Lucy Liu says her acting career was ''alien'' to her family.

The 45-year-old actress - who was catapulted to the spotlight as a lawyer in TV series 'Ally McBeal' - was born in the US and raised by parents who were deeply influenced by their strong Chinese heritage.

Lucy's family never considered acting as a potential career and believed school should be followed by further education in university which would help get a reputable job.

In an interview with the Metro newspaper, she said: ''We rarely went to the movies. We did watch television but becoming an actor wasn't something that was even in the stratosphere as a career idea. What came after high school was college; what came after college was a job. Acting was never a job that was ever considered. It was completely out of the ballpark, completely alien to my family. And, I think, to a certain extent it still is.''

Lucy insists her parents always encouraged her to focus on her studies and have jobs, and gave her a good work ethic.

She explained: ''I was born in the US but I didn't speak English until I went to school - I spoke Chinese with my parents. That sort of thing just changes the way you receive things and interpret and digest them.

''We did not grow up with a lot of money at all, and my parents definitely encouraged us to focus on our education and to work - we always had jobs. We didn't grow up with silver spoons in our mouths - everything we had, we had to earn.''