Actor, Writer, Emmy

This podcast was created to accompany the story “Actor, Writer, Emmyby Angelina Casolla.

Podcast Transcript

Angelina Casolla: When Hanah Lee Cook auditioned for Annie Jr, in sixth grade, she knew she wanted to be an actor. In high school, she got the idea to break into the acting world through her writing, Tina Fey style. Here’s a little about her journey from San Francisco State grad to Emmy Award winner. I’m Angelina Casolla, and you’re listening to The Bleed.


Hanah Lee Cook: It was great. I loved most of my professors. Obviously, the theater classes were the best part of it. I got to be in a student-written play for a Fringe Festival. I was in brown bag theater where we put on a new play every week. Because of the stage management stuff I did in high school, I taught myself how to run the lightboard. And then part of the theater requirements at SFSU is to work in either the same department or the prop department. And you have to, you know, I took a lighting class. And I think working in animation production before I was a writer really helped because I know what happens after that script gets to the artists, and I know you know what things are easy and other things are not so easy, what things are super expensive. So there’s this idea that you can do anything in animation but— hypothetically you can but within a budget, no, you can’t. (laughs) Especially in CG everything is more expensive in CG. But if we wanted to say, dunk Gonzo in melted nacho cheese, they couldn’t just draw nacho cheese on top of him. They would have to completely rebuild his character with that nacho cheese interacting with every little feather on his body.

Angelina: Cook currently works as a writer for Disney Animation productions. She pulls from her personal experiences growing up half Korean, she hopes to make kids feel comfortable through inclusivity and seeing themselves represented on screen.

Hanah: The kids would make fun of me or say my food was gross. If I brought rice and seaweed to school as a snack, which is the tamest Korean food you can imagine. People would gag openly in my face. Sometimes those people would even be my friends. This hasn’t come up in any of my work yet, but I did get a lot of whenever a picture is being taken, they would tell me to open my eyes. And of course, you know, a lot of it was what people are like, “Oh, that’s positive racism,” where I would get chased down and literally followed through like the mall to be asked, what am I?  And I think people, some people, felt more comfortable saying those things to me because I am very white passing. When I was a kid, I had white-blond hair, so it was a lot of expected to be the representative for an entire culture, but I’m expected to also laugh at the joke at my culture’s expense. So that was frustrating. But so far, only the food, the food related racism has made it on to television.

[Disney music]

Disney character: Sometimes when you see how a food is made, it doesn’t seem so icky. Maybe if you all make some soup together, Goofy will try it? 

Goofy: Sounds good to me.

Disney character: [singing] Let me show you how it’s made. Rice becomes a dough, shape it up and make a cake. Ready for…

Angelina: I spoke with Laura Wayth, San Francisco State professor of theater and dance on the phone. She reflects on having an Emmy-award-winning student.

Laura Wayth: Yeah, I mean, I never would have thought I would have had an Emmy winner in my class. It’s, it’s impressive, and I think it just shows when you’re a driven, creative person who really does the work, how far you can go. She was just incredibly modest and humble and just, you know, did her work.  It’s interesting, students that announce to me that they’re going to be stars, rarely wind-up stars. The people are just there to learn, tend to go far.

Angelina: In December Cook was part of a creative team that won an Emmy Award for ‘Outstanding Writing for preschool Animated Program’ for Disney Junior’s “Muppet Babies.”

Hanah: It is complete- yeah, it is completely something I fell into.  Um, my intention was to be a sketch comedy writer.  Mad TV was still on when I was in school, so that- that was kind of the goal for me, because also performing live gives me so much anxiety, and all of their stuff was pre-taped. Or the majority of it was. And my intention was still to do live action up until the summer between my junior and senior year. I had interned at a YouTube channel, and I had interned with an advertising production company, and then I interned at Warner Brothers Animation. All of these were in Southern California. which was sad because I missed out on hanging out with all my friends who would stay in the city. Or my friends who would, you know, go on vacation and do things and I would be working on set for, you know, 16 hours or however long. But I would not have the career I have now if I hadn’t done that.

Angelina: This is Angelina Casolla and you have been listening to The Bleed.