Tamlyn Tomita is one busy woman. Not only is she starring in ABC’s surprise hit The Good Doctor, but she is also in the next season of Amazon hit series Man in the High Castle that will be returning sometime in winter 2018. Shhh…. It’s a secret…
Tomita was born on a military base in Okinawa but quickly moved to the San Fernando Valley after her dad left the army. Her mother is from the Philippines, and her dad is a second generation Japanese American, who was sadly interred at Manzanar when he was six years old. After the army, he became an incredibly successful police officer in Southern California.
After winning the titles of Queen at the Nisei Week Pageant in Los Angeles in 1984 and Miss Nikkei International in 1985, Tomita learned of an audition opportunity to be in The Karate Kid Part II. While she originally had aspirations to become a historian, but after landing the coveted role of Kumiko, the acting bug caught her and she has been working steadily ever since.
She has been in multiple films including Come See the Paradise (1990), The Joy Luck Club (1993), Picture Bride (1994), Four Rooms (1995), Robot Stories (2003), The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and Gaijin 2: Love Me as I Am (2005).
She also appeared in many TV series including Quantum Leap, 24, Glee, Teen Wolf and How to Get Away with Murder, Berlin Station and in this year joined the diverse and talented cast of The Good Doctor.
Something to know about Tomita is that she is one of the most gracious people on the planet. She is the antithesis of a cynic and has a sense of humility and wonder about her which makes her an absolutely lovely human being. She is as kind and smart as she is beautiful, and that’s saying something.
Her diction is perfect and you just want her to read to you.
She is reminiscent of the lyrics in Sheryl Crow’s hit song “Soak Up the Sun,” as she has what she wants, and likes what she’s got.
Tamlyn Tomita spoke with Michelle Tompkins for TheCelebrityCafe.com about her early life and career, what she loves about filming two hit shows simultaneously in Vancouver, what makes The Good Doctor so special, how the cast really feels about each other, what she likes to do for fun, and as a special treat, readers get to experience a mutual fangirl moment involving a lively discussion on the possible come back film of Donald P. Bellisario hit series Quantum Leap.
Michelle Tompkins: I’ve been a fan of yours for a very long time.
Tamlyn Tomita: Oh, that’s very kind of you.
MT: I really have been. I even recently saw you on an episode of Quantum Leap.
TT: Oh my God. That was so long ago. I loved that. That was great fun working on that. Thank you for bringing back some really great memories.
MT: You were born in Okinawa, correct?
TT: Correct. I was born in Okinawa, but on a U.S. Army base. And my father is Japanese-American which means that he is second generation, but my mom was born in the Philippines and raised in Okinawa. So, how do you know where you are generationally from? I can claim all three legitimately, but I like to say that I am third generation American.
MT: When did you go back to the States?
TT: As soon as I was born as my father was discharged from the U.S. Army and so he brought my mother and newborn baby girl to the San Fernando Valley.
MT: Do you have brothers and sisters?
TT: Yes. I have two younger brothers.
MT: How did you get your name?
TT: My name is a conjugation of Tammy and the Bachelor, one of my mom’s favorite Debbie Reynolds movies and Marilyn Monroe, one of my dad’s faves – I later find that it’s a Scottish/Welsh male name spelled Tamlin and is a well-known fairy tale about a Scotsman bewitched by a forest fairy…so lots loaded into my name…
Growing up in the Philippines and Okinawa, my mom ADORED Debbie Reynolds and thought she was what every American girl would be like and wanted to pass that wish along to her daughter…but, I didn’t inherit my mom and dad’s singing and dancing skills.
MT: What? So, no plans to record another album?
TT: Hahaha! If you heard the 1st one, you wouldn’t be asking that question-I am not being modest, I have absolutely no art or skill of singing: I gave purely an indulgent and sophomoric ‘yes’ to a Japanese company who wanted to capitalize on my notoriety off of Karate Kid II – I sing brilliantly in the shower, but absolutely had no business singing.
MT: Okay. Now, what did your family do when they went back to States?
TT: My mother was a domestic homemaker her whole life. Very, very lucky and I think that’s why us kids are so grateful, to have a mother who was at home. But my father was a Los Angeles police officer who founded the Asian task force, the first in the United States in the 1970s.
MT: You mean the task force comprised of—
TT: Bilingual Asian-American police officers, who were assisting the LAPD in their various Asian-American communities in Los Angeles.
MT: And I read that your dad was interred at Manzanar. Did he tell you stories about that?
