Interview with Amy Hill
Amy Hill is perhaps best known for her roles as Mrs. DePaulo in That’s So Raven, Mrs. Kwan in The Cat in the Hat, the Kylie Minogue-inspired singer, Penny Candy from The Puzzle Place, and the voice of Jasmine Lee (a.k.a. “Ah-Mah”) on The Life and Times of Juniper Lee.
Hill was born in Deadwood, South Dakota, to a Japanese mother and a Finnish American father. She became an acclaimed actress working with the famed Asian American Theater Company in San Francisco, California. Hill is also known in the theatre world as a respected performance artist, having written and performed a number of one-woman shows, including the trilogy of Tokyo Bound, Reunion, and Beside Myself.
Other film and television roles include the grandmother on Margaret Cho’s All American Girl, Kay Ohara on Maybe This Time co-starring with TV legend Betty White and former All American Girl co-star Ashley Johnson, Sue on 50 First Dates, an Eskimo on Night Court, Ms. Rangoon on Max Keeble’s Big Move, Jocelyn Davis in Big Fat Liar, Psychic Manna Lisa on an episode of Six Feet Under, Louisa Pate in an episode of Desperate Housewives, Kahn’s mother Laoma and Cotton’s Japanese war bride Michiko in King of the Hill, Judge Gu in an episode of The Sarah Silverman Program, Judge Eva Fwae Wun in Let’s Go To Prison, the nurse who assisted Dr. Rawls (Lou Rawls) on My Wife & Kids, and as the lesbian daughter of D. L. Hughley’s neighbor (played by Pat Morita) on The Hughleys.
It is a sincere pleasure to meet you, Amy. Thank you for this opportunity. To start can you tell us a little about how you became interested in acting?
Amy: I always used my imagination to make little performances in my room, which moved to my front porch for the neighbors. I started doing theater in high school where my drama teacher was incredibly supportive. After graduation, I moved to Tokyo and began working as a “talento” – with my own radio show and other projects.
You have worked in theatre, film and television. Do you prefer any one of them over another?
Amy: I would only do theater and classic 3(4)camera sitcoms, which are like little plays that you rehearse for a week and perform in front of a live audience. I prefer having that kind of interaction.
You are known for many television roles and appeared in what may be the only asian-american television show with Margaret Cho, “All American Girl”. How was the experience and do you think the situation for asian-americans in the mainstream media has gotten better since then?
Amy: I wish we could have another show like that. It was really remarkable and got so much criticism from the community for not being accurate. I’m sorry we weren’t given an opportunity to make it work. I think the network was skittish. I really think the presence of color is actually LESS than it was. Gone are shows starring people of color. They are relegated to cable, if at all.
Now your mother was Japanese, not Korean. Were you accepted by the Korean community?
Amy: Amazingly, the Korean community assumed I was Korean and embraced me even after learning I wasn’t. I hope it’s because I created a character that was fully developed. I found people of all backgrounds seemed to relate to grandma.
After “All American Girl” did you get more roles and what types of roles were you offered?
Amy: I was able to be a series regular on about 6 more shows following AAG. They varied from heavily accented immigrant women to a New York receptionist along side Sophia Vergara. I wonder whatever happened to her (sarcastically)?
I am very excited to see Quentin Lee’s “White Frog” which you appear with Margaret Cho, BD Wong, Joan Chen and Kelly Hu. Can you tell us a little about it?
Amy: Margaret had a schedule conflict so I actually did HER role. A psychiatrist that helps BooBoo Stewart’s character deal with his brother’s death.
Personally, one of the earliest roles I have seen you in was Wayne Wang’s, “Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart”. He has gone onto direct some amazing films including “The Joy Luck Club” and this years, “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.” What was the experience in acting in that movie like?
Amy: That was early in both our careers and I felt he was finding his way as was I. I remember his first direction to me was “don’t think anything”…which made me go crazy trying NOT TO THINK! I hope he’s learned to communicate better and I think I have learned to relax.
You also have done an immense amount of voice acting in shows like “American Dad”, “Lilo and Stitch”, “Kung-Fu Panda” and others. How do you enjoy voice acting?
Amy: I LOVE voice work. It’s much more creative and freeing than one would imagine. You voice first…and they animate to your voice – so much fun and so many fun people to work with.
You have a daughter, has she shown interest in what you do and would you encourage her to get into acting?
Amy: We just completed a short run at the Japanese American National Museum. “Lost and Found, Life as I (K)New it” is about our relationship and her being adopted from both her and my point of view.
She was brilliant. She’d like an agent but she’s going to have to wait….
What actors do you find inspiring, both presently and in the past?
Amy: I am inspired to actors that live a full life, onstage and off. One’s private life fills the life we create onstage.
Any advice you would like to give to young actors who may want to follow in your footsteps?
Amy: If this is your passion you will not stray from the path. However, there is no singular way to travel the journey. It can be short and simple or long and circuitous, but stay on it and you will be given gifts and learn much along the way