We’re in the middle of Camille’s shoot for Asiance Magazine. I’ve taken about 80 shots, and I’m looking at the monitor on the back of my Canon camera. And I hear Camille say, “I’m going to jump.” I look up at Camille, who is standing about ten feet away from me, in front of a white backdrop in my photo studio. Interview and Photography by Ming Lo
We’re in the middle of Camille’s shoot for Asiance Magazine. I’ve taken about 80 shots, and I’m looking at the monitor on the back of my Canon camera. And I hear Camille say, “I’m going to jump.” I look up at Camille, who is standing about ten feet away from me, in front of a white backdrop in my photo studio. She’s about to jump into the air, and I just have enough time to put the camera up to my eye and take a shot.
Camille is a Hollywood up-and-comer, having scored a highly visible recurring role in Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip as a member of the show-within-a-show’s cast. Studio 60, a chronicle of a Saturday Night Live-like show, starred notables such as Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, Bradley Whitford and D.L. Hughley. Camille’s other credits include Ghost Whisperer, Barbershop and Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. You can also see her on her currently running commercial for Kentucky Fried Chicken.
ASIANCE: So how did you get into the acting thing? You were a performer when you were young, right?
Camille: No. I’ve never taken professional singing or dancing lessons, but I could catch on to choreography really quickly. But if you stuck me in a ballet room and they’re like, “Do a blah, blah, blah,” I would have no idea. But if I watch something, I pick it up really fast. And so I started doing hip-hop dancing and stuff like that and I caught on to the drill team choreography really quickly and I just always sang.
After I started, I danced all through high school and I was in choir also. And I did UIL, it’s a competition between other schools for singing. Then senior year – you know, our school was a huge performing, it was a foreign language magnet school so I had to take this foreign language test just to get in. Every year there’s this huge annual musical and they did “A Chorus Line”. My choir teacher said, “You should audition to be in it.” I had to prepare a monologue. I had never done a monologue. I didn’t know how to choose one, so I chose one out of this monologue book in the library. It was so bad. I was agoraphobic in the monologue, and I was psychotic and was afraid to leave my house. The role was 45 years old or something… I had no idea, so I just did it and I think there were just no other Asian actresses to play Connie Wong, and I could sing and dance, and they were like, “Eh.” So I did it.
ASIANCE: So you just jumped in and did it, huh?
Camille: Yeah. I did after school private coaching with the theatre teacher and — I just remembered. He would go over my monologue in the play with me and he’d be like, “Okay. Now think this way and this is your objective and try it again.” And it would come out the exact same way. [laughs]
ASIANCE: I’ve had that happen to me. That was all my acting classes.
Camille: [laughs] So when I entered UT, I got into the business program and so I was a business major. And I suck at math. And I think I suck at math so I suck even more. [laughs] I was really struggling through all my accounting and finance classes.
ASIANCE: How long after you graduated did you come out here?
Camille: Maybe two and a half years. “Cause I was working in Austin. I was a working actor in Austin, doing commercials and industrials, and I did voice-overs for Japanese anime.
ASIANCE: How big a change was it when you got out here (LA)? Was it really intimidating?
Camille: You know, you’re gonna kill me, but it was fine.
ASIANCE: That’s good.
Camille: I just adapted. I totally just adapted and I think I was really lucky because my first manager out here – After I graduated, I did this really awesome horror film, I’m being facetious, called Hallow’s End. And we worked for a month in Dallas and it was the most I’d ever gotten paid. And one of the producers became a manager. And he managed me, and he did awesome for me. And he got me an agent right away.
I started going to therapy because I’m such a people pleaser and so when anybody disliked me or was mad at me, it would drive me insane.
ASIANCE: So you seem pretty happy with where things are. And you’re getting married in a year. Is that a big step? It must be, right? Has it hit you yet?
Camille: Oh, it hasn’t really hit me yet. But I know that I’m not scared, so that’s a really good sign. And I know that, when he asked me, I wasn’t scared.
ASIANCE: That’s good!
Camille: It hasn’t really hit me yet because the whole planning thing isn’t really stressing me out yet. All of my friends are already planning it for me. But, I’m in a good place for it because I learned. And I always knew this, but my ex-boyfirend actually pointed it out. He was like, “You were put on this earth to be a mother.” And I’m like, “Awesome.” And then, after going to therapy I realized I really want to take care of people, and I love nurturing people and taking care of people. And this is the first step to having a family. So I feel good, you know?
ASIANCE: You know, some actors feel that Hollywood is such a struggle. Which, I don’t know if you feel or not, but you don’t seem to talk about it as much as other people do.
