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Callina Liang

From stage to screen Callina Liang makes an effortless transition in ITVX’s Tell Me Everything.

Callina Liang tackles the role of Mei in ITVX’s latest series Tell Me Everything. A raw depiction of what it’s like to grow up in the 2020s taking on issues such as mental health, addiction, and sexuality. The show doesn’t shy away from digging into each with its bold writing and dark sense of humor. It’s a refreshing take on the stereotypical coming-of-age story we’ve all seen done before. It’s gritty and unapologetic, while also showing that light and love can be found even in the darkest of places.

Making the transition from stage to screen is no easy feat, and Callina takes on the challenge like a pro. With grace and poise, it’s hard not to be instantly captivated by her performance as Mei from the moment she walks onto screen.

Mei is an enigma. An outcast and loner; there are far more questions than answers surrounding her. It leaves the viewer wanting more than the scrapes we’re given. And Callina absolutely nails it. She credits being passionate about acting stopping her from throwing in the towel (though she has been close). The importance of truly loving the craft even if you can’t see an immediate return. It can be a tough industry, but if you love it enough? It’s worth it to keep plugging away because you just never know what can happen. It’s evident there are big things and a bright future ahead. Her energy is electric. She is a force to be reckoned with and she’s only just getting started.

In conversation with 1883’s Dana Reboe, Callina talks Tell Me Everything, the character of Mei and breathing life into her, what she misses most about the city of Toronto, the importance of not giving up on your passion, and the hopes she has for people watching.

 

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You’re no stranger to the stage, was adapting to screen a different process for you? How did you approach that?

Yeah, definitely. I thought it might be similar, but it’s actually very different. One of the biggest differences is that with stage, you’ve run through the play the entire way. But with TV, you (for example) need to start crying. And then they cut and it’s like you go off and you’re having a bagel and chat with the crew and then they set up a camera and say: ‘All right, Callina you’re on again.’ It’s kind of hard to adapt to changing emotions quickly. Whether that’s extreme emotions or less extreme emotions, they have to be real and believable. It takes a bit of practice and a bit of time, but I think I got the hang of it.

 

What do you love most about acting? What’s a singular piece of advice you would give someone just starting out?

I think for me, you just have to love it enough to do it. It’s one of the toughest industries out there. But if you love the craft, and you have a passion for it, do it, because you never know what’s going to happen. I think that’s the case for me as well, auditioning for this role from Toronto, who knew I was going to get flown out to London? It’s hard. And I think one thing that keeps an actor going in the industry is their passion. I can go through so many hardships and there are so many days where I’m like: Okay, I want to quit. I tell my agents: ‘Don’t send me another self-tape’ like I’m done doing this. Then the next day they send me a self-tape and I find myself in front of a camera again. Just can’t stop. If you love it enough, go for it.

 

What about the script for Tell Me Everything resonated with you when you first got it?

As someone who grew up in the 2020s…ish, I think the script deals with a lot of issues that teenagers go through nowadays, which is relevant and relatable. For teenagers watching it, it will be a case of maybe not feeling so alone, that they’re not the only ones going through things like that. The show talks a lot about mental health, how that affects the way you act around your friends, around your family, and how social media affects that too. And it also talks about love and sexuality and drugs which I think are drastically evolving. As the world evolves. When I read the script, it felt very relevant. It felt like these stories needed to be told.

 

The show is very much an ensemble piece. Did you all know each other before the series?

No, but we did meet up. We had a rehearsal. I think we had a workshop with the intimacy coordinator a couple of days before the first day of filming. It was the first-time meeting everyone but we got along really quickly. And the intimacy coordinator had us do some random exercises [laughs]. So that broke the ice as well. We quickly became good friends which was amazing because every day on set, it didn’t even feel like we were working. It felt like we were just, you know, having fun as friends do but obviously still working. And yeah, now we’re still all close and we have a group chat. We still talk all the time and hang out.

 

What are you as a viewer most looking forward to seeing translated from script to screen?

Hard question. My character, Mei, goes through a lot later in the season. Well, I mean, she’s struggling since the beginning. She’s kind of the odd one out, always alone, and she’s very lost in her own world. She’s struggling with her family and stuff like that, but as the season progresses, she faces even more hardships. One particular issue I’m quite passionate about has a light shone on it. I don’t want to spoil it, but I think it’s something a lot of young girls go through and is something that isn’t shown enough on TV. There’s this one scene that I’m very excited to show and it was very difficult to film as well. So I’m looking forward to that.

 

What advice would you give Mei? Without spoiling too much? I know I’m putting you on the spot [both laugh].

