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.
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