2023年11月末に公開された Neflix の新作アクションコメディ『Obliterated』に、東京生まれ・シアトル育ちの日系アメリカ人、キミ・ラトリッジさんが出演しています。大学で言語学の学位を取得するも、やはり幼い頃から好きでたまらなかった演技の道に進むことを決心したキミさん。収入は演技クラスやヘッドショットの撮影などに、友人との時間やレジャーや旅行はトレーニングにあて、何年もギリギリの生活を送ってきたそうですが、「私にとっては価値のあることだった」と振り返ります。『Obliterated』のプロモーションでカリフォルニア州に滞在していたキミさんに、メールでお話を伺いました。
Can you share a bit about your background and how you got started in acting?
I was born in Tokyo and moved to the US when I was 5 years old with my family. I always loved acting ever since I was young, so I’d do community theater and plays at school, and used my dad’s video camera to make and act in my own little movies. I studied film in high school and would act in the student films, and continued to study acting in college, but I graduated with a linguistics degree because acting didn’t seem practical. It wasn’t until I graduated college that I officially decided to pursue acting professionally.
What inspired you to pursue a career in acting?
I think I always wanted to be an actor, ever since I was a kid. It wasn’t until I was in college studying so many amazing subjects, that I realized, nothing would be more fulfilling than my lifelong dream of acting. I had tried so many different avenues, and many were very fun and interesting, but the desire to act and work in film was always nagging in the back of my head. I was inspired as a kid by the magic of movies. I’d watch TV and wonder, “How do I do THAT?”. My curiosity in human behavior and my love of performance was an early drive for me.
Were there any particular challenges you faced on your journey to landing this major role?
Yes, the road is paved with many challenges. The actor’s life is mostly comprised of rejection, or silence. I spent years living paycheck-to-paycheck, and any money I would make, I’d invest right back into acting. Acting classes, headshots, and all sides of the business are expensive, and the odds of booking a job are very low. I knew that I’d have to make sacrifices. So I sacrificed a lot of time that I could’ve spent with friends on training, and a lot of money that I could’ve spent on leisure or travel, on training. It was all worth it for me.
Can you walk us through the audition process for this particular role?
For this role, it started with an audition request from the casting director. The amount of people who audition for any given role could be hundreds, even thousands. I recorded myself acting the three scenes they sent, what we call a “self-tape”, and sent it in so the casting director could watch. I honestly didn’t expect to book this job, because I was an unknown actor in Seattle, WA, with barely any credits to my name. So I decided to just have a lot of fun with it.
A week later, I got a callback–it was actually my first major callback for a show of this proportion. I was really excited, but again, didn’t expect to book such a big role. So I acted the scenes out on Zoom in front of the casting director, the creators of the show, and producers. They watched live and gave me notes/adjustments and I did the scenes as many times as they wanted. That day, I found out they wanted to screen test me, which means that I’d perform for them again on Zoom, but they’d record it and send it to the studio (Sony). I went through several rounds of auditioning and weeks of waiting by the phone. My character was the last one to get cast. Originally, they cast another girl, but ended up changing their mind, so I came in very last minute. I had initially been told I didn’t get it, so it was the biggest surprise of my life to find out they changed their mind.
You mentioned being on Zoom for auditioning and screen testing. Do you know if it has been a common practice or has it become more common due to the pandemic?
I think prior to the pandemic, it was more common to be in-person for callbacks or screen tests. Zoom has become a common practice as a result of the pandemic. Luckily, it means that auditions or callbacks have become more accessible to those outside of LA, but also more competitive as the auditioning pool is larger because more people can audition as a result.
How did you prepare for the audition, and were there any memorable moments from that experience?
I prepared like I would any audition, breaking down the script, identifying where the character was in me, and connecting to the comedic beats. Oftentimes I’ve heard people caution against using props in auditions, but I used a bunch of props and had a lot of fun with the costume. I broke all the rules I was told to follow, and I think the fact I had so much fun, really showed in the audition.
What attracted you to this particular project, and how did you react when you found out you got the role?
I have always loved comedy growing up. I used to do stand-up comedy for a few years, and make sketch comedy with friends. So the opportunity to be a comedic character was something I’ve always wanted to do. When I found out I got the role, I was absolutely in shock. I didn’t believe it. It felt so impossible for someone like me to book a role that big. But I remember feeling eager to work and do a good job, because I knew they were taking a risk by hiring me because of my lack of experience. I knew I had to focus and bring my A-game.