That’s a really good one. My advice for her is to relax and slow down. Think twice before doing something, because I feel like few people on this planet are on her wavelength. She can be quite disruptive at times. She acts on impulse and can be manipulative. She will do whatever it takes to get what she wants – I respect that, don’t get me wrong. If I was to give her one piece of advice, its to just think a little bit more about her actions. I’d tell her that she’s not going to feel this way forever because she’s very strong.

 

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What’s a quality you share with Mei and one quality that you don’t?

That’s hard. Surprisingly, I share a lot of qualities with Mei. Growing up, I also felt the sense of lostness that she feels, because I moved around a lot as a child. I never felt like I belonged anywhere. And I think that’s how she feels right now, which is why she’s kind of latching on to Johnny. Knowing that he is vulnerable, and she can kind of take control of him. She’s very strong and she’s always on her own. She doesn’t have a good support network of friends or family for that matter. I don’t share that wild side of Mei, though, I’m much more timid.

 

Mei’s very much a wildcard, which I really love. If you could swap characters with one of your castmates, who would you want to play and why?

It has to be Spike’s character, Louis. He’s so funny. And I mean, credit to Spike, he played him amazingly. I was always laughing at him. I’m such a sucker for dry humor and you know, people not realizing they’re funny, and it’s just like, ‘why is everyone laughing at me?’ I love that. So definitely Louie.

 

To switch gears completely, I wasn’t sure if I was going to mention this at all but – when are you going to upload more TikToks? They’re hilarious.

[Laughs] Okay, here’s the thing, I don’t make TikToks to make TikToks. I make TikToks when I’m extremely bored and have nothing better to do. And ever since, you know, getting a publicist and having a show coming out I’ve stopped making TikToks because I don’t know what’s allowed. I had to go through my old ones and delete a bunch. I’m just very silly and goofy on there. It’s very unfiltered. You know what though? You’ve given me a reason to make some.

 

Yes. Oh my gosh, please. I’m going to hold you to that. Is there a series that’s currently on TV that you’d want to be part of? Is there a dream role that you’ve always wanted?

That’s such a hard question. I have multiple dream roles. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve seen Killing Eve? Sandra Oh’s character. I would love to play that. She did an amazing job. Also, I don’t know if you’ve seen Elite. It’s a Spanish TV show. It’s so good. I would love to be a part of that show. It’s not how high school is supposed to be, but everyone just looks so cool. The costumes, the set, the lighting, would love to be a part of that. And – it’s kind of a dream of mine – but I want to go on Come Dine with Me. Absolutely love that show. It’s a British show, so I don’t know if you’ve heard of it.

 

Oh, there’s a Come Dine with Me Canada – it’s pretty great!

I’m going to deep dive. I thought it was a British thing. I only started watching in London, but yeah, I would love to be on the show.

 

I started watching the UK one and stumbled across the Canadian one on TV. And I mean, the narrator on the British one is hilarious, but the Canadian one has that same sense of dry humor.

I know what I’m watching tonight [laughs].

 

What are you most excited about when you come back to Toronto?

Honestly, it has to be going to Dimmi’s [Bar & Trattoria in Yorkville] I miss that place. I also miss my friends. Can’t wait to see them. But just the amount of good Asian food that Toronto has. I never felt homesick when I was there.

 

I mean all around Spadina, there’s so much to choose from!

I think that’s what I miss the most: good Asian food, and good bubble tea. Real Fruit is my favorite. That mango slush 3D diamond thing with tapioca pearls? I crave that on a daily basis. So yeah, definitely the food.

 

Lastly, to circle back to Tell Me Everything, the show isn’t glamorized and is a very raw depiction of what it’s like growing up at present. It isn’t sugar-coated. What do you hope is the main takeaway, for somebody watching?

Well, I hope they take away many things. I guess the main takeaway is to feel like you’re not alone. There are six main characters and each one has their own struggle. I feel someone watching will find something to relate to in at least one of those characters. I like what you said: nothing in the show is glamorized. It’s very raw and grounded and rough. They show things how they are. And they also show the good sides. There are so many things that even parents watching could take away to better help their kids, too. There are a lot of dark issues, but also a lot of balance going on in the show. The writers did a fantastic job of balancing both dark and light which I really appreciated.

 

Tell Me Everything is streaming on ITVX

 

Interview Dana Reboe 

Photographer Louise Samuelsen

Fashion Editor  Charlie Moore

Make up Frances Done using Hourglass

Hair Stylist Richard Scorer at Frank Agency

Location Club Jupiter 

 

Top image credit

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