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Fook Twins | interview | Fook Mi | Diane Mizota | Fook Yu | Carrie Ann Inaba | actress | Lollipop
The Fook Twins
by Michael McCarthy
Interviews with Fook Mi (Diane Mizota) and Fook Yu (Carrie Ann Inaba)
Fook Mi: Diane Mizota
Have you and Carrie Ann (Inaba, who plays the other half of the Fook Twins, Fook Yu) worked together in the past?
We have. We're both dancers and we met on the set of a movie called Boys and Girls with Freddie Prinze Jr.
At that point did you decide to pursue more work together?
Actually, we were just hired in a large group of dancers. And then this Austin Powers thing came about. I was called in by my agent to audition and I got called back to meet the director. I didn't hear anything for about two or three months. Then they called back and asked if I knew anyone who looked like me because they couldn't find another actress to match up. I said, "Well, you know, Carrie Ann..." We've both heard over the years how much we look like each other... So I gave her a call. We did our make-up alike, we did our identical outfits, choreographed a little martial arts routine and went in and that's when we got the parts. But it's not like we're an act.
What was the vibe like on the set?
It was really lighthearted. I was really nervous because it's the biggest project I've worked on and it's us and Mike Myers. It was exciting. They were working some really long hours though, which makes it hard. But Mike really keeps things light and keeps the crew laughing even when they're working in their seventeenth hour.
Is there any improvising or do they stick to what's on paper?
Mike's always improvising. We'll do the first two takes to the script and get those down, then Jay (Roach, director) will have a take where Mike just goes. And it's amazing to stand there opposite him in a scene when he's doing a million different reactions. And then to see them edit it all together.
When you first read the Goldmember script and read your part, was their any hesitation at all? Because the Fook Mi and Fook Yu thing is almost like an Asian American parody...
It is. And I was concerned about that because I really make careful choices not to perpetuate Asian American stereotypes. I was worried about the Asian American community's reaction because they can be pretty viligant about such things. But then I looked at it in context. It's Austin Powers. It's so farcical. It's so campy and over the top. Jay and Mike are both big fans of Japanese anime, and that's sort of where the look of our characters is from. People have already remarked, "Oh, you don't have an accent. You were so convincing." I'm an actor. I'm American and this was a fun, fun part to play. I don't think you can really take anything in Austin Powers that seriously. It's a very difficult movie to take offense to. If these characters were in a different movie, I could totally see that they might be interpreted as offensive or stereotypical.
Asian American groups often point out that there are very few roles on American television for Asian actors. Is that something you've experienced?
It's really hard to know if that's what's really happening because they'll say things like, "Oh, we just went a different way." It's on a very subtle level and perhaps because there are very few Asian American high-profile actors, the casting people and producers think maybe the talent isn't there. But it definitely is. It's a very frustrating aspect of acting. In this movie, you know, I have an accent. But I'm as All-American as an American gets. It's frustrating sometimes to not be seen that way.
I write a column for Lollipop in which I review music from around the globe and it just blows my mind that some people think that because they watch the African American sitcoms on UPN and buy a Ricky Martin CD they're completely unbiased and multi-cultural when there are so many other things out there.
Oh, completely. And there's so much exploitation of black culture. Sometimes it makes me mad because it's not so much like elevating it as it is exploiting it as a money-making machine, and that's basically what television is. Which is surprising because Asian Americans are not as high a percentage of Americans as African Americans, but our spending power is very well-documented. So hopefully that's something the networks will find out one of these days.
You've written, produced, and starred in a sitcom called Bitter Party of Four for HBO.
It's not a sitcom. HBO and Warner Brothers have a theatre space in Los Angeles where artists can put up original work. So my friends and I wrote a sitcom treatment and put it up there and are looking to sell it as a series. We got really great feedback from that experience. We have some companies interested in developing it with us. We sort of compiled all of our stories of being professional dancers - what we think are really funny ones - and put it down on paper.
You host a TV show called Filter on G4 TV, which I don't believe I get in my neck of the woods.