Camille: You know, my manager’s awesome, but my manager’s assistant is also awesome. I just signed with them six months ago, but he told me the best thing, “File it and forget it.” And I say, “What? I can’t.” I wanna dwell on it some more and I want to think of what I could’ve done! And he says, “You’re gonna have so many more auditions… The next one, you know, the next one if you don’t get it.” I think, “Yeah, you’re right.” I’m only 28. It’s not the end of my life. I have some moments where I’m really upset, you know, where I really wanted a job and I got super close and I didn’t get it. But then they say, “The fact that you got to network or the fact that J.J. Abrams [the creator of Alias and director of Mission Impossible 3] looked at your demo, that’s huge.” And I’m like, “You’re right.”
ASIANCE: Do you think part of that comes from being on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip?
Camille: Yeah, most of the time I definitely skip the initial casting and go straight to producers or I’ll go straight to the director. Which, when that first happened, I was, like, “What? Are you sure? You should call him again so I don’t show up and look like an ass!” I’m not going to lie to you. It’s definitely helped. And I think I don’t get so pessimistic because I’ve booked work. So it’s not as if I’ve never booked anything and I’m still trying after five years.
ASIANCE: You feel like you’ll do it again.
ASIANCE: And do you like the roles that you’re reading for? Where would you want to go drama, comedy, horror?
ASIANCE: Do you have a role model?
Camille: I like Kate Winslet. When she’s funny. Gosh, when she was in The Holiday, she was so hilarious. Oh, and Tina Fey’s hilarious. See, this pilot that I’m going to today is so funny. [Camille is going to an audition after our interview.] It’s based off this BBC show, Man Stroke Woman. Oh, and I think Steve Carrell’s really funny.
ASIANCE: Why do you think you got into acting?
Camille: “Cause I didn’t know who I was. I think I act because I’m still trying to discover who I am. I’m still trying out different personalities. [laughs]
ASIANCE: So what do you think you’ve figured out about yourself?
Camille: I’ve discovered through acting that I’m really not as strong and self sufficient as I, or as other people think I am. Everybody thinks I am, but I’m really not. I convinced myself that I was “cause I had to.
I grew up by myself pretty much “cause my mom was working so many jobs to raise us and I was kind of taking care of my mom. I remember when I was 7, I would make her instant coffee, like that international instant coffee, just add hot water. And I would make her toast and butter it. I was always making my mom breakfast. I was a latchkey kid, and I had the string with my house key. And my school was right across from our apartment complex and I would walk home by myself and just be by myself. And then my mom would go to night school because she was trying to get her masters, and she couldn’t afford a babysitter so I would be by myself. So from very young I was super independent and went into survival mode pretty much.
And my friends, they all call me mom because that’s still in me.
ASIANCE: Who told you that you weren’t as strong and self sufficient as you thought or as they thought?
Camille: Cause I was scared when I started acting. When I started class, I was super scared and not confident in myself at all. And I always had the fear of failing. I still do.
ASIANCE: We all do.
Camille: Yeah, but no one would ever guess that about me. And so many times I’ve done things just to keep up that persona. Like when I went rock climbing for the first time with my ex-boyfriend, I was really scared. I’m really afraid of heights and- and I made myself anyway because he expected me to. And after I did it, I felt great. But, you know, it’s stuff like that–
ASIANCE: You did it because you felt you had to.
Camille: Yeah, to prove, you know, live up to what people thought of me or whatever. It’s just being frightened to be vulnerable, obviously.
ASIANCE: I think a lot of us in acting are like that. And I think a lot of us not in acting could use either acting or therapy or both.
ASIANCE: So you learned why you do what you do in therapy, right?
Camille: Or where it came from. And it’s kind of like learning how to not shut down.
ASIANCE: You’ve said that you used to act out when you were young. Based on what you said you were before, you seem really different to me now.
Camille: I am.
ASIANCE: Are you surprised? I mean, are you surprised about, well, about how you “turned out”, so to speak?
Camille: That’s another thing about me is that… I just kind of roll with it, you know. That’s why a lot of my friends always get on my case about, “Why aren’t you ever depressed, Camille? Why aren’t you ever sad or mad or whatever?” I’ve kinda learned not to dwell on anything.
ASIANCE: Did you learn that recently?
ASIANCE: So how did you decide to go to therapy?
Camille: I started going to therapy because I’m such a people pleaser and so when anybody disliked me or was mad at me, it would drive me insane. I would not know how to handle it. I want everything to be harmonious, you know. So I remember in high school I was on the dance team. I was on the drill team and I was in this Elite Ten called the Honor Corps. You had to audition and that made girls hate me even more.
