18 Questions with Lisa Yamada
18 Questions With introduces 1883 readers to the brightest young artists, actors, creatives and beyond. From childhood memories and guilty pleasures to their latest ventures and upcoming projects, our goal is to bring you closer to the people who inspire and entertain us.
Asian-American actress Lisa Yamada just landed her most career-changing role to date. After small parts in Little Fires Everywhere and Never Have I Ever, she now stars as Parker Tanaka in season 2 of Freeform’s hit anthology series Cruel Summer. Parker is a popular musician and the stepdaughter of the sheriff and the girlfriend of Brent Chambers, and finds herself in quite the love triangle on the show. Later this year she will star in I Wish You All The Best, an LGBTQ+ story directed by Tommy Dorfman, further proving that she is one of Hollywood’s brightest young actresses.
A few episodes into Cruel Summer, Lisa Yamada chats with 1883 about the moment she found out she landed the part of Parker, spending summers with her grandparents in Japan, and her undying love for the Twilight films.
What’s one exciting thing that happened to you this week?
My life has been pretty mellow lately but I spent a lot of time with my friends this week! When I say friends, I mean the Cruel Summer cast. Each of us takes turns hosting watch parties every Monday, which usually turns into a game night after. All of us are so close and we truly got so lucky with the best cast ever. Aside from hanging out with friends, I just binge-watched the new season of Black Mirror and they knocked it out of the park as usual.
What was the last thing you read?
I’m not much of a reader, so the last book I read was “I’m Glad My Mom Died” by Jennette McCurdy several months ago. I absolutely DEVOURED that book in like 3 days, which is saying a lot since I’m not a fan of reading. But if we’re not being specific to books, I did technically read a couple of scripts for a TV show a week ago! It’s strange how I dislike reading books but LOVE reading scripts. I can seriously read like 10 episodes worth of scripts in one sitting.
Favourite memory growing up?
Growing up, I spent every summer at my grandparents’ house in Japan. My mom and I would spend the entirety of my summer break there and it was something I looked forward to ALL YEAR. Most of my fondest memories from my childhood were made in my grandparents’ house. My grandparents live in a small town away from the city so we got to have a lot of quality family time. They also had a golden retriever and he was my bestest friend. He was such a good big boy and there are so many pictures of me as a baby riding his back like a horse. As I got older, it got harder for me to travel to Japan every summer for months at a time but I still make an effort to go once every couple of years.
Where was the last place you traveled to?
The last place I traveled to was Washington and Oregon in March! I talk about Twilight in every interview I do but I SERIOUSLY love Twilight. I literally planned an entire trip to Washington and Oregon just to see all the filming locations and visit Forks. I had the time of my life and cried several times. My mom kept me company during my trip and I think she was sick of being forced to only listen to the Twilight Soundtrack for an entire week. I have an unhealthy obsession with the movies. I have a Twilight shrine in my room, I have a whole collection of Twilight merch, I can recite the entire Saga word for word, and I even have 2 tattoos dedicated to the movies. (If you weren’t catching on, this is my unofficial pitch to be cast in the Twilight reboot).
What was the last thing that made you laugh?
This is such a boring answer but the last thing that made me laugh was definitely something on TikTok. I’m ashamed to say it but I spend an absurd amount of time on TikTok. It’s gotten so bad that when my friends send me a TikTok that they think I would find funny, I have to fake laugh at it because I’ve already seen the TikTok they’re showing me days ago. (If any of my friends are reading this… Sorry).
What’s your night time ritual?
I don’t have a nighttime ritual half of the time and I often find myself waking up on my couch disheveled with no clue what day it is. For the times when I do have a nighttime routine, I take off my makeup and wash my face, do my skincare, get in bed, and continue to rot on TikTok.
Who would be on your dream dinner party guest list?
The entire cast of Twilight, but I want them to attend the dinner party as their characters and not as actors. The dinner party will take place at the Cullen’s house and I want the Twilight Soundtrack to be playing softly on the speakers for the entire duration of the party. The party will most likely end in me begging the Cullens to turn me into a vampire.
Favourite quote from a film or TV show?
