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Interview with Christine Toy Johnson of "Iron
Netflix and "You" on Lifetime 10/19/18
This was a nice call. She was great
in "Iron Fist" as Mrs. Yang, the badass wife of the gang
boss. I'm sure she's great in all of the things she does.
What a busy lady! I enjoyed chatting with her. Here's
of the call, and below is the transcript:
Suzanne: So, you're in New York right now?
Christine: I'm actually in Seattle, Washington.
Suzanne: Oh, okay. Doing your play, right?
Christine: Yeah, right.
Suzanne: That's cool. I'm sure you must be very disappointed about Iron Fist being canceled?
Christine: I am. I am very disappointed. I think, you know, they did such a beautiful job with season two, but you never know in this business what's behind all the decisions.
Suzanne: Right. Yeah, I was very upset. I still am.
Christine: Yeah, yeah.
Suzanne: Have you heard anything at all about a possible pickup from another network?
Christine: I haven't heard anything, and there hasn't been any kind of buzz about that either, I mean except from the fans-
Christine: But I haven't heard a thing.
Suzanne: Well, I'll keep my fingers crossed.
Christine: Thank you. Yeah, me, too. Me, too.
Suzanne: Right, 'cause they probably could have done a lot more with your character in season three.
Christine: Yeah, I was hoping for that. You know, it was such a great joy to work on the show, and to see the character develop. And also working with that team of writers and that team of actors, things were always interesting and I never knew what to expect. So yeah, I was looking forward to more, as well.
Suzanne: Well, tell us about your character in the Lifetime Series, You.
Christine: You know, I am only in a couple of episodes in You, but I think it's such an interesting show. Have you had a chance to see it at all?
Suzanne: I haven't yet. I've heard a lot of good things about it.
Christine: Yeah. It's based on a novel, I'm not good at pronouncing the writer's name properly so I'm not going to say it. It's Caroline, and you spell the last name K-N-E-P-E-S, I believe. But actually the poetry teacher of the lead female character, who's played by Elizabeth Lail. So, I've only been in a couple of episodes but I've been watching it and I think it's ... like I said, I think it's really interesting because it's so character dependent. The actor who plays Joe, really the dark side of, I would say this, the dark side of passion and being really interested in somebody else's life.
And then, also how social media plays into how we can keep tabs on each other for better of worse, and all that kind of stuff.
Suzanne: Right. And can you explain the process you went through to get the role?
Christine: Well, just like everything else. Pretty much an audition for the role. Except for when I've auditioned for pilots, it's common experience not to receive any information other than the couple of scenes that they wanna see from you.
So, not even the full script or the full story line, or really that full of a character description, for both Iron Fist and You. Just very little information I was given, so it's our challenge to make some quick choices. And usually you have a day turn around in order to prepare the material, as well.
Christine: So that's, for both shows, I was called in by my agent through the casting director to audition for the part, and auditioned and got the offer. So it's really a quick process.
Suzanne: Right. So, have you gotten mostly positive feedback about the show, about you?
Christine: I have. I think that people are really surprised by you know ... It's, like I said, it's very surprising the twists because it's so dark. And the character of Joe is sort of such an antihero. So, I have heard a lot of really good response to that. People are really enjoying how unpredictable it is.
Suzanne: Right. And it's already been renewed for season two. Are you in season two?
Christine: Not that I know of. They're also are changing locations, so that follows the book that they will go to Los Angeles. So the first season was set in New York, and the second season, as the book does, goes to Los Angeles. So I imagine that they'll have a whole new set of supporting characters there.
Suzanne: Oh okay. Yeah, I guess our poetry teacher wouldn't follow [inaudible 00:04:45].
Christine: Right, exactly.
Suzanne: So, how is it going? You're in the musical Come From Away. How is it going so far?
Christine: It's fantastic. I just am so in love with this show and the company, we're traveling across North America. We just opened in Seattle last week and this is our first stop on the tour. It's early in the process, but we also rehearsed in New York for four weeks and then came to Washington State, to Yakima, for two weeks to tech the show and open in Seattle last week.
So, it's fantastic. Have you had a chance to see any rendition of the show before?
Suzanne: No, I haven't seen it. I've just read about it and what it was about and that kind of thing.
Christine: You know, tell your people what it's about. It is based on a collection of true stories that happened when the American air space was closed on 9/11, 2001. And 38 planes were diverted to this town in Canada, Gander, Newfoundland. So the town of Gander and the surrounding places around it opened their homes and their hearts to about 7,000 strangers for five days.
