Photo by: JJ Geiger
We caught up with actor Devin Kawaoka who can be seen playing Charlie in the brand new Apple Original comedy series Shrinking which premieres today on Apple TV+. From the creators of Ted Lasso, the series stars Jason Segel, Harrison Ford, Jessica Williams, Luke Tennie, Michael Urie, Christa Miller, and Lukita Maxwell.
Shrinking follows a grieving therapist who begins to take a different approach when it comes to his own patients. Though his new method disregards his training and ethics, it ends up having profound effects on people’s lives, including his own.
Devin tells us all about his character, working with Michael Urie, and being a storyteller. Check out our conversation below.
What can you tell us about Shrinking and your character?
Devin Kawaoka (DK): Charlie is the long time boyfriend of Brian played by the brilliant Michael Urie. They live together in a cute townhouse in Altadena where they host lots of dinner parties and game nights with their friends. Brian was ghosted by his best friend Jimmy, played by the incomparable Jason Segel, when Jimmy lost his wife and Brian misses him. Charlie is really hoping Jimmy comes back into their lives soon, especially because he is very good at Codenames.
When did you decide that storytelling and acting was something you wanted to do?
DK: When I was a kid, I was really into pretend. My grandmother was a wonderful storyteller and we used to spend hours elaborating on different narratives. When I found acting, I loved that I could use my powers of pretend to live another life. I got to think, see and feel everything my characters did. Characters in literature and on screen are often people who feel different than everyone else and are afraid to be seen. It was a real balm to a young closeted gay Asian boy in a small city to not only be able to escape my own fears of being different, but to get to relate and empathize to someone who felt the same way —even if they were a figment of my imagination.
What was it like working with Michael Urie on Shrinking?
DK: AMAZING. Simply amazing. Michael is one of the kindest, keenest, and most handsome men in television. He is a really collaborative partner who is ever present in every moment of the process. We knew each other tangentially prior to this project through the New York acting scene, and it was such a joy to be cast as his boyfriend in this project. Not only did we get to know each other better, but there was an already a built in friend on set every time I came to work. I cannot say enough about how much I adore him.
The series is comedic, but has tons of heart, did you notice this when you were reading the script?
DK: It was the first thing I noticed, actually. The audition scenes were very funny, but immediately I was touched by how much Brian and Charlie loved each other and cared for each other. They compliment each other in that mature relationship kind of way. It’s something rarely seen in gay couples on television and I hope people see that in show. That we not only make each other laugh, but are a team. My joy is his joy. My pain is his pain.
What advice would you give to people pursuing acting?
DK: Acting is a craft of storytelling. It isn’t magic. It is a craft passed down from generation to generation that teaches you to live and embody with radical empathy. So therefore it is important to study and learn everything about it and from everyone. Take the time to build your process. Be in class. Try on each and every tool given to you and then use it as you see fit—or throw it away. It is inherent for an actor to be vulnerable at work so learn to be porous and vulnerable in life. Every actor has a different process. We all find different things inspiring which is what makes each and everyone of us unique and undeniable. So be brave to try new things, and also be brave to be yourself.
What was your first acting role?
DK: My first production was Peter Pan in an acting class my mother signed me for as a kid when she learned I liked acting. I played both Hook and Peter Pan, the former in the first and act and the later in the second. It was truly a tour de force billing, though I’m not sure it was a tour de force performance.
What do you enjoy the most about acting?
DK: Learning to trust myself on the daily. Every time I embark on playing a new character I find myself asking, “What do they want?” I’m a people pleaser at heart! And then I remember it’s me and my mind, my creativity, my life experience they want. And that frees me to be myself more with each day and each new project.
The first two episodes of Shrinking premiere on Friday, January 27, and new episodes will be released every Friday through March 24.
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