MT: Yes, actually. He was the fifth of six children, but he was 6 years old? No, let me go back. I’m sorry. Yeah, no. 6 years old. 6 years old when the internment happened, but he was the– again, five of six, so he had one younger brother, but he had four older brothers and an older sister who have better memories than he did and the whole family told the younger daughters and sons of the family stories of growing up in Manzanar, and they were very, very poignant. But the fact is that we wouldn’t have found out about Manzanar except in our story-telling because it was really never told in the American history books when we attended school. So we were very, very lucky to have that part of history told.
MT: I know a couple people whose families were interned but I was always surprised that you didn’t read about it more.
TT: Yeah. Well it’s a shameful piece of history and I think—I don’t mean to be political or sobering or anything— but I think America, the United States, we still have to deal with the issue of our original sin, which was slavery. And I think we’re seeing the ramifications, the consequences, of not really facing the truth as to what we as a nation struggled towards. You know, struggled with and are still struggling and rectifying. The issue of slavery. And we’re still working towards a resolution and a realization that we have to own up to both sides of our history, and internment is a part of that.
MT: And your dad still felt compelled to serve. He served in the Army and also was a successful police officer.
TT: Exactly. Because it’s by his individual nature, alongside many other people of Japanese-American descent, and people who have faced discrimination. It’s like they have to prove themselves. They have to prove themselves better, to prove their worth, to prove their quality, to prove their standing as a United States citizen. And I don’t think my dad’s case was all that unique, but it’s special to me because he’s my dad [laughter].
MT: That makes him special. It does. But it’s good to have that base of love of country, even with something bad that happens.
TT: Exactly. Exactly. We know that there were so many Japanese American soldiers in World War II who were fighting in Europe despite the fact that their families, their parents were back home in American prison camps. It’s savagely ironic that between themselves and the African-American soldiers, who were also segregated and didn’t see the fruition of the work the culminated in the Civil Rights Act until the ’60s, that these American heroes and their stories are not well known; and the fact that the 442nd/100th became the most decorated unit in U.S. history.
MT: Now, which languages do you speak?
TT: So, I speak a little Japanese. My accent is okay, but my vocabulary really pretty much sucks because I talk like a child [laughter]. And mother, she’s the one who’s gifted with language. She can speak Japanese, of course, Tagalog, which is a Filipino dialect, Spanish as well as English. And I speak a little bit Japanese because I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside Japanese people. And a little bit of German, a little bit of Portuguese because of work. A little bit of French because of work. But then, if you asked me to carry-on an everyday conversation, I would fail miserably [laughter].
MT: But enough to get by and point out where the bathroom is probably.
TT: Exactly. How much it costs and where the bathroom is. Yes. Important questions.
MT: Now did you always want to be an actor?
TT: An actor? No. No, no, no, no. I wanted to become a history teacher and that’s when I fell into the lucky circumstances of auditioning for Karate Kid II. And at that time, everybody was asking me, “Are you going to stay in the business,” and I go, “No. I’m going to become a history teacher.” But what I had found after the success of Karate Kid II is that an actor basically needs to— a primary requirement on my part as how I view as actor is you have to create a background, you have to create a history of that character and place her into the script that you’re reading and carry on forward because you don’t know how the future unfolds. This is what storytelling is you place a certain set of circumstances with a certain set of characters and you see what unfolds after an event happens. And history is basically really looking back and finding out what happened to an individual, a community, a family, a group in a certain event. And so that’s why I go, “Wow. That’s what acting really is. You find out the background, you get the joy of creating a fictional history of a fictional character and you get to tell a story.” So I felt that acting is making history come alive and it became my mode of trying to figure out what this craft of acting is really all about.
MT: Now you went from being a beauty queen to landing the part in Karate Kid II, how did that happen?
TT: The Nisei Week Japanese Festival in Los Angeles, which takes place in the summer. In 1985, the casting director for Karate Kid II in Los Angeles put out a call and the Nisei Week Japanese Festival responded by communicating this audition, this exciting opportunity. And a former queen by the name of Helen Funai, who is an actor, dancer, submitted me along with a bunch of other Nisei Week girls to go in and audition for this Karate Kid movie. So not only was I submitted, but many other Japanese-American and other Asian-American women from our community. And being involved in the Japanese Festival and being the spokesperson on behalf of representing the Japanese American community in Los Angeles really helped a lot because you really have to speak as a public face and that was my opportunity to really showcase what it meant to be Japanese American. I think that helped a lot of us in auditioning for Karate Kid II.
MT: Were you surprised at how successful the film was?
TT: Oh, my God, yes, of course, of course. I was a fan of the original Karate Kid and to go into Karate Kid II was like, “What, are you kidding me?” And I’m still shocked and amazed at that opportunity and I’m so still grateful because me, and Ralph, and Yuji, and all the folks who are associated with that film are still recognized for being those characters. So I’m really still grateful and happy to say that was my great experience.
