I recently heard about up and coming actor Dyana Liu through our friends over at 8asians.com and reached out to her when I discovered she was Taiwanese American. Dyana is one of the stars of a new Cartoon Network live-action series, Tower Prep. She plays Suki Sato, a “tech and gadget expert” who also possesses a unique skill of mimicry.
Tower Prep is a promising new TV series aimed for the Harry Potter and Heroes generation. Set in a mysterious castle-like boarding school with a futuristic laser-security “moat” and enclosing wall, the show has all the right elements of a successful series: attractive actors who play the rag-tag quartet with not-quite-superhero abilities, mystery and suspense, high-school bullies, and a plan to uncover the secrets of Tower Prep. As Suki and her allies reveal their unique “powers,” they begin to devise a plan to eventually escape. And so their adventure begins.
TaiwaneseAmerican.org is pleased to present a brief interview with actor Dyana Liu. She’s relatively new on the TV scene, but from the looks of it, she’s definitely comfortable in her shoes and quite talented. And we’re happy that she’s playing a fairly well-rounded Asian American female role! We’ll be watching Dyana in the years to come for sure.
Tower Prep airs on Tuesdays on the Cartoon Network at 9/8 Central. Watch episodes of Tower Prep online:
D: You know, it’s interesting, because I was actually really shy as a kid. But, I grew up a classical pianist and started performing at age 5. I was competing by age 12, so when I reached college, I had these years of stage and rejection experience under my belt, which helped to open me up a bit and give me some balls to eventually go after what I really wanted–this career in front of the camera. I always knew I wanted to act, but my shyness was a significant hindrance until then. I juggled my “good girl” education during the day, studied theater and acting at nights and on weekends, and got involved with some university productions. After graduation, I moved to New York City for a while to continue acting studies and soon after, drove cross-country with my boyfriend out here to LA.
H: How did you land this role in Tower Prep?
D: I’d like to know myself! Hahaha. You work nose to the grindstone to get your foot in the door and establish yourself in this industry, but there’s never a guarantee–never an absolute certainty that your efforts will be rewarded in the way you envision. But, I do believe that so long as you’ve got the work ethic and tenacity, you’ll at least be ready when the opportunity arrives. Last summer, when they were casting for the pilot, I had been waiting and was ready. A perfect marriage happened.
D: Well, I trained classically in piano, violin and clarinet. And I was always running around to recitals, master classes and competitions. In fact, other than school, music was my life. So, I think that kind of education and lifestyle bestowed a certain level of discipline and appreciation for the arts. I left my piano back home at my parents’ home on the east coast, so these days, I don’t get to play as much as I’d like. But, music’s still a big part of my life and commitment to a goal, big or small, is a defining characteristic of mine. I have my parents to attribute too for the latter.
H: You speak both Mandarin and Hakka, right? Tell us about your Taiwanese heritage.
D: I wish I could still speak Hakka! I actually only speak Mandarin now. When I lived in Taiwan before we moved to the States, I could converse in both plus Taiwanese. Kids always pick up languages easier, right? But obviously it’s easier to retain given the right environment. And it’s been tough enough holding onto just my Mandarin over the years! I can still comprehend some Taiwanese and Hakka these days, but fluency gone… sadly. My Taiwanese heritage… um… I was born in Taipei and lived there for close to 4 years before moving to upstate New York with my parents. My mom is Taiwanese and my dad is Hakka. Although I grew up here, I feel a lot of pride in being Taiwanese. I try to go back to visit as often as I can. Taiwan will always be dear to my heart, you know?
H: That’s awesome that you feel so connected. We definitely appreciate people like you! So, how do your parents feel about your career in acting?
D: I count myself really, really lucky–I couldn’t have more supportive parents. And no one better to make sure I keep a good head on my shoulders during this ride.
H: This one is a little deep, but what are your thoughts about Asian American representation in the media? Have you yourself encountered any challenges or obstacles?
D: Look, when I examine Asian American representation in the media, I feel really optimistic. Year after year, visibility and diversity in roles increase. We still have very stereotypical “Asian” roles yes… and those roles, when I see them, aggravate me too and won’t ever fully disappear; but there are a great number of fully fleshed-out, well-developed and strong characters played by Asian Americans on the rise. I do feel we are riding the beginning of a wave right now and that we have good things to look forward to. I think my biggest frustration with my career choice so far has just been not having enough roles to audition for. But, like I said, the playing field seems to be changing, and that’s a good sign.
D: Graduate onto college-aged roles? haha. I want to keep doing this for as long you guys will have me. And the industry will have me. Ideally, I’d take my work experience in TV and parlay it into a career in film. I love watching movies, so it’d be a dream to work in the film world. Do a bigger budget movie, do a few indies, continue that cycle… That’d be awesome. But, I’d like to expand in other ways in the industry too. Put on a producer’s hat? Find some compelling or darling passion projects and develop them. There’s so much I wanna do!
H: Well, we definitely wish you the best! So, one last question I just gotta ask… what’s your favorite Taiwanese food?
D: Nuh-uh. You did not just ask me to narrow it down to one, Ho Chie! I love Taiwan shiao chi (small eats). Gun-to-my-head, I suppose I’d pick… ba wan… Taizhong style?
H: Mmmm! I think that’s my favorite too! We’ll have to go find some to eat sometime! Anyways, Dyana, thanks for taking the time to share a little about yourself with our audience!
D: Thanks, Ho Chie. It’s been a pleasure.