Breakout Chinese-Filipina star Cathy Ang has a lot to be thankful for; not only is she in a position to advocate for more Asian representation in Hollywood, but she's also in HBO's And Just Like That, the sequel to Sex And The City that's making waves with a diverse cast. She plays Charlotte York Goldenblatt's daughter Lily, who, in a major plot, ruined Carrie's wedding plans in the franchise's first film.
Ang, a trained pianist, moved to America when she was young.
Her father previously lived in Ongpin, while her mum grew up in Nueva Vizcaya, in the Philippines. She remembers visiting the Philippines every Christmas before the COVID-19 pandemic and shared, "I miss visiting my family there so much."
Over a Zoom call, the 26-year-old actress who's currently based in New York, is excited to share with Yahoo Life SEA some insights about her character – as much as she's contractually allowed to – and her Chinese-Filipino heritage.
What does it mean for you to be an actor of Asian heritage and be part of something huge like this?
Cathy Ang: It's very exciting to be a part of a piece of art that is so huge worldwide. It's a famous show, and it has reach. I think it's very important that on the show, we see people of all colours represented. We've had this conversation so many times about how representation matters and how it can really encourage people to go into the arts, but also just to explore their identity to feel seen. It's a huge honour for me!
First of all, when my mum found out I was in the show, she texted me and was so thankful to God that they changed the name to And Just Like That. My parents are a little bit more conservative; they grew up in the Philippines, and they had an idea about what I should or shouldn't be doing with my life. But I think they're really excited about watching the show together. But that can be a little uncomfortable with my family.
Your character, Lily, is in her teens. Do you think that is the age when she might start exploring the topic of sex in the show or even talk about it?
Well, I feel like, first of all, I am not allowed to give any spoilers for the rest of the season. But I think that Lily is quite mature; I think she's grown up knowing that she's a transracial adoptee and a lot of people are aware of it because there's just so much more communication now. For her generation, it feels like she has done a lot of reading on gender identity sexuality. And you know, she also has a lot of pent-up something, that we kind of saw in the first episode; a lot is going on inside her.
Maybe that's something that will be explored because every teenager has a little bit of sexual exploration and angst, you know. The thing that grabs our attention more with Lily is probably, you know, how she and Charlotte will relate to the world and maybe how she and Charlotte will eventually go through that process where Lily is discovering her body.
Lily seems like the perfect daughter; she's wise beyond her years. She's also a model student and a piano prodigy. Were you concerned that she would come across as an Asian stereotype?
I grew up singing, and we all, of course, had karaoke in the house. Our family was always teaching because we're Filipino. And so, I went to music school, but mostly I play the piano just to accompany myself if I'm singing. This was a wonderful challenge for me as an actor. We picked a hard dramatic piece because I think Lily is exceptional. She works hard and challenges herself. And you can see through that piano piece that she meets goals, so I tried to live up to that standard.
I was practising like HOURS in a day; my parents would have been so proud. I gave myself carpal tunnel syndrome because I just wanted to do the piece justice. What you heard, it was me playing my best on film. Luckily, though, I think what you heard is a little nicer than what I might have played; there were some mistakes, and I think they just them cut out.
How is your relationship with Alexa on set, and how does that transpire to reality?
Alexa (Swinton) and I are always together on set. So yes, we are friends. Although, I don't know if she's gonna get mad at me if I say this. There is an age gap because Alexa is pretty young. So sometimes, it can feel a little bit like I'm babysitting her. But that's okay, (pauses) oh, no, I hope she doesn't get mad at me! But we have a lot of fun. You can have fun no matter what and with whoever you're babysitting. So I love her.
She's incredibly talented, but we're also just at different stages in our lives, which in some ways, kind of feels like the Lily-Rose dynamic. When we talk about the Asian stereotype, Lily's just kind of in her own world and I was worried that she was going to be like an invisible Asian or some other stereotype because she's a side character. You not only see her in her moments, but really, she's in her own world, and she's focused.
Can you walk us through the process of fashion and wardrobe?
I have never been so worried about spilling something on myself! So what happens is at the top of the season, I went in to work with Molly (Rogers) and Danny (Santiago). They had a bunch of different outfits already in this huge room where like, there's beautiful lights, and just racks and racks of clothes, we're just gonna have you try on – it's very exciting. We'll spend hours in these fittings because clothes and fashion is just another way for these women to express themselves. I also think that fashion is informative, and it's also just kind of new to me personally.
I'm gonna ask you a controversial question: Who is your favourite character on And Just Like That, and why?
Oh, man, that's really tough. At this point, I've worked with her so much, but I love Kristin (Davis) or Charlotte. When I watched the original series, after I found out that I was in the show, I saw her dedication to building a family was just so beautiful to watch. I loved every single character, and I saw myself in all of the women, but there's so much joy that comes out of Charlotte's journey to find a family and take care of people. She's like my mum in my head; I love her so much because she's my mum.
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