But for her, those experiences and the time spent with her performer parents have helped shape her work and life today.
Long is currently starring in the TBS comedy series “Sullivan & Son,” which kicks off its third season on Tuesday at 10 p.m.
The show centers around a bar in a middle-class Pittsburgh neighborhood owned by Long’s character (“Ok Cha”), her husband (played by Dan Lauria) and their son “Steve” (played by Steve Byrne). Long plays a Korean immigrant mother who, with funny one-liners, doles out tough love and isn’t afraid to tell everyone what they are doing wrong.
Though she is now playing a mother on TV, Long started acting as a child.
Born in Manhattan, she moved to Queens as a baby, with her parents, a Chinese-Aussie tap dancer father and Japanese-American showgirl mother. The two became a popular husband-and-wife nightclub act “Larry and Trudie” in the 1940s and 1950s, and were featured on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Long, with director Christine Choy, produced “Long Story Short,” which accounts her personal family story. The film won the Asian Pacific Film Festival’s Audience Award for Best Documentary.
Along with traveling with her vaudevillian parents as a child, Long landed her first gig in the Broadway play “Nowhere to Go But Up” when she was 7 years old.
“When you are a kid it’s sort of fun,” Long said of the experience and getting to play backstage among the rafters.
But she took a break from acting because her mother said she “needed to be in school.”
Remembering her days attending elementary and middle school in her local neighborhood, Long recalls a Queens that is different than it is today.
“It was diverse in a different way,” she said, noting she was one of only a couple of Asian children in Woodside at the time.
Long found more diversity in high school, when she attended the High School of the Performing Arts in Manhattan, where “it was about your talent, not the color of your skin,” she said.
“In one way acting, the art kind of staged me. It is kind of about the humanity,” Long added.
Long continued studying acting at SUNY Purchase College, and spent the next several decades working her way through roles, including on Broadway, and eventually coming to Hollywood landing parts in television shows and movies, such as “The Cosby Show,” “Sex & the City,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Franklin & Bash,” “The Hot Chick” and “Beginners.”
One of her latest projects is the indie movie “A Picture of You,” which premiered in New York on June 20. The dramatic film centers on estranged siblings who travel from New York City to rural Pennsylvania to pack up the home of their recently deceased mother, played by Long.
“For me I love acting,” Long said. “Whether it’s comedy, sitcom, dramedy.”
As for her current role in “Sullivan & Son,” Long said she sees some differences and similarities in Ok Cha and herself.
“I think I have a little more tact than the character,” she said.
“I think she is a strong woman. I’m a strong woman. [You] need that to survive show business.”