Japanese American actress Ally Maki dishes on TBS's Wrecked, Dear White People, and breaking racial stereotypes
By: Rachelle Henry | PHOTOS COURTESY Ryan West
- Los Angeles, California
Japanese American actress Ally Maki dishes on TBS's "Wrecked", satirical series "Dear White People" and breaking racial stereotypes in Hollywood. Also Ally tell us about how Mosquitos nearly bit her alive.
Congratulations on TBS's "Wrecked" being renewed for a second season. What is it like getting to film in Fiji, and can you take us through your audition process for the role of Jess?
Filming in Fiji was absolutely incredible. The people there are so friendly. Every single person you pass gives a huge smile and welcomes you with a "Bula!" I loved being away from the rat race of LA for a bit and completely getting immersed in work and the culture there. The cast really bonded on a whole new level in that way. Doing a Kava ceremony in the home of a Fijian local was definitely a highlight! I am so grateful to this show for providing me with these epic and life changing experiences.
Jess Kato is a fun; feisty, hopeless romantic and the plane crash survivors have to adapt to life without the usual comforts like WIFI, or indoor plumbing. Have you learned any survival skills that would help you if ever found yourself on a remote island?
Absolutely. I've become a connoisseur of mosquito bug products. I probably should open a reviewer site on it. Mosquitos destroy me so I really had to find ways to keep them away. First season, I had almost 250 scars on my legs from bites and had to do 12 rounds of laser scar removal when I got home! It was terrible. I have it all down now. Mosquito pants, every type of spray, bracelets, candles, the whole works.
You've been in quite a few comedic TV series. Do you find comedic roles or dramatic roles more challenging, and why?
I love comedy so much. There's a little more ease for me with it, I think because growing up with all brother's you really had to learn that snark. Brother's really give you that tough skin in that way. Comedy was also the way I was able to express myself. I've always been very shy, almost to the point where I didn't really speak much growing up, so playing big, bold characters was my comfort zone.
It felt like it wasn't really me so no one could shame me for the crazy or weird choices I would make. Dramatic roles are more challenging because you have to completely strip down every wall and insecurity to bring truth to the role. The audience has to be able to trust that you're giving them the most authentic emotional experience.
Would you consider doing a biopic in your grandparents honor about the time they spend in internment camps?
Absolutely. I'm in the very beginning stages, but it's in the works.
You are breaking racial stereotypes with by getting a leading Asian female in the "Wrecked" series. What do you bring to your character/role to help change the stereotypical radical standards?
I'm fourth generation Japanese American, so my experiences and what I bring to every character are truly American. My parents were born here, my grandparents were born here. I have no stereotypes to bring because I am no different than the girl who grew up in a suburb of Kansas or an Indian American girl living in the Bronx. I think the more we can portray all different types of people in the media as just people and really humanize our experiences, the more progress we are going to make in this country.
You're a part of the satirical comedy-drama series, "Dear White People." It's been called revolutionary. Tell us about your character, Ikumi what she experiences, and how the show deals with current issues in 2017?
I am so completely honored to be a part of this groundbreaking and revolutionary show. Filming the show itself was somewhat of a life changing experience for me because of it's real and very emotional subject matter. When we filmed the party scene in Episode 5, the whole cast and crew had to take a break to deal with the weight of it all because it felt so real. You felt Reggie's struggle in every way. Everyone was crying and holding hands. It was a really beautiful thing to see everyone united in that way. I spoke to one of the wardrobe women who said that she fears everyday for her son to drive to school. It's heartbreaking. Ikumi is awesome because she's bringing that Asian American presence. She's really trying to find her identity with the group. Being Asian American in this country is sometimes hard because we don't have that strong community and cultural identity that most other groups have.
We don't have those things that define us as truly Asian American. So I think that's Ikumi's struggle. Finding that identity. It's fantastic that Justin Simien (the creator) thought to shed light on how Asian Americans feel in all of this. What we go through. I hope that Season 2 will show more on the racism and discrimination we go through as always being the butt of the joke. I think it's often overlooked because it's overshadowed with laughter. I remember when I was young, kids would pull their eyes back to look slanted and yell "Ching Chong China" and everyone would burst out laughing. I laughed along because I didn't know what else to do. I knew it was wrong but wasn't old enough yet to stand up for myself or my people. Asian Americans are not a joke and I think it's time we start fighting back in that respect.
