As someone who watched the Disney Channel myself for many years, I always, like many young girls, wanted to see someone who looked myself on television in a time period when every tween actress on television had the all-American look: slightly tan, blonde and ice pale blue eyes. In truth, every female under 12 wishes she could, in a fantasy, be a Disney princess. Today, Tania Gunadi fills the void for Asian-American girls, who now know they are represented spectacularly on Disney Channel programming. Coming from Indonesia, her family won the green card lottery. One year after she began acting lessons, Gunadi saw herself landing roles.
You’ve had your start with Disney. Are you going to be doing more work with them in the future?
As it happens, I recently played a Princess on Disney Junior’s “Imagination Movers,” it was a lot of fun. And I just did a new pilot for a Disney XD animated series. I appreciate Disney very much, they’ve been wonderful to me and I’ve loved working for them.
As a young actress, particularly one working with a wholesome production empire like Disney, were you ever worried about the pressures of being a good role model for teens and tweens? Or did this not affect you much due to not being the huge Disney star of the moment, which was then Miley Cyrus?
Honestly, I never feel any pressure to be a role model. I just do my best to be myself and have fun, knowing that some kids will be inspired by the roles that I choose to play and some kids won’t. They get to choose that for themselves, and that lets us both off the hook. 🙂
For “The Magic of Ordinary Days,” you had to force your way into the role by demonstrating a Japanese girl in the States could still have traces of a foreign accent. For this situation, your natural accent almost worked against you. In what cases, past or future, do you feel it would be a blessing for getting roles?
Funny you ask that, and I’m going to say all roles are a blessing, because I think my natural accent is part of what makes me uniquely me. On “The Magic of Ordinary Days” I remember enjoying the process of working with accent coach Claire Corff on more of an American accent and having a lot of fun with it, and because of that I’m now able to flow in and out with more or less of an accent when I choose. I did an episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” where I really got an opportunity to call on my accent and it was an absolute blast!!
When they see a person on TV, people don’t seem to think someone has been working forever. Your earliest role goes back to 2001. And while you weren’t a series regular at the time on “Even Stevens,” you were a working actress at an age people typically think about their freshman year at college. So for someone to already be in their chosen career path, what were you feeling? Were you scared, nervous, anxious, happy, relaxed or worried? Did you have to concentrate because you had to outdo the All-American girl casting producers desire at auditions, were you worried you had to best everyone out for work?
I didn’t have any fear or worries at the time because living in America was, for me, living in a dream world– there were just so many things to do and so much excitement. Prior to ‘Even Stevens,’ I was working at Pizza Hut, learning English, and enjoying my first acting classes. Everything was so new that I didn’t give something like competition a second thought. In fact, I felt like it was cool to be auditioning with all the other girls. Experience has taught me that there are about a bazillion factors that go into casting just one role on one project, and I’m someone who’s always had a ton of enthusiasm for acting and everything else that I do. I much prefer to keep having fun at it and leave my worries at the door.
Americans tend to know Asian culture as being Japanese, Chinese or Korean. Our media doesn’t talk about Indonesia very often. What beauty do you believe lies within an Indonesian woman unique to your culture that you channel, or if you haven’t yet, hope to channel for your work?
I love being Indonesian. I was raised in a community where people were friendly with each other– including strangers. My family would often eat from street vendors and so we’d meet new people all the time, often sharing the same table, like one big family. I think this is the reason why I’m not shy meeting new people like other actors, casting directors, producers, etc. I treat them all like my friends who are on the same team. So I’d say that I do my best to channel that feeling of camaraderie or inclusion into both my work and my personal life.
You play the drums! Do you ever write your own material? Have you thought about venturing into playing other instruments?
I love playing the drums, but it’s just a hobby at the moment. I play for fun and the loudness, of course! I don’t even know how to read the notes, let alone write my own materialJ – I just play along to the rhythm. I also play a little bit of guitar and piano.
What recommendations do you have for vegetarian food? Do you ever feel like cooking is similar to acting in any way? It seems like art.
Man, I wish I could cook! I can only cook frozen food like heating things in a pan or putting them in a microwave… HA! I absolutely think cooking is art, as it seems like new dishes are being created all the time. I love watching the caterers on set making all kinds of foods and snacks. They all seem to have their own way of doing it and the creativity they bring to it has a way of changing food from something regular to something amazing! I remember when I was on “Aaron Stone,” the craft service lady could transform even a PB&J sandwich into something extraordinary – I think she added some sprinkles and honey to it, maybe even bananas… I seem to recall she was an Elvis fan, so it’s all starting to make sense now!
My vegetarian recommendations wouldn’t really be for dishes, but for L.A. restaurants! These days I’m loving several places in Hollywood’s Thai Town, as they can always substitute tofu. Kate Mantelini has a nice veggie burger, and Veggie Grill has become an old standby for me.
It would be nice if people didn’t care about someone’s race when casting roles, but our film industry does. We care about how to sell at the box office or TV shows. Where do you see Asian women in entertainment? What flaws does the industry have regarding its treatment of Asian culture, casting Asian actresses, etc.? What would you hope to change yourself?
