Amy Okuda is an actress, best known for her portrayal of Tinkerballa in the web series The Guild. More recently she has also landed a role in the TV show Californication with David Duchovny. We think she is one of the hottest rising stars in the acting world and I wanted to sit down with her and pick her brain. We discuss everything from formal education, to basketball, Asian films (of course!), and more! Read below for the full interview…
Tell us a bit about what got you interested in becoming an actress?
Amy: I started dancing professionally when I was about 16 years old and through mutual friends in the dance scene, I met my manager. She is the one who pushed me to go into the acting side of the business, and I absolutely loved it!
You’ve had a lot of success in both Japan and America, what is the biggest difference in working in these culturally different environments?
Amy: I have done Japanese commercials in the past, both on camera and voice over- but they were all produced in America, with English speaking crews. So I havent gotten a chance to experience the real Japanese environment, but I am fluent in Japanese so I would love to work overseas one day!
Californication is a great show and you did a wonderful job on it. How was it working with David Duchovny?
Amy: Although my part was fairly small, I was so lucky that my scene was with David Duchovny! I was a little star struck but I am glad I was able to keep my cool. It was wonderful to watch him work, he was obviously so experienced. He would improv, and suggest different line reads to the director, etc- it was my first acting job so it was so fun to watch such a successful actor work like that.
So what was your first Hollywood audition?
Amy: Wow, sadly I do not remember what my first audition was..But I think the first job I ever did was a voice over for a Japanese AT&T commercial and I remember just recording it on a tape recorder and sending it over. I had to recite the time tables in Japanese! I think I was about 9 or 10. But after that I didn’t audition or work at all until I was 16- I wanted a regular, normal kiddie life [laughs].
You did many years on The Guild. Do you have any real life video game obsessions?
Amy: [Laughs] Although I have been a part of The Guild for almost 5 years now, I have not gotten myself into any MMORPG games…yet! I did have a phase where I was REALLY into Nintendo DS (Mario Kart in particular), but other than that, my gaming obsessions does not go nearly as far as my character on the show. Right now I’m really into Words With Friends on my iPhone!
How about film, do you have any favorite Asian Films or Anime?
Amy: I ABSOLUTELY love Hayao Miyazaki and all the films he made through Studio Ghibli. I grew up watching Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and all of the Ghibli films. I watched them all in Japanese when I was little and it’s actually really funny to go back and watch the English versions- I have Totoro basically memorized and finding where the translations make no sense is quite entertaining. Its funny how some things just don’t exactly translate onto another language.
As a USC film student, what kind of things did you learn about and do you think this will give you an advantage in the entertainment business?
Amy: I learned so much during my years at USC so it is hard to just pick one thing that I think will help me, but I do know that one thing USC is superior at is networking- The Trojan Family is something that I don’t think any other school has. A person will help you out in any situation just because you both went to USC. So the fact that I graduated with filmmakers that can possibly become the next Spielberg or George Lucas is very exciting :).
How was the LA Asian Film Festival? Do you think you will be attending more of these kind of events?
Amy: It was my first time attending the LA Asian Film Festival and I had such a blast! I only recently found out that there was such a strong and large Asian community in the entertainment business and I think that is awesome, and I’m kicking myself in the butt for not knowing about it sooner! But I do plan on being as active as I can in the future!
I know you are a basketball fan so I wanted to slip this question in…how did you feel about the Lakers season this year and the controversy surrounding their final game?
Amy: I’ve grown up watching the Lakers. While girls were playing with Barbies, I was dribbling basketballs and figuring out how I can hit three pointers like the guys on the court. So I’m always going to love the Lakers- I’m very interested and anxious for the upcoming season, its going to be quite different with a new coach! Its definitely a new era!
Lastly, any advice for any young actresses trying to break into the business?
Amy: Wow, I don’t know if I’m in any place to give advice, since I feel like I’m the one asking people for advice all the time! But, I did learn one thing in the past couple of years- take chances, no matter how worthless it may seem. When I first started The Guild, it was an unpaid YouTube video that a girl just wrote and wanted to put on the web. Look where it has gone! If I would have passed on it, I would be so mad at myself right now!
Many thanks to Amy for her time. If you would like to meet her she’ll be at the San Diego Comiccon on July 21-24, and Dragon Con in Atlanta Labor Day weekend. Also feel free to follow her web trail below: