Interview: Amy Okuda
If you have a feeling you’ve seen Amy Okuda somewhere before, don’t be surprised if you actually have! Maybe she caught your attention while you were watching your favourite show, Californication, or while you were skipping through an Apple or Verizon advertisement somewhere. Perhaps on your journey through “The Internets,” you’ve watched her throw down on The Guild, or saw her lightsabre-slicing people up and rolling with her BFF crew on Youtube’s Asian American pop culture channel, YOMYOMF.
From what we’ve seen, Amy seems like the girl next door you’d love to hang out with. As a self-professed tomboy when she was younger, she could probably kick most of our butts in a basketball game. Amy answered our questions about how her transition from dance to acting, her tips on surviving in the acting world, her recent work with Chastity Bites, and what inspires and motivates her.
Amy, tell us a bit about your early days in California. It is said that you started off as a dancer. How did you get involved in the in the acting and film/television industry?
I started dancing when I was about 13 years old, and since I was raised in the LA area, I was very lucky because most of my dance teachers were professional dancers. I was exposed to that world, and although it wasn’t what I ended up loving and doing, it definitely led me to acting. My dance teacher kind of inspired me to get my first dance agent, and with them I started doing commercials, print jobs, and live shows as a dancer. I also met my manager (who is still my manager today) through the dance industry, and she’s actually the one that told me I should start acting. Not to do INSTEAD of dance, but she thought it would be a good thing to do both. I ended up loving acting more than dance, and that’s that. haha.
Have you faced any challenges as an American born Asian actress in the film and television industry? Do you have any advice for other actresses who are trying to make it in acting and modelling as well?
Unfortunately being Asian American makes it harder to get work in this industry. There’s nothing complicated about it, it’s just that there aren’t as many roles for us. There are mores roles for Asian Americans today than there were just a few years ago, and that’s so amazing for people like me that’s trying to “make it” in this industry. I have this terrible stigma that I am trying to get over where if there are caucasian girls auditioning for the same role as me, I always think to myself “well they’re going to go with her, not the Asian girl”. But I always have to remind myself that if I’m the best person for the role, they’re going to hire me, and if I’m not, they won’t. Simple as that. So I try to always go into every audition, and do good work, no matter what. My acting coach always says, “just do good work-in class, in an audition, on set, everywhere, so when its your time, and when the right opportunity rolls around, you’ll be ready”. I think thats really great advice for any actor.
You’ve recently announced that you are working with an independent film titled ‘Chastity Bites’, could you tell us a bit more about the project? What are some other new projects you’re working on that you’re excited about?
I actually shot Chastity Bites over a year ago, so I’ve been so excited and eager to finally have people see it! It’s premiering on June 1st at the “Dances with Films Festival” in Los Angeles. It was my first feature film I worked on, and I really had the best time shooting it. It’s a horror comedy/satire, and I play the queen bee mean girl at the high school. I just saw the movie for a cast and crew screening, and I was really happy with it! It turned out awesome. The film is so much fun, and my mom told me after the screening “I would have watched and enjoyed this even if you WEREN’T in it”. So I think that’s a good sign. HAHAH.
Just like any other upcoming actor, I am auditioning whenever I can for whatever project I can, doing guest spots on television shows, etc. And even though The Guild is over now, I try to keep a healthy presence on the internet, I host a weekly recap show (ISA Weekly Rewind) on a YouTube channel called ISAtv (a channel started by WongFu Productions, Kev Jumba, and Far East Movement). I just talk about random internet news, funny videos, the works. It’s been a great learning experience because I write my own material, and I have never done that. And trying to be entertaining as “Amy” instead of a role that was written for me has also been super challenging, but fun. On the same YouTube channel, I hosted a game show with Phil Wang from WongFu Productions where a bunch of YouTube talent compete in a series of challenges– it’s very much like those Japanese game shows… the episode just came out this past week.
How did studying Cinematic Arts in USC allow you to advance your career as an actress? Do you still work closely with many of your classmates?
I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but the best thing I got out of going to USC was the experience. Just the good old college experience. And making great friends, filmmakers or not, that I will have forever. I really don’t know if it advanced my career as an actress. As a matter of fact, I would go through times during college where I felt like I was missing out on four years of auditioning, and work in the industry. I didn’t audition or work during college because it was just really hard for me to juggle the two…I know some people can do that, but I just felt like I wouldn’t be giving either of those things enough of my time and effort if I did both. But now I don’t regret going to college at all. I had the best experience in college, the most fun, and now whether I use my degree or not, I have an education that no one can take away from me. Anyone can reject me a million times at a million auditions, but I’ll always have my education.
With that said, I did learn things at USC that I think were helpful. I had to make short films for classes, learn how to edit films, etc. So if I ever wanted to produce a short, or write something and make it myself, I have a better understanding of the whole process than I would have if I just acted and didn’t go to school.
I don’t work that much with old classmates, but whenever I meet a USC grad on set (which happens all the time, we are everywhere!) it’s an instant bonding thing and its awesome. Fight On.
What are some of your favourite films? Favourite Actors? Why?
My all time favorite film is Singing In The Rain. Its just a feel good, fun movie. I recently watched Wreck It Ralph and I loved it. I thought it was so clever the way they created the video game world.
For actors, I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Not just because he is really cute (hehe) but I think he’s so talented, and I would really want a career like him. He’s done everything from TV, to indies, to big budget features, so many different types of roles, and he has his own company hitRECord…his career just seems very fulfilling to me. I also love Emma Stone..I want her raspy voice, and basically be her best friend…HHAHA.
We’ve done an article about your involvement with BFF for YOMYOMF before. Please tell us a bit about your own experience with this project.
Working with YOMYOMF was awesome. I also got to be in their first promo video, “Bananapocalypse” which was so great to be directed by Justin Lin, and be in a video with all these Asian American talent that have made such an impact, and are really starting to make Asian American actors recognizable. The fact that I was even included in that was just unbelievable.
BFF was so much fun to shoot, everyone on set was so nice. And of course, having The Guild be my first acting job, doing low budget webseries is where I feel most at home! haha. The role was so different than what I’ve done before, and so far from who I am, and I think that was the biggest challenge.
What in your life keeps you motivated?
Watching really great performances in a film or tv show really gets me inspired. I just re-watched Girl Interrupted because I was doing a scene from it in an acting class, and everyone’s performance in that film really “charged” me. I really want to do something real, raw, and gritty like that one day.
My friends and family also motivate me. I have the most supportive family in the world, and when they give me pep talks when I’m feeling down, or when they compliment me on my work or something, it really makes my day.
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This is an abridged version of an interview from AX3 Battery. You can read the original interview, here.
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