Hollywood-based Singaporean actress Lydia Look is back in Singapore to star in Checkpoint Theatre’s The Way We Go. Look will play Agatha Mao, a former school principal, who explores the ‘loves’ of her life over 12 years. We asked the performer about her background, working in Hollywood, and the production that brings her back to our island.
Looking at your IMDB profile, I see you’ve had guest roles as far back as 1998 in Ally McBeal and 1999 in ER. How old were you when you did those parts? And how did you land those earlier roles in Hollywood?
I started my freshman year at the University of Southern California (USC), doubling in the Film School and Theater School right after my A levels. I booked my first professional Equity Job The Woman Warrior (by Maxine Hong Kingston) in my freshman year. As it was a starring role and with the well-regarded Berkeley Repertory Theater, my professors let me take on the gig and counted it towards my university credits. That job garnered me rave reviews and I reprised the role in Boston with the Huntington Theater Company. TV and film casting directors started to notice me and I was fortunate to book ER and Ally McBeal soon after. I was still attending USC when I booked those roles.
Still going by your IMDB profile, I see there are some years that you’ve perhaps not worked. Is it difficult securing work as an actress in Hollywood, year after year?
I have worked steadily throughout my years in the USA. IMDB does not provide a complete list of film, TV, and theater credits. I was doing commercials, voiceover and on-camera work throughout my USC years. I was also a screenwriting major.
In my sophomore year, I optioned a spec feature film for the Samuel Goldwyn Company, was hired to write an episode for a UPN TV show called The Sentinel, and was subsequently accepted into the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Since then, I have written and produced the hit Disney Channel movie Wendy Wu, Homecoming Warrior and the hit animated series The Proud Family amongst others. I was one of the few Asian female writers accepted into the WGA back then and may still be the only Singaporean in WGA.
Let me take you back even further. You were born in Singapore?
I am Singaporean. Still proudly am.
<>Why did you leave Singapore?
I left as I got a scholarship to go to USC film and theater school.
We heard a recent interview with you where you’re now sporting a full-fledged American accent. Is your American accent an acquired product in order to be more employable in Hollywood? And do you still have your Singapore accent, when and if required?
I am an actress and am well-versed in multiple accents and languages. It’s essential to speak like an American if you are auditioning for an American role in an American show. Yes, I can do a Singapore accent. Once a Singaporean, always a Singaporean.
How often have you returned to Singapore, since you left?
I come back to be with my family often. Lately, it’s been a lot more as my mum is getting on in years.
Where is “home” now?
Home will be bi-coastal. Both Los Angeles and Singapore.
Would you encourage Singaporean thespians to work in Los Angeles, if they could attract a Hollywood agent?
Absolutely, it’s good for actors to travel, gain perspective, and see how the big Hollywood machine operates. If you are talented, you will get an agent.
Tell us more about this play that has drawn you back to our island – The Way We Go – and your role in it.
The Way We Go is a fabulous play written by Joel Tan, who, in my opinion, is one of the most exciting young voices to appear in the Singapore theatre scene. I was drawn to the play primarily because I was a convent school girl. I connected with the material immediately and simply could not say no to playing Agatha Mao, who is really a composite of a few teachers in my life who made a huge difference to my school days and influenced me tremendously.
What drew you to this play and/or role, and did you have to audition for the part?
The convent school subject, the stellar cast, and crew were what drew me to it. Yes, I auditioned.
Why should audiences watch this play? What can they expect from this production?
Everyone will recognise someone they know in this play. The themes are universal and my hope is that they will share a night of meaningful theatre with us.