What can you tell us about the character you are playing? I heard she is something like a computer wiz?
The character I play is the tech specialist, and is the best hacker in the world, “Maya Lerner”. She’s the youngest recruit the NSA has ever had, and is extremely intelligent, capable, but a bit socially awkward. She has a big crush on one of the people on her team, and it becomes a source of drama for her and some other characters throughout the series.
How do you approach preparing for a character, especially one in a major production? What kind of special training (or research) for this role did you undergo?
I approached preparing for “Maya” the way I trained in class––breaking down scripts, finding her internal arc, and really getting specific about her relationships to everyone. I worked on establishing a strong point-of-view. Anything she talks about, anything she sees, I wanted to make sure I knew exactly what Maya thought about it. I worked on fleshing out her inner world so I could load myself up with her thoughts. I also studied a little bit of computer science, nothing that extensive, but I wanted to understand the jargon she was using.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working with the cast and crew so far?
I think the most rewarding aspect has been the sense of family that has come out of working with everyone. Creating something with a group of people is such an intimate and intense experience, at times very difficult, but the friendships and advice I gained from set will live with me forever.
Have there been any significant challenges you’ve faced during the production, and how did you overcome them?
I think the biggest challenges were juggling the business side of acting while I had to do the artistic side. For example, because I was cast so last minute and had to move to Albuquerque on such short notice so quickly, I had to do a lot of things that I normally would’ve had more time to do, like hire an accountant, find an apartment, establish myself as a corporation, etc. There was a lot of business that had to be taken care of on my own and in such short notice.
Also, sometimes shooting would be physically demanding and strenuous, so making sure I was really taking care of myself and able to perform under high stress was essential. There was one week where we shot overnight every day in the cold desert doing action scenes, and I’d get home 6am every morning and take a hot bath to just soak my aching body.
In what ways do you feel you’ve grown as an actress through this experience?
Getting to act across talented actors who are seasoned and experienced elevated my acting so much. I learned by just watching my castmates, coming to set when I wasn’t shooting, and just soaking in as much as possible. I have emerged feeling so much more confident working on a big set now that I’ve had that experience. I’ve grown in every possible way, because everything was so new!
I’m curious to know if growing up in a multiracial and multicultural household influenced how you approach your career path.
I’ve always felt my Japanese-American heritage was intrinsic to my approach to my acting career. Having been raised in a multicultural household with a Japanese mother, I always felt that the principles of humility, hard work, and consistency were drawn directly from my Japanese heritage. I was imbued with a strong work ethic from a young age as well as the importance of manners and quiet politeness. I think that showed up in my approach to communication: I avoid burdening others, I always try my absolute best, and I generally keep a small footprint where is appropriate. The American side of me learned that there are times where taking up more space and standing out is allowed, even essential for a career in entertainment.
After this major role, what are your aspirations for your acting career? Are there specific types of roles or genres you’re eager to explore in the future?
I am a very “go-with-the-flow” type person, so I’m open to any and all possibilities! But if I had to specify, I’d love to just work on a variety of genres, never get stuck in one. I’d love to stretch my acting abilities in all directions if I had my ideal. I’d love to explore more drama in the future, maybe even suspense or thriller. I’d like to just keep trying new things, I’m still learning and finding my footing!
Are there lessons or insights from your experience that you wish someone had shared with you earlier in your career?
I think aspects to the business side would’ve been nice to know, like how to create a corporation, how to file taxes as an actor, etc. Luckily I had amazing resources around me, but that would’ve been nice to know beforehand.
Outside of acting, what are some of your interests and hobbies?
I love to sing and make music for fun! I also love to dance and make digital art.
Is there something about you that your fans might be surprised to learn?
I can speak sign language! I’m pretty proficient in American Sign Language but know a little Japanese Sign Language as well. 🙂
What advice would you give to multi-racial kids growing up in the US and aspiring actors who look up to your journey?
My advice would be to love the work and lead with the craft. Success is fleeting, fame is fleeting, but what will keep you grounded is your passion for acting. If you love it, that love will keep you going. I think also to really prioritize mental health and understanding yourself, make that as important as the craft itself. It’s so much easier to pursue this career when you know who you are, when you are surrounded by people you love and trust, and you’re connected to a sense of self and a sense of why you act in the first place. And of course––have fun!!! Never stop having fun!!!