The story of the underdog is nothing new to me. I've been playing basketball since I was 4. I grew up playing in the Japanese American leagues, and it's kind of well known that Japanese people tend to be on... well, the shorter side, so I was a post player. Playing in multi-ethnic basketball leagues, I was a really small forward and would occasionally have to sub in as center (we had some lazy centers who didn't always show up to games). But it didn't faze me -- where I lacked in height and size, I made up in speed and physicality. I always liken my style of playing to Dennis Rodman... you can ask any of the guys I'd play with in middle school or high school pick up games about that one...
In high school, I went to CIF in shot put. Out of the 40 young women there for my event, I was the smallest (girls who compete in shot put and discus tend to be BIG) and I remember getting straight up laughed at. I was ranked 38th. I placed 16th. I didn't win, but I showed them that despite my supposed disadvantage in size, I could still beat most of them.
Also in high school, I took my girls' water polo team to CIF two years in a row. Now, let me tell you that as a team, we were the underdogs. I attended the California Academy of Mathematics and Science (CAMS), a nerdy magnet school with a limited and largely neglected athletics program. I played point and 2-meter defense. 2-meter players are the equivalent to a center in basketball, so again, I guarded BIG girls. I'd get tossed around the water (water polo is like swimming, basketball, soccer, and wrestling all rolled into one in 10 feet deep water), but I could hold my own. To be honest, I was pretty vicious because I had to be. And even though we only lasted one round in CIF both years, we were the only team sport from our school to even make it that far.
Over the years, I also trained in tae kwon do, boxing, kung fu, and more recently, muay thai, MMA, and jiu jitsu. When I got called in to audition for Powerade's new "Made You Look" spot as a female wrestler, I went up primarily against women who either currently or previously wrestled in high school/college, a lot of them much younger than me. It was somewhat intimidating as most of my experience had been largely in stand up fighting, and there are definitely moves in jiu jitsu I know that are not allowed in wrestling. My partner who wrestled in high school went over basics with me, and I held my own throughout the long audition process. When I received the call that I was selected for the part, I was ecstatic. I proceeded to have training sessions with a local high school wrestling coach whom told me that I was able to learn and execute moves better than some of his current athletes. With his encouragement and coaching along with super supportive casting directors, producers, and director, and an awesome wrestler to work with the day of the shoot, I did what needed to be done to make my portion of the commercial happen and be true to the message.
Some people have been critical of the commercial for various reasons, most of those reasons being quite ignorant. In my case, I feel that as an actor and athlete, I embody the underdog story, even if I haven't wrestled competitively. If you happened to watch the NCAA tournament AT ALL, you most likely saw the spot. I really like how it turned out. I think the message is inspiring for all athletes and I love that it highlights wrestling, which, unfortunately, was recently removed from the Olympics. If you haven't seen the commercial yet, please check it out below! Thank you so much for reading.
Occasionally, I'm sent questions related to the acting industry. Things about casting, representation, where to go for headshots, etc. I recently was sent in the question below about how to get an agent, and I thought I'd share with all of you what I've learned in the last two years that I've been actively pursuing my acting career.
I'm [T]'s friend who he warned you would be contacting you. I also see you know [A], small world.
Anywho, [T] says you have an agent and I was wondering if you wouldn't mind telling me how you went about it?
I've set up my website, done mass mailings, and just recently did an agent showcase but so far no leads (other than getting an agent for fit modeling, something I had no idea even existed, but alas... not acting!), so any pointers would be appreciated!
Thank you for your message. I have A LOT to touch on so I apologize for my long response. I hope you find it helpful.
If you're non-union, commercial representation is realistic (tons of non-union commercials) but not necessarily theatrical (most legitimate TV/film work is union). I treat commercial and print work as my day job (the way I make the bulk of my income though it's not what I WANT to be doing). If someone is interested in you for fit modeling, that's a good thing. People who work on print shoots (directors, producers, etc) also tend to work on commercials, TV shows, and films. If you make a good impression and keep in touch, they may contact you or remember you for future projects. This business is definitely all about relationships, and you gotta build your acting network!
If you're SAG-AFTRA, both commercial and theatrical representation is feasible though some of the more prestigious agencies (the big four or top tier boutique agencies) may not consider you without known credits. They'll classify you as a "developing" client and agencies need a good balance of established actors who will book and get them paid as well as developing actors that keep their roster fresh with new talent.
