You may not have heard of Ally Maki, but you should now take note. The Japanese-American actress has an impressive resume, starring as Jess in the TBS Comedy, “Wrecked,” and as Ikum in “Dear White People, as well as having made many cameo appearances in popular series such as “New Girl,” “2 Broke Girls,” “NCIS,” “The Big Bang Theory,” and “10 Things I Hate About You,” as well as the role of ‘Min’ in the 2013 film, “Geography Club.” We chat to the emerging actress.
Hi Ally, thanks for chatting to Forte. To start, you’ve been paving the way for Asian-American actors, what kind of roles do you seem to find yourself in?
If you had asked me 10 years ago, or even five, I would say the bubbly sidekick who may or may not be good at math. The roles have been incredibly stereotypical over the span of my career. When I was a kid, just working on any set thrilled me, but I always knew in my heart that I could do and be more. I had all these different facets of myself that felt so underutilised in a way. Now, I won’t say that there’s any exact type of character I feel I’m best at. It’s all about doing things that challenge me or make me feel that spark. I’m ultimately just looking for outside of the box roles that will continue to change the course and normalise what people think an Asian-American woman can be.
As an Asian-American actress, do you think Hollywood needs a larger representation of the Asian community? Do you think this is important?
It’s absolutely imperative to our own existence and basic self-worth to be equally represented. Not only for the sole purpose of accurately portraying how modern society looks, but also for the success and self-confidence of this next generation of Asian-American creatives. I started in the industry when I was in my early teens, so I know first-hand what it feels like to start thinking of yourself as merely just an accessory. That your story doesn’t matter. Being told you are limited to being a secondary stereotype or a just a “best friend,” is an idea that started to not only permeate through me, but through the whole community. It’s that question of how do you not start to believe that you are only those things that the industry defines you as. That’s the trap of it all. It’s all so extremely damaging. I imagine if I had grown up in a society where I saw Asian-American girls regularly in magazines or on TV, or as well-rounded role models, I may have had such different views on my own self-worth. Even seeing one could’ve made all the difference. It’s important to take our own narrative back and finally be the center of our own stories.
You’re starring in a TBS comedy called ‘Wrecked’ which recently returned for a second season, what’s the main premise of the show, without giving away too much?
Wrecked is a single camera sitcom, created by the brilliant Shipley brothers, that follows a group of strangers who must create some semblance of a society after they crash land on a deserted island. It’s such a fantastic mix of everything and one of the only shows out there right now that combines comedy, action, adventure and a bit of horror. It’s so much fun.
You also had a role in the Netflix-original series, Dear White People, as ‘Ikumi’, tell us a bit about the message of the show.
DWP is such an incredibly important and timely show. It’s also the type of story that really gets me going. It shocks me to know that so many people don’t know that these micro-aggressions still occur on college campuses all across the nation. It’s infuriating and heartbreaking. It’s important for people to know why cultural appropriation is never okay and breaks down the back stories and history of the kids that face it on the daily. Blackface is still happening. People are still dressing up as geishas and doing accents as some sort of “joke.” We have to change the perception that it’s acceptable to do this. We can and should be so much better than that.
You’ve been in some pretty big movies and TV shows, have you met anyone in your career who’s left you star struck?
I once performed a monologue from Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues) where both Charlize Theron, Jane Fonda and my mum were in the audience. I seriously almost threw up.
Thanks for the chat, is there anything exciting coming up that you can tell us about?
I have a few super exciting things in the works. Mainly, I’m delving into the world of writing and creating a project based upon my family’s history. It’s an absolute passion project and it’s been so fun and therapeutic to be able to piece together the parts of where I came from. I’m so incredibly excited to bring it to life.
Image by Rick Bhatia