Interview: Rising Star Arden Cho Talks Joining "Teen Wolf" and Asian Representation in Hollywood

Get to know Teen Wolf's sexy new cast member.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Joining the ranks of off-kilter teenagers as Kira Yukimura in part two of season three of Teen Wolf, which begins today, Arden Cho is ready to be a part of the MTV phenomenon. You've definitely seen the 28-year-old Korean-American actress before—either on Rizzoli & Isles, the hysterical viral YouTube feature Agents of Secret Stuff, or Pretty Little Liars, among other guest roles.

We had the privilege of speaking with the Texas native about her transition from pageant beauty to budding actress, her experience on the set of her new show, and opportunities for Asian actresses in Hollywood.

Interview by Frantz Rocher (@frantz_rocher)

How did you transition from being Miss Korea 2004 and modeling to a career as an actress?
Because I was still in school at the time, going to beauty pageants and modeling was more on the side. Eventually, I got into theater and acting. It's fun. I love acting. Modeling is fun too, but I feel like there is more room to stretch yourself and open yourself up to new experiences with acting. That’s why I got into acting in the first place.

It also gives you a lot of room to be creative.
Exactly. You can be more creative in acting by bringing your character to life and bringing a piece of you that wasn’t there before. You could have five different actors play one role and all five of them would be so different because each person brings a different piece of them into it.

Is there anything you can tell us about the role or arc of your character Kira on Teen Wolf?
What I can say is that Kira comes in as the new girl, a new student. She has no idea about her supernatural background. We do find out that Kira’s family has a little something to do with the weird occurrences going on in Beacon Hills, so we might have some answers. She has a little bit of fun as well; she definitely has some power up her sleeve she’s discovering along with everybody else.

Did you watch Teen Wolf before in preparation for the role or as a fan?
Once I started reading for the show when I was in that whole callback/audition process, I started watching the show. Once I booked the role, I went through a huge Teen Wolf binge and watched all three seasons within a span of a week and a half. It was insane but amazing. Once I got on set I felt like I knew everybody. [Laughs.]

How has it been working with the cast and crew on set? Have any interesting on-set stories?
It has been amazing. Everybody’s so talented and so fun. It’s literally a huge family. Just the other day we were having a dance party on set to '90s R&B music. Every day is crazy.

What was your favorite 90’s R&B song played at the dance party?
Oh my gosh, I can’t even—there’s too many, there’s too many.

As the industry is becoming a bit more colorblind, you realize Hollywood is a big melting pot. With people writing in more roles for Asian Americans, it’s going to be better when we’re not all just driving fast cars, doing Kung Fu, and playing the sexy nerd or the dorky nerd.

An episode in the last season of Teen Wolf featured a gay kiss scene. What do you think about that representation of sexuality on a major, popular television show?
It’s something that happens today. I don’t think it’s something we should be hiding. It’s nice to make someone feel like you’re not alone. It’s like every other high school, except for the werewolves. It’s like any other high school with love and romance and confusion of who you are or who you’re going to be. In a sense, it’s very normal even though it may not seem normal. I think this season has a lot of romance.

Is Kira involved in the romance?
Yes, everybody’s got a little bit of romance this season. It’s exciting. This season a lot of crazy stuff happening but these kids still have time to make sure that they’re having fun in their personal lives. [Laughs.]

On a different note, what do you think about the lack of Asian representation in Hollywood? Is it difficult to get roles?
It is difficult in a sense, but at the same time, I feel I’m really lucky because I’m in the business at a time when it’s changing. Something I love about Teen Wolf is that my character is written in as just a normal girl. She could have been any ethnicity; she doesn’t have to be Asian.

I grew up in America—I was born and raised in Texas. I might look different but at the same time I’m pretty American. [Laughs.] Yes, her Japanese-Korean culture is talked about in the show a lot, but at the same time she’s just a normal girl and I love that.

These days, as the industry is becoming a bit more colorblind, you realize Hollywood is a big melting pot. With people writing in more roles for Asian Americans, it’s going to be better when we’re not all just driving fast cars, doing Kung Fu, and playing the sexy nerd or the dorky nerd. [Laughs.] I love seeing these opportunities present itself.

For example, my mother on the show is one hot, sexy thing. It’s awesome to see an Asian mom being hot because I feel like a lot of times Asian families on shows are stereotyped—

Ultra conservative—
Yeah, exactly. But Kira's parents are cool. They did a really good job with that on Teen Wolf.

Now Teen Wolf has a huge fangirl and fanboy following. Are you ready to join the phenomenon adored by millions of them?
I don’t know if I’m ready, but I’m so excited. I’ve already gotten a little bit. Whenever we talk about Kira, fans get really excited and I love that. It’s always a little scary coming in as a new character onto a show that’s already established because people already love it. I know change can be scary, but I love the fact that fans seem to support everything that Teen Wolf does. I hope they love Kira. I know Kira’s ready to jump into that world and become part of the family.

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