Joanna Sotomura, star of the smash hit web series Emma Approved, models summer’s hottest trends while sharing her sartorial favorites, letting us behind the scenes of her experience playing one of Austen’s most beloved heroines, and what is coming next for her career.
Favorite Summer Trend Lately I have been crazy about crop tops. I think they’re the perfect alternative to a typical summer sundress. It’s such an effortless look when paired with matching shorts or a high-waisted skirt. If you just have a peak of midriff showing it can look really elegant and demure. They’re also ideal for these hot L.A. summers!
Ultimate Beauty Essential I can’t leave the house without Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue. I. I have very sensitive skin and suffer from pretty painful breakouts. This miracle cream is just light enough that it doesn’t irritate my skin yet still provides amazing coverage. I really can’t give it enough praise!
Style Inspiration My style icons are Taylor Swift and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. I want to live in their closets! I adore feminine skirts and fitted dresses just as much as I love my denim overalls and baggy sweaters. I’m all over the place fashion-wise but it’s much more fun that way!
When did you first start acting? Was it something you’ve always wanted to do? I first started acting in the seventh grade. I had just transferred to a new school and found it nearly impossible to make friends. I was really shy and incredibly hard on myself. I can laugh about it now but back then I would eat lunch in a bathroom stall to avoid having to find a seat in the cafeteria. My father signed me up for some theatre courses hoping it would force me to socialize and it worked! I fell in love with the stage and especially Shakespeare. I later graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a BFA and I was cast in my first feature film Madison County… and the rest is history.
What were the most rewarding and challenging parts of playing a classic character like Emma? Honestly, the most challenging part of playing Emma was memorizing all those lines in such a short amount of time. We shot about 60-80 pages over the course of two days and at most had five days to learn the script. Somehow we always got it done!
The most rewarding part of working on Emma Approved was interacting with the fans. I’ve never been a part of a project where the fans have been so supportive, creative and encouraging! And of course, I loved working with our cast and crew, especially Brent Bailey. We had so much fun on and off screen and I am thrilled that I got to share this experience with him. He is truly my real life Mr. Knightley.
The cast of Emma Approved was so diverse and that inclusiveness felt so effortless while watching. Did you feel any particular pressure at recreating Emma as an Asian American woman? I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to take on this role. Emma is such an iconic Austen heroine and I didn’t know how the fans would react to an Asian American playing her. Far too often, Asian women are portrayed as naive, timid or overly sexualized karate fighting girls. It was so rewarding to throw those stereotypes out the window and just play a woman who is strong and flawed and human. And the fact that I could play her for a full year was another amazing bonus!
Emma goes through a pretty intense journey; what did you learn from playing her? When I first got the part, I was so nervous and scared and felt like I had bitten off more than I could chew. I kept thinking that they made a mistake in casting me and that I wasn’t strong enough to play her.
Emma has given me more than I could have ever imagined. She showed me that strength isn’t just refusing to back down. It’s taking responsibility for your actions, good or bad. I learned that I am capable of so much more then I give myself credit for. I learned how true friends will stay by your side even in your most unlovable hours. And I learned to laugh at myself with my whole body and love myself with my whole heart. I have grown into a much stronger and happier person because of this show. Emma Woodhouse really has made my life better!
What’s coming up next for you? Any new projects we should know about? I will be appearing in Wong Fu Productions first feature film, Everything Before Us, out June 3rd. I’m so proud of it! I’m guest-starring in Bernie Su’s new series for StyleHaul called Vanity, out June 11. I’m shooting new shows for ISAtv and for one of them I’ll be co-hosting with my friend Stephen Chang from Emma Approved. And I’ll be speaking on a panel at this years Comic-Con! Last year was such an incredible roller coaster, I can’t wait to see what this one has in store!
See more from our Summer 2015 Issue below!