What advice would you give young people that might be considering pursuing acting?
Do it for the love of the art. Find that thing that gives you that spark. The thing that even if you didn't make any money doing it, it would still fill your heart in ways nothing else could. Find it and then go for it 110%.
Season 2 of Wracked aires Tuesday nights on TBS at 10:00pm.
Follow Ally Maki on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Notlim Taylor talks new NBC sitcom Marlon, prayer sessions before tapings, and working with Kevin Hart
By: Daniel Hoyos | PHOTOS COURTESY #twaintaylor
- Los Angeles, California
Fresh faced teenager Notlim Taylor talks about getting casting in the new NBC sitcom "Marlon", having prayer sessions before tapings, and working with superstar comic Kevin Hart. Also Notlim gives us advice for break-out into show business.
Congratulations on booking the role of Marley Wayne in NBC’s new sitcom “Marlon” which will premiere August 16th, 2017. Can you take us throw the audition process for Marley Wayne, and how did you feel when you got the role?
Thank you! When my dad told me I got the role, I didn't believe him? Then my agent called to congratulate me, I couldn't believe it. I was shocked, happy, and confused. I didn't understand what I did to deserve what God has blessed me with. I was thankful at the same time though. I'm so blessed and so thankful to be apart of such an amazing show with amazing people.
One of my favorite actors is the hilarious Marlon Wayans from the “Wayans Bros”, and “In Living Color” whose new sitcom is named after him. What’s it like having Marlon play your dad, and did he give you any career advice?
Where do I start!? Marlon is crazy but professional and he reminds me a little too much of my own dad. He makes the set a comfortable environment for everyone to work in. He is a great multitasker by the way, he advises me while collaborating plus checking the rollback plus cracking jokes and delivering his lines.
At the age of 4-years old you started doing local still photography, and just a few years later got the attention of Disney. Can you tell us how you got started in the business, and how your mom picked the name Notlim?
My father (Milton "Twain"Taylor) is an actor, my brother and I would watch him act and rehearse all the time. Then we started practicing commercials in the mirror at bath time that we'd seen on television, our dad decided to take a chance and let us audition for our first commercial which ended up being our first job. My name is MILTON backwards, my parents were expecting a boy so when they saw me they decided to just switch the name around.
What advice would you give a young actor who might be asking their parents to pursue a career in acting?
You have to be willing to put in a lot of hard work, you must stay focused, and you have to be patient. The business is tough, sometimes you'll get tired of auditions ruining your weekend or changing your family plans because you have to study but don't look at the constant auditions as annoying, look at them as opportunities.
In the upcoming series "Marlon" you play older sister Marley Wayne, with divorced parents, who are trying rising two kids. Can you tell us some details about your character, and how much you can you relate to Marlon?
Marley is a 14 year old book worm and a 4.0 student in her private school. She is extremely educated, mature, and she juggles a lot of responsibility between dealing with the divorce of her parents while helping to raise her little brother Zack and school work. She respects and loves both of her parents unconditionally. No matter how immature or over protective Marlon might act towards different challenges in her life, she is always going to be daddy's little girl.
I loved your performance in Kevin Hart's "The Real Husbands of Hollywood" where you played his adopted daughter Lola. I'm interested to hear any stories about working on-set with Kevin Hart?
It was amazing being able to work with Kevin, his jokes always went over my head. I remember one day on set Kevin complimenting my work in front of me and my dad. He said that my performance was great, he loved that I was exercising good comedic timing, and that I was gonna go somewhere. I thought that was so big coming from Kevin.
Just like your character in "Marlon" I heard you're a real bookworm in school, with a 4.0 GPA. How do balance school with your acting responsibilities?
When I was in public school, I would always make sure my homework was completed before anything else even before I studied my lines for an audition. Now that I'm homeschooled (for the first time) I get to move at my own pace. I make sure I stay ahead that way when I have to work I have nothing to distract me.
We have a lot of teenagers who would be interested to learn more about auditioning for network roles. Can you tell us what you do to prepare for an audition?
The entire cast have a group prayer before each show, praying lifts any fears or doubts that I maybe having, I love the audience, I can just feel the positive energy in the room. The audience is your added support or your cheering squad. My advice to those reading is to relax and have fun. You already got the job! You will really enjoy it.
Follow Notlim on Instagram, and Twitter.
