Canadian actress Jacky Lai talked hometowns, Canada things, scientific vampires, traveling, acting, rapping, Leo, Lil Wayne and coming home into acting in the age of Asian representation. With credits like Once Upon a Time, The Flash, Shadowhunters and now Netflix’s V-Wars, this is one sci-fi/fantasy/adventure icon in the making. This is Jacky Lai.
Name: Jacky Lai
Known for: V-Wars, Shadowhunters, Once Upon a Time, The Flash
Star Sign: Scorpio
Life Philosophy: Win and learn never lose
I’ll say this to myself all the time: you win, and if you don’t win, you’re going to learn something, so at the end of the day you’re still winning.
Getting to know Jacky
On Her Favorites –
Place traveled: I just recently went to Peru to see Machu Pichu and that was very, very different and stunning. I really, really like South America.
Continent: I would also say Asia because I love the food there and traveling around and eating everything (laughs).
Country: Greece is one of my favorite places!
Asian country: Maldives. Very surreal. Heaven on earth.
Cuisine: Vietnamese. I think I can eat that all day every day. For sure.
Rapper: Lil Wayne
Song by said rapper: How to Love
Superhero: Sailor Moon. Does that count? I wasn’t really exposed to North American superheroes growing up, so I think [my favorite] would have to be Sailor Moon.
On Acting –
AM: What would you say makes V-Wars different from the vampire shows we’re familiar with?
JL: I feel like a lot of the other vampire shows were more mystical and more magical in their storytelling. I find V-Wars to be more grounded. Vampires are the byproduct of an infection. The show is based on basic human needs and having your loved ones being infected by a disease.
It’s a story about indifference and trying to find equality to survive. It’s not so much an “us versus them” – it is – but we’re in the same world. I feel that with a lot of the other vampire shows, they (vampires) are from the underground or another world which made them so different from us (humans).
AM: What specifically drew you to the part of Kaylee Vo?
JL: What I really love about Kaylee is that she doesn’t let things happen to her. She goes out there and she makes things happen. She’s so resourceful and so confident that whatever she does uncover, she can find a way to use what happened to her as a power-source to properly and keep going. She goes out there and gets things done.
AM: What was it like working with Ian Somerhalder?
JL: If you’re in the sci-fi world – everyone’s heard of him. I feel like he’s a vampire legend (laughs). I was very intimidated when I heard that I’d be working alongside Ian, but he’s so humble, grounded, and a big family man.
I think because of his presence, it set the tone for the production and everyone else and it became like a family. Everyone put out their efforts with love and it’s not just because it’s their job. I think it’s mainly because of him.
He’s brilliant! His direction. He’s an actor but he’s also a brilliant executive [producer]. So, when he speaks to you as an artist, he has that side of him that speaks with the clarity of a director but he’s also able to speak that language that his fellow actors understand.
AM: What was the experience like working on V-Wars, Once Upon A Time, The Flash, and Shadowhunters which all filmed in Canada?
JL: I think we’re really lucky to have these big productions be in our backyard. It was incredible to step into the set of Flash and Once Upon a Time. The production is massive!
I watched OUAT when it first came out and to walk into this world….and, really, it was only in my backyard?! It’s a blessing!
AM: Ah! That’s awesome! Storybrooke was just right there for you!
Yeah! It’s crazy!
AM: Do you have any acting inspirations that cemented your decision to pursue acting?
JL: I remember one of the first movies I saw was Titanic and then there was Leonardo [DiCaprio]. He hasn’t dropped the ball since the first moment I saw him on-screen. He’s just constantly transformed. I think he’s definitely one of the inspirations for me as an actor – his commitment and devotion to his role.
AM: Let’s talk about Asian representation before and after you got started. What’s changed since then?
JL: I find that we hear this a lot – this pride that comes with seeing a face similar to yours on-screen. It wasn’t until I watched Crazy Rich Asians and even going into the theaters to watch it, I’ve heard: you haven’t seen someone like you in 25 years! – things like that. It was truly an unforgettable moment for me to really be proud of someone I’m looking at [on-screen] and thinking how far we’ve come. It’s different to hear it and it’s unbelievable to sit in the theater and feel this pride come about.
I remember before I got into the industry if I was lucky, I’d be the odd one out at an audition being Asian. Now, we’re being called into roles that are made for us with our first and last names that are Asian.
Having a carved a space for us feels so home-y . We’re being recognized. We can do this too. We don’t just have to be ninjas or nerds.
It feels like being welcomed home.
V-Wars is now streaming on Netflix.