Kollaboration Atlanta’s Qui Ho interviews actress Julree Cerda about her upcoming role in the play “Smart People,” premiering in Atlanta on July 12 at the True Colors Theatre Company.
Julee Cerda is an American actress born in Seoul, South Korea. She was raised in New York but spent part of her childhood in her father’s home country, the Dominican Republic. Julee comes to Atlanta from New York City playing Ginny Yang, a well respected tenured Harvard Psychology professor, in Smart People. Her most recent theater credits include: The Bloodline of Shadrick Grace (FringeNYC) and Mad Dog Blues (Michael Chekhov Theater Company). On screen, Julee has recently appeared in House of Cards, Orange Is the NewBlack, and will be seen in Morten Tyldum’s upcoming film, Passengers.
Qui: How did the role in “Smart People” come about?
Julee: My agent asked me if I wanted to put myself on tape for the role of Ginny and having known the play and the role, I agreed to. I didn’t think anything would come of it and even went on a lengthy vacation to visit my husband’s family in England. That’s of course when I get a call saying the director wanted to meet so we ended up arranging a call over Skype.
Qui: Do you feel you face challenges in the industry due to race?
Julee: All the time. Roles for Asian Americans are few and far between and when a script calls for one, it usually requires you to play a stereotype. And while roles for Latinos are more available, I usually don’t get called in for those parts because I don’t “look” Latina enough. It’s a frustrating predicament to be in…especially if you’re an actress of mixed race. But I’m grateful playwrights like Lydia R. Diamond has created a role like Ginny who, like me, defines herself as a “twoken…proudly representing not one, but two under representedpopulations”.
Qui: What’s your definition of “smart”?
Julee: Aware, insightful, thoughtthrough. Although thanks to my husband, I’ve now adopted the British meaning which is neat and stylish as in “that outfit looks smart.”
Qui: What would you picture yourself doing if you weren’t acting?
Julee: I’d like to think I’d be doing is something creative like screenwriting or playwriting or filmmaking. But if it weren’t artsrelated, I’ve always had this fantasy of being a carpenter and building houses. I don’t know why. I just like the idea of creating things by hand.
Qui: In a previous interview, you stated “Don’t let fear rule you. Dare to try. Dare to fail.” I believe in being confident leads to success. How would you suggest one getting over the fear of failure?
Julee: Take an improv class. It’s scary as hell but incredibly exhilarating! And it’s refreshing to know your peers are in the same sinking boat as you are.
Qui: The Shakespeare Tavern is a gem here in Atlanta. Any spots you’re looking forward to visiting during your Atlanta residency?
Julee: I’m actually just looking forward to getting to know the neighborhoods of Atlanta a bit more. I hear East Atlanta, Little 5 Points, Virginia Highlands, PonceyHighlands, Edgewood are all worth checking out. And I’m also really looking forward to trying out some delicious southern comfort food so suggestions welcome!
Qui: Who is someone in your life who can always make you laugh?
Julee: My 18 month old daughter, Emmett. She’s full of surprises and always up to something cheeky. For instance, she’ll come over to me to give me a hug and I’ll think “aw, how sweet!” and then I’ll suddenly realize my iPhone is missing from my pocket and she’s running away giggling.
Qui: I am a huge fan of House of Cards having grown up in D.C. area. What’s it like on set of House of Cards?
Julee: Amazing! The cast and crew are one of the nicest, most relaxed, and warmest people I’ve ever met on set which is funny because it’s such a stiff and chilling show.
Qui: Your goto place for Korean cuisine & Dominican Republic cuisine in New York?
Julee: Definitely Flushing, Queens for some authentic Korean dining and Washington Heights for Dominican food. You have to go where the people are.
Qui: One sentence. What do you hope to be able to say 5 years from now?
Julee: “Siri, do my hair and makeup.”