MT: Now, do you remember what you did to celebrate after you got the part?
TT: I think I cried like a baby, first of all. And I really didn’t have time to think because I think they put me in costumes, they put me with an acting coach, they put me in dance lessons as to how to dance in the film. And I think my family and I, we just all celebrated with a big dinner together, I think at Benihana.
MT: Oh, I love Benihana.
TT: Yeah. Because remember the ’80s, Benihana was huge. And it was just a really joyous occasion, and boisterous, and it really was a great, happy memory.
MT: Something that I’ve noticed that’s impressive about your resume is that there doesn’t seem to be much time between projects. There’s a little thing here, a little thing there, an independent movie, all these TV shows. It seems like once you’ve started working, you never really stopped.
TT: Correct. I happen to be one of those lucky people who says that she’s a working actor. And to always be working is very fulfilling and I’m just lucky because the opportunities just came up. And as an Asian American female actor, the opportunities have been furthering, have been widening all across the years. And I can say that there are many young people who see that the opportunities are expanding, as well as you can make it yourself. It’s a do-it-yourself kind of era with these pieces and bits of technology called iPhones. You can film your own stuff and throw it up on YouTube, I think is just a fantastic novelty and opportunity for young actors, young filmmakers to learn and hone their craft.
MT: And since you just mentioned the word luck, we’ve got to go into talking about Waverly from The Joy Luck Club. Tell me about the experience, please?
TT: Yeah. The Joy Luck Club was, again— Oh, my God, we just celebrated. There was a reunion just this past weekend. But, unfortunately, I’m here in Vancouver filming and Ming-Na and Rosalind Chao, and Lauren Tom, and Kieu Chinh, and France Nuyen, and Lucille Soong, and Elizabeth Sung all got together.
MT: Oh, wow.
TT: Yeah. They got together, I think at the Culver City, California ArcLight theaters and they celebrated a 25-year reunion of Joy Luck Club. So I was really really sad that I couldn’t fly down to make it. But it looked like they had a lot of fun and the Q&A session was raucous because all those women are raucous and they’re very vocal and passionate about The Joy Luck Club.
MT: Well, how did you get the part?
TT: Oh, that was a long audition process. And what was strange about that one was they, of course, Joy Luck Club was auditioning all kinds of Asian American actors and it was a process of trying to whittle down with the right combination of actors who were playing the daughters versus the actors who were playing the mothers and the chemistry between them. So it was a multi-part audition process that all of us would have to be brought in. And next up, like a bunch of Lucky Charms in a cereal bowl, and say, “Which ones match?” And I was so flabbergasted that I got to play Waverly. And you see what the result was in the film. The audition process was harrowing. Not harrowing, because that makes it sounds like it was just so difficult. But it was just so fun and I wouldn’t want to be in the directors’ or the producers’ shoes because there was such a great pool of Asian American actresses and a lot of us are friends. And just to say, “Good luck. Thank you. Good luck to you,” it was just a really fun process to be thrown in.
MT: I thought Waverly and Lindo had a very good mom-daughter thing.
TT: Yeah. Yeah. Tsai Chin was fantastic and was such an honor to work with. And such a role model for us actors, being a Chinese British actress, coming to America with her success. Because of her stories, because of her experience, we were able to broaden our understanding of what it means to be an actress in this business.
MT: Did you ever get any grief playing a Chinese American woman when you’re Japanese American?
TT: Well, we had discussions at that time but Wayne, and Amy, and Ron Bass, as well as our group of actors, we would discuss it because being Japanese American really does feed into my personality as Tamilyn Tomita. But as the character Waverly, we know that she’s Chinese American but the emphasis that we need to place it on is that she’s an American of Chinese descent. So growing up as the American next door who happens to look like this was probably the way that she grew up. That’s why she rejects her mother, Lindo, ‘Oh, my God, you’re just such a Chinese Chinese mother.’ And that was the emphasis that we had to place on it is that I have to reflect back as growing up as a young 20-something, how did I look at my mother growing up? Yeah. I really did look at her as less than because she couldn’t speak English as well as all the other mothers in my neighborhood or mothers at my school. And then I grew into respecting her because I found out my own mother’s stories in coming to America, and growing up in Japan and the Philippines. And I translated that kind of experience to what Waverly is—her battles and her growing understanding of her own mother. And so being an ethnic American carried on into playing Waverly, but being Japanese American versus Chinese American didn’t really play into it as much.
But as soon as the film came out, they say, “Well, what are you doing as a Japanese American playing a Chinese American?” Well, first of all, we’re all American and we get to straddle the cultures that we come from and that was most important. And my sisters in The Joy Luck Club backed me up all the way. And we have to also remember that Kieu Chinh is a Vietnamese American, as well as France Nuyen. Actually, she’s Vietnamese French, so coming from various backgrounds, but really emphasizing that we are mothers and daughters first with the focus on portraying our roles more personally, more correctly.