G4 is a channel devoted to video games. I was sort of a recreational gamer before I got this job, but I found out that the video gaming industry has actually grossed higher revenues than Hollywood these past few years. It's a huge industry. This show is a countdown show, like The List or TRL. We count down different game-related lists. It's been really fun. I don't have to play a character, I get to be myself. And I've built quite a loyal following of fourteen year old boys. (laughs) I'm sure Austin Powers is adding to that.
Have you been recognized a lot in public?
No, because, like you said, not a whole lot of people get G4 yet. I was just talking to the producers about it. I'm like, "Who really watches this channel?" They said, "Diane, if you walked into an Electronics Boutique I guarantee you you'd be recognized." But it's not like I hang out at Electronics Boutique. As far as the movie goes, I got recognized last week at a party, which really took me by surprise because we're so done up in the movie. We've got hair extensions and make up and the outfits. I didn't think I would be really recognizable. Austin Powers is one of those movies that people watch over and over again, so I'm sure I'll always have an affiliation with being Fook Mi.
Where do you go from here? Any projects lined up right now?
I'm in negotiations to host a series on UPN that's promoting the G4 network, but that's not really finalized yet. Other than that, I'm continuing to audition and hopefully this Fall I'll be able to use some of this Austin Powers hype to get some parts. I do have a couple of movies coming out. There's a Pauly Shore movie called You'll Never Wiez In This Town Again. That was an independent he made that just got purchased by Miramax. And I have a scene in that with Kato Kaelin. (laughs) The whole movie kind of mocks celebrity and fame and stuff. That was a lot of fun to do. Then I'm in an independent called 7 Songs that should be hitting the festival circuit next year. It's written and directed by Noah Stern and it's starring Chris Eigeman from that show It's Like, You Know...
You've done music videos as well.
Music videos and recently I was in a Dr. Pepper commercial with Garth Brooks that aired a lot. My friends got annoyed with seeing me on TV all the time because that played during all the sports games. But, yeah, I've done music videos, I've done the Academy Awards, commercials. I've been a little worker bee in the industry for about ten years.
Did you get stage fright doing something like the Academy Awards?
I did at first, yeah. At my first awards show I remember seeing Madonna in the front row and I forgot my steps immediately. But once you get used to it, it's a job and you do it. So I get more excited now from seeing American Idol. I'm just a big geek like that. I love my reality TV.
Fook Yu: Carrie Ann Inaba
Your bio lists acting, dancing, choreography and being a pop star in Japan. What did you start with?
The singing. Well, when I was three I started dancing. So I guess dancing would be first.
Were you a solo artist or part of a group in Japan?
I was a solo artist for Pony Canyon Records. I released three singles. The first one I released was produced by Kenny Loggins. And then I did another song that ended up being a volleyball theme song for a television program. It was actually kind of cute. It was a really nice song. In Japanese, of course. When I first went over there, I was singing phonetically in Japanese because I didn't know the language. That just goes to show that it's kind of like a business. And then I came back to L.A., and I wasn't really happy with what was going on. I had a seven year contract, but I asked them to let me go early. I didn't feel like Japan was the place for me. It didn't allow freedom of self-expression. So, I said, "If I'm not happy with myself, I'm not gonna be the best performer, and if I'm not performing to my fullest, then I'm not gonna be very much for you, so maybe we should just let it all end here." I must've been really naive to do that, but they let me go. They were really cool about it.
What time period was this?
1986, '88 maybe. But I came back and went to do The Fly Girls stuff (on Fox's In Living Color). And when I was a Fly Girl, they wanted The Fly Girls to do an album. So myself and Jennifer (Lopez) and all the other girls were all in the recording studio singing songs. We were talking to Virgin Records, but... I don't know what happened. Political things came up, and that project ended up not happening.
I remember watching In Living Color, but I can't remember what The Fly Girls did. Was it just dancing?
