Cathy Ang on how Pinoy parents reacted to her joining Sex and the City reboot

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Cathy Ang on how Pinoy parents reacted to her joining Sex and the City reboot
Filipino-American actress Cathy Ang stars in And Just Like That, HBO’s Sex and the City revival series
STRA / File

Cathy Ang revealed the proud and funny reaction of her “conservative” Filipino immigrant parents to her joining the Sex and the City universe via And Just Like That…, the HBO revival of the original show.

In the series, the 26-year-old Fil-Am actress portrays Lily Goldenblatt, adopted teen daughter of Charlotte (Kristen Davis).

Cathy recently told The STAR and other Southeast press that she never got to see Sex and the City or SATC until she auditioned for And Just Like That. Growing up, she was prohibited to watch the ‘90s cult series that follows the lives and loves of four, single women — Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha — past their mid-30s.

When Cathy finally landed her SATC role, her mother’s first reaction was about the title of the reboot. “First of all, when she found out I was in the show, she texted me, ‘So thankful to God that they changed the name to And Just Like That,’” she laughed in recollection. “Because, you know, my parents are a little bit more conservative. They grew up in the Philippines and they had an idea about what I should be doing with my life.”

Nevertheless, she could feel their pride and excitement even as the show’s themes would lead to some “heated” discussions.

She said: “I think, they’re really excited. They watch the show altogether sometimes, which can be a little uncomfortable with my family. But I think, what’s really exciting is that they’re trying to understand these characters and the way that different people in the world can operate. It’s because they hired an Asian actor and so now, I’m their vessel for getting into the show.

“It’s really exciting, again, the representation, bringing more people into the story and challenging their views, to challenging my family’s views sometimes. It just feels like a huge honor to be able to share this with them, even if sometimes it could be a little dicey. Oh, it sparked some conversation. I’ll have to say, it sparked some heated conversations (laughs).”

Fans of the SATC franchise are having a field day “blaming” the role of Lily as bad luck to the relationship of Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) with Mr. Big. It was little Lily who foiled Carrie’s wedding plans with Big in the first SATC movie. In And Just Like That, the prodigious Lily’s piano recital inadvertently played a role in Carrie’s heartbreak involving Big.

Cathy weighed in on that “controversial” scene in the pilot episode, which And Just Like That creator and SATC writer Michael Patrick King himself penned and directed.

“I think we saw the world was watching because there were so many reactions all over the place. When I found out that the recital would be paired with that scene, I was really nervous that people would hate me,” she shared.

“There were a lot of memes about how I have ruined Carrie’s life multiple times now… but I think that’s actually indicative of maybe, for some reason, Lily doesn’t think that Carrie was meant to be with him. You know, just on some subconscious level, she thinks that she could do better. So, I’m okay with it. I’m owning it now! (Laughs).”

She was also a scene-stealer in the first episode for her very realistic portrayal of a gifted pianist. For this part, her musical background and education — she studied musical theater at New York University — came into play.

“Our family was always singing because we’re Filipino. I actually went to music school, but mostly I played piano just to accompany myself if I’m singing. This was actually a really wonderful challenge for me as an actor.

“And we picked a really hard, dramatic piece because I think Lily is exceptional. She works really hard and challenges herself. You can see through that piano piece that any goals that she said she meets. I tried to live up to that standard.

“I really was practicing like hours a day at home, my parents would have been so proud. I basically gave myself a carpal tunnel because I just wanted to do the piece justice,” Cathy said, jokingly adding that she might release an actual recording of her playing as proof she did the scene.

Cathy was working on a different project when she auditioned for the part, sending a self-tape from a random closet. Before she knew it, “Michael Patrick King and Kristen were like, ‘This is Lily.’ And when I got that phone call, my mind was blown.”

She recalled her family opening a confetti cannon and screaming. “Literally, one of my parents blew out my ears. It was such a joyous moment,” she said.

After all, having received “so many no’s” in her acting life, “you have to celebrate really hard when you get it.”

Below are more excerpts from the intimate roundtable interview with Cathy.

On her Filipino-Chinese roots:

“I have been to the Philippines a few times. We used to go like every Christmas before. But, you know, during COVID, we have not as much. My mom is from Nueva Vizcaya and my dad is from Ongpin (her parents are UST-educated doctors). I miss visiting my family there so much. Luckily, a lot of them have been able to come visit a couple times. But it’s just so special to be in your home country, to have your culture surrounding you… Even though I’m very American, I’m very westernized, it’s a special experience.

“Really understanding what it means to be Asian in America took me going back there and then noticing when I came back to the US what life is like here. So, I think, being an Asian actress is really special. It has its challenges because a lot of the time the characters that we see are so one-dimensional or I also look very young, so maybe sometimes I get pigeonholed into things. But now, people really care about telling true, authentic stories, writing these characters to be complex. It’s an exciting time. I’m very lucky to be an actress right now. Because people are fighting for us to be seen on screen and for our stories about being Asian being told. I can’t actually represent a whole generation but I’ll always put that pressure on myself.”

On what it means to be part of and just like that:

“It’s very, very exciting to be a part of a piece of art that is so huge, worldwide. It’s a famous show and it has such a reach. I think it’s very important that on the show, we see people of all colors represented. We’ve had this conversation so many times about how representation matters and how it can really encourage people, No. 1, to go into the arts and also just to explore their identity, to feel seen. And so, I think, it’s a huge honor for me.

“But also, I’m glad that the show is really purposefully making sure that they’re diversifying in And Just Like That version, the chapter two of Sex and the City. I think this is a wonderful moment for all of us because we get to celebrate so many different faces and people. My family’s really proud, too.”

On advice for actors who mare Asians or Asian-Americans:

“I would say find a mentor. What you need to do is find someone who is going to surely, no matter what, tell you that you’re doing amazing and who’s always going to support you. A lot of our job is dealing with rejection because we’re auditioning, then getting no’s, not hearing anything. So you need someone who’s going to lift you up… coach you, push you, tell you how you have to improve, how you have to work and challenge yourself further. The industry changes constantly. There’s so many things to learn.

“Because my parents were immigrants and they really weren’t involved in the arts themselves, I didn’t have many role models to look up to necessarily as I was growing up. Once I decided to do this, I was lost and just wanted to find someone that I could talk to but once you find that person makes it so much easier because you’re not alone.

“And find a mentor who’s an Asian artist because everyone in our community is so excited about young Asian artists popping up all over the place. Don’t be afraid to just ask someone to help you, like I texted Sandra Oh, and she’ll text me back. These things happen because everyone supports each other actually.

“And one more thing. If you have any inclination to be creative, find a couple different venues for it because you’ll want to have multiple skills because for me, it came in handy to have music. So find a mentor and many different ways to express yourself.”

(And Just Like That…is now streaming on HBO Go.)


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