MT: Now, do you have a favorite anecdote from behind the scenes of the movie?
TT: I think everybody’s go-to phrase was, “Waverly ahh,” how Lindo would answer the phone when Waverly would call. And it’s a Chinese affectation. You go, “Waverly ahh,” it just means, “Hello, Waverly,” it’s just backwards. And so it just sounded so funny and with the delivery that Tsai Chin was able to say it with, everybody just found it so amusing, so imperial sounding, just like a mother talking down to her daughter that we all found it really, really fun and it united us in that very familiar tone that mothers use with their kids. How we speak, “Oh, Michelle. Oh, Tamlyn,” that’s how mothers speak to their kids.
MT: It is.
TT: Yeah, it became that universal call for The Joy Luck Club.
MT: Now, you do a lot of independent and short films. What draws you to them?
TT: I love independent films because I love to help, I love to assist, I love to pass along knowledge or experience to young filmmakers because usually, that’s what they are. They’re young filmmakers who are trying to either just simply tell their stories or trying to break into show business, and this is their calling card. But either way, I just really respect young filmmakers who are trying to tell a story that means something to them. It’s like, why do we tell stories? It’s because we want to connect to people, we want to tell them who we are, we want to tell them a story that affects us, that impacts us. And to help a young filmmaker doing a short or independent film is my testament, I think, is my desire to really make sure that our younger generations get passed along all the elders’ experience and to literally have the image— to literally carry them on their shoulders and say, ‘This is what the world is. This is how the world operates. Let me show you how.’
MT: How did you choose which ones you’ll participate in? Do they approach you via an agent? Or directly?
TT: Yeah, they approach me via an agent. They sometimes they find friends through friends who connect me. But it’s always, always, always the strength of the story and what are you trying to say. Is it by their hearts? Is it by their passion? I usually try to connect with them over the phone so I can hear them and just pick their brain as to why they want to tell the story. And usually, I’m on board. I go, “Yeah, I’d love to help. And I just need to know why you want to do this,’ and it’s usually an easy process because a filmmaker usually reveals his or her heart in telling the story. And that’s why I’m pretty much of a softy when it comes to helping along the young ones along the way.
MT: Now, can you please tell me a little bit about The Good Doctor for who have not seen in before and are missing out if they haven’t seen it?
TT: The Good Doctor is really focused on the young Freddie Highmore who portrays doctor Shawn Murphy a young surgical resident who has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum who has autism spectrum disorder as well as Savant syndrome so he has autism but he’s also survived trying to navigate the world of being a surgeon, a young surgeon in a working and teaching hospital teaching hospital and learning how to communicate better with the social skills that he has and that he is going to be learning and loving and living alongside a young team of other surgical residents as well as a team of experienced and learned doctors. So we carry on the journey of how it means to be different in a world that deals with life and death every day and it hopefully will entice people to continue watching and interested because of Daniel Dae Kim and David Shore we’re really in very great good hands.
MT: Well, can you please tell me about your character in The Good Doctor?
TT: I am Allegra Aoki, the chairman of the board meaning that I am responsible for all the monies coming into San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital. So I have to really navigate the world of finances and to weigh the pros and cons of all side of issues and circumstances that come up in a working hospital. And she has to be very calm, she has to be very persistent and she has to weigh in the pros and cons, again like what I said pros and cons of dealing with the ins and outs as a prestigious teaching hospital.
MT: Did you know it would be a hit when you first read it?
TT: No, no, no. We are totally blown away and the cast, whenever we can we get together to watch the film because we’re all still filming the show up here in Vancouver and to watch the show together, we’re just so surprised. Even though we get the script and we know what we did and we worked the scenes just as you can see how all these pieces are put together is so wonderfully surprising, it’s so emotionally touching because we’re lucky that we got to work on the scene together, but to watch it and experience it as an audience together is quite special.
And when we see the numbers the next day, it’s just us industry people, ‘Did you see the numbers on that show?’ It sounds silly, right? But we’re just amazed when we see the variety of deadline or Hollywood reporters saying The Good Doctor is just beyond ABC’s expectation and that it’s the number one show, we don’t think about it because we don’t want to get our heads too big, but we’re just going, ‘Wow, I guess it really does pay off to really believe in something and love something and to be alongside such kind, and good-hearted and gifted people.’ So we know we’re blessed, we just didn’t know that we’re so successful, we’re just trying to work with our hearts as well as our annoyance here.
MT: Oh, what thing impressive about it is that it seems one of the most diverse, culturally and racially, casts on television.