Emma Stone’s monologue in La La Land where she talks about how she’s not good enough to become an actress and she should just go back to school to pick a new dream is my favorite quote of all time. The movie as a whole was so relatable to me as an actress but this monologue especially hit me where it hurts. I think every actor has gone through a time where they felt defeated after constantly getting told no.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
“All I Ask” by Adele if I feel like really singing. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen if I feel like having fun with friends.
Favourite item in your closet?
I love a good Levi’s 501 jeans. I have so many different washes and 9 times out of 10 you’ll find me wearing 501s.
Congrats on your role in Cruel Summer – what can you tell us about it?
Thank you! It’s all so exciting and I’m so happy with all the feedback Cruel Summer is receiving. This was my first time working as a series regular and every part of the process has been an absolute dream.
What was the audition process like for Cruel Summer?
It wasn’t anything crazy, to be honest. I got an alert for the audition and I obviously REALLY wanted it but I have a rule of not getting my hopes up because this industry is cut-throat so I didn’t let myself think too much about it. I thought the role was a long shot for me, so I taped it in like 20 minutes right before I went out to hang out with friends and let it go. Fast forward a couple of weeks later, I had a producer’s session, and before you know it, I was getting flown out to Vancouver.
You mentioned on IG that episode 2 was your favourite to film. Can you tell us about that day?
Episode 2 was an action-packed episode for Parker and I enjoyed every second of it. The pool party scenes were so fun to film because the entire cast was on set and we all got to swim and goof around together. It was freezing at night but we definitely made some core memories from shivering in the pool together. Breaking into the Chambers’ house with Lexi was so much fun too! Lexi looked like such a badass smashing the window open. You can see the stark differences between Parker and Isabella’s relationship throughout the three timelines in episode 2 and that was so much fun to play with as an actor.
What does a typical shoot day look like for you?
Every shoot day is different so I don’t have a specific routine, but I make sure to have fun every day. I love chatting with the drivers in the morning, I love chatting with the hair and makeup team while in the hair and makeup trailer, and I love chatting with the PAs and goofing around with the cast on set. The cast and crew spend so much time on set so it’s important to form relationships and have fun while working to avoid getting burnt out. I truly love everyone that worked on Cruel Summer. We all became a family in the end.
What can you tell us about your upcoming film I Wish You All The Best?
I Wish You All The Best is a movie adaptation of Mason Deaver’s novel! It’s written, directed, and produced by the incredible Tommy Dorfman. The movie follows a non-binary teen named Benjamin DeBacker (played by Corey Fogelmanis), who gets kicked out of their parent’s house after coming out and stays with their sister Hannah (played by Alexandra Daddario) and her husband Thomas (played by Cole Sprouse). I play Sophie, one of Ben’s friends! I got to play a character outside of my usual comfort zone, which was so much fun for me. Fun fact, Lexi Underwood from “Cruel Summer” also got cast to play another one of Ben’s friends! I Wish You All The Best is our third time working together!
Do you have a specific playlist you listen to when you’re getting ready to work? What songs are on it?
I have different playlists for each project I work on. For Cruel Summer, I listened to a lot of ’90s and y2k hits. I primarily listened to Avril Lavigne and No Doubt since Parker is heavily influenced by them. For I Wish You All The Best, we listened to a lot of pop music. Beyonce’s Renaissance album was on repeat, and we listened to a lot of Kim Petras and SOPHIE too.
What’s been the most challenging part of your acting career?
The most challenging part is getting told “no.” I’ve come so close to handfuls of life-changing roles where I got told “no” in the final round. It really takes a toll on your mental health and it’s extremely hard to bounce back and keep on pushing. There have been times when it was so devastating that it made me want to quit acting. I just have to remind myself that this is part of the job and there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.
I have to ask because I saw it in your Instagram bio – why are you Team Edward? (We are too!)
We would be here for hours if I explained all the reasons why I’m team Edward but I think when it comes down to it, I just love the vampire vibe so much more than the werewolf vibe. Also, Edward is so caring and devoted to Bella, and so much more of a gentleman than Jacob. I think Jacob is too persistent and needs to get it into his head that Bella is always gonna choose Edward. It also doesn’t help that he imprinted on a literal baby. I do agree that Bella could’ve lived a more normal family-driven life if she had chosen Jacob, though.
Episodes of Cruel Summer are streaming weekly on Hulu.
Interview Rachel Martin
Photography Ben Cope