NBC's Marlon premieres Wednesday August 16th, 2017 at 9/8C.
Young actress Brielle Barbusca talks about auditioning for The Starter Wife, and wanting to guest star on Fox's The Mick
By: Daniel Hoyos | PHOTOS COURTESY Deidhra Fahey
- Los Angeles, California
High school graduate Brielle Barbusca talks exclusively about the audition process for USA's "The Starter Wife", wanting to guest star on brother Thomas' hit Fox sitcom "The Mick". Also Brielle dishes about her plans to attend College in the fall.
You played smart aleck Jaden Kagan in the TV series “The Starter Wife”, when you were about seven years old. Can you take us thought the audition process?
I was in New York at the time, so auditioning was me going on tape a few times for the role because it was all being filmed here, in Los Angeles. Eventually, they flew me out here to screen test and read with Debra Messing. I remember thinking I wasn't going to get it because the other girls there actually lived here in LA, and I was the only one from out of town; but once I got in there and met everyone, it really just clicked.
Congratulations on graduating high school with one of your best friends Emmy Kenney from “Shameless”. Are you planning on attend college while, continuing your acting? If so what would you like to study?
Yes, I did just graduate! It was a great experience to finish school and walk with some of my best friends, which is something you don't think you'll get to do in an independent schooling situation. I'll be starting college in the fall, focusing on communications and psychology. Even with acting and work, it's always been no question when it came to college for me. It's all really exciting and nerve wrecking at same time.
You have some amazing IMDb credits, and guest started on one my favorite series “Shameless” on Showtime.
Working on Shameless was fun, especially because I got to do scenes with Emma Rose Kenney, who's also my best friend.
We recently interviewed your little brother Thomas Barbusca who, currently stars in the Fox breakout sitcom “The Mick.” If you couldn’t guest star on an episode of “The Mick”, what character would you create for yourself?
Hmm, honestly, I would play just about any role on The Mick and be happy about it. Maybe, I could be a long lost cousin or something; there’s a lot of possibilities with how Season 1 ended. The writing for the show is just so good, that I think any character they could come up with for me would be funny; although, I don't know if I'd be able to keep a straight face with Thomas. I've worked on some great comedies and have never really “broke character,” on sets, but I have a feeling that I would if I had scenes with my brother.
After “The Starter Wife” was canceled you moved back to New Jersey before heading back out to Los Angles. Do you prefer living in LA or New Jersey?
It's two totally different worlds. East coast is definitely home for me, and it’s always nice to go back and visit. I can see myself moving to New York one day, but as of right now, I prefer LA for sure. After living here during production for “The Starter Wife”, I knew this was where I wanted to be.
One of the many highlights was attending the 2016 Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. Can you tell us what that experience was like walking the orange carpet?
KCA's are always fun. You get to see some cool performances, hang with your friends, and hope and pray you don’t get slimed in the process.
If you could guest star in one sitcom which, one would you choose, and why?
My favorite sitcoms are the more classic ones like Friends and Seinfeld. I wish I could have guest starred on one of those. I could re-watch and binge those two a thousand times and still think every episode beyond funny every time. As in for just a show I want to be on in general right now, at this very moment, Twin Peaks. I'm absolutely obsessed right now. I've never seen anything like it before.
What advice would you give teens looking to break into acting?
As general as it sounds, my advice would be to never give up. There will be bumps along the road and times you feel like giving up, but remember that no matter what you're doing, hard work always pays off.
By: Daniel Hoyos | PHOTOS COURTESY Isaac Sterling
- Los Angeles, California
Actress Jennifer Schemke talks about Dirty Dancing remake, and advice for upcoming inspiring actors, Also Jennifer talks with us about how she learned to dance badly, and working with Billy Dee Williams.
You play Esther Feinberg in ABCs up-coming remake of “Dirty Dancing” airing May 24th. Can you take us through the audition process?
When I got the audition, I was in New York, so I had to send in an audition tape. My dear friend, Izzy, who’s also an actor, came over and read with me. I dressed with a hint of the 60’s, backcombed my hair a bit, and we did a few takes until we felt the magic. I didn’t hear back for a long while. I kind of forgot about it. Then, while I was visiting my parents in Northern California, babysitting my niece, I got the call that I booked it, and celebration ensued!