TT: Yes, we see ourselves and go, ‘Wow, we’re pretty good looking, diverse group of people here.’ And those are other issues that are going to come up, I’m sure, because we’re in this conversation now as a nation and because we’re dealing with Doctor Shawn Murphy who has autism and Savant syndrome, but we’re also going to have to deal with a Latino head surgeon, an African American head surgeon, an Asian American chairman of the board. So these are issues that are there but we’re already there because our face is up and so hopefully they’ll provoke conversations and thoughts that we’re just normal people, we’re just people who are going to be on your TV screens and we hopefully will provide stories with listening and learning from.
MT: And also probably get people a little bit more empathetic for people who are different in general, especially those with autism.
TT: Exactly. That’s the conversation starter, that’s the conversation starter. In fact, when we as neuro-typical people encounter a person with autism spectrum syndrome who’s always been that way it is that we have to adjust. Just because we can read people with autism correctly, whatever that word is why do we always default to saying, ‘Well, that kid is not normal?’ What is normal? This kid is gifted and he brought into the idea of what it means to be on a human behavior spectrum. He has his odd idiosyncrasies, he doesn’t like to handshake people but he’s also able to diagnose people beyond what is normal. So he broadens what we think of that entire spectrum and human behavior. And when we see week to week what Doctor Murphy and the other surgeons and doctors at the hospital deal with we’ll get to understand is that we get to change together and then he becomes as we think normal is.
MT: On a recent episode I really liked it that his colleagues took him out for a beer and he didn’t really know what to do, but they invited him and he went.
MT: People went out of their comfort zone to invite him and he went out of his comfort zone to accept. It was a two-way street.
TT: We’ve got to learn from each other. We have to put ourselves out there, we want to pull the other up because we want/should pull the other line up as we all have strengths and weaknesses and together we make a stronger group, family, community, world. And so it becomes a beautiful idea that can be practiced in that dealing with a person with autism can be…It’s just different. It’s not weird.
We get to learn from him because he’s going to be a fellow surgeon. He’s a friend. He’s a comrade. He’s a partner on my team. So we get to learn with him and from him.
MT: I hope it continues to do well. It’s my favorite new show of the season.
TT: Oh, thank you. Wow, that’s huge. Thank you so very much. I mean we’re really beyond thrilled and we’re really humbled because we’re just trying to do something again with heart and with meaning. We don’t mean to preach from a pulpit. We’re just trying to be real humans and be real people. And to just learn and make mistakes and triumph together. And we’re really humbled that the stories and the messages and the characters are being embraced by the public.
MT: And the cast really gets along. That’s wonderful to hear.
TT: Yeah, we really do dig each other. We hang out on sets. We hang out off set if we’re not too tired because filming takes a long time, especially during the surgical sequences. So our days tend to be long. But on the weekends, we’re in this wonderful city called Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada where we’re exploring the city together. So we have three British people, Freddie, Antonia, and Chukuma. They’re from England. And so they are in awe about all the foliage, all the maple leaves that are turning scarlet red, orange, gold here. And Nick is from Texas. I’m from Los Angeles. We’re experiencing fall weather. It’s like, ‘what is this?’ The trees here are turning color. That’s so strange. And then Hill and Richard being from New York, they just feel very very home at here because they’re actually witnessing the season change. So we’re really in all this together.
MT: But for the rest of you, it’s like what? There are seasons in the world. Wow!
TT: Exactly. Yeah. What is this water falling from the sky? For me, it’s like why is the water falling from—? It’s rain. It’s often raining here that’s why it’s so green. And you go, ah. So yeah. We make fun of each other and we’re really— I’m so delighted to be working alongside such good-hearted people.
MT: Now, what’s something you haven’t done yet professionally but want to try?
Well, I was just reading an article about a friend, Tessa Thompson who’s been kicking ass as Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok. I was just reading an article that she pitched an idea to Marvel about an all-female Marvel superhero movie. And I said, ‘that sounds so cool’ because remember the other Marvel superheroes, which ones are females and putting them all together as an all-female superhero movie. It’d be cool. So superhero is up there. But I’m definitely afraid of doing comedy. So those two things.
I’ve never been funny. I don’t think I’m funny. People say I’m funny. I go, ‘No. No. I’m not.’ But again, knowing what it means to film on a TV show and on film, you have to repeat, repeat, repeat. You have to do the same thing a number of times if you’re filming a sequence. And to carry that energy in a comedic mode, would be a challenge that I really would frightfully scared, but I’d have to buck up and pull up my bootstraps and say, ‘I can do this. Let’s figure it out.’ So. Yeah. Superhero comic, maybe that’s what I should be.
