Malea Emma is an actress and singer. She can be seen in the movie After Yang. The film follows a family who reckons with questions of love, connection, and loss after their A.I. helper unexpectedly breaks down. YEM was able to speak with Malea Emma about working big actors like Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner Smith, what she learned from her role, and about getting praised by so many critics for After Yang.
Young Entertainment Mag: How did you get your role in After Yang?
Malea Emma: The director, Kogonada, saw my national anthem video at LA Galaxy that went viral at that time and he thought that I would be a good Mika in After Yang. So he called my agent and asked me to audition. So I went for the audition and then he asked to meet me and my family, so we went to Starbucks to meet him, we talked about After Yang and about all other things. My family and I really enjoyed talking to Kogonada. Few months later, he called my dad and told us that I got the role. I was very happy when I got his call.
YEM: What was it like working with some big actors like Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner Smith?
Malea: It was so amazing because they were so nice and very humble. At first I thought they would not be like that since they were very famous, you know, but we were just like friends. Like a family. When we were not filming, we hung out with each other. We went for lunch, we went for a movie. We are still keeping in touch until now.
YEM: What did you learn from your role in After Yang and would you want another role like it?
Malea: My role in After Yang, Mika, is interesting. She is an adopted child and she lost her robot brother, Yang. I mean in real life, fortunately I have never experienced that, so I had to use my imagination on how to portray Mika’s sadness and frustration. Well that’s what actors do, we imagine how to be the character in the movie. As an actor, I want to do so many different roles and my role in After Yang is definitely very different from other roles I have had in other shows.
YEM: How did you feel after getting praised by so many critics for After Yang?
Malea: I feel very happy of course. After Yang is my first feature film so getting praised by so many critics is really amazing.
YEM: What was it like walking the red carpet at the 74th Cannes Film Festival?
Malea: That was like a dream comes true. I have never attended any film festival before so Cannes is my first film festival experience and it’s the biggest film festival in the world, that’s so amazing. The red carpet was huge with so many photographers there. I was nervous but also very excited at the same time. I had always wanted to go to France and it happened. The theater was also huge. Even though I was very nervous, I was glad that Thierry Fremaux, the Cannes Film Festival director, asked me to give a little speech before the movie started. That was definitely an honor. And we got a long standing ovation after the movie ended. The whole experience in Cannes was definitely incredible and something that I would remember forever.
YEM: Popular fashion magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Vanity Fair and W Magazine praised your red carpet look, did you choose it or was it chosen for you?
Malea: My parents are my stylist. So they found some options for me to choose from. So yeah my parents and I chose the dress together. I always love wearing beautiful dresses. I love both dresses I wore at the Cannes photocall and also the red carpet, it made me feel like a princess.
YEM: As a recurring guest on the new iCarly show, did you audition for a part or was it offered to you?
Malea: I did audition for my recurring role on the new iCarly show. At first it was supposed to be just for 1 episode but they liked me so they asked me to come back for more episodes. The second season is now out on Paramount Plus and you can catch me on the second episode of the second season too!
YEM: What’s it been like working with the likes of Miranda Cosgrove and Jerry Trainor?
Malea: It was amazing. I love Miranda. She is very pretty and very very nice. And Jerry is actually very funny in person. All the cast and crew are actually very nice. I had so much fun working on iCarly. Hopefully they will bring back again and again.
YEM: Were you aware of the original iCarly and did that impact your performance at all?
Malea: Of course! I watched all the episodes of the original iCarly. That’s why I was so happy when I got the audition because I loved the original show! And when I was told I booked the role, I was very happy that I got to meet and work with Miranda, Jerry and Nathan since I had already been a big fan of them from the original show.
YEM: You’re also guest starring on the Disney shows Coop and Cami Ask the World and Raven’s Home, is it difficult to manage two Disney properties at once?
Malea: It’s not difficult because they were shot at different times so I had time to adjust with different characters I was playing.
YEM: Do you prefer one Disney show over the other and why?
Malea: I love them both! Before I had the roles, I was already a fan of both shows. It’s always amazing to work on the shows that I love. You know like I used to watch the shows and now I got to be on the show, work with the cast, see the set and everything, that was amazing.
Malea: You sang the national anthem in a video that went viral in 2018; how did it feel to be offered the chance to perform on American Idol by none other than Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie?
Malea: That was also like a dream come true. I love watching American Idol, so the opportunity to sing in front of Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie was something that I will never forget. You know they are legends and very famous but they are also very nice. They talked to me and gave me compliments. It meant so much to me.
YEM: What made you want to start singing in addition to your acting?
Malea: I have been singing my whole life since I was very very young, like when I was 1 year old, even before I could talk. So I sing first before I act. But in a way, singing is also acting, you have to be in character of the song when you are singing so I think singing and acting are complimenting each other.
YEM: How did you get your start in the acting world and have you enjoyed your time so far?
Malea: I started my acting career when I was 4 years old. I started with commercials. I really enjoy it so far. I always love acting and working in different projects with amazing people. It has been giving me the most amazing experiences in my life.
YEM: Is there any role you hope to have in the future and why?
Malea: I always want to try different roles. I really hope that someday I can be a Disney princess because I always love princesses. I also want to be on horror shows because I like Stranger Things and Walking Dead and I also want to be in fantasy movies because I love Harry Potter. I really want to try different genres because the roles would be very different from what I have worked on before.