And so this musical is really inspired by the stories that came out of those five days, and really to me is about the healing power of kindness and compassion. And it's just such a beautiful message to share every night. And also to be able to tell the story, live through the story, and to share it with other people. So, I've really been enjoying it.
Suzanne: Oh, that's good. I remember seeing some excerpts from it on the Tony Awards a few years back.
Christine: Right, right. Yeah, so it's still playing on Broadway and this is the first national tour. So, it's the first time the rest of the country is getting to see ... Well, that's not completely true. The show was developed actually here in Seattle at Seattle Rep, and at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego and Washington D.C. before they went to Broadway.
But this is the first tour of the show that is traveling, working a lot of the west coast right now, but we will start inching closer to the east coast through the Midwest as the year progresses.
Suzanne: Well, great. Maybe some of my friends have seen it. I'm from San Diego, originally, so I still have a lot of friends there.
Christine: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Suzanne: I'll have to ask around. So how long do you stay in Seattle before you go on to the next city?
Christine: Well, we will have been here for four weeks, but we have another two and a half weeks left here, and we move on the Salt Lake City, the Denver for Thanksgiving, and Los Angeles through the end of the year. But Seattle, I've played here a few other times and I just love it here.
They gifted us with some beautiful, unusual weather. So the sun's been out-
Suzanne: That's good.
Christine: And yeah, it's Fall, but it's lovely here.
Suzanne: Oh, that's nice. And do you live in New York, mostly?
Christine: I do. I live in New York City. I grew up in the suburbs of New York City, so I consider myself a native New Yorker and I just love it there. I am missing my home, as well, but yeah, I love it there.
Suzanne: Did you grow up there? 'Cause you don't have any kind of a New York accent.
Christine: I did grow up in the suburbs. I think a lot of actors who grew up doing ... I've been a professional actor my entire adult life, so I started training even before high school. So, I think a lot of actors are conscious of non-regional accents from an early place in their training. So maybe that's why I don't have an accent.
Suzanne: Ah, yeah. So, I love James Earl Jones. What's he like to work with in this?
Christine: So, you know, this is James Earl Jones the Second. It's not the James Earl Jones that you might know.
Suzanne: Oh, okay. I didn't know that.
Christine: Although, our James Earl Jones the Second is fantastic. They are related. They are, I think they are cousins in some way, and they were both named after one of the patriarchs in the family.
So, it's a different James, but he is also fantastic, yeah.
Suzanne: Well, that's interesting. I didn't know that there was another James Earl Jones.
Christine: I didn't either until I met him, yeah, right.
Suzanne: I thought, "He's kinda old to be in a musical." I was very impressed, actually.
Christine: Yeah. I actually got to see James Earl Jones on stage, I think maybe two seasons ago in, oh now I can't think of the name of the play ... The Gin Game. It was Cicely Tyson. And he's still got his on stage mojo very much in place.
Suzanne: Oh good, good. Yeah.
Christine: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Suzanne: Any other projects coming up that you'd like to tell us about?
Christine: Well, I'm also a writer so a lot of times when I'm out of town, I'm spending my off time working on my writing. So that's fun. So, I have a few screenplays and musicals that are out in the world finding homes, so that's been a really great joy.
Suzanne: So you're work-
Christine: I haven't, yeah sorry.
Suzanne: So you're working on that right now, writing?
Christine: I'm working on writing a lot of things. A number of years ago, if anybody might be in Salt Lake City in early November, a number of years ago I made a documentary with my husband, Bruce Johnson, about the first non-Caucasian pro basketball player, a Japanese American guy named Wat Misaka from the 1947 Knicks.
And he's 94 years old now, and he lives in Salt Lake City and we're playing there, and so we're doing a screening of that documentary, a free screening at Weaver College where Wat went to school on November 7th.
So, if any of your listeners or your readers are in Salt Lake City on November 7th, come and see our fair.
Suzanne: Wow, that sounds like an interesting story.
Christine: Yeah, it really is interesting because he played basketball for the University of Utah in a time, the only time when the Utes actually won the NCAA and the NIT back in the '40s, in '44 and '47. And it was of course during World War II for the first championship, so he really went through a lot of the post World War II and the during World War II anti-Japanese sentiment. And somehow just really overcame that in his spirit. And the way sports is so universal and binds us together in so many great ways.
So, its a very interesting story to us in the ways that he overcame obstacles at that time.
Suzanne: Right. So I guess being a basketball player, being in at a college, he wasn't forced to go to one of the internment camps.