Michelle Tompkins: I would definitely seek you out if you were in a comedy. I think you’d do well in anything you want to do.
TT: Thank you. Thank you so much.
MT: Do you have any interest in theater?
TT: I get to do IF and WHEN it doesn’t conflict with the better-paying roles of television and film, which is a truth that can be harsh. But to be honest, I am not theatre-trained and though I am confident in my skill set, to do theatre requires a better-tuned set of muscles and I sometimes defer to actors who are better trained. But at the times I do want a shot, I’ll go for it, especially if the piece speaks to me and the opportunity comes up. The immediate response from a theatre audience is so thrilling, affirming, and soul-feeding; to know how you’ve affected an audience at curtain can be ego-blowing, both good and bad.
MT: Now, when you’re not working, what do you like to do for fun?
TT: Well, because I’m in the different city and I have the privilege of living up here, I brought my bike up here. So I am biking around like I haven’t biked around since I was 12, 13, 14 years old, so I feel like a kid. And remembering all my bike signals with your left hand when you’re turning left, or turning right, or stopping. So I feel really young again in getting on a bike. So right now, I’m specifically working here on Good Doctor, I’m exploring Vancouver and I have the water right in my backyard. The mountains are just an ocean away, but we can see them. And exploring what it means to be Canadian. The uber polite people who are the neighbors to our north and how we can be so different and yet so the same because Canadians are supremely polite. They’re kind and they’re just so welcoming to a bunch of American and British artists here filming their show.
MT: You “bet ya” they are. I’ve never met a rude Canadian.
TT: Yeah. “You bet ya, eh?”
MT: “Yeah. Eh [laughter]?”
TT: Yeah. They’re are all about making you feel at home. It’s been a real joy. It’s been a real joy.
MT: Now, when you’re not filming, do you live in Los Angeles?
TT: Yes. So I’m from the Valley, I live in the Valley. I’ll always live in the Valley because that’s my home and—but at home, I have three cats alongside my love and we’re just very, very boring domestic home-bodies that like to snuggle up with the kitties.
MT: What are the cats’ names?
TT: The cat’s names are Umami, Gumbo, and Kuuipo, which means ‘sweetheart’ in Hawaiian. So they’re all heavy on U’s, on the vowel U.
MT: Oh, that’s funny. I love Umami for a cat. That’s something you want to sink into.
TT: Yeah. Yeah. Umami, Gumbo, and Kuuipo.
MT: Now, is there any charity work or charities that you follow that you wish to mention?
TT: Well, with specifically to Good Doctor, I like to give a shoutout to the Autism Society because they’re a national group that really tries to advocate for people and families with autism, who deal with autism. And for myself, personally, there are a bunch of Asian American voting rights groups. And it’s a difficult name. Asian Americans Advancing Justice. And so there’s social activist groups that I like give a shoutout to. But specifically for Good Doctor, it’s the Autism Society of America.
MT: And what are some of your favorite movies and television shows?
TT: Oh, my god [laughter]. My number one show that I have to turn on to every day is the Rachel Maddow show because she makes me feel like I’m as smart as her because she breaks down everything. She’s very good at breaking down all the details as to what’s going on in our country. I know that sounds very boring. But then I really still watch reruns of What Not to Wear. Do you remember that show?
MT: Of course. Clinton Kelly and I don’t remember the woman’s name.
TT: Yeah. Stacy London and Clinton Kelly. Because it reruns late at night and I’m a night owl. And it happens to be on one of the channels here in Vancouver and I’m delighted to be able to catch reruns and say, ‘You know what, their fashion advice does carry on through the years,’ because we’re watching reruns from the early 2000s, and I go, ‘Those clothes still look good.’ And when you see a well-dressed person, timeless pieces, classic pieces really work. And they’re built to the individual so I think that what that really speaks to me is treat the individual and they treat the individual’s body with respect. And it translates to making sure that clothes respect the body. Don’t make the body fit into the clothes. It really is, it’s really respecting an individual and trying to cater to that individual’s needs. And I guess that’s what really is important for each one of us, dealing with each other in society, is look at the person in front of you, look at the individual in front of you and treat that person as a unique individual being. And I think we get along better, not just fashion-wise, but in terms of just dealing with people day-to-day.
MT: And just the human connection. That’s true.
MT: How do you like your fans to connect with you?
TT: I’m so new to Twitter, because I was on a show called Berlin Station last year, and that was my first encounter with live-tweeting. And it freaked me out but because we watched that show together here in Vancouver, I’m learning alongside Nicholas Gonzalez and Hill Harper and Richard Schiff. They have a much bigger and wider presence on Twitter and I’m just kind of stumbling alongside them, learning how to connect with fans and not being so afraid. Because it does sound so stereotypical that I’m an actor who protects her privacy. But I’d like to connect with fans because there are people who have really connected and they deserve a shoutout, they deserve a thank you. And so I’m learning on Twitter. So that’s what I’m still literally doing every day is just trying to learn how to be better at it.
