Whilst there have been countless discussions on the merits of the slasher’s ‘final girls,’ the victims themselves are often overlooked. The Friday the 13th series, more than any other, has boasted a cream of undiscovered talent that would later go on to enjoy varied degrees of success in Hollywood. Kevin Bacon, Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover would all gain acclaim for their subsequent roles, with their contributions to the Friday the 13th franchise often dismissed by interviewers and biographers. One actress whose association with the series was minimal but would later launch her Hollywood career was Kelly Hu, known to fans for her role as the shy class nerd Eva Watanabe in 1989′s Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. Hu was born on February 13th 1968 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her parents were Herbert and Juanita Hu and Kelly Hu was of Chinese, English and Hawaiian descent. Her passion for performing began at a very young age, taking an interest in singing from the age of two and later making her stage debut at her pre-school’s Christmas pageant.
Hu was taught ballet at dance school, whilst also simultaneously being shown kung fu by her older brother. When Herbert and Juanita divorced, Hu was sent to live with her grandparents in Kahului, Maui, before returning to live with her mother two years later in Honolulu. Throughout high school Hu had taken a keen interest in drama and was able to travel to Indiana to attend the International Thespian Conference, whilst also visiting Hollywood and Broadway, which further fuelled her appetite for performing and, specifically, acting. Having been approached by a modelling agent, Hu was advised to enter a beauty pageant and, in 1985 at the age of sixteen, she was crowned Miss Teen USA. By this point, Hu had relocated to Los Angeles in an effort to pursue a professional acting career and landed her first major role in the popular soap opera Growing Pains. This lead to regular television appearances in such shows as Night Court and 21 Jump Street, the latter being an episode entitled The Dragon and the Angel which would co-star Steven Williams, later a fellow victim of Jason Voorhees with his turn in 1993′s Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday.
Following several TV shows, Hu was cast in Paramount’s Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, although her time on set would be restricted to Vancouver as her character would die before production reached New York. Whilst hardly launching her career, her involvement in Jason Takes Manhattan lead to further supporting roles in Oliver Stone’s The Doors, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man and No Way Back, the latter starring a pre-fame Russell Crowe. Hu began to build up an impressive résumé on the small screen with Sunset Beach, co-starring Mexican actress Laura Harring, who had also taken part in Miss USA 1985. Another significant role came when Hu was casy by CBS as Grace Pei Pei Chen for two seasons of the action crime show Marshall Law, in which she would co-star alongside talk show host Arsenio Hall (who, ironically, had interviewed actor Kane Hodder in full Jason Voorhees make-up back in 1989 for his show in publicity for the release of Jason Takes Manhattan).
After over a decade of struggling, Hu’s big Hollywood break came in 2002 with a lead role in the hit movie The Scorpion King, Chuck Russell’s spinoff of The Mummy Returns that featured former wrestler The Rock reprising the title role. Following the action flick Cradle 2 the Grave with Jet Li, Hu gave a memorable turn as the sexy-yet-ruthless Lady Deathstrike in Bryan Singer’s highly anticipated sequel X-Men 2, which many critics would cite as being far superior to its predecessor (Rolling Stone would label Hu’s appearance as ‘dazzling’). For her performance, Hu would be nominated for Best Fight at the MTV Movie Awards for her sequence with star Hugh Jackman (in the lead role of Wolverine), although they would lose to Uma Thurman and Chiaki Kuriyama for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1. Hu later returned to the world of television for recurring roles in CSI: NY, In Case of Emergency and Seth Green’s surreal animated pop culture satire Robot Chicken. More recently, Hu has appeared in The Spectacular Spider-Man, The Vampire Diaries and the computer game spinoff of Terminator Salvation.