Christine Ko: In Conversation with Taylor Misiak

PHOTOS: Katie Levine over FaceTime
TALENT: Christine Ko
INTERVIEW: Taylor Misiak
PRODUCER: Jasmine Perrier

Taiwanese-American actress Christine Ko went through a long journey of self-discovery before ultimately following her instinct to begin acting and nurturing what has always been in her blood. “There is something in me that always wanted to perform,” she said to her co-star and friend Taylor Misiak who interviewed her. While looking forward to meeting up again on the set of FX’s comedy Dave, they talked about their expectations for season 2, Christine’s evolution as an actor from landing her first entertainment job in Taiwan to pursuing her career in America, and her life-changing lead role in the moving Netflix film Tigertail.

On her influences to become an actor…

“It was very humbling to not be given these things because I’m Frankie Ko’s daughter. […] The first time I saw an image of my dad was on TV. We didn’t really have a relationship until I was 21. [My adopted parents] wanted to give me a simple upbringing focused on family, and I’m very thankful for that. I wasn’t really exposed to anything creative. It wasn’t until high school that I decided to try drama class. I always knew in the back of my head this is not a career path you should choose. My first job was a Target cashier, and I’ve waitressed for five years. I ultimately chose to be an actor. There is something about it that keeps me coming back.”

On her bi-continental life, living in different places from Chicago to Georgia and Taiwan…

“[I was] born in Chicago, but I’ve lived in Taiwan for three years with my birth dad and mom. At 3, I was adopted by my aunt and uncle so I moved to Kennesaw, Georgia, and spent the majority of my childhood there. My birth mom always lived in Taiwan and I always wanted to spend time with her. I couldn’t speak great Mandarin, it was a crazy shock for me to go from Kennesaw to Taipei, Taiwan. But those are some of my favorite years. I was learning the language and culture, and I loved the food. Then in high school, I had to think about my future and I always wanted to go to college in the States. So we thought that it would be better if I moved back to Georgia [laughs]. This is a crazy journey because I went to school for finance and didn’t do anything with my degree and decided to be an actor.”

 

On finding her identity as an actor, from first deciding to do it in her early twenties until now…

“It’s changed so much. Every year is drastically different. When I first started, I wasn’t exposed to all the world that was out there because I didn’t watch a lot of movies [growing up]. It was crazy that after five years of auditioning, [the] very first job I booked was a multi-cam comedy. […] I started late but I also have been very fortunate in the last four years. It has jumped from multi-cam characters to action sequences in Hawaii-5-0.”

On auditioning for Dave and taking on the role of Emma…

“When the audition came in, I remember it was a next day audition and those are always tough because you don’t have enough information and I know that you guys had shot the pilot. I’ll never forget my audition and the scene you and I did, where Ally and Emma talk about Ally’s relationship with Dave, and whether or not she feels comfortable with these certain sexual positions. I had no idea of the tone of the show, and there were really funny lines. I just thought: I’m not cool enough or funny enough, [Emma] is the girl I want to be friend with, I don’t think it’s me at all. […] It’s the perfect example of any time you get an audition where you feel like it’s not you and you could never do it. I felt really protected in taking a leap of faith with this character.”

On finding a connection with Alan Yang’s story and working on Tigertail

Dave was a saving grace to Tigertail. With Tigertail, that was one of those situations where for the first time, this was a role […] that feels so me. That’s how I felt about Angela. Not only was that exciting, it was also from someone I respected [Alan Yang]. When I read the script, it was all about a father and a daughter not being able to communicate. I really connected with the script. I lost my father at the same time that this was all happening. […] The experience was wonderful. For the first time, I got to really contribute to this character. There is a scene that Tzi Ma and I do in the restaurant, where Angela finally expresses how she feels. Alan was totally open to talking about it. Originally, the scene was focused on my husband. I was like: ‘Alan, I think if she is gonna talk about how she feels, it should just be about her.’ What’s the most personal is the most universal and the most creative. It truly felt like that scene is a collaboration. I’m a different actor after Tigertail.”

On the need to highlight more authentic Asian-American stories…

“Now that I’ve done more research, it’s like there was a plethora of Asian actors — they just never had these really really big roles in mainstream media. I wasn’t exposed to them. People ask me all the time, ‘who is [the] main actor that you grew up watching?’ I was obsessed with [Julia Roberts] and My Best Friend’s Wedding. Then, I saw her in Erin Brockovich. But the only two memories that I have as a child, was watching Michelle Kwan ice-skate in Olympics, and Disney’s Sweet Life of Zack and Cody and seeing Brenda Song. I wasn’t implicated enough in understanding [that] they are so many actors — they are just the side characters. They opened the doors. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have Crazy Rich Asians, we wouldn’t have The Farewell. This is just a really cool time for us as actors, to have the freedom to really choose what we want to do with these characters, and ultimately give voice to a lot of people who haven’t really gotten this kind of exposure. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to do what we do right now.’’

LISTEN TO CHRISTINE AND TAYLOR’S FULL CONVERSATION
WATCH TIGERTAIL ON NETFLIX

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