MT: What are your social media handles?
TT: It’s TheTamlynTomita on Twitter.
MT: Oh, you’ve got the the there. I like that.
MT: Because somebody stole TamlynTomita [laughter]?
TT: Yeah. I was in shock and awe, I was going, “What? That’s my name?” And then also the same thing on Instagram but I’m not as prolific on Instagram because it’s so picture-reliant, photo-reliant and Twitter is just a fun little social media device that I’m finding that— and I’m learning, I’m learning day-to-day.
MT: I think I’ve posted twice on Instagram in a year. I’m not very good at that one.
TT: Right. Because it’s a left brain versus right brain kind of social media device. Twitter is for speaking, whereas Instagram is for your artistry. It’s how we communicate, via visual versus our words. So it’s a good workout, it’s a good brain workout.
MT: Well, I like to try to be a little bit more in the moment. I see a lot of people who are posting all the time, they’re posting their lunch, they’re posting someone’s shoes, they’re posting everything. I’d rather enjoy my lunch, I’d rather love the shoes and keep that moment to myself.
TT: Yes. Yes, I agree with you. I’m in total agreement with you. I don’t mind because the idea of scrolling is amazing because you could just bypass everybody’s whatever, but then whatever catches your eye— yeah, I don’t judge those people who tweet their breakfast, lunch and dinner but, I like to just use it for special occasions.
MT: What’s something you would like people to know about you?
TT: I’d really like people to really understand that I’m really a dork. I know that I present very— they say that I present very, very calm and very, very smart, very articulate, elegant. Yeah. And I go, ‘Brilliant teams of makeup and wardrobe happened to dress me and clothe me and put my face on and do my hair. And then these brilliant teams of writers give me words to speak. I just need to make sure that I have them all in this combination in my body, in my being, and then I get to do it on camera, in front of a brilliant team of camera workers who really know how to like me and make me sound good.’ So I’m just really a dork in real life. So don’t think that Allegra Aoki is anywhere near Tamlyn Tomita [laughter]. I’m just really, really, really lucky that I get to portray her because I think she’s somebody I would look up towards.
MT: So, when you’re not working, what kinds of clothes would we see you in?
TT: Oh, gosh, I’m still in my Los Angeles Dodgers jersey from last night. So I’m still in my Dodgers jersey and I’m in a pair of fleece leggings because it’s raining right now in Vancouver. And a big pair of fuzzy, purple socks.
MT: Oh, you sound comfy.
TT: Yeah. None of this cashmere wool thing or fur throws, or any of those luxury items. I’m in comfy clothes and I have my glasses on because I see better with my glasses. And my hair is up in a lopsided ponytail. So I’m as dorky as they come.
MT: Oh, it actually seems like a nice, comfy, cute look [laughter].
TT: Well, I wouldn’t like to be photographed like this, let’s say, but comfort is key. Yeah.
MT: Now, what’s next for you?
TT: So I’m allowed to say, because I wasn’t allowed to say last week – I don’t know what it is – I’m also on Man in the High Castle for season three.
MT: Oh, that’s exciting.
TT: It’s very exciting because I had no idea what the show was. It’s Amazon’s flagship show. And having binge-watched season one and season two before I started filming— which is, I’m filming Man in the High Castle at the same time I’m filming The Good Doctor – they’re on the same schedule this year — and so I’m a little bit schizophrenic going back from one show to another and the characters are just so different Actually, we happen to be on the same episode number. We are filming episode 108 of The Good Doctor, and I’m filming episode 308 of Man in the High Castle. When I see the numbers, I go, ‘Wow, we’re really on the same track and same vibe.’ Having both shows film up here at the same time, I really have to focus and say, ‘I’m Allegra Aoki today.’ I have to film Allegra Aoki at 8 o’clock tonight, where I was filming Tamiko in Man in the High Castle yesterday. I really have to switch gears rather quickly, and that’s been an exercise in discipline for me. Man in the High Castle, I’m an Okinawan Hawaiian American girl, who is in a storyline that involves the trade minister, Tagomi. She’s in the imperial United States. She’s in the western U.S. that’s controlled by imperial Japan. Knowing that it’s an alternative universe story, just the idea when they talk about what Man in the High Castle is, “It’s based in America in 1962, but the Nazi Germans in the imperial forces of Japan won World War II.” People’s faces go, ‘Oh, my God.’ I’d just like to say, ‘yeah.’ The writers and the actors are dealing with that kind of alternative thinking every day.
