Talk Nerdy got the chance to speak with newcomer actress Elina Miyake. A native of Japan, she moved to Toronto to start her acting career and has starred in a variety of short films and made background appearances in major network shows like Heroes Reborn. We asked her what inspired her to get into acting and what it’s like to make such a dramatic leap for a chance to follow a dream.
I have to ask: you’re pretty new in your career. You’re moving your way up. When did you first become interested in acting actually?
It’s been three years. I’m originally from Japan and then I came to Toronto about three and a half years ago. And at the time I couldn’t speak English at all. I had already decided to be an actor because – it’s kind of a long story, but when I was little, like 9 years old, my dad was just watching movies right? And it was Terminator 2.
And then I watched it – before that I didn’t really watch any movies or TV. And then since I watched Terminator 2 I couldn’t stop thinking about it somehow. I don’t know the reason but I just really loved how Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered the role. He has such a good atmosphere, and he’s not especially handsome or anything he just – he was incredible.
He was just very fascinating?
Yeah yeah! He’s so inspiring too! Before that, I didn’t really get the feeling from Tom Cruise or any other actors but somehow he got me the impression. Since then, I started watching his movies and other movies as well. So I kind of leaned to movies gradually? I used to think about being a flight attendant, but then I went to a workshop and they didn’t look so inspiring to me personally. (laughs).
I wanted to do something inspiring to people. When I graduated high school, people started talking about what to do in the future. And I was like, “Mmm, I don’t really know. I don’t know my special skill is.” And then I was like, “You know what? I wanna do something that I love. What do I love?” Then I thought, “Oh, I just want to work with Arnold! To do that, I have to be an actor, right?” And that’s how I started.
I have to ask then, is Terminator 2 one of your favorites of his movies?
Yeah, Terminator 2, Jingle All the Way, and Predator, those inspired me too. And then that actually gave me an action kind of thing. I actually trained Krav Maga. It’s martial arts from Israel. It’s what the FBI uses. It’s like contact combat, the most efficient one. I got into it, and I’ve done it for 1-2 years. I got inspired by that. It’s part of my plan to work with him, actually. I thought, “I have to know how to do action to work with him in the future.” Angelina Jolie also inspired me, too.
She’s a pretty amazing actress as well, and she’s gotten to do a lot of action films too, I feel.
I remember her in Tomb Raider, and she was great.
Oh my god, yeah! Definitely one of my favorites. (laughs).
When did you learn Krav Maga? That’s really amazing.
It was after graduating high school. It was two-thousand – when did I graduate? (laughs) Oh, 2010 or something, I guess. I’m not quite sure. Let me just double-check… 2010 to 2011. Something like that.
Moving to Canada must have been a huge change for you! How difficult was it to adjust to living in Canada? I imagine it’s nothing like living in Japan.
Oh my goodness, yeah! Like trust me, when I first came here, I couldn’t even order a cup of coffee. (laughs) You know, I knew the word “coffee”, “beans,” those words, but I didn’t know how to make a sentence, right? So I struggled a lot. But then my personality is more like… I need pressure to improve. So like, day one, the day I landed in Canada, I already took an acting class. Obviously, I didn’t understand a word in acting class.
I basically mimicked someone doing stuff. I also looked for a job at a coffee shop, and then one of my coworkers was so mean. He was like, “You don’t even speak English” and “What’s the point of you being here? Just go back to your country.” It was so mean, but that gave me pressure, good pressure. That made me feel like, “Oh, I need revenge!” (laughs) You know? That gave me the strength. And now, I fully speak English, and I pick up words in acting class. I actually learned the Meisner technique, I don’t know if you know about it.
No, I don’t, feel free to explain it to me. I don’t know a lot about acting techniques.
The Meisner technique is, simply saying, it starts with two people. One, for example, if I’m doing a Meisner technique repetition exercise, that’s the basic level of it. Me and the other person are talking, and then we observe each other. And if I’m blushing, the other person will say,”Oh, you’re blushing!” and I have to repeat, “Oh, I’m blushing!” We have to repeat it. If somebody laughs or something, I have to say,”Oh, you’re laughing.” You know, observe, and if I see something new I say it. We repeat it, that kind of thing.
I couldn’t speak English, right? So I was just watching people doing the repetition exercise – and then you know, “blushing,” “smiling” those words? I’d just like, write it down in a notebook, and I went home and looked it up. I just repeated it to pick up words.
What about acting do you most enjoy?
