You might have seen her on "Doctor Who," "Sherlock" or "Secret Diary of a Call Girl," but it's her role on the AMC series "Humans" that's put British actress Gemma Chan on the Hollywood map. She's got quite the pedigree: she studied law and graduated from Worcester College, Oxford University. And given her looks, she used to be a model.
Gemma Chan is also a classically trained violinist and pianist. Apparently, she earned a Diploma of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music for the violin!
Gemma landed in Scotland because her grandparents fled Communist China before the Cultural Revolution. "They’d seen terrible things – people starving to death – and thought, ‘This is not where we want to raise our children.’"
As for her previous stint as a model, Gemma is trying to avoid the model-turned-actress label: "I knew I wasn’t going to be doing it for the rest of my life. You’re treated very impersonally, told where to stand and how to pose. If you’ve got a nice photographer and there’s a cool concept, you can, to an extent, act it, but more often than not you’re expected to be a blank sheet."
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Gemma Chan didn't grow up wanting to be an actress. She said, "At one point I wanted to become a marine biologist, and then I wanted to become an astrophysicist and work for NASA. What’s great about acting is that you get to step into all these different pairs of shoes and pretend to be lots of different people. I’m interested in other peoples’ lives and telling stories, so I eventually found my way into this [acting], and I’m so grateful that I get to do it for a living."
She found the courage to audition for drama school because, as she said, "If you find something you are passionate about, you've got to try. Even if something doesn't quite work out, disappointment is a temporary thing. Regret lasts forever."
As for being a working Asian actress, Gemma Chan said, "I have been fortunate in that I have worked pretty steadily, though there are definitely instances where I’ve been told that I’m up for a part, only to have the auditions canceled because they were 'going white.' And it’s a shame, because you want it to be about the best actor cast for the role, period."
Unfortunately, Gemma Chan's off the market: she met comedian/actor Jack Whitehall on the set of "Fresh Meat" in 2011, and they've been dating ever since. She resides in London, England.