Lacking representation in the industry, ALLY MAKI stands up proud as she raises the flags of Asian- American culture in Hollywood.
Creating ripples in Hollywood with her sanguine humor and superb performance in the acting scene, Ally Maki among others is living proof that Asian-Americans in the industry are more than doing martial arts or reading books page by page. The Jack-of-all-trades star got involved in acting at a fairly young age and started appearing on 2002 as Sasha in My Wife and Kids. With the budding passion she established and the warmth she received from people she got to work with, Ally found her safe haven in front of the rolling film. “There was just something about performing that made me feel at home,” the actress recalls. However, before soaring in acting, the actress admits that she was timid as a young girl. Being the wallflower that she was, doing voiceovers and venturing into musical theater became her gateway into acting as an outlet, and she bade goodbye to her introverted past self.
With the boundaries established in the world of acting before, entering the scene as a fourth generation Japanese-American was a struggle, due to endless stereotypes and racial discrimination. “It wasn’t until I moved to LA that all these stereotypes and limitations became apparent to me. Casting directors or agents would say, ‘Do an accent for this,’ ‘Can you wear glasses?,’ or my worst fear, ‘Just do some of that martial arts stuff.’ It was never anything outside of that.”
As she continues to grow in the industry, Ally foresees the Asian-American culture growing and exceeding the limitations of what Asian-Americans in Hollywood are used to portraying. “This industry raised me and I’m so grateful for that. I ask all of those people [involved in the industry] to do what they can to move the needle forward. Be open-minded. Consider a world where everyone’s story matters. We are underestimating our audiences if we continue to play the same stories over and over again with no variation. People are tired of that,” Ally reinforces. “I took a meeting recently with an executive at a production company who said they now value diversity at the highest level. He said, ‘Look at a piece of blank paper, it’s boring. Now, paint different color strokes and patterns all over the page. Now that’s art.’ So let’s make art.”
“Consider a world where everyone’s story matters. We are underestimating our audiences if we continue to play the same stories over and over again with no variation.”
Let’s talk about your part in Wrecked. How did you get the role? How was the auditioning process in terms of comedic chemistry between the ensemble cast?
When I first read the script, I was completely sold. I wanted to be a part of the project immediately. I almost didn’t go to the audition because it was so engrained in my head that ethnic women can’t be leads. After years and years of people telling me that Asians are the sidekicks or the best friend with no story arcs, I really felt like my own self-worth and confidence as an actress had been shaken. I felt like an accessory. Playing a best friend on screen had bled into my real life of feeling like a secondary character. I am forever grateful to TBS for taking a chance on me and a fully-realized Asian-American female character.
Another role of yours that’s really interesting is in Dear White People. What’s your take on the controversial satire of the story?
Being on that show has garnered me some of the most messages and outreach. Justin Simien has created this world really dissecting these micro-aggressions that actually occur on college campuses. I think it’s truly brilliant, hilarious, and heartbreaking. Adding the Asian perspective on top of that is the icing on the cake. In my eyes, [my character] Ikumi is trying to find her identity by being a part of the crew. She finds strength in them. I think the Asian-American community struggles with finding our voice and those things that define us culturally. With the crew, she feels like she can stand up and be heard for the things she faces.
What’s next for you?
I’m stepping into the world of writing, which is all new for me. I’m developing a project based upon my family’s history that is so close to my heart. Also, I’ll be able to share in the near future but I just signed on to a pretty epic new project. Definitely bucket list-worthy.
By Therese Baluyot
Interview by Janroe Cabiles
Photographed by Brett Erickson