Honestly, and this is maybe going to sound funny, but I’ve never given much attention to my race when considering a role. Actually, many of the roles I’ve worked were originally written for American girls, and I am certain the opposite holds true for American girls who’ve booked roles written for other ethnicities. It really speaks to what I was saying earlier that there are just so many factors that go into casting a role, and so I’ve never put limits upon myself that I can only do parts that were written for Asian girls. The industry in Hollywood has opened up immensely to all ethnicities in terms of casting, and I see my work as looking for opportunities to play roles I’m interested in while letting the ongoing positive change within the industry continue to take care of itself.
You are in the position now where you need to grow up from Disney roles into being a strong, sexy female presence on screen. You could be the action girl or a big dramatic star like Meryl Streep. What direction do you want to take? How are you getting to where you want to be in your career in grown up roles? How are you going to command your screen time with power?
For me, it’s really about letting myself evolve into new roles and opportunities as they arise. I’ve always loved the idea of being a working actor, and in my eagerness for that, I’m finding that the direction of it falls into place. I don’t feel pressure at having to go a certain way or perform certain roles, because that has a way of taking the fun out of things pretty fast. I love film, commercials, voice-over, and TV– and so I often say “I like where I am right now, and I’m gonna like what’s on its way.”
Your story is really amazing, how you came from a green card lottery with your family and learned English at Pizza Hut without knowing one word. But as my uncle says, “It doesn’t matter what you did but what you are doing now.” Every article talks about your story’s sweet beginning – every headline has Pizza Hut somewhere in it or you, “the Indonesian Disney girl” – but not the storybook ending, where you define yourself beyond being the Asian girl on Disney to being the megawatt star in the making. Really, journalists need to play you up as you are! What is going to be your mark on the world? How are you making yourself known as the It Girl, whose reach goes past the Pizza Hut selling point, the good girl from Indonesia, to being a force to reckon with like an Emma Stone or Anne Hathaway?
I think your Uncle had it right in that what matters is what one is doing right now. And to that degree, he’s speaking of the journey, not the manifestation. And that’s what interests me most—the fun along the way to all the wonderful prizes. I’ll bet if you asked either of those fabulous actresses you mentioned, they’d say the same thing. For me this is all about the thrilling rendezvous, the amazing circumstances and events, and the wonderful relationships to be had along the way to making movies that I’m passionate about.
Amber Riley Performs Beautiful Tribute To Naya Rivera On ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’
Whenever Amber Riley and Naya Rivera combined their insurmountable talents on the hit show Glee there was an almost tangible magic that left fans in awe of the powerhouse duo. Playing Mercedes Jones and Santana Lopez respectively, the two characters may not have always seen eye to eye but when they joined you knew you were in for a memorable performance. It is sad to think that we will never get another “River Deep, Mountain High” or “The Boy Is Mine” moment after Rivera’s passing last month but there is something special in knowing Riley will carry the torch for her fallen costar forever.
On Thursday night introduced by guest-host Lil Rel, Riley virtually appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to perform a new song from her EP entitled “A Moment” which was dedicated to Rivera. “Not too long ago we both lost a really amazing friend in a tragic accident and we both will miss her forever,” said Lil Rel. The performance is displayed in black and white and features Riley singing in front of a montage of photos of her former co-star. It is truly stunning.
Check out the tribute below.
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You Will Have Hearts In Your Eyes When You See Cardi B’s New Hair Do
Wait till you see her WAP (Wonderfully Artistic Pigtails)
Cardi B has never shied away from a bold look and her latest hair do is proof of that.
The 27-year-old “WAP” singer…song of the year IMO…took to Instagram Tuesday night to show off her pink, heart-shaped pigtails and people are loving the look. In the short video Cardi asks fans if they would “go to the club with your hair like this” and I think we can all agree that this look would definitely turn heads at the clurb.
The artistic hair do was crafted by Cardi’s long time longtime stylist Tokyo Stylez and took at least three hours to complete. Fans commented about how beautiful the unique hairstyle is but questioned how the rapper was going to sleep that night. Let’s hope those pigtails can be twisted off and be thrown on the nightstand.
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Check It Out, Joe Jonas Has Shocked His Fans With His New Look
I’m a sucker for his new do.
It doesn’t matter if you are more of a “Nick” or a “Kevin” or a “Joe” when it comes to loving the Jonas Brothers. All that matters is that you all agree with me that Joe is obviously the most attractive of the three brothers and that’s just a fact. I’m sorry but I don’t make the rules.
The 31-year old stunned fans today earlier today when he debuted a shocking new look on his Instagram. Sporting a black t-shirt and those signature dark, furry-Murray eyebrows, Joe flashed his new platinum blond buzzcut. I know I might be in the minority here but I do love when these Hollywood hotties switch it up and do the blond thing. I loved it on Adam Levine. I loved it on Zac Efron. I even found myself oddly drawn to the OG platinum stud, James Michael Tyler aka Gunther from Friends.
Perhaps the new do is a part of Joe’s daddy-makeover as he and his wife, Sophie Turner, recently welcomed their first child, Willa. A source told ET “Sophie and Joe have named their daughter Willa. The couple’s bond has gotten even stronger since the addition of their daughter. Although circumstances are different right now because of the [coronavirus] pandemic, Joe was there for the birth of his daughter. The couple is happy they now have time to spend at home with their daughter and get used to their new life together.”
Be still my heart.
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