BWW Interview: QUACK's Jackie Chung On Connections, Wellness & Family
Center Theatre Group will world premiere Eliza Clark's new comedy QUACK at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Already in previews (with opening set for October 28, 2018), QUACK ever so timely illustrates the vulnerability of an adoring public eager to follow, without question, the advice of TV personality Dr. Irving Baer.
Thank you for taking time out of your rehearsal for this interview, Jackie.
Would you describe your character Kelly for us?
Kelly is a nurse turned personal assistant turned on-air personality/nurse. She works with Dr. Irving Baer, a very well-known doctor with his own TV show. She's an idealist, a feminist and she's ambitious. She strives to be the best version of herself at all times.
This isn't your first production with Center Theatre Group. You played Alice in the 2014 world premiere of Kimber Lee's different words for the same thing (all lowercase). In what hypothetical setting (i.e.; restaurant, grocery store, playground, court room) would you find Kelly and Alice interacting? What common interest would they have? Or none at all?
Alice and Kelly are very different. Apples and oranges. I can't imagine they would ever meet. Perhaps they'd enjoy a meal together? I love food, so I think they would, too. It's important to bring yourself to your characters, no?
Have you worked with any of the QUACK cast or creatives before?
I have. Neel Keller, the director of QUACK, also directed different words for the same thing. And one of the QUACK producers, Lindsay Allbaugh, also produced different words and directed me this summer in CRY IT OUT (by Molly Smith Metzler) at the Echo Theater Company in Atwater Village. Shoniqua Shandai and I met at the CTG Writers' Workshop where she was in an early reading of QUACK. She and Dan and I have also been in prior workshops of the play together.
I didn't get to see you in different words for the same thing, but I did catch you in CAUGHT last year, in which you played multiple distinctly different characters. Would you say your character Kelly has to play multiple characters herself? Don't we all portray different sides of ourselves to different people under different circumstances?
Yes, that's exactly it. Kelly does play multiple characters in a way. She portrays different sides of herself with different people. I don't know if she's conscious of how good she is at doing so.
In QUACK, daytime talk show host Dr. Irving Baer (limned by Dan Bucatinsky) regularly doles out advice that his women viewers eat up. Were you or anyone in your family mesmerized by any talk show personality, viewing their word as Bible?
I'm not a follower of anyone in particular, but I will always love Oprah.
Any particular element of the wellness industry surprised you that you learned about in being involved with QUACK?
No, I've always been into wellness. I even tried the Master Cleanse many years ago and lasted... one day. I am into alternative medicine, though. I've been struggling with some back pain this year, and have been to acupuncturists, osteopaths, rolfers and a woman called Tha Muscle Whisperer. I'm now reading a book that says back pain is caused by oxygen deprivation to your muscles, caused by tension, caused by repressed emotions. I'll let you know how it goes...
In the early stages of your own acting career, who did you look up to as a mentor or as a role model?
My friend and wonderful actor Gita Reddy has been a mentor since we met back in New York when she was directing and also working as a fellow at New York Theatre Workshop. She has been a supporter of mine from the beginning and continues to be an advocate for me and my work. She is incredibly hard-working and always offers me great advice.
What profession did your parents originally want you to be?
My parents wanted me to be a news anchor. I think maybe it was because Connie Chung was on the air when I was young. But when I was little, I wanted to be a dentist. I have no idea why, I just remember saying it all the time. Maybe I can play one someday?
How did they react when you told them you wanted to be an actress? Did you get the traditional Asian parents' reaction of horror(!), then practical warning of the scarcity of Asian acting jobs?
My parents, like any sane parents who want a stable life for their kids, were not excited about my decision. They've gone through phases. They've been supportive, they've been in denial, they've badgered me about pursuing other professions. I think now they have finally reached a place of acceptance. BUT, they do tell me sometimes that business school is still an option.
Any projects in the near future for Jackie Chung that you can share with us?
Future projects? I don't have anything lined up right now. I did shoot a film with Wayne Wang earlier this year that will be out sometime in the future. QUACK is the fourth play I've done since last fall (CAUGHT in L.A. with Firefly Theatre & Film and Think Tank Gallery, OFFICE HOUR at Long Wharf in New Haven, CT, and Berkeley Rep in Berkeley, and CRY IT OUT in L.A.), so I think I might take a break to be with my family and spend time with my kids (both human and dog).
Is there a cautionary message the Kirk Douglas audiences should be getting from QUACK? Or should they just expect to be entertained?
I don't like telling audiences what to expect! I think the play is brilliantly written by Eliza Clark with wonderful performances by my fellow castmates, so it is definitely entertaining, but I'd rather hear what the audience takes away from the experience.
Thank you again, Jackie! I look forward to seeing your Nurse Kelly QUACK-ing at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.
For ticket availability and show schedule from November 18, 2018; log onto www.centertheatregroup.org