MT: When is season 3 coming?
TT: Season 3, what I’m allowed to say is that it’s going to be in winter of 2018. It’s not that far. I don’t have an exact date, but I’m allowed to say winter of 2018.
MT: When you’re done with all of this filming, do you want to take a vacation?
TT: Again, I can’t emphasize more to you that I had the luxury, the privilege of living up here in Vancouver. I feel like I’m on vacation, and I get to work, as well. I don’t think I need a vacation after working. I’d just like to really look with a positive outlook in being here in such a beautiful city. I really am feeling lucky on the days off that I have, that I’m here on vacation in Vancouver, British Columbia.
MT: You can ride your bike.
TT: I can ride my bike around, wear my comfy clothes, and maybe I’ll relearn how to ski when winter comes when the snows come. Again, being an L.A. girl, to see snow falling, that’s going to be another— it’s like, “What is this white stuff falling from the sky?” I’m really anticipating what it means to be living in a country that receives snow.
MT: I’m from California, too. I’m from Northern California, and when I was nine, there was a snow day, because it was not rain. It actually snowed for all of eight minutes, but school was canceled because that just never happens.
TT: Oh, my gosh, yeah. Even me from Los Angeles, we had that rare snow flurry. We didn’t close school. We weren’t that lucky, but I happen to remember one day in grade school, that my teacher let us all out to watch the snow fall and melt on the playground. it is, it really is truly a phenomenon for this set of eyes to see snowfall so I’m really looking forward to seeing winter come. Winter is coming [laughter].
MT: You seem to be someone filled with wonder and kindness. I really have enjoyed speaking with you.
TT: Oh, well thank you. Thank you so very much. I’ve had a real joy talking with you too. Thank you. Thank you for being so open.
MT: Oh, please again when I saw your name I couldn’t have been more excited, plus the fact that I saw you on Quantum Leap last week made it even funnier.
TT: [laughter] Oh, my God. Well, talking about Quantum Leap, I just remembered specifically that they really loved my name. They really loved the name Tamlyn and they’re just, ‘Can we use your name? And then we’ll go through clearance.’ Because it’s a big legal thing for any show to use any particular name. So I go, ‘I think you’ll be clearing the use of my name.’ And they go, ‘Okay. So you’re going to be–” They ask me for a last name and I just picked one of my friend’s last name who happens to be a guy so my name was Tamlyn Matsushita, and they go, ‘Oh my God, you used my name.’ And I go, ‘Yeah.’ So the writers on that show and Scott Bakula, just to say my name as my character was really so, ‘Oh my God. It’s so easy to fall in love with you,’ and that was a really great memory. That was a really great show too. A bunch of good and kind people, Dean Stockwell and Scott Bakula, really really a joy to work with.
MT: Well just about a week ago I think it was speculated that Donald P. Bellasario may have just written a movie script for Quantum Leap.
TT: I read that too.
MT: I hope it’s true.
TT: Yeah, because Sam never made it back, right, I think at the end of the series, yes, he never made it back. And I don’t know because we feel there’s a certain kind of wistfulness that a show doesn’t end as we like it to end, you know, it doesn’t end on a happy note. It makes for a more interesting societal conversation, like, “Where do you think Sam ended up” or “Is Sam still out there trying to better people’s lives in other universes, and other timelines, and other time periods”. And it’s kind of romantic that his story never ends.
MT: That’s how I feel about it. I think…Sam, in the last episode, he’s talking to God.
MT: He made a choice not to go back. Think of all the lives he helped? I would still hope in that universe that he’s still helping people. I loved it.
TT: Yeah. Yeah. I’m the same ilk. I think that he realized what his destiny is, his mission in life is, and it’s a pretty noble thing to say, “I’d rather help people than live my life as I see fit”, “I’d rather help people”.
MT: But, first he fixed things for Al first by setting him back up with his first wife. They stayed married, had four girls, and he lived happily after so Sam did something else right for that universe too.
TT: Yes. Exactly. I agree with you. So I think we’re both on the fence on whether or not it’s a good idea to have a film because I just don’t want it to end. I don’t want that. But the idea that it could rebooted and Donald Bellisario is still out there pumping out successful shows is a testament to his genius. People may say it’s formulaic but it works because people love it and they watch it.
MT: They do. There’s a kindness to his stuff. Even NCIS, there’s a human kindness to it. I like that very much.
TT: Exactly. And people love that kind of beginning, middle, and end. They like that comfort of turning on the TV week-to-week and being entertained with a good story. There’s nothing wrong with those franchises because, first of all, they’re successful. They just make people feel good and hopefully make people think about other people.
Tamlyn Tomita can be seen on The Good Doctor on Mondays on ABC and you can follow her here.