Comisery is an Asian-American Science Fiction Screwball Comedy that Quentin Lee and I created and made over eight weeks during the lockdown. It stars Bee Vang, Harrison Xu, Amy Hill, Jennifer Field, Nat Ho, Sheetal Sheth, Richard Anderson, and Verton Banks. It was a screwball comedy response to the pandemic and living under lockdown. It premieres on September 1st on Quentin's streaming service AsianAmericanMovies.com and on Amazon Video.
Full disclosure: when I'm not working on screenplays and film work, I'm a correspondent for Bleeding Cool. In the week leading up to the premiere, the editors of Bleeding Cool have let me run a series of interviews with the cast and crew to talk about what it was like to make a movie during the lockdown, shot on zoom, without leaving home. It's a new form of narrative filmmaking that the industry is still coming to terms with.
Today we talk to Jennifer Field, who plays Camila Kang in Comisery. Jennifer held the crown for Miss Asian America from 2006 to 2007 and is proudly half-Korean, half-English-Irish-German. She was an original cast member in the first Asian-American reality show K-Town. She has appeared on 9-1-1 (Fox), For the People (ABC), and Chance (Hulu). She currently plays the fan favourite character, Dr. Ruby, on Artificial, the Peabody and Emmy award-winning interactive Science Fiction series on Twitch. In Comisery, Jennifer plays a TV reporter and part-time dominatrix who gets infected by the alien virus from the future and sets out to spread the virus that threatens to destroy the world.
How has it been for you living and working under lockdown?
It has been a bit of a renaissance for me. I ended up working every week during it, between Comisery and my other series Artificial, which has been really fortunate since most actors were not able to, right? I also discovered what a homebody I can be; that I am not really suited to being a social butterfly all the time. So now, I embrace the introvert in me and look forward to honoring that post-pandemic.
When Quentin and I were creating your character, we just went for something specific because we didn't want another prosaic or anodyne character. We ended up with Camila, an ambitious TV reporter who's also a dominatrix who doms her bosses at the TV station so they'll never fire her. How did Quentin approach you about appearing in a Science Fiction webseries-now-turned-movie shot on zoom during the lockdown?
When I got the call from Quentin, and he offered me the role, I was ecstatic to be a part of something with Bee Vang and Amy Hill and honored he thought of me. Plus, when you tell me "news reporter" or "dom," my eyes light up since I love telling stories from those lenses. The initial commitment fit during the Artificial schedule, so I was all in. But due to the rewrite with the Luane character, we had pushed up the shoot date, which was insane as I shot both series for the first time, both remotely, in the same week! When it rains, it pours, baby.
Playing the Virus
Camila was originally a supporting character, but when Akemi Look, who was going to play Luane, had to drop out, we moved Camila into Luane's position in the story rather than recast you as Luane. That meant keeping Camila the way she was but also now infected/possessed by the alien virus, which turned her into the main antagonist in the story. But you didn't just play her as a femme fatale. You brought layers of oddness and comedy kookiness to her. What went into your approach?
The first iteration of Camila was indeed going to be more of that femme fatale–I crafted her as ambitious, controlling, type A, sex-positive, and educated. But with the twist of an alien possession, I had a whole new world to work with. Do I go in and out from the real Camila to the infected Camila? Am I pretending to be Camila, hoping no one notices? Do I fail at hiding the possession? Do I prefer one version of myself? I landed on the exciting narrative of my character remembering who she was, trying to embody that, and realizing how much fun it is to be Camila. Identity and metaphysics are at play here, don't you think?
The Challenges of Acting on Zoom
What were the challenges with acting in a zoom-shot production?
Zoom, to me, means we don't get to exchange energies and vibes and eye contact and body language in the way we would on a traditional set. How do you make choices and respond to the ones your co-stars make, through a smartphone (as I used for Comisery)? Also, all the other aspects people are familiar with, such as being your own hair, makeup, wardrobe, set dresser, gaffer, camera operator.
Camila became the most unpredictable character in the story. Even when I was writing the scripts, the character kept doing something odd, all to kick the situation to another level. She came to embody a lot of Science Fiction and Asian Horror tropes while also being a specific person. How did you react to the constant ebbs and flows of your character?
I thought she is sick with this alien virus that affects her memory, her consciousness, her relationships. She is the former Camila, but not…so, there was a lot of room to play with. She also came with a rich backstory that you and Quentin had created, so I had a nice well to draw from. What I appreciated most is she was not one note, simple, broad stroked. Camila was a full human being, which is ironic and comedic in that she was an alien too.
Did the story go the way you thought it would?
I think Danny coming back was a fun, dimension-bending surprise, and I was curious how things would tie-up with Nate. There is definitely more to tell from this group of friends!
Would you be up for more if we swing a sequel?
Took the words right out of my mouth–I want more.