Christine Ko is the first to admit that she happily entered Hollywood ignorant of the realities of the industry – and she’s grateful she did.
The 32-year-old Georgian has never attended theater school or received any formal acting training, but has made a career for herself in roles of her own, in authentic images of American women. Asia is as funny and dynamic as Ko herself. She starred in “Dave,” the hit series based on the life of rapper Lil Dickey, government name David Burd, as Emma, who finally got her own focused episode today. Last year starring in “Tigertail” on Netflix and more recently in Justin Bieber’s video for “Hold On,” Ko is busier than ever and just getting started.
She’s at home in Los Angeles, having just returned from a month in Utah filming a romantic comedy.
“I’ve always wanted to do a rom-com and this is my first chance to star in a movie,” she said on Zoom. “I was certainly very lucky when these opportunities came, but a lot of times when it’s a different character, for me, I’m scared about it. So I knew I had to try it because it wasn’t something I knew.”
Ko said that she still feels nervous about going out looking for something new because she didn’t go to acting school like many of her peers. It was not what her parents ever wanted for her, and they encouraged her to pursue something more stable, such as finances. They are not without examples: the people she calls mom and dad are actually her aunts and uncles who adopted her from her birth parents and raised her for 45 minutes outside. Atlanta. Her biological father is famous Taiwanese singer Frankie Kao, who passed away in 2014 and her mother is an actress. As a child, she came home from school and saw her father on Chinese TV, but it felt like a completely different world.
“I never grew up in that life,” she said. “People always ask me why I want to be an actor and it’s not really that I grew up watching too many movies and my parents told me about cinema and directing. I really feel that part of it is genetic and it’s in me – because my aunt and uncle are in the medical field. They did everything they could to make sure I didn’t go into that life. But it’s funny because at 21, that’s all I ever wanted to do, be an actor. “
She moved to Taiwan after college to try her hand at a career there and trained by “getting scolded by directors not to look at the camera”. After a few years, she moved to LA to watch Hollywood.
“Strangely, that ignorance was good for me,” she said in retrospect. “I don’t know all the obstacles that I will have to overcome over the years. I think if I had known the landscape at the time for Asian-American actors and the jobs out there and the difficulty of making a living as an actor, I think at the age of 21, when I graduated, I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m doing this. I couldn’t sustain myself and three spin-offs on one TV show wouldn’t be enough to complete this career. ‘ But in my mind, I really don’t see those obstacles because I just think, “why not?”
Ko says that during her years in Hollywood, the restrictions around casting diversity she experienced early on have finally begun to change.
“I certainly felt that times were changing and that I was able to enter the industry that benefited Asian American actors at the time. It really feels like it’s just getting started in the last few years. Now, it’s not too strange to watch an Asian-American woman play the lead role,” she said. “It’s not common, but it doesn’t look like this wild thing.”
When Ko started auditioning, many of the roles offered to her were Chinese characters with stories that didn’t match her background.
“At the time, I didn’t have the experience of learning how to be a character actor, but I had a hard time shaping myself into what people thought I should play: I was very American. I come from Georgia. I sometimes have a twang. And it was difficult for me to play characters with a Chinese accent or not feel really comfortable and they were extremely shy,” she said. “I actually changed the physical perspective of those auditions to try to fit in with them.”
She didn’t sign up for most of those auditions, and in hindsight, she wasn’t surprised it didn’t work out.
“I think when you’re acting, people can say you’re a bit annoying. Confidence is a huge thing. Even if you’re playing a shy character, you need to be really confident that you know what the character is and you feel it in your bones. I didn’t and it makes sense: I didn’t get any of those roles,” she said. “I have lessened the feeling of losing my appearance as a human being.”
Until she was asked to audition for a role in “The Great Indoors,” partly true, written as an Asian-American woman, but with the freedom to express whatever she sees fit. right, she just landed the role – and feels good about it.
“It really started to give me confidence and comfort in doing comedy and realizing that my kind of comedy is just a very dry, sarcastic and frank genre,” she said.
Ko joined the cast of “Dave” after the pilot was shot and the show was cast, and they are looking to add another female character. Burd ended up sending her a direct message via Instagram to say she got the part, after trying to keep a straight face during her audition improvisation.
“Then he ended up bringing the character up into a regular series,” she said. “So now I’m part of the team.”
The show, which only grew in popularity as the second season aired, is heavily improvised and allows the actors to freely contribute ideas to their characters, something Ko was given the opportunity to do. Emma’s big episode.
“I appreciate Dave because he asked me about his life. He was interested in my thoughts and I asked, ‘Could she be from Georgia? Could she be from Atlanta? ‘ He was like, ‘Yes, of course. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t. ‘ We really infused a lot of that into the episode,” she said. “I think that episode was really good at figuring out how to grow up Asian-American and work in the corporate world as a woman, and ultimately discover that she’s creative. and want to do something different with my life. It really embarks on that story. I’m excited because we haven’t seen a lot of that for Asian-American characters yet. “
MORE FROM EYES:
https://wwd.com/eye/people/dave-lets-christine-ko-be-in-the-drivers-seat-1234885274/ | ‘Dave’ Actress Christine Ko on Roles for Asian American Women, Her Famous Father – WWD