The Stereotypes No Exit’s Havana Rose Liu Was Excited To ‘Blow Up’

Sometimes the actor picks the role, and in other cases the part picks them. When it came to director Damian Power’s No Exit, the latest in the line of original Hulu movies, casting the lead role of Darby was simple. The moment that Power saw Havana Rose Liu’s audition tape, the role had chosen the actor. Once that decision was landed, Liu’s process excited her, as it allowed her to blow up stereotypes when it came to Asian female leads and the theme of addiction.

I was given the opportunity to speak with Havana Rose Liu during the press day for No Exit, which premieres this weekend as part of Hulu’s February 2022 schedule. The twisted mystery thriller sees her character act as the audience’s gateway into the potboiler that unfolds throughout. As she anchors the story of the film, Darby is a character who some might deem automatically unreliable thanks to our introduction to her as a jaded patient in a rehab facility. Such a notion would be incorrect, especially after Liu told CinemaBlend about how that angle factored into her stereotype breaking performance: 

Part of what was so exciting about this character is she was able to simultaneously blow up the stereotype of the young Asian female and the person struggling with addiction, all in one go. In some ways she was complex, she was nuanced, she was vulnerable. She was experiencing these things, and she was finding heart in it all.

While we’re privy to Darby’s flaws as an individual, No Exit doesn’t set out to punish her for them. Showing her rebellious streak outright, she is escaping rehab in the first moments of the story for an important reason: to try and see her dying mother. It’s a significant change made from Taylor Adams’ source novel, as that variant of Darby was a college student who self-identified as the “underachieving second born” of her family. As far as stereotypes are concerned, it would have been easy to keep that portion of the character intact if writers Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari wanted to play it safe. 

The tweak helps Darby fit in better with the landscape of No Exit’s mysterious cast of strangers. Pitting Havana Rose Liu against actors like Lucifer and 24 vet Dennis Haysbert, Danny Ramirez, David Rysdahl and Dale Dickey, we already eliminate one suspect rather naturally. Not only are we watching our protagonist struggle to prove herself to her family by making it to her mother in time, but we’re also hoping she can get to the bottom of a mysterious secret that rests at the center of the film.

Research and personal empathy are infused into the role by Havana Rose Liu, which further helped break the stereotypes surrounding addiction recovery. Continuing to explain how this excited her about tackling the role, Liu cited some special people who helped make it happen: 

I think for me it was a big part of my process to interview friends and family and people who really were so generous in sharing a lot of their experiences with me, with addiction. Crafting that internal part of her world led to a lot of empathy and understanding of what we view addiction to be in America, versus what it really is. I think it stopped becoming an act of choice to sort of dismantle that stereotype in any capacity, and it started to become a part of the lifeblood of understanding who this character was.

Other bonding experiences, like applying the “36 Questions That Lead To Love” questionnaire, helped Havana Rose Liu prepare her to hit the ground running. What results is a final product that sees Liu giving us someone to root for, both as a de facto detective and a woman processing her journey through recovery. If it wasn’t for her own inquisitive nature, and those significant changes made to her character, Darby Thorne could have been more of a standard protagonist, and not a complex figure who audiences can get behind. 

No Exit debuts on Hulu this Friday, as part of the impressive library that continues to entice Hulu subscribers to the collective table. If you’re curious about the other films waiting to debut as 2022 movie releases, you can head over to that mysterious corner of the site at your leisure. Thankfully, there are no murderous secrets in there, but can one ever really be sure?

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.