Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Michiko Whitney.
Rachel, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Growing up I was the shy math and science girl who also loved performing and making short films. I wanted to be an actress, but I decided to be practical and studied Mechanical Engineering at Duke. However, I fulfilled my passion for the arts by minoring in Theater Studies and starting Duke Asian American Theater (DAAT). I graduated and soon after moved to LA to pursue a career in acting.
After a couple of years of auditioning, I enrolled in a UCLA screenwriting program to tell stories I had never seen on screen before. More specifically, stories about Asian American women and women engineers. One is inspired by my grandparents, who met and fell in love when they were sent to the same Japanese American Internment camp in Rohwer, AR during WWII. I acted opposite George Takei in the short film “AMERICAN” also about the Japanese American Internment Camps. What made that experience so special is my grandma actually worked for George Takei’s father in camp, and they remember each other to this day.
My friend Naomi Sedgwick and I made our first short film together recently. It’s called “100% Half” and is loosely based on our experiences as half Japanese American artists in the entertainment industry. It was a lot of fun and a great learning experience.
At the end of 2018, I completed an online Sundance screenwriting program where I developed a new story inspired by mom, who was a Japanese American actress in the 80s. I had some incredible advisors in the program who helped me find my story, and that’s currently what I’m working on now!
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Definitely not! It’s a tough industry to navigate, but I keep pushing forward and am learning along the way. As a mixed-race actor, I’m never quite “Asian enough” for the Asian roles and not “white enough” to fit in with the Caucasian family.
As a new writer, I have to learn how to hold myself accountable to write because I’m setting my own deadlines. Sharing material with people is also difficult because you become so vulnerable. At the end of the day, I love storytelling, and I love meeting and working with creative people, so it’s worth the challenges.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
One memory that stands out is going to Florida with my family and bringing my Harry Potter book with me. I would go to a furniture store with my mom and grandma and sit by the window to read.
My older sister and some other family members were also into the Harry Potter series, so I loved being able to talk with family about this magical world I got transported to every time I sat down to read.
- Website: www.rachelmichikowhitney.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rachel_michiko/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/American442/
- Other: https://www.adolescent.net/a/100-half-short-film
Sharon Kanes Photography