We would open the show dancing. And then we'd always introduce Keenen (Ivory Wayans). In the very beginning, he used to come out of that little rooftop - it's like an attic - and there was a DJ and we'd all be up there dancing around to open the show. We'd also do numbers in and out of commercials. And every once in a while, they'd give us a skit. Like we did one where we were doing brain surgery, to sort of prove that we're not so dumb.
You've been in two Austin Powers movies. Before you were a Fook Twin, you danced in Austin Powers II: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
We were kind of like Felicity Shagwell's Fembots and we battled on the dance floor. It was kind of fun. So going back this time was great.
Diane (Mizota) said how she called you and asked you if you wanted to do the Fook Twins thing.
Yeah. That was an unexpected phone call, I must say. I had been working really hard on choreography and my digital video company (EnterMediArts Inc.), trying to build up my resume with my company, directing, and producing. So I was kind of hesitant at first because she didn't tell me what it was for. But then when she said it's Austin Powers I was like, oh, of course.
Diane said they were having a hard time finding someone to be her twin, yet you'd been in Austin Powers II. It's kind of odd that nobody thought of that.
Well, Diane and I only look alike if we try to look alike. And in the last one, I was wearing like three different wigs piled on top of each other. I don't think I really looked like me. Not that I really look like me this time either with the wigs that we're wearing with the long extensions.
I'd imagine you don't normally wear the backpack either.
No. (laughs) Although they're really cute. I was hoping to get one.
Have you been recognized from the movie yet?
Yeah. A little bit. And people laugh because of the name. I think people love saying the names. They love the opportunity to say Fook Yu in a light way. I know that radio is really enjoying it because it's the first time they can say something close to that on the air.
Is choreography your focus? Or is there one area you focus on career-wise?
I really love doing choreography. And with regards to choreography, my specialty is creating a larger concept. I'm not particularly a step person. There are many, many young choreographers who are just getting started who are filled with moves from the clubs and can come up with amazing steps. I'm more of the overseer. I like working with non-professional, non-dancers, helping them be comfortable. I also work with a lot of actors. Like I worked with Ally McBeal and I did a Fox promo thing where I had to work with all the people in the line up and just make them feel comfortable in front of the camera and with their bodies. A lot of people - you'd be surprised - aren't comfortable with their bodies. So that's one of my specialties.
You've made a short film called Black Water. What's that about?
That's about a middle-aged man who has to go back and (deal with) something from his past and all the things left undealt with. It's better to deal with your things because eventually you're gonna have to, so it's better to do it voluntarily. And it involves underwater choreography and a lot of darkness and the line between fantasy and reality. I don't believe it's so definite and I tried to put that into the film. Basically, the film came into my mind when I was listening to Dead Can Dance. I love Dead Can Dance and that's where it all started.
Do you aspire to sing again?
Yeah. Actually, it's a sad story, but a very close friend of mine passed away recently and gave me all the rights to her music. She had always been asking me if I wanted to sing. Music is definitely one of my first loves, but I don't really have much of a desire to become a celebrity or a star. There's a lot of work that stars have to put into it. I got a taste of it when I was in Japan. The touring schedule and the promotions. It's hard. And you always have to look good while you're doing it, too, which is a daunting task. And most of it is look-driven now, more than anything. I feel that there's a lot more room now for artists - true artists - but it's not as easy as everyone thinks. So I didn't want to pursue it. I had managers looking and we got really close to Interscope at one point, but it just didn't really feel like it was right.
You worked with Madonna on The Girlie Show World Tour. Was that dancing only or did you do some choreography?
It was mostly dancing, but I choreographed my own opening. Madonna and I collaborated on the opening. I came down this, like, six-foot firepole with a shaved head. It was her whole androgyny period.
Did you get to know her well?
Yeah. She's a very strong, strong woman. When you stand up to face her, somehow you find out all your fears and weak points. She definitely pushes you. When I walked off that tour I felt that was probably the highest point in my life. Not just because I was touring with somebody who I respected, who I idolized when I was young, but mostly because of how I felt about myself after overcoming every obstacle.