Interview with Ella Mika of “Chad” on TBS by Suzanne 3/24/21
It was very nice to speak with young Ella. She is obviously very smart, and I think she’ll do well as her career progresses. She was thoughtful in her answers and handled them with aplomb.
Here is the audio version of it.
Suzanne: Tell us how this part came about for you…
Ella: Getting this part was a step by step process. It was my longest audition process I’ve had so far, actually. So first, we had two rounds of auditioning and getting a callback that was more focused on the character and how well I could perform and fit into it. So, that was what the first two rounds of auditioning was made up of.
Then, with each callback, the script changed, so I had to make sure I coached every time before I went in, and I think that was really helpful with getting the role.
Then, we had a third and fourth round of auditioning to really test out my improv skills, and they made sure to send notes on what to adjust and what they really wanted from me each time I auditioned.
Then, the third and fourth round of auditioning was also down to me and one other girl, which really raised the stakes and brought lots of anticipation.
Then, finally, the last two rounds of auditioning were for a chemistry read with Nasim [Pedrad] and Saba [Homayoon], who plays my mother in “Chad,” to see how well us three work together and if we were able to communicate well and really perform our characters well together. In the end, it was the Nasim who called me and gave me the news that I got the part.
Suzanne: Wow, that is a long process.
Ella: Yeah, it was very long.
Suzanne: But at least now you have all that experience. You can handle anything now, right?
Suzanne: That’s great. From what I’ve heard from actors, a lot of times they change the scripts on you constantly, even after you get the role, and you have to really be on your toes all the time. That would be difficult.
Suzanne: So, tell us what your character is like.
Ella: So, my character is Niki. She’s really sassy, straightforward, stylish, confident, and she’s slightly bratty, and she’s a young girl as well. She’s my age range, around 13 years old. She’s constantly bickering with her brother Chad (Pedrad), and she’s also known as the popular girl at school, but she has a sweet and sentimental side to her that we get to see on the show as well. A lot of the times she doesn’t act her age, and the show usually describes her as 13 going on 21 just to kind of explain her attitude. She’s just a young girl that I think is confident in herself and never afraid to see things straight up and as they are.
Suzanne: What has been the best thing about filming the show?
Ella: …The best thing was probably the amount of freedom to improv that we had and the amount of positive energy during the process. Nasim, the directors, and the producers, they were all really great about giving us just the right amount of freedom to improv throughout the process of filming, which I think was really important for the show, since it is a comedy. I think some of the best moments and scenes were actually because of a spontaneous improv moment by one or more of the actors, which really got a raw reaction out of us and made the scene a lot funnier than we could have like imagined. The energy throughout filming was also really helpful, because we always felt like each day was better than the last, and all the cast and crew were really great at making it a positive environment to want to work in.
Suzanne: Did the pandemic affect the filming at all?
Ella: Yeah, it affected it quite a bit. That was one of the more unusual and difficult parts of it. We had to stop filming for about five months until we could resume again in August. Then, we had to test for COVID multiple times before we flew out to Oregon again to finish filming. As we arrived, we had to self quarantine for a few days and then get tested. While we were self quarantining, the wardrobe and styling team dropped off some outfits for a fitting for us to take pictures [of] and send to them, and then they came back and they took it again without contact, which was really weird for me, since before the pandemic, we used to go in person for fittings. It was just more like in person with contact with one another. While we were filming, the actors had to be tested around like three times a week, whether or not we were [actually] filming, because we were the most dangerous to others by having our masks off for the filming of the scenes. So, I think the most unusual part, for me, was not being able to interact with others close up and personal, but the entire team was really smart and careful, so we all felt safe and happy.
Suzanne: That’s good. Yeah, that’s pretty much aligned with what I’ve been hearing from other actors about when you’re on set, and they have to keep you away from each other and test you a lot.
Suzanne: So, the show is about a teenage boy, but he’s being played by an adult woman. Do you know why they went in that direction?
Ella: Yes. So, I think Nasim really wanted to make the show stand out and be different, and what better way to do it than to dress an adult woman as an awkward, puny, teenage boy? I also think she thought it would push the comedic aspect of the show much more if it was an adult that was playing a teen boy and she was in on the joke. Nasim was also the one that wrote the majority of the show, and I think she enjoyed playing different roles that could have led to her writing about her experiences as a Middle Eastern girl moving to America, but as an awkward teenage boy instead to really push the comedy.
Suzanne: And why do you think audiences will enjoy the show?