Let me think about it. So first of all like, playing someone different or close to me is definitely interesting because we’re human. We all have experiences, and then we play different humans. If I get some compliments from people after acting like it’s even more amazing. I just enjoy playing humans. I don’t think acting is acting. I feel like acting is like, putting yourself in this situation. It’s like it’s real. Crying or something, it has to come from the heart. You know, even celebrities, experienced actors, still train. So, I really enjoy the difficulty.
I see you’ve done a live-action show as well worked in film and television — what was that experience in comparison?
It was absolutely exciting! You have a lot of differences of course because TV shows, movie sets it’s like, just once and it’s done. You know, after that you don’t have to do rehearsal or anything. But stage theater, a live show you have to rehearse a lot. The teammates are really like a family after several rehearsals. And then the live shows are almost like a full day or something like that. So, it was incredible.
Also, after the show, the audience can come up to me and say,”Oh, you look familiar! I recognize you in some film or something.” And… like, even though they didn’t know my name or anything they at least recognized me. It was so incredible. Because I just started out, and somebody already recognized me. It’s like… like so amazing. I really loved it.
Do you have anyone else that you would like to, if given the chance, you would like to work with?
Oh yes, a lot actually! (laughs) I’m not a huge movie fan, but I just love expressing feelings through arts. I started watching more movies because I’m doing this job, but I don’t know too many directors or anything but I’d really like to work with Steven Spielberg because it would be so cool to work with him. He’s doing a lot of aliens, that kind of mysterious thing. I really love aliens. (laughs) So yeah I just wanna be in his movies. It would be amazing. […] I really love action, so working with other famous action stars would be amazing definitely.
What’s the dream job or role? Is it on television or film?
That’s an interesting question! Because both have good parts, you know? But, recently I’m in The People’s Garden, which came out this year. Pamela Anderson, Drew Hemingway, Jai West, Denis Akiyama, they’re in it. It’s a great movie. So I got a chance to be in it for a little bit, and it was amazing.
I saw myself on-screen at the Lightbox, this huge movie theater in Toronto. I went there and watched myself with my boyfriend. Watching myself on this huge screen with the audience is something that I can’t do with TV. But, at the same time with TV shows, my friends back home can see it too. So it’s hard to choose, but I would say film.
Any advice for other young artists out there?
Well, first of all, I would advise them to do their research first before jumping into it. There are too many people who came up to me and asked, “How can I be an actor? What should I do? Can you introduce me to someone?” It just annoys me so much because it’s, you know, it’s 2016. We have the Internet, and we can google everything. Google knows better than me. So, they can do research first and if they have questions then they can ask me. I can tell if they did research or not, and if they don’t have the energy to even google then they can’t be an actor.
It requires a lot of research for roles, and they have to do a lot of work. When you show up on set you have to remember all of this. What I do is I remember all the people’s names, everyone on the call sheet, so I can call them by name. And it feels good on set, right? Even the makeup artist, even the PA, if I can call them by their name that feels good! It’s more like teamwork. So, I would advise doing a lot of research, as much as possible. And then get everything done, headshot and everything. Then jump into it, because I’ve seen a lot of people who don’t do it, and it’s just sad. Then they feel rejected when things don’t go well. You just need, you know, the research.
How did your family react to your decision?
When I told my family about it, they really got surprised, and they kept saying I’m crazy. It was easy for me to convince my mom, but not my dad. He was really, really shocked. And not just my family, my best friends, my teachers, they all doubted me. So I had to get out of my house. I ran away – I just needed distance. And then I had to make money to come here to Canada. So it was really hard […] I went back home my last week in Japan to spend time with my family. And my dad needed to be convinced that I would be safe.
But the night before I departed, he was hiding my suitcase so that I couldn’t go! (laughs) He took it away! And I didn’t know this so in the morning I was like “What?! Where is it?” I searched but the suitcase is big enough I found it. I was like “Oh my god.” I got angry, and I had to leave without saying goodbye to my dad. It was really hard for me. I was kind of crying on the airplane, too. But, you know, after getting more work for acting, he started being happy about it.
He’s really proud of it right now. I couldn’t talk to him for the first year of Canada. It was so hard because he’s my family, but we couldn’t talk. So it’s really amazing. I really feel, it’s not proud, but I’m really happy to do this job. I’m going to do this forever. I love it!
What are you currently working on?
Other than acting, I also make films. My first short, “BIAS” just got completed. It’s based on my experience when I met a homophobic man being mean to a lesbian couple. I felt sad and boiled but I couldn’t stop the situation and I regretted that I couldn’t do anything about it. So that’s why I made this film. Also, my producing teaser “Equals” got selected by two film festivals in France and Italy. I’m so grateful to have talented people around me to create these.