We all remember the original dirty dancing starring Patrick Swayze, and Jennifer Grey. How much dancing did you learn for the role of Esther, and was it difficult?
So, my character isn’t supposed to be a great dancer. My first day on set, we were shooting a scene featuring a group dance lesson and the director, Wayne Blair, came up and asked me if I could lose a bit of my fluidity. Basically, he asked me to dance badly. So, if when you watch it, you think I’m uncoordinated, then I’ve done my job!
You graduated with a BA and BFA in theater from San Francisco State and DePaul University. What’s the most difficult part about studying acting, and what lessons can tell people who are looking to take some classes?
Studying acting is great, because it gives you tools to navigate what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming task, creating and giving sincere voice to a character you’ve only just met. The nice thing, is that you come to the table with all of your own experiences and observations, so the tools help you to hear that voice you already have, and to stay relaxed and open to your scene partners. The most important task is to tell the story. Studying the craft helps you lose self-consciousness and do that. It’s always a good idea to study, even if you’re an accomplished actor. It’s a safe place to experiment.
You recently had a guest role on the series “Magic Funhouse”, playing the role of Gidget. Can you tell some more your character?
Brandon Rogers, who writes, directs and stars in the show writes me in as a different character each season. “Gidget” is the first of those. Brandon’s writing is outlandish, and this character fits that bill for sure. She’s a “Laughter Therapist”, a woman of manic optimism, with a searing darkness lurking just below the surface. She laughs to stave off these darker urges, and encourages her therapy group to do the same, to questionable result. A lot of the characters Brandon writes make you laugh, but have an element of the disturbing. My character on Season 2, though totally different from “Gidget”, is consistent with that sensibility. Funny, unsettling, unsettled.
You recently launched a new start-up called “CreativeTao”, which is aimed at connecting art teachers and students. What can you tell us about your new start-up for education?
CreativeTao was the brainchild of my former improv student in New Orleans, Mikeal Woods. He never considered himself creative, but is the father of a highly creative son. He found he had trouble finding a wide variety of teaching resources to help his son explore his creativity. Me, being a teacher at the time, sometimes found it difficult to market beyond word-of-mouth or flyers with those tear-off thingies hung in the back of cafes. So, together we decided to create a platform where both creative arts teachers and students could find each other on the web, as well as a place to find creative inspiration.
A large part of the audition process is rejection. How dose Jennifer personally handle rejection?
Oh, Lord. It’s the classic case of learning how not to take things personally. To ascribe to the rule of “Rejection is God’s Protection”, as my mom says. If you’ve done the work, and done your best, you have to remember that different projects are comprised of various aspects beyond your control. It’s also great to create your own work. You never know who you’ll meet when you’re consistently working and creating, and who will see your work. One of my teachers, Tom Todoroff always says that when you convince yourself you’re an artist, the world will also be convinced. Making your own art is a way to learn more about your unique voice, and keep you feeling powerful.
We always hear if you to pursue a career in acting move to L.A. Do you think people can still have an acting career outside of Hollywood?
There are so many great and smaller markets outside of L.A. Hollywood shoots all over the globe, and many of them hire some sizable roles locally. If you’re a tiny fish in a huge pond like L.A., it can be challenging even to get seen. It’s a very smart idea to build your credits and experience in smaller, but burgeoning markets, like Georgia or Louisiana, to name a couple. Make your life happy first, go for the opportunities in that locale, and when you’re ready to get in that big ring you’ll fight more like the champ you are.
In “Dirty Dancing”, you got to work along-side an all-star casting including Sarah Hyland, Abigail Breslin, and Billy Dee Williams. Can you tell us what it was like working alongside such powerful talent?
Every day was an ecstatic and humbling experience in this regard. I was surrounded by the best in the biz, on set and in the hair and makeup trailer. Debra Messing and Katey Sagal were both lovely to work with, and consummate pros. Nicole Scherzinger is such a sweet spirit, and an incredible dancer, and Abbie and Sarah were very friendly and supportive. My high school math teacher used to have framed headshots of Billy Dee Williams around her desk, and Tony Roberts (of Broadway and “Annie Hall” fame) went to Northwestern with my aunt, so that was a fun coincidence. I learned a ton about staying relaxed and confident among this company. I had to balance my inner fangirl with the the part of me that was there to do my work. It was invaluable experience and I owe all of these actors a great deal of gratitude.
Follow Jennifer on Twitter.