Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge caught up with actress Annalisa Cochrane for a fascinating chat about her recent projects and being part of the “Golden Age of Television”.
Q: YouTube premium show ‘Weird City’ comes out 13 February. How excited were you to be involved in such an exciting project with the likes of Jordan Peele, Michael Cera, Awkwafina and many other talented people involved?
A: I remember screaming way too loudly at a gas station when I got the call from my agents, so, suffice to say, I was very excited.
Since I was a child, I’ve loved science fiction and its commentary on an alternative tomorrow. And this show sure delves into the weird, wacky, highly comedic future. From the fashion choices to props to sets to cultural issues, I was and am continually awed by the world Charlie Sanders and Jordan Peele created. And of course, I was a huge fan of Key and Peele growing up, so it has been fascinating to see relevant cultural issues explored through this prism of sci-fi and comedy.
Q: ‘Weird City’ isn’t the first time you have been involved in a YouTube Red show. You played Yasmine in ‘Cobra Kai’, a show I’ve heard many wonderful things about. How do you reflect on the show and the response it has received?
A: In one word: crazy. Although Cobra Kai had a built-in audience due to the popularity of The Karate Kid, I don’t know if any of us expected the level of views, the fans, and critical acclaim. In a world where there’s so much competing for our attention, it’s crazy cool to be a part of a show that became this cultural zeitgeist.
Our writers/directors/showrunners are visionary, and I think it resonated with people because it’s not only this nostalgic piece but also a parable for today. The show showcases differing generational ideas, values, and ideologies through the teachings of the two dojos. It resonates because it invites us to look at the “opposing side” and try to balance and understand each other. I got into acting, because I wanted to tell stories that could shift viewpoints or just create more empathy in this world, and I really had no idea it could be so soon into my career to be a part of it.
This show has lasting power, and I’m thrilled to see where our writers take the conversation even in terms of my own ‘mean girl’ character, Yasmine. Bullies aren’t born bullies, there’s often something that made them that way, and I love exploring the opposite perspective because at the end of the day humanizing each other is the only way we can bridge understanding and trust.
Q: We recently spoke to the delightful Arden Belle about Snapchat original show ‘Kappa Crypto’. I think your talent really shines through in the series. Tell us about your experience playing ‘frenemy’ Rebecca and being part of this unique project?
A: Also what another cool experience full of genuinely great people. And thank you!
Rebecca was another devilishly fun character to bring to life. Her relationship with Maddie (the immensely talented Riley Dandy) falls into the type of female friendship we see often on screen: competitive and jealous. However, I think this show transcends that stereotype as our writer, Katherine Craft, gave each character a three-dimensional feeling even within the constraints of a five-minute episode.
This was my first experience with a short-form series, and I loved it! There’s so much freedom in storytelling today without structured times and ad breaks. Reading each five-minute episode and putting together a full world and story was seemingly effortlessly done. Also, the technical nerd in me found the vertical framing of the show while filming fascinating. You can tell such different types of stories then we’ve ever seen in the vertical space and short time limit.
Entertainment is truly changing, and it’s cool to work on some of these new, cutting-edge projects changing the landscape of series today.
Q: If you had to pick four other actors to be part of your ‘dream fraternity’, who would they be and why?
A: Oh, what a great question! Okay, I think I’d go with Tilda Swinton as she’s riveting, and seems like a genuinely cool person. Bryan Cranston to add some fun, adventure, and chilling danger. Tatiana Maslany because that woman can act, and I’d love to watch her technically work. And of course, Jake Gyllenhaal for changing it up on us left and right.
Q: You alluded to it earlier, but it must be an exciting time for young actors like yourself to see YouTube, Snapchat, Netflix and many other services making their own content. What do you make of the current landscape and what type of projects excite you creatively?
A: I truly stepped into this industry at an opportune time – the beginning of the modern “Golden Age of Television.” I remember my first experience binging shows with friends such as Lost and Breaking Bad on Netflix not yet being able to grasp the cultural significance and shift that was about to take place. It’s tremendously exciting – the amount of opportunity in types of roles and projects.
And yet even as television continues to boom, I look forward to being a part of what independent films and creators are bringing to the conversation by giving a voice to the voiceless. Storytelling is an ancient practice, and I love how film is the intersection of almost all art forms: visual, auditory, even sensory with their interactive experiences.
That’s why it’s amazing that there’s a platform for anyone to contribute and create, and even more, there are avenues to get your stuff in front of an audience hungry for more and more content. That’s another thing that’s exciting about being in this industry, there are limitless possibilities when it comes to creating and contributing my voice.
Q: You also had a role in the recent TV adaptation of Michael Lehmann’s 1988 Film ‘Heathers’. How much fun did you have playing Shelby and helping put a fresh spin on this story?
A: Every show that I’ve been on has been a remarkable experience, but this one, in particular, stands out. It’s had a rocky journey to television, but this satirical piece is one of the most creative and outrageous examples of storytelling today. Not only did it have me amazed at every episode, every costume, every crazy detail, but it gave me a community of like-minded people who I call some of my best friends today.
Shelby was a delight to play. It was interesting to see where the writers took her throughout the season as she transformed from the seriously uncool cheerleader in the pilot to the confident, wild girl she became.
Q: If you could star in the remake of any ‘retro’ film, what would you choose and which character would you play?
A: I would have to say Blade Runner. I watched and analyzed that film for a Film Studies class in college, and I was awestruck. It was so many things: a noir film, an arthouse film, a futuristic film, with these deep, philosophical ideas about our world and our future.
Suffice to say, it’s one of my favorites. Of course, I would love to be a female Rick Deckard hunting replicants even as I question my own existence. However, I thought Dennis Villeneuve’s dive into that world was a masterpiece, so I’m going to go with a classic that probably shouldn’t be remade, The Princess Bride. Of course, if it is remade, give me the female version of swashbuckling Wesley all day any day.
Q: I noticed you are not afraid to talk about politics and issues such as climate change on social media. Is that one of your biggest passions away from the camera?
A: Definitely. I’ve often been hesitant to contribute my thoughts and opinions into the black hole of the internet, but I’m learning to overcome that and stand up for what I believe in. I don’t have any interest in being a mindless consumer, I want to express what’s important to me, to inspire to encourage, to connect.
I used to have this negative view of social media, but I’m trying to overcome that, to look at the good it can do and the platform it can be. Our world is changing rapidly, and it’s my generation’s responsibility to speak up and speak out to help save this planet.
Another issue close to my heart is the plight of those living in poverty and, more importantly, the empowerment of education for those communities. I grew up in Pune, India for over ten years, where I was confronted every day by the harsh realities of third-world poverty. Where clean water, hygiene, and a roof over one’s head is more than our world, with all its accelerated technological and social growth, can give people.
As I go forward, I’m excited to bring light to these issues as I find ways to highlight these topics through the medium of film.
Q: What are your hopes and ambitions for 2019?
A: 2019 is my year to continue learning, creating, and not being afraid to share that with the world.
I’ve been set on being an actor since I was eight, and only recently have I given myself the freedom to explore my other passions in writing and directing. So this year is about realizing some of those projects even while I hope to continue being apart of acting projects that inspire and push me. I have a feeling 2019’s going to be a good one!
Title photo by Paul Smith