Ella: I’m sure audiences will enjoy the show, because it’s something new, something different, and you don’t see very many shows like this one. I think it has the perfect combination of comedy and culture, and I think audiences will also love the show for its diversity and strong implement of culture throughout it. The show is really full of people with different looks, races, and ethnicities, so I feel like people are really going to enjoy the inclusivity.
Suzanne: Have you have you done anything with a live audience, like plays and things like that before?
Ella: Yeah, I have. I’d started doing live audience plays, even when I was little and I went to daycare, we had some performances. Then, throughout growing up, I also did a few performances at different theaters. Also, when visiting Armenia, I did a few performances there too.
Suzanne: Great. So, I was wondering what the differences [are] you found between doing live stage performing, especially if you did a comedy and filming without an audience?
Ella: Yeah, I think definitely, filming with an audience, in live and in person, it’s definitely much more difficult and stressful, because you can’t really mess up, as you can’t do more takes. Then, they’re quite different filming them, because one is really in person, you do it on the spot, you do it in the moment, and then the other, you get so many scenes from different angles, you take so many takes, and you can do it out of order, and in the end, it all gets put together. So, you have your best moments on camera.
So, I think I enjoy the thrill of both. I enjoy the thrill of being in the moment for theater, but I think for films, I love that most, because I’m able to connect with others, and it’s just more fun for me to be able to put [out] my very best.
Suzanne: …Your character looks very stylish, as you mentioned earlier, in the clips I’ve seen. How is your own style similar or different from hers?
Ella: So, Niki is definitely a stylish girl, and she includes girly pieces in her wardrobe, but she also has some edgier pieces, and I think that’s something we both have in common. She’s also switching up her looks quite a bit, whether [it’s] her shoes or her hair or her style, which is another thing I like to do quite often. I just like the change. And she loves pink quite a bit. So, while playing her role, I actually started to like the color pink too, which was unexpected for me. Unlike Niki though, I usually tend to have a more minimalistic look, and I love neutrals, whereas Niki is often exploring colors and patterns and things of the sort.
Suzanne: Do you think the way she’s changing a wardrobe is her way of fitting in to the culture, like Chad is trying to fit in his way?
Ella: Yeah, and I think also because she is the popular girl, she’s often a trendsetter at her school. So, oftentimes she’ll wear something, and then her friends will. So, I think she also switches it up for that reason, to kind of show people that whatever she does is basically what starts the trend.
Suzanne: She and Chad argue quite a bit. Do you have siblings in real life, and did this help you in the role?
Ella: Yeah, I do have siblings in real life, and that helps a lot, definitely. I have a three-month-old baby brother and an eight-year-old sister who I’m constantly arguing with, and which, for once, came in handy, which I never thought would happen. So, Niki and her brother, Chad, arguing almost came as a natural instinct to me when filming. So, that was pretty easy for both me and Nasim, because I know she has a younger sister too. So, definitely I use some of the things my sister and I say to one another, like quotes, when arguing, anytime we improvised with Nasim. So, that definitely was a great help.
Suzanne: Had you seen Nasim on SNL or elsewhere before you started working with her?
Ella: Yeah, I saw her quite a lot on SNL, and she’s always been successful in putting a smile on my face. I’ve also seen some of her work in the sitcom New Girl where she’s in for a few episodes and parts. I also loved her a lot in the live remake of Aladdin, which recently came out.
Suzanne: Does she star in that? I don’t think I saw that one.
Yeah, she played Jasmine’s maid.
Ella: I really loved seeing her, because it was so weird to see her as a pretty dressed up girl, when usually on the show, I see her looking like a teenage boy.
Suzanne: Were your parents there on set with you?
Ella: My dad had to work, and my mom had to take care of my little sister, so my grandma was actually the one that traveled with me and came on set. She doesn’t know the language, so I was really the one helping her figure things out, but I don’t really mind that much, because I’m really an independent person. I’ve always been like that. So, I like figuring things out myself and learning them throughout the process, but my parents let me know that they’re always here, and if I need help figuring anything out, but I just like doing it myself.
Suzanne: Was there anyone on set though that took you under their wing or helped you, that kind of thing?
Ella: Yeah, all of the cast was usually older than me, but not by too much. During school there was Alexa Loo and Jake Ryan, who I did school with, and they both helped me a lot to feel welcomed. Their parents as well were very welcoming and let me know that if there was ever anything I needed, we could help and talk to one another. And before the pandemic, when we were filming back in January in August, we actually hung out with Alexa. Jake couldn’t attend that time, but Alexa and I went out for ice cream and just really bonded.