HOW TO MARKET YOURSELF TO AGENTS
I’d advise against mass mailings, and encourage targeted mailings (I’m not sure what your method has been thus far). I would go through IMDb Pro
, look at TV shows with lots of co-stars or shows I feel I’d be a good fit for, and check which actors are booking co-stars and who their representation is. I’d create a list of 12-15 agencies, and I’d target those agencies because they’re casting at the level that is right for me with where I’m at in the industry. I would do the headshot/resume/cover letter mailing plus postcard follow ups (every 21 days) with any announcements or updates I have. I would also do a google alert for those agencies and specific agents to keep updated on what they’re doing so I can better engage them and give them props or find out where they’ll be (events, seminars, workshops, etc). I would do showcases and workshops with them. If any of my friends are repped by those agencies, I’d ask if they could introduce us or make a referral. I’d “like” agents and agencies on Facebook and “follow” them on Twitter. I’d engage them through social media (be real and authentic - you're building relationships here) as well as send updates (new reel, new headshots, new role booked, footage of your new webseries, etc). Basically, we’re playing with the rule of 7, and these approaches are also good for building relationships with casting directors as well. As an actor, you’re a product and a brand. You gotta advertise and engage your audience enough times that they buy into the product, YOU.
YOU CAN STILL WORK EVEN WITHOUT REPRESENTATION
A lot of the casting directors I know who do independent films and some studio work, don’t care if you’re represented. Keep up to date on projects they’re working on (google alerts, IMDb Pro, CastingAbout.com
) and target them. They usually don’t care where the submissions come from. Larger roles or projects – the breakdowns will only go to agencies, so okay, yeah, you won't be able to see those. Smaller roles on films or smaller projects – breakdown will go out on actorsaccess, backstage, la casting, etc. Be your own manager and drive your career forward represented or not!
Resources that have helped me throughout the last two years:
’s Self-Management for Actors
– I reference her book ALL the time, read her Showfax column
regularly, subscribe to her email lists, follow her on twitter, etc. I haven’t done her SMFA program yet but I assume it's worthwhile.
and Therese Cator
’s Social Media Power Player
– I learned a lot about using social media and being proactive in making my career happen through their online based program. I also subscribe to any lists they have, follow them on Twitter, etc.
I also read Secret Agent Man
and other columns and articles on Backstage, Mark Sikes's column also on Showfax
, and anything that talks about marketing and social media.
2011: Within four months of pursuing acting, I scored commercial representation with a small boutique agency. I was auditioning for a short film and auditions were being held at the agency’s offices. Their head agent saw me, pulled me aside, and asked if I was repped commercially. I said no, and he signed me right there. THIS is not common! He felt I had a great commercial look (ethnically ambiguous, blah blah blah) and was missing my type in his roster. I think he had only one other Asian actor on his roster of 100 clients. It was a right time, right place, sort of situation. I was non-union then.
2012: I had joined AFTRA before the merger happened and became SAG-AFTRA. I scored myself an under 5 role on a Nickelodeon show which started out as a guitar playing hand double gig at first. And then I worked as an extra on a music video. I made friends with one of the other extras and we ended up hanging out throughout the all night music video shoot we were on. Turned out she was a junior agent with one of the mid-higher level tier agencies I had been targeting for theatrical rep! We became friends and related on a variety of things, and later on I mentioned to her I was looking for print and theatrical representation. She brought me in for a meeting, and they wanted me for print and commercial. I ended up making the decision to leave my other agency for various reasons and signed with them. They eventually brought me on for theatrical representation as well. So in this case, I built a relationship with someone, they liked me and my energy, and they were willing to use their resources to help me. Lesson: You never know who you'll meet at an event, on a shoot, etc. Don't be a dick!
If you have anything to add or critique on what I've laid out, please leave a comment!
You might be thinking "How much wisdom can one actor gain within two years?" Valid question! I'm by no means an "expert." I'm just trying to help out my fellow actors and offer them insight on what I understand to work.
Thanks for reading! :)
Back in 2011, I had the opportunity to perform spoken word at a benefit show to raise funds for Japan. Also sharing his work at that show was award-winning filmmaker Sam Koji Hale
, Narrative of Victor Karloch
) whom I became friends with and who approached me about playing the lead actress in Monster of the Sky
the following year. Monster of the Sky
is described as "a Clockwork sci-fi film of forbidden love and revenge, inspired by a 19th-century Lord Byron poem and told in hybrid puppet animation." Think Dark Crystal
and Spirited Away
meets Count of Monte Cristo
. Set to music by electronica group Stereo Alchemy
, Monster of the Sky
is "a mythical 10-minute sci-fi/fantasy film about a woman swept away to, and then held captive in, a palace in the clouds, her clockwork world interrupted by a handsome stranger from the sky. Enabled by the ghosts of her ancestors, our heroine embarks on a quest to punish her lover and captor, escalating to a spectacular final battle between them: a goddess of destruction and a mechanical winged warrior clash in the silence of deep space. It is a tale of love, revenge and closure."
Our Kickstarter campaign
for Monster of the Sky
has just launched, and I'm super excited because this film is going to be AWESOME. Take a look at the video above and allow your mind to be blown. The puppet animation Sam and his team is capable of is almost unfathomable to me. And if you can, please visit our Kickstarter
, donate (the incentives are pretty sweet), and share with your friends!Click here to visit the Monster of the Sky Kickstarter Campaign!
The first three episodes of Good Cops
Season 2 are finally out! I love working with Derek, Noel, Jacob, and Clayton -- all amazingly talented ridiculously funny guys. If you haven't seen Season 1
, be sure to check it out as well.
While, yes, principal photography is done, there is still a lot of work to do and I'm excited to take part further in the process of making This Last Lonely Place
For those of you who don't know, This Last Lonely Place
is an independent noir feature film. Writer/director Steve Anderson wrote the script last spring, got it funded through a very successful Kickstarter campaign
(of which I was an early supporter) during the summer, and proceeded to start and wrap production this fall. Last night, we held our wrap party! This just does not happen. It's almost unheard of for a script to be finished and in less than a year production is completed.
I will definitely miss seeing everyone on an almost daily basis! #TeamTLLP has gotten very close over the past couple months and I consider them to be extended family. Thank you all for the experience!
Please like This Last Lonely Place on Facebook
and follow us on Twitter
With Andy, my running buddy on the shoot!
I never know if I'm allowed to say which company I'm shooting a commercial or print ad for before the campaign comes out, but I booked and shot a print ad for a running brand this past Friday. It was such an awesome shoot! I always love meeting new people on set and just taking in their process and creative approach to get the best shots. My legs are still sore from running ALL DAY and in the cold, but the shots looked amazing! I can't wait to see them!
My friend Jaguar and I posing together after Sunday's matinee!
Tales of a Fourth Grade Lesbo
went amazingly well this past weekend. We sold out all three performances at the Pasadena Playhouse's Carrie Hamilton Theatre and all of the people I talked to LOVED it. I'm so happy and proud to have been part of this show! We're currently in talks about coordinating a Pacific Northwest tour but we just have to see if it's in the cards.
We did get some media attention with a featured story in the Pasadena Weekly
. And as the only Japanese American actor on cast, I was also featured in the JA newspaper The Rafu Shimpo. Check out the article here!
I love that The Rafu took it on themselves to feature our production as LGBT Japanese Americans (and LGBT people of color in general) have very little representation in film, theatre, and media.
Lastly, thank you to all my friends who were able to come out, support, laugh, and watch me try to dance to Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." :)
Tales of a Fourth Grade Lesbo featured in the Pasadena Weekly!
Can you believe it? It’s already December! Where did the year go? I get caught up in thinking I haven’t accomplished anything, but this is what I’ve been up to the last couple months:
-I booked and shot a regional commercial for Sports Authority
-I have been working on the indie feature film This Last Lonely Place
as an assistant to the director among other things (second unit, body double, craft services, wardrobe and hair/makeup assistant, driver, etc).
-I have been working on my comedy webseries The New Order
, which releases sometime next year.
-I have been gearing up for the second run of Tales of a Fourth Grade Lesbo
! We perform this weekend, December 8th and 9th, at Pasadena Playhouse’s Carrie Hamilton Theatre.
AND I have a new dance routine to Montell Jordan’s "This Is How We Do It"! Don’t you love the ‘90s?
-I got new headshots
, which I absolutely adore.
-My son shot a commercial for Prevacid.
-I shot the short film about two people living with HIV called Before, During, and After Sex
, which will be submitted to festivals.
-I shot a Japanese travel show (in English called Somewhere Street
) as a Los Angeles-based host/reporter.
-I attended my high school’s reunion :o.
-I shot the finale episode of Season Two for the webseries Good Cops
where I have a small featured fight sequence.
-I featured as a spoken word poet at Unbuckled in North Hollywood
-I shot the feature film Pu Pu Platter
with friends whom I worked with on the kung fu comedy theatrical production A Basket Full of Miracles
-I volunteered some time doing background for the webseries My Synthesized Life
-I had my first callback on a costar audition for one of my favorite TV shows (hint: if a misspelt color had a body).
-I had a photoshoot for MIXWELL Worldwide
So… I guess you can say I’ve been busy. And I should take the time to sit back and think that where I’m at now is much further than a year ago :).
Tales of a Fourth Grade Lesbo
first ran at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica this past June. We're gearing up for a second run at the Pasadena Playhouse's Carrie Hamilton Theatre (December 8th & 9th) and are looking for your support in making the production happen!Tales of a Fourth Grade Lesbo
is self described as "a joyful, dance-filled theater piece about the subtle forms of homophobia that all of us -- queer and straight -- experienced growing up." If you grew up in the early 90s, you'll love all the 90's references and amazing dance sequences that are intertwined between engaging, thought-provoking stories through an amazingly cohesive manner. Meaning even with all the bright colors and dancing, there is an actual message but we won't sock you in the back of the head with it.
Please support Tales of a Fourth Grade Lesbo
by going to our Kickstarter campaign and giving what you can. We'll totally love you! And not in that fourth grade fleeting love where one day, we're like puppies never leaving your side, and the next, we find our way to the cool kids' table. Pinky swear. BFF!TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE LESBO - TAKE 2!