But I was always so nice, and that’s what confused me so much because I tried so hard to be nice. And so I started acting out and one of the things that was really bad, because respecting your elders is so important in our culture. It was after a football game and my friends were inviting me to go out. And the girls had just been really mean to me at the game. And my mom wouldn’t let me go out, of course. I was 14 or 15. And so I was on the phone with my friends and they’re saying, “Can you go out?” and I knew my mom was standing right behind me in the room and I was like, “No, my mom’s being a bitch.” And, oh my God, can you imagine? So then I thought, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I did that.” But it had been building up in me for so long.
ASIANCE: I think Asian parents are very tough. It’s got plusses, but it’s got some minuses too.
Camille: Definitely both, but growing up in the American culture and then having that instilled in you at home and then going outside your home and experiencing something else is really confusing. And you wanna do both and so then I started acting out. And then I got caught for shoplifting in high school and I got arrested and I went to juvie. [laughs] And I was in there for three hours or something. I was, like, crying.
So I started acting out. But, you know, in college, my mom had never said, “I love you,” to me until I said it when I left. I was like, “God, this is really f–ked up. Why are we– I love her! Why don’t we ever say it or why don’t we ever hug?” You know? And I said, “I love you,” and then she said it back and I was like, “Gosh, this is so cool.” Our relationship is so awesome right now.
And my mom knows that I have been [to therapy]. I’m gonna start again soon. I haven’t gone for a few months.
Definitely both, but growing up in the American culture and then having that instilled in you at home and then going outside your home and experiencing something else is really confusing.
ASIANCE: You mean therapy?
Camille: Yeah. It’s just good to continue, you know, and it’s so great to talk to a stranger who has no judgment about you, who doesn’t know you at all and can look at it very objectively.
ASIANCE: Your parents had divorced when you were how old?
ASIANCE: And then you didn’t talk to your father since then?
Camille: No, not talk, but I would make attempts to write him letters or emails and then he would keep in touch for a couple of months, and then he would disappear.
ASIANCE: How’d that make you feel?
Camille: I was so… I had this armor built up at such a young age that it just kind of rolled off my back. But obviously more internally, it was really affecting me. He would do that a lot, keep in touch and then not. And I was saying please keep in touch just even if it’s to tell me what you ate for lunch. Don’t lose touch. You know? And he was like, “I know, but I show my love in a different way. I show it by my actions, not my words.” I say, “I’m asking you a favor.” So I’m emailing him every week, “How are you doing?”
ASIANCE: Are you still?
Camille: Yeah, it just happened… And it was so weird meeting my dad for the first time because he plays the guitar and he sings really well.
ASIANCE: Oh, really? Wow.
Camille: Yeah, and I play guitar and sing. He met me in Taiwan. I was there for a week and a half and then I left to meet him in Shanghai.
And then I was like, “Oh my God, I’m just like my dad,” because our personalities were exactly the same. And I think if my mom hadn’t raised me, I would be just like my dad. And so I’m my dad but with all of the morals that my mom raised me with, which is good, good balance. “Cause my mom’s whole side is very introverted and shy.
ASIANCE: So do you think some or all this stuff had anything to do with why you got into acting?
ASIANCE: So what do you do when you’re not acting?
Camille: I love cooking. I love eating. [laughs] I love trying new restaurants. Let’s see. What do I do when I go out with my friends? We go karaoke-ing a lot. And I like to play indoor sports a lot. Like, I love playing darts and bowling. And I discovered this new game in the past two years called Beer Pong.
ASIANCE: I thought this was a big Texas game.
Camille: It is, but I did not party during college. Not really at least. Uhm.. and yeah, I really just like chilling at home or I love being outside, you know? Like going to Runyon Park [Runyon is very popular spot in LA for hiking].
ASIANCE: Well Camille, that’s about all the questions I have. Thanks so much for your time, and for sharing your thoughts and experiences.
Camille: Sure, my pleasure.
ASIANCE: Break a leg on your audition today.
You can find out more about Camille at www.imdb.com
Make up: by Angela Le
Ming Lo has been a fan of the moving and still image for as long as he can remember. He shoots headshots, portraits, fashion, beauty and corporate work. More detail on his work can be found at www.minglo.com.
Like many in Los Angeles, Ming wears several hats. He is also an actor, director and investor. His latest acting credits include Pursuit of Happyness; Jarhead; Million Dollar Baby; Dirty, Sexy Money; Private Practice; and Navy NCIS. Prior to working in entertainment, Ming employed at McKinsey & Co. and at Goldman Sachs & Co. Ming has an MBA and MA Political Science from Stanford Univeristy and an AB in Goverment, cum laude, from Harvard College.