Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge caught up with actress Lydia Zhou to chat about her upcoming projects, the ups and downs of acting, memories of starring in a hugely popular YouTube short film, and much more.
Q: I hear you recently booked a role in a feature film. Can you reveal anything about it or your role yet?
A: I can’t reveal too much about it, but I can say that it was one of my favorite projects I’ve done. It holds a special place in my heart because of how much I could relate to my character and playing her has been a phenomenal experience.
Q: You are still fresh to the industry. How are you dealing with the ups and downs of auditions and life as an actor?
A: There is definitely a lot of rejection and self-doubt, but I use this as a way to keep pushing forward and not giving up. I would also get nervous a lot in the audition room, but the more auditions I went to the more confident I felt. I feel like auditions are the most tricky part of acting, because of how much pressure we put into it. I learned you need to let go of that and just perform.
The best part is being on set, where you can really become your character and enjoy the ride.
Q: I recently spoke to Kate Buatti about ‘Milk And Cookies: Walter’s Revenge’ – a short film you also starred in that now has over 2.8 million views on YouTube. How special was it to be part of this project?
A: It was so incredibly special. I knew from the first day of shooting that this project was going to be a hit, I could feel it. I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to be apart of such a talented cast and crew. Especially working with other actors around the same age as me, we were able to relate on so many different levels. It’s crazy how many people from all over the world have seen it, it makes me so happy reading the comments and feedback that people enjoyed it.
Q: Kate mentioned what a wonderful bonding experience it was for you all. What is your standout memory from working on the short?
A: One memory I have specifically was seeing the monster, Walter for the very first time. We were actually rolling on tape and didn’t know he was there so it was our genuine reaction when we saw him for the first time. It was hilarious seeing him after the cut, in which he was an actual person and not a monster. He was actually so kind and friendly, not evil in any way. The cast seeing that switch of monster vs genuine human was amusing.
Q: You are involved in two short films this year, ‘Ordinary, Extra’ and ‘Mother Tongue’. Can you tell us about your experiences on these two projects?
A: Yes of course! Ordinary, Extra was a project where played Mika, a girl who had a super speed superpower. I loved playing this fictional character because growing up I was obsessed with superhero films and would dream of getting to play one someday. I also got the chance to see myself on screen with digital effects, which was awesome.
Mother Tongue was a project about a Chinese family, in which I play the daughter. I stayed with a homestay family in America to get a better education but I am conflicted with my identity as Chinese or American. I got to meet an extremely talented actress, Diana Lin, who played my mother. She was actually in a recent film that came out called The Farewell, with Awkwafina. She really helped me connect with my character and explore the relationship between mother and daughter.
Q: When did you first get the acting bug?
A: When I was about 9 or 10. I loved being the center of attention, so naturally, my parents signed me up for theater. I did theater all my life, but I got into film acting more when I was a teen. I started more watching films/TV. The actors on screen both inspired and influenced me immensely growing up and I wanted to do the same for others. I think the idea of creating this universe where anything could happen is magical.
Q: Do you have any reservations about heading into the industry? What are the biggest concerns for a young actor like yourself?
A: I think the industry can be tough sometimes, but in the end, it is all worth it. Hard work and preparation equals success. It’s the process of determination that makes everything you do pay off.
I think one of the biggest concerns I have is balancing acting and school. Personally, it is quite challenging but education is equally as important, even though the school might not be as fun as acting. It also teaches me time management and self-discipline.
Q: How do you spend your time away from acting?
A: I love to dance and cheer. I have been dancing all my life, specifically ballet. I am super meticulous, I feel as Ballet is exactly that. The gracefulness and perfection are what draws me to it. It may look easy, but it actually takes a lot of effort.
I also am a cheerleader at my school. I am a flyer, so I usually get thrown into the air. But mainly I love it because I get to show my school spirit and motivation for my football team.
Q: What kind of roles would you love to take on in the future?
A: I think I would love to take on more complex characters, ones with more layers. I am always eager to break the character down and find out what they want and their goals. I would also like to play more characters that are out of my comfort zone, that would be fascinating.
Q: What is next for you? Any ambitions or plans to share with us?
A: There will be a lot coming soon. I am excited about new opportunities and chances to work harder at my craft in the future. For now, I am ready to take on my goals one by one and then reach for the stars.