Pitch Perfect’s pop shimmer and stories from Staten Island.

(LEFT) All clothingv LOUIS VUITTON

All clothingv LOUIS VUITTON

“Oh my god, it was crazy.” Hana Mae Lee is talking about filming the recent RZA-directed Love Beats Rhymes. “One day I’m waiting in my trailer and I hear, ‘Hey motherfucker, stop! Stop!’ So I come out and there’s this guy running with a huge kitchen knife in his right hand and his other hand is bloody. I’m like, ‘What the fuck!’ There’s a guy running after him, holding his balls in his shorts.” Any glamorous vision I had of being on a movie set with hip hop OGs suddenly disappears. “Well, that’s Staten Island for you,” she laughs.

Lee is nothing like the tiny-voiced Lilly Onakuramara she’s best known for playing in the Pitch Perfect franchise. In person, she’s the polar opposite of the eccentric wallflower, super chatty and cracking jokes. When I catch her on the phone she’s enjoying some rare downtime in LA with her two American Bully dogs after an intensive bout of filming.

The actor, comedian and fashion designer is native to the San Fernando Valley — the product of Korean parents who wanted her to work for the FBI rather than in film. She spent her childhood looking up to Drew Barrymore rather than East Asian actors, and so, when she entered Hollywood herself, was surprised to find out race was a “thing”. “When I started I just wanted to do comedy but my agent only submitted me for ninja roles. I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t even do ninja stuff!’” Aged 16 Lee began modelling, then making her on-screen debut in 2011 in sitcom Mike & Molly, before nailing her Pitch Perfect audition by singing a Korean folk song.

All clothing 3.1 PHILLIP LIM

All clothing 3.1 PHILLIP LIM

“I thought it was going to be a chick flick but our fanbase would surprise you,” she says of the sing-off blockbuster. “Loads of them are 46-year-old men with daughters. My boyfriend’s dad is a lawyer and he’s watched it more times than me!” Arriving on Friday, the third edition, she reveals, is infinitely higher budget — they hired 5,000 extras. “It’s more like an action movie. We had real soldiers come and be part of the film. They were big fans…”

Lee almost went down the fashion route — she’s designed pieces for Juicy Couture and Mossimo, and nearly went to work for Ralph Lauren. In 2009 she launched her label, Hanamahn (meaning “just one” in Korean), which has been put on hold for obvious reasons. “I wanted every piece to be very special and one-of-a-kind,” she explains. “Once I get more time I’ll definitely go back into designing.” And she knows how to make a statement on the red carpet, with her cigarette butt hat (seriously, Google it) breaking the internet at the 2013 MTV Movie Awards.

Fashion isn’t her only side hustle — if you’re lucky you can catch her ballsy, avant-garde stand-up at venues like The Comedy Store. “I’m different from other comics because I’m picky and don’t like doing the same joke twice,” she says. When we speak, the McG-directed The Babysitter has just dropped, where Lee stars alongside Bella Thorne and Vine star King Bach as a goth villain. It’s a teen horror-comedy flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Lots of making out? Tick. Lots of blood? Tick. The result of this was, “nightmares for two weeks,” Lee groans, on the huge jugs of red fluid they used. “On the sixteenth hour, you’re kind of hallucinating on top of seeing all the blood spattering…”

(LEFT) All clothing MICHAEL KORS

All clothing MICHAEL KORS

Her current focus — alongside an anxiety-inducing quantity of projects including writing an erotic thriller, starring in a comedy show about teachers, and a Netflix horror film with life-size puppets — is promoting the aforementioned New York-shot musical. Starring Azealia Banks, Common and Jill Scott, it’s RZA’s first film since The Man with the Iron Fists. “I was like a kid in a candy store because I was so excited to be there,” she says. “RZA’s super hands-on. Very chill, really great.” Lee plays Banks’ best friend in the movie, but I’m curious to know what she was like to work with, having made constant headlines for being the centre of many a Twitter spat. “If you’d told me she had all this social media stuff going on I wouldn’t even relate the two people together because it was just such a different experience for me,” she replies. “I had zero complaints.”

“I wish I got to work with more musicians,” she continues. “I love that there was no ego, the set was just everyone lifting each other up, pushing each other to be great.”

Taken from the Winter 17/18 Issue of Wonderland; out now and available to buy here.

Daria Kobayashi Ritch
Sean Knight
Felicity Martin
Nikki Providence at Forward Artists using Bumble and Bumble Grooming Creme
Natasha Severino at Forward Artists using NARS Cosmetics

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