Actress, Singer-songwriter and YouTuber Arden Cho was recently in Australia for the Creatures of the Night 3 Teen Wolf Convention. She sat down with Hello Asia’s Johnny Au to talk life after Teen Wolf, her future music plans, and gave us a revealing view on the lack of Asian representation in On-screen productions.
So, Arden, welcome to Australia!
Thank you so much!
Let’s talk about why you’re in Australia, what brings you Down Under?
So, finally I get to come to Australia, which has been on my list for many, many years. It’s my first time, and luckily I’m here for the Teen Wolf Convention. We had the first day in Melbourne and day 2 here in Sydney. It’s a convention where they do the first event in one city, and the other, and the next. It has been really great to come to another country and meet our fans across the world, I mean it’s a seventeen hour flight here! It has been really a whirlwind of a couple days, but it has been amazing, and everyone is so nice here in Australia.
What do you find that’s special about Australian Teen Wolf fans? Is there any particular trait, or anything about them that stands out compared to other Teen Wolf fans around the world?
What’s interesting is that they’re very polite here- not that our fans are not polite in other places- It’s just that some places and some countries are a little aggressive, but here they’re very, very polite. It was so funny, the cast and I were talking about that as well.
You have other cast members who came?
Yeah, 3 of us. Melissa (Ponzio), myself and Ryan Kelly, so it has been a lot of fun. It’s always fun to learn about Australia as well. Everybody wants to try Vegemite. I’ve tried it 3 times now.
What do you think of Vegemite?
It’s very salty. I think the portion is extremely important. I think when you have hot toast with the right amount of butter and just the right touch of vegemite it’s good. I think a little bit too much and then it’s just too salty. I can see that it’s definitely an acquired taste though.
Now that your run on the show is over, tell me what’s been the highlight of the 2+ years?
Oh man, I mean the highlight?! The highlight is definitely the entire experience, and getting to grow with the character. 40+ episodes, it’s really great. Especially when the character was intended on only being in a few episodes. I initially came on only expecting to guest star for a of couple episodes and ended up doing every single episode that season. That was really a pleasant surprise. It was exciting, but confusing too because you rarely expect that as an actor. You’re just happy to get one gig. You’re just happy to get one audition that holds, and so when one job ends up becoming something that’s consistent, you think “What’s going on?” I don’t think that really clicked until about season 5 when I was like “wow, this is really happening. I’m still here.” I’m so thankful that it ran as long as it did, especially when it wasn’t something that was expected to be that long. It was so fun to grow with the character and work with such talented people. And then, of course, the fandom. The fandom is something very special I’ll take away. It’s one thing when someone shapes your work and says “hey! I really like what you do”, it’s another thing when someone likes it so much that they actually take the time to get to know you and to check out your other work, and to follow you wherever you go. Those are true fans. Those are people who I feel like are more than fans, they’re like family. They’re like friends. I’m really thankful for that.
They’re probably loyal, I’d say.
Super loyal. All of us are extremely grateful for that, and I know that I hold that super close to my heart because if it weren’t for fans I know that I wouldn’t be here. Especially, too, because for Kira they were very much reflecting how much she was going to be a part of the show, pending how the fans were going to react. Initially, I think people were hesitant, but then once they got to know Kira, they were like “Oh I kinda like her”, and so I stuck around. I’m really thankful to the fans for that because I definitely think it makes a difference.
And how do you think that playing Kira has changed you as a person?
I always find that question funny because a lot of times with acting you bring so much of yourself into a character, just because there are certain nuances or maybe you’ll just inevitably bring in a trait that is similar to yourself when you play a character day-in and day-out. Now, of course, if you’re going to play a serial killer, then it’s a complete different character that you create. But, I think when it comes to someone like Kira, who honestly is (and was) very similar to who I was in high school…except for the fact that she was a lot more confident, a little bit more quirky and…
She kicks butt?
Definitely. And brave. So, I think the traits that I got from Kira were more confidence, bravery, and I feel like I took away a little bit of a spunk. I had a lot of fun playing Kira because I took a little bit of me, and then made Kira the better version of myself. Or what I thought was the better version of me.
Now let’s fast forward a little bit and talk about your music career. I know a few months ago you collaborated with David Choi. What was it like, working with David?
I love David so much. He is such a great friend of mine. He’s always encouraging me to work on music and to hone my craft. He’s really such a great friend and a phenomenal musician. We’ve talked about doing music for many, many years and we’ve worked on covers, but this was the first time that we really worked on an original song. I think we wrote this around the beginning of season 5. I wrote it with Teen Wolf in mind. I was inspired by Scott and Kira, in the sense of we all have a mask that we wear, and we protect ourselves from it. Sometimes in relationships you can’t get close until you take that mask off and you’re vulnerable. I feel like my intention and want with the song was to get to the next level, the next step. Even with Kira and Scott being a supernatural relationship where you have a werewolf and a kitsune dealing with all their own struggles, but still trying to become close. As regular humans we are still struggling with that all the time. We’re not even supernatural and we’ve got all the things blocking us from each other. I wanted to use that to encourage or inspire being vulnerable and being honest and real.
Besides relationship themes, what other themes do you like to write and sing about?
I generally like to write about the things that I’m going through, or the things that I believe in. I have a song called ‘Don’t Run’ that is about overcoming the things that scare you from doing what you really love. For me, that song was almost a letter to myself. I wanted to tell myself to just do it even if you’re going to fail, go even if it’s the wrong direction, and just try. And, also of course as a letter to all of my fans to say “hey, you and I are the same. I’m scared, you’re scared, but if we don’t do it, if we never try, then we’ll always regret”. If you try and you fail, who cares? At least you can say “I gave it a shot”. I always say every failure is something gained and something learned. It prepares you for the opportunity of when you do have a success, so you’ll be appreciative. You’ll be that much stronger in your life.
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It seems to me, having a look at your music videos, there is a level of authenticity about your music.
Thank you. I pride myself on it. It’s nice when people notice.
It is just something that strikes me when I went through your back catalogue. Maybe that’s why fans gravitate towards your music side as well. Is that authenticity something you see when you’re acting and in your music as well?
Well, I definitely try. Especially after Teen Wolf there have been a lot of opportunities that I have politely declined for the reason that I just don’t think it is the type of roll that I want to portray. As actors we don’t have many choices, especially as a female and an Asian-American. We are very limited in our opportunities. For me, the thing that is most important is that I work on projects that I know I’ll feel great doing, and that positivity can come out of. I love the arts so much and it’s just an extension of who I am, which is why I feel like that’s so important. In the characters that I play, if there is darkness or struggle I want there to be redemption. The story is so important and I want to share music that means something to me. Even if it’s a silly pop song like ‘Shake it Off’, it still has a great meaning- Don’t let Neigh Sayers give you doubt and fear. We all have people in our lives that say “you can’t do that. Who do you think you are? You’re not good enough”. Or maybe it’s yourself. Maybe it’s your subconscious saying you’re not good enough. I love songs like that, too, that have a great message. I also really like worship music. I know not everyone is going to enjoy it, but I love when I read a comment that says “I’m not a believer and I’m not into religion, but I dig this.” That’s awesome. All I’m doing is I am putting out something I love and if you dig it, you dig it. If not it’s totally fine. We’re never going to like all the same stuff. For me, my YouTube channel is a place for me to be creative and for me to have fun. A place that I can express my creativity and a little bit of who I am, and connect with my fans. A lot of times as an actor you’re reading another writer’s work and bringing it to life, but you’re not really yourself. You’re a character. YouTube gives you this amazing platform to connect, to tell stories and to update people. I love that I can do that because my fans are not just fans, they’re all part of the journey. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if I’m going to be done now after Teen Wolf or if I’m going to do another show, or music. That’s what’s so fun about this industry, and so terrifying. There are a lot of unknowns. Luckily with YouTube it’s a really great platform to be able to connect, update and experiment. That is how I ended up doing music- by accident. It definitely wasn’t intentional, just “hey I really like music, and I’m gonna give it a shot!”
What should fans look forward to from the music side of Arden? Are you concentrating more on that now that you have left the show?
It’s not that I am concentrating on it more, It’s just that I have a little more time now. I know the fans are always wanting more music, but for that to happen I definitely have to really sit down for a few months and work on some original music. I haven’t written as much these days because I’ve just been feeling a little uninspired. You film a show for so long and then when you’re done there are a lot of emotions. Part of me was exhausted and sad to be leaving, but a part of me was happy to see what was next. I went through all these emotions and now I am in this place where I don’t know what to write about. It’s funny because ‘My True Happy’ was so much about the things that I was going through, but these days there isn’t a lot of drama going on. I feel like you need a little drama in life to write about. Maybe I need some drama in my life to inspire me, but I don’t know if that would be good either!
What is your take on the question that is being posed now about diversity within your industry?
I think we’re at a point where we are starting to have a voice, but it’s just the beginning. There is still so much more to be said and done. We need a movement, in the sense that there is the ‘Oscars So White’. We need a movement for us. It’s something that is hard to do because we don’t have very many Asian-American A-Listers. We have incredibly talented actors, but we are still not well-known because of the way that the industry has treated Asian-Americans as side characters. We’re never the star.
Do you think there is a certain stereotyping?
Definitely. We don’t have the best material, and when we do have good material it is just not seen by the masses. A lot of shows will only allow one Asian. If there is an Asian on that show they have hit capacity. It’s so great to see shows like ‘Fresh Off the Boat’, ‘Doctor Ken’ and ‘Hawaii 5-0’. A lot of these shows have really talented, wonderful Asian-American actors, but it’s just not enough. Having the Yukamuras on Teen Wolf was not enough. I’m so happy that we had a super-cool multi-cultural Asian family. It was so great to portray an Asian-American family that was cool. But, until we’ve got shows like ‘Friends’ or ‘Sex and the City’ with Asian stars I’m not going to be satisfied. There’s so much more that needs to be done because I don’t relate with any Asian girl that I see on TV, and I want to have someone to look up to. Even though I love Tamlyn Tomita, I love Ming-Na and Kim Yun-Jin, but still I want to see more. I don’t want to be able to name all of the Asian stars in 25 names. I want there to be so many that I need an hour to go through the entire list of names!
We spoke to John Cho recently for the premiere. Everyone was excited because John Cho is in the new Star Trek film, but it would be great if that was normalised.
Right. John has done so much and he is a star. I was so mad when Selfie was cancelled because I told him “dude! You were hot in that!” They just didn’t give that show enough time. The first couple of episodes were a little rocky, but every pilot show is like that. After that, though, it really builds and towards the middle you are just falling in love with this guy. It’s such a shame that they cut it too soon, in my opinion. But, I’m really excited to see what John will do next, because he really is a star. I want to see him in a really great rom-com or a really great series that shows him in his prime. Think about it, in this day and age many of the heads of tech are Asian, many people in the fashion industry and the culinary world, so what about it the acting industry? We just need a production company to flick that switch and put more Asian characters on screen, but a lot of the times they think it’s not marketable.
Final question, What are your plans for the rest of the year? I know you have your new film ‘Stuck’ coming out in the future.
Yeah, I hope that that comes out soon. I’m not sure when, I think it’s in post-production. Then, I have ‘Tween Fest’, the comedy series that I shot, coming out in the summer. Other than that I have a few things on Youtube coming up- a cameo for Wong Fu Productions, and some music. I’m just busy with auditions. As actors we are professional auditioneers!
And one post script question- Will you be catching any Pokémon is Australia?
I have, and I am supper excited! I’m probably going to go hunt some Pokémon right after this.
Arden, thanks for the chat. It’s great to meet you, and please come back to Australia soon.
Definitely. Hopefully next time with my music.