the hunt for the paranormal.
The â€œFact or Fakedâ€ team â€” comprised of a former FBI agent, lead scientist, photo expert (Lieu), journalist, stunt expert and tech expert â€” 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 â€œFact or Faked.â€
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 Syfyâ€™s â€˜Fact or Fakedâ€™ 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 weâ€™re chasing after are presented to me, it just seems like a falsehood. Itâ€™s doesnâ€™t seem like always so true and always so honest. So itâ€™s like Iâ€™m always the one that goes [laughs], â€˜that really looks like CG [computer generated], guys.â€™
P.C.: Despite some of the doctored footage, youâ€™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] Iâ€™ve been doing TV for a couple of years now, so when I heard that noise I thought, â€˜OK someone dropped something.â€™
Then finally the boys realized that something had happened. When it first happens because we are so in the zone of like thinking, â€˜What do we do next?â€™ Weâ€™re talking. Weâ€™re deep in this conversation. Youâ€™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 doesnâ€™t believe it. But mom â€” I kind of didnâ€™t tell her what I was doing.
She never watches the stuff Iâ€™m on. She doesnâ€™t. She used to watch some of the stuff. And Iâ€™d be like, â€˜Mom come on! Iâ€™m on TV. Come watch now.â€™ She goes, â€˜All right. Iâ€™m finishing something!â€™ Sheâ€™d come out of the kitchen or wherever she was. And sheâ€™s like, â€˜Youâ€™re not even there!â€™ I was like, â€˜Yeah mom because you missed me on TV.â€™
She knows Iâ€™m on TV. She knows Iâ€™m not lying. Itâ€™s not like a big deal in my family. Theyâ€™re just like, â€˜whatever, itâ€™s a job.â€™
My sister [Ying] is saying they do. Sheâ€™s like, â€˜Youâ€™re totally wrong.â€™ My parents are super supportive of what I do. Theyâ€™ll watch. But they canâ€™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, sheâ€™s working from home.
Sheâ€™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. Theyâ€™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 â€˜Wheel of Fortune [during high school].â€™ 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.
Itâ€™s what I studied. Itâ€™s what I loved. Itâ€™s what Iâ€™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]. Itâ€™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 â€˜Fact or Fakedâ€™ 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 itâ€™s half and half. Half of the cast believes straight off like, â€˜Oh my God. This is solid proof that ghosts exist! This is the smoking gun!â€™
Seriously I am literally the way I appear on the show: a total skeptic. Iâ€™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? Itâ€™s all hard work and no fun?
Lieu: Itâ€™s a lot of hard work because itâ€™s a lot of devising these experiments, figuring out what will and wonâ€™t work at the time. Itâ€™s also playing with a lot of equipment. Being a tech reporter â€” I started in technology reporting for TechTV â€” you know that whenever youâ€™re shooting equipment decides to fail. It doesnâ€™t matter if your cell phone is working all of a sudden youâ€™re going to walk into the Bermuda Triangle of no reception [laughs].
So sometimes youâ€™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! Iâ€™m usually the only chick on the entire crew.
So itâ€™s like, I pray to God they ordered a Porta-Potty [laughs].
P.C.: I hadnâ€™t thought of that. Whatâ€™s the bathroom protocol when youâ€™re on assignment in the forest?
Lieu: Thereâ€™s no toilet paper because no one is like, â€˜I got it.â€™
This is the worst part, sometimes Iâ€™ll tell the soundman to shut me down because I have to go to the bathroom and weâ€™re in the woods and stuff.
If the soundman doesnâ€™t shut you off you hear everybodyâ€™s business â€” well all the producers and stuff hear everybodyâ€™s business.
My sister is like, â€˜Why are you telling her all these things?â€™ 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 youâ€™re working in those intimate conditions.
Lieu: Yeah. Iâ€™d say luckily [laughs]. If we totally didnâ€™t it would really suck.