Suzanne: What was different about filming “Chad” than other projects you’ve worked on?
Ella: The entire cast and crew were the kindest that I’ve worked with so far. And again, the freedom to improv a good amount was really different for me than any other project I’ve worked on. I really had so much fun while filming, and unlike other projects I’ve worked on, the entire cast was able to bond so quickly, in such a short amount of time, because we all really liked one another and [unintelligible]. So, filming “Chad” was one of the most positive experiences that I’ve personally ever had, and the show overall just had three interesting storylines for each episode, which kept things really fun.
Suzanne: And you have another movie coming out starring Elijah Wood. Can you tell us about that one?
Ella: Yeah, I honestly don’t remember auditioning for the movie, so when I had gotten the news that I got the role, it was really surprising to me. Nonetheless, I was happy to have a great opportunity and got prepared to film. So, for the amount of time I filmed, our set was a house in a small neighborhood…I had my fitting and school was done there at the small neighborhood in the tiny house, and it was an interesting experience. I had to play a role that was younger than I was, but I was ready for any roles I got. So, I was really grateful for the experience, and I’m glad I had the opportunity.
Suzanne: What was the name of the movie?
Ella: It’s, I think, LA Rush.
Suzanne: Do you know if it’s done filming and when it will be out?
Ella: It was filmed a while ago. I believe it was filmed about like two or three years ago, actually. So, I was waiting to see when it would come out, because it had been quite a while, but I’m not sure when they’re planning on releasing it.
Suzanne: Okay. And you actually worked with Elijah Wood?
Ella: No, I didn’t. I worked with another girl and a small little family.
Suzanne: Well, he’s really nice. So, if you ever get to talk to him, he’s a great guy.
Suzanne: I’ve interviewed him a few times. He’s always super nice.
So, do you have any plans besides acting? Would you like to direct, write, or anything like that in the future?
Ella: As of now, I want to remain an actress for as long as life takes me to be, which I’m hoping is quite a while, but I’m open to directing and possibly writing in the future. I definitely think directing is something I would explore, and if not directing, then at least producing. But then, I really enjoy writing, so writing might also interest me quite a lot when I’m a bit older.
Suzanne: Let me ask this. Say if you decided you didn’t want to be in the entertainment industry anymore – you’re only 14, right? So, what do you think you would like to do if you weren’t in the entertainment industry? What other talents or desires do you have that you think you would do for say, a second job, if you had to?
Ella: I’d definitely be a CEO and have my own business. I think I’ll still do that with acting, that’s one of my goals, but maybe a business that’s into makeup or into fashion, because those really interests me.
Before I was thinking possibly a physicist, but we’ll see how that goes.
Suzanne: Yeah, that’s a little tougher.
Suzanne: But you must enjoy math then?
Ella: Yeah, I do.
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
Armenian actress and superstar in the making Ella Mika (BIRDS OF PREY) is taking over screens nationwide next month as she stars in TBS’ “CHAD.” The sure to be hit comedy premieres on April 6th and features SNL alum, Nasim Pedrad who created, wrote, and executive produced the show. Ella stars as “Niki”, ‘Chad’s’ younger, popular sister, that often bickers with her dorky brother at school and in family settings. ‘Chad’ (Nasim Pedrad) is on a mission to become popular using every trick in the book, all while the two endure their mother’s new dating life and reconcile with cultural identity. The show is packed full of comedy, improv and those cringey middle-school moments we all love and loathe the same.
Born in Armenia’s capital city of Yerevan, Ella’s journey to America started on April 6th 2008, just after her first birthday, and coincidentally, the same date being used for the premiere of “Chad” next month. Her parents won a Green Card and moved to Los Angeles. Her father was a prominent actor back in Armenia, so it was only a matter of time before Ella would also catch the acting bug. Signs first appeared while she was in daycare, often taking on leading roles in plays and poems with her class. After a couple years of appearing in commercials for “My Little Pony” and “Red Robin,” while simultaneously taking acting classes, Ella landed her first mainstream role as young Helena in BIRDS OF PREY, where she got to work with Margot Robbie. Fast track to “Chad,” Ella has her first series regular role, embracing improv and refining her comedic craft. Filming started and stopped as Covid hit, but the cast was able to complete the show in the Summer and it’s ready to share with audiences nationwide.
When Ella isn’t juggling schooling with acting or booking her next role, she loves to embrace the arts of all kinds. She’s trained in Latin American ballroom, loves fashion, cooking, baking, and stays connected to herself through meditation and yoga.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda