Anna Akana shares personal journey and dishes on 'Youth & Consequences'
Anna Akana is no less than a triple threat in the entertainment world. In fact, she may be a quadruple threat, as she tackles project after project -– from crafting content for her own YouTube channel, starring in and producing her own series on go90, "Miss 2059," and now taking on her most recent role as Farrah in YouTube Red's new teen dramedy series, "Youth & Consequences." Akana flawlessly transitions from actor to producer to comedian to writer.
Deeply tuned into her emotions with a keen ability for creating digestible-yet-thought-provoking content, Akana comes across as relatable and trustworthy to her vast audience. I would be so bold to say that vulnerability and self-awareness are Anna Akana's super powers. Both of which lend itself to Akana's incredible artistry.
Akana took some time out of her busy schedule to talk to BUILD Series NYC about her upcoming projects this season including "Youth and Consequences" and sharing her transformation into the artist she is today.
BUILD Series NYC: How did you get involved in acting and comedy?
Anna Akana: I lost my sister when I was 17. It was really a Margaret Cho special I watched when I was 19 that inspired me to do comedy. One, because she looked like me and I thought, "Why not? Maybe I could do that." And it was one of the first times in the few years that I actually laughed and forgot about my sister being dead. And I devoted the next four to five years hardcore to performing stand up. And really trying to be just like Margaret Cho and really loving how healing comedy was. At the same time, I loved being an actor and I always wanted to be an actor, but never thought it was possible because I had never seen this kind of representation.
BUILD: What was it about the YouTube format that attracted you?
AA: I wanted to create content that people can see in their own time, like they're voluntarily there to watch you...I sort of fell in love with being able to completely curate a message that didn't have all that pressure of standup.
BUILD: Can you tell us about "Youth and Consequences" and your character, Farrah?
AA: My manager sent me the script two years ago. It's high school but it's very adult. What I love most about Farrah -- and you'll see this in the first few episodes -- you think she has this agenda that's only going to serve her, and it turns out the things she's been doing to other people and how she's been manipulating them has been for good reason. She's very much like Olivia Pope or Claire Underwood -- people who see an injustice and take it upon themselves to correct it. It's an amazing strength, but also a weakness to feel like you're responsible for everyone and to make sure justice is served.
BUILD: Did you relate to your character?
AA: Yeah, I definitely think I am a person who has a strong sense of morality and for better or for worse, I try to take a lot on. Like if someone has wronged my friend, then you're dead to me and I'm going to put a hex on you. Like, not in a crazy way, but I get really emotional about that kind of stuff. So in that way I could relate to Farrah, because she does that. But she's much more calculated than I am. She's loyal to you and protects other people, and she's guided by her moral compass and what she thinks is right.
BUILD: How was being on set and working with the cast?
AA: The cast was amazing. We were in Ogden, Utah. I'm personally a very political person. I loved being able to talk to people there, because they were very conservative and there were a lot of Trump supporters. They were very religious, but they were so well-intentioned and kind. As a political person, we're so pitted against the opposite side, [but] not everyone is necessary a villain. Everyone is coming from their own viewpoint. Everyone has their own experience that fuels their perspective. It gave me a lot to work with –- not only for the show, but [also] as a human being.
BUILD: A lot of your content revolves around the themes of self-worth and bettering yourself. How did you adopt that kind of mantra?
AA: I honestly attribute it to years of going through therapy and having to really confront my sense of mortality at a much younger age than I think we normally do. And I think dealing with something that heavy that early on, it really forced me to take a look at, How do I want to live my life, what do I want to be? And I have more awareness of mental health. I feel like I was left with a lot of guilt and a lot of blame and so in going to therapy. I quit standup three or four times throughout my career, and it was always when I was getting good and so I kind of learned, Oh that's self sabotaging behavior, because I don't feel like I deserve to be happy. It took me four years to make that realization. Making the YouTube videos had helped because it forced me to be more self aware because of what I talk about.
BUILD: How do you think your content has evolved over time?
AA: Yeah, it's been an interesting journey. It feels like a diary of sorts. Nowadays I feel like I found all of my past experiences. I said everything. Every week I don't know what I'm going to talk about. I've been doing this every week for seven years. My production value has grown immensely, [and] I feel like I have to scale back about how quickly I'm honest with my audience. I have to make sure when I'm talking about something, I don't throw people under the bus -– so I'm not hurting anyone else's feelings. I'm not going to regret it later of how I presented it online. I'm making sure I'm taking care of everyone -– myself included.
BUILD: So you do a lot. Writing, directing, acting. How do you balance it all? What do you enjoy the most?
AA: I don't feel like I can pick one. I think in my heart, I'm an actor above all else. I love being able to try different jobs –- like directing, acting, producing, writing -– all of that kind of fuels each other and helps you learn to be better in another area when you're trying something else. What a wonderful way to not get bored.
Keep following Anna Akana's journey on her YouTube channel and catch the latest episode of "Youth & Consequences" streaming now on YouTube Red.