Kalama Epstein, erupted onto the TV acting world as his role as Noah in The Fosters. His role was praised by fans as his character played a pivotal role in Jude’s story as a love interest. Now, Kalama is starring in Netflix’s new original show No Good Nick. This multicam sitcom, also starring Melissa Joan Hart and Sean Astin, is guaranteed to have you laugh your socks off as you press “continue watching” after 3 episodes. We’ve all been there. YEM sat down with the Hawaiian native to talk about his role as Noah and the importance of his role and we get the 411 on No Good Nick.
Check out YEM’s full video interview with Kalama here:
Young Entertainment Mag: Well first congratulations, I saw that you were nominated for Best Young Actor in a supporting role. The movie was called Under the Blood-Red Sun. How was that? What does that recognition feel like?
Kalama Epstein: I say for that film particular, that was a film that it’s an adaption of a book that I read a lot in middle school growing up. I read it multiple times before the film adaption was made, before I was casted in it. So, getting to do that film was really cool because I was already really invested in the story and the characters and I had read the book of bunch. I was a big fan of it and then getting to do that film in Hawaii, back home where I was raised, that was very special. Then of course to be recognized and get to see this film get to go around and go to the festivals and have so many different people different see it was very special. It was an incredible experience.
Basically, it’s a family sitcom but it has a little bit of a twist.
YEM: Why did you first get involved into acting?
Kalama: My mom tells it that I was obsessed with directing and filming, basically making movies. I always wanted to be a director when I was younger, my parents got me a little flip camera and I started making short films with my friends at home, different stuff like that. My mom says that I’d then asked to take an acting class so I could better direct my actors, my friends. I can’t remember so I don’t know but she says that so I’m good with that. I feel like all actors I was just a very “big kid” in the sense of I had a very crazy wacky personality and I think that I was just loved performing for my friends and my family and I think was just very natural segue into acting. And then from acting classes the Domino Effect took over.
YEM: So a lot of our readers are big fans of The Fosters, of course. You played Noah, an openly gay character. Do you still get recognized for Noah?
Kalama: Actually all the time! That’s the thing I get recognized the most. I mean The Fosters had a huge fans base. And especially Jude’s character story was huge, the fans really attracted to that story line. And so getting to be a part of that and getting to be this new love interest for him and it’s really interesting seeing, you know, the people who were very upset with Noah. They didn’t like me at all and were really you know, “wish Jude would go back to his old boyfriend.” Kind of seeing that the war on the fan base between that you know, I was very very interesting but yeah I usually get recognized for Noah.
YEM: Is it mostly a love thing or a hate thing?
Kalama: It’s like usually love. Usually I’ll get recognized as Noah and I’ll ask them: did you like Jonnor or Jonah more? I’m not like bias I don’t care like I’m just curious and I’ll ask them who they liked more and what was their opinion on the relationship and if they like the character.
YEM: So what did it mean to you to play up an important LGBT character and you still feel like a certain responsibility.
Kalama: Representation matters first of all, I know there’s a big discussion going on about straight actors taking lgbtq rolls. Going into that audition, something that was very important to me because I know it just happens, especially with all ages, but I think are there are still so many lgbtq stereotypes around. I just knew there was going to be a lot of straight actors going into that room and doing like a gay stereotype or other stuff like that. And I knew that that is the exact opposite of the character and I really want to go in there and didn’t want to have like any notion like yes, the character is gay, but that doesn’t change how I prepare for the character.
I just wanted to go in there and I liked the character himself and I just went in there and I played him as a human being and I think that Peter Paige, one the creators and producers of the show really responded to that in the room. And I think that the approach for Noah, just playing as a human and not focusing too much on he’s gay. That’s what makes him such a beautiful character. Everything that he’s gone through to that point in coming out and being in the church community and all that stuff kind of wraps into this really awesome character that I got to play but just at his base level he’s just a human being. And I didn’t want to go in there doing anything different than a human being if that makes sense.
YEM: It does because on the show he’s more of a free character, free spirit. Do you relate?
Kalama: Totally! I definitely relate a lot more to Noah than most of the characters I’ve played just because he’s just very go with the flow, very chill, forgiving person. Very loving very caring and I felt like I shared a lot with him. He’s pretty much an extension of me.
YEM: It shows! A certain strong chemistry like that between Noah and Jude. Must have an impact off screen. Are you guys like best friends? You and Hayden?
Kalama: Oh yeah! Absolutely! We’ve been super close friends. We’ve been super close ever since I came on the show. I mean, we just instantly we hit it off right when we started filming. I mean we still play Dungeons & Dragons every single weekend. He’s our dungeon master. So I see him every single weekend and then I see multiple times throughout the week and he comes over to my place all the time and we hang out. Yeah we’re super close.