Christine: Right, well his family lived in Salt Lake City, so most of the families were interned came from the west coast. Hawaii and then all up and down the west coast. And so he wasn't interned, but one of his classmates was and was sponsored to study at the university. And we actually have footage in the film of Wat traveling to the Topaz internment camp to present a championship blanket to his classmate's family so that they could see it, and it's quite moving to see what it was like back then and what people were going through.
Suzanne: Right, right. Yeah. Okay, well I really appreciate you talking to me today.
Christine: My pleasure.
Suzanne: You're a busy person, I can tell.
Christine: Yeah. Yeah. But it's great to talk to you and I hope that you have a great day.
Suzanne: Thanks. You, too. Bye bye.
Christine: Okay, thank you. Bye bye.
Here is the transcript:
award winning actress, playwright, director and an advocate
for inclusion, Christine Toy
Johnson (FX’s “The Americans”) stars in the
highly-anticipated, sophomore season of Netflix’s hit Marvel
series “Iron Fist” in which she plays the role of
“Sherry Yang,” the wife of Hai-Qing Yang, leader of Yangsi
Gonshi – also known as the Hatchets. As the Hatchets went up
against the Hand in season one, Danny (Finn Jones) and
Hai-Qing are begrudging allies of sorts. However, when he’s
taken out of Davos (Sacha Dhawan), Sherry becomes more than
just a “mob wife,” stepping up to take his place and teams
up with Danny and Colleen (Jessica Henwick) for protection,
continuing the alliance in the face of a looming gang was.
Season 2 is currently available to view on Netflix.
In addition to her exciting new role on “Iron Fist,” Johnson
also appears on Lifetime’s new drama series “You”
which premiered on Sunday, September 9th.
Based on Caroline Kepnes’ follow-up novel to Hidden
Bodies, the series follows Joe Golberg (Penn Badgley), a
man willing to cross any line in pursuit of true love. The
new season will see him venture into even riskier, bolder
territory as his quest takes him across the country from New
York to Los Angeles and will now have to face the darkest
parts of his past as he tries to make a future for himself
and the woman he loves.
Johnson will also be returning to the stage for the national
tour of the award-winning musical COME FROM AWAY in
which she stars as ‘Diane.’ The highly-acclaimed show also
stars Kevin Carolan (Newsies) and James Earl Jones II
and will be launching their Northern American tour in
Seattle at the 5th Avenue Theatre in October 2018.
The musical tells the true story of 7,000 stranded
passengers and the small town in Newfoundland that welcomed
them. The show began performances on Broadway in February
2017, and official opened to critical acclaim on March 12th
at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in NYC.
Born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, Johnson
became a performer at an early age modeling for national
campaigns prior to getting her Equity card the summer she
graduated from high school when she played the role of
“Liat” in a production of South Pacific. She attended the
University of Southern California School of Music for Vocal
Performance and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and
much later from the Screenwriting Program at NYU. She made
her New York debut in the Autumn following her college
graduation as the leading lady of the Off-Broadway musical
Oh, Johnny. This led her to have a varied and extensive
stage career on and off-Broadway and in regional theaters
across the US, some of which included The Music Man,
Grease!, Flower Drum Song, Pacific Overtures, Falsettoland,
Bombay Dreams. Johnson is also a playwright and writer and
has had her screenplay “Jumping the Third Rail” win a Meryl
Streep/Iris Writers Lab fellowship in 2016 and prior to
that, her written work was included in the Library of
Congress Asian Pacific American Performing Arts Collection
in 2010. On the small screen, Johnson is highly recognized
for her recurring role on “The Americans” (as ‘Linh Gaad’)
and on “Law and Order: SVU” (‘as ‘Dr. Celia Lee’), the
pediatrician to Olivia Benson’s (Mariska Hargitay) son,
Noah. She’s also had significant guest roles on “30 Rock,”
“Bull,” “Mr. Robot,” “Madam Secretary, “Unbreakable Kimmy
Schmidt,” “Ugly Betty,” among many others.
As an avid anti-discrimination advocate and performer,
Johnson has been breaking the color barrier in
non-traditionally cast roles for over 30 years. Christine is
a member of the elected leaderships of both Actors’ Equity
Association and the Dramatists Guild of America and serves
as National Chair of both associations’ Diversity, Equity
and Inclusion Committees. She is a founding member of AAPAC
(Asian American Performers Action Coalition) and served on
the Board of the Tony honored Alliance for Inclusion in the
Arts for over fifteen years.
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