YEM: Any chance we’ll see you on Good Trouble?
Kalama: Look, I hope so. I hope so. It’s not necessarily up to me. Personally, I really loved the conclusion of their story line. It was a little open ended. Considering that he’s there and then he’s not. But I think that Noah’s final moments with Jude are very special. And they kind of explained it a little more in the series finale. Jude mentions that Noah and him are friends and they’re still kind of talking. But hey, if they want to bring me back, if Noah wants to pop in then I’d love to.
Usually, I’ll get recognized as Noah and I’ll ask them: did you like Jonnor or Jonah more?
YEM: Everyone would. So onto your new show No Good Nick. Can you tell us anything about it?
Kalama: It’s a Netflix original sitcom. Basically it’s a family sitcom but it has a little bit of a twist. It’s a serialized sitcom and there’s not many serialized sitcoms out there. So basically what it is each episode picks up directly where the last episode left off. So it’s one continuous story all the way through. One continuous mystery with secrets and twists kind of unfolding kind of series. So it’s done like a serialized drama, but a sitcom multicam format.
It’s a pretty cool hybrid of a show it switches from comedy or drama pretty fast in many cases. But basically it’s just about a thirteen-year-old street-smart con artist shows up at a family’s door and tells him that she is she is a long-lost distant cousin, a foster child in that are the closest relatives so that she has to stay with them and basically infiltrating this family.
You know kind of seeing how these characters reveal who they really are and also how like human beings can sometimes do bad things for good reasons and sometimes you know, a motive isn’t always just as like. Plain or basic as it look, like there’s a there’s a lot of things going on behind a person’s motives like that. And then also just learning and becoming better people through difficulties. So it’s a really cool show.
YEM: Yeah, it sounds awesome. I’ll definitely be subscribing to that. So how do you deal with not being starstruck on-screen between your mom who is played by Melissa Joan Hart, who is Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Sean Astin, who is Samwise in Lord of the Rings? How do you deal with that?
Kalama: When I first started, you know, we had the the chemistry reads before we started filming after the kids were booked. So me Lauren who plays Molly and Sienna who plays Nick, we were all casted first and then they brought in Melissa as Liz and we all did a chemistry with her. And they didn’t tell us who was coming until we got into the room the day. So getting to work with her has been awesome.
Then we had Sean come in and that was like, we showed up and Lauren looked at me “oh my God! Do you know who is coming in today!?” and I was like, no I have no idea. She was she was like, “It’s Sean Astin!” I just like sat down for a moment. I was just so excited. And they’re just both the sweetest people and I’m just been like just amazed on set.
Amazing to work with them and they really kind of brought us all together, the chemistry is just been awesome. I mean, they’re just the greatest people to work with every day and like I was so starstruck at first and so I kind of like the first time while filming there will just be times I’ll be sitting there and all of a sudden I’ll just be like I’m having lunch with Sean Astin or like talking to Melissa Joan Hart. It’s crazy! But after a while like well, but now I just see them as people and people I get to interact with everyday.
And it’s it’s super cool that I got the chance to do that. Yeah, it’s been awesome.
YEM: Both of them are extremely hilarious. How do you deal with not breaking character on a comedy show on top of that?
Kalama: We break character quite a lot. We have our audience shows every single Friday, we actually just finished our last live audience show. Some people have never been to a live audience show and they come and expect we’re just going to get everything right so we have to tell them in the beginning that we mess up. We forget our own lines, we break, stuff happens. So there’s a lot of times where you know, Sean or Melissa will do something small or even our other cast mates do something tiny or change something up or constantly making each other break. Yeah it’s funny. They’re very funny people. It’s pretty hilarious to get to work with them.
YEM: You have any other projects in the works right now?
Kalama: As of right now no because the way sitcoms and multicam is work I’m working 5 days a week. We rehearse for 3 days and then shoot for 2 days. So not much time for auditioning and working other places. You can make it work if it happens, but it’s pretty hard to do that. So, basically right now I’m just finishing up the first season for No Good Nick and then continue to audition for films and stuff to do during the summer and hopefully, hopefully, hopefully there’s too much stuff in the works for sure.
YEM: I brought a ukulele for you. Want to play a little something for our audience?
Kalama: I don’t know, it’s been a little bit.
(Kalama proceeds to play beautifully)
Stereotypical Stairway to Heaven/Guitar Center song or something.
YEM: That was awesome! Any last words for your audience? Your fans out there in the world?
Kalama: No Good Nick release date is coming in a couple of days. Stay tuned! Netflix. Probably sometime in April. No Good Nick the first half of the Season watch it all it’s awesome. Trust me.