In MAKE IT POP, Nickelodeon’s new series that has new episodes at 7 PM every weeknight through May 1, three female prep high school roommates, played by Erika Tham, Megan Lee and Louriza Tronco, and a male classmate (Dale Whibley) come together to form a band.
Tham’s character Corki is the group’s violinist and, at least initially, the most mysterious, arriving after school has started and ushered in by a squad of bodyguards. Her friends can’t wait to find out what all of this means, but Corki won’t say.
Tham, like Corki, knows how to keep this a secret, though the young actress opens up about other aspects of her MAKE IT POP character during a chat at Paramount Studios.
AX: Do you know why Corki comes in with bodyguards?
ERIKA THAM: Yes. You’ll have to tune in to see. I don’t want to reveal anything. The audience is going to find out later this season.
AX: Whatever that secret it, does it shape Corki’s personality?
THAM: For sure. It’s definitely a big part of who Corky is and why she makes the decisions that she does and why has the worries that she does.
AX: In MAKE IT POP, you act, sing, dance and play the violin. As a performer in real life, did you start out as an actress or a singer or a violinist?
THAM: [laughs] Well, I don’t actually play the violin. That’s the magic of television.
AX: Did you learn to fake it for this show?
THAM: Yes. I do play the cello, though. So the bowing was something that was quite normal to me, quite natural. But growing up, I’ve always wanted to be an actress. I think acting was my first love. But I was always interested in branching out into singing and dancing as well, and last year, 2014, was when I really decided to start seriously pursuing an acting career.
The role of Corki on MAKE IT POP was my second audition. I sent in a tape last year February, and it’s all sort of spiraled from there. And I think, especially being on MAKE IT POP, where there is singing, acting and dancing, I’ve really developed a love for singing and dancing, and that’s something as well as acting I would like to do later on in my life, and in my career.
AX: Did dancing come easy to you once you were acting?
THAM: [laughs] Well, definitely acting was something that I was more comfortable with. I’ve never actually danced professionally or really in front of that many people before, so MAKE IT POP was one of the first times I’ve ever really danced. And yeah, the team is so great – our choreographer, Addy Chan and my shadow dancer, Cora Kozaris, they’re both so great to work with, and they’ve definitely made me feel very comfortable, and definitely helped me develop a love for dancing.
AX: What about singing?
THAM: I was in a lot of musical theatre back in school growing up, so acting and singing were a bit more natural to me, but dancing is something that I had never really done before.
AX: How does it feel to be part of an ensemble? It looks like you all have to work very tightly together in both the regular scenes and the musical numbers …
THAM: Yes. I really enjoy being part of a band. I feel like it’s so great to have the support of three other people and it’s nice. I don’t have siblings, so they’ve sort of become like my older siblings, so I really enjoy that.
AX: Did you have a liking for this genre of TV, like FAME and GLEE, before you got involved in it?
THAM: Yeah, especially Nickelodeon shows. Nickelodeon was one of the few networks that played in all the countries I’ve grown up in.
AX: Where did you grow up?
TAM: I was born in Singapore and I lived there for a bit and then Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, China, Thailand and Toronto.
AX: Do they all have different approaches to performing?
THAM: For sure. The culture is very different in all of the countries, and it’s so exciting to experience and to be immersed in. Performing is definitely embraced in all those countries. Of course, Toronto is more Westernized. K-pop is more widely known in the Asian countries that I’ve lived in, but I hope that K-pop will grow to become worldwide, because I think it’s a genre that I really respect and I feel like people all over the world, regardless of their race or their culture, will be able to enjoy.
AX: Is K-pop the main style of music you’re performing in MAKE IT POP?
THAM: K-pop is definitely one of the many musical influences we have in our show. K-pop is not what we are trying to represent. We represent a love for all different genres of music, and I think that if you listen to our music, you can see that it encompasses a lot of different genres – for example pop, EDM [electronic dance music] – so I think that K-pop is just one of many influences that has inspired our show.
AX: Is there a style of music or an artist that you particularly like as a listener?
THAM: I love Rihanna, I love Sam Smith, Lorde, Drake, SBTRKT, I love a lot of different genres.
AX: Having lived in so many places, does that help you get insight into different types of people and how to play them?
THAM: I think that being exposed to so many different cultures definitely allows more insight into different cultures and different types of religion, as well as being in a lot of new schools and changing schools a lot has really helped me to explore different characters. I think that going into new schools so often has really helped me become a people person. I love to meet new people and I love to make friends.
AX: How many languages do you speak?
THAM: Well, I speak English as my main language. My first language is English, but I speak a little bit of Mandarin and I’m learning Spanish in school.
AX: It seems like MAKE IT POP is the first American-made show to star three young Asian-North American women performing K-pop …
THAM: I’m Malaysian and Chinese by blood. My mom is Dutch and Ukrainian, so I’m mixed. And Louriza, who plays Jodi, is Filipino. [Lee is Korean.] So our show has three lead actors that are all Asian, but from different countries in Asia. So I think it’s very unique to see that on kids’ television, but a main message in our show is to follow your dreams, and I think that should apply to everyone, regardless of what race you are or what age you are or anything like that.
AX: And a couple of “you” questions – do you drive and what vehicle do you have and what kind of vehicle is your dream vehicle?
THAM: [laughs] Well, I’m only fifteen, so I’m about a year away from driving. My cast mates drive me around a lot, though [laughs] – they’re stuck with that burden. I’m so excited to drive. I’m a little nervous – it seems very scary to be in charge of such a big vehicle that’s so powerful, but I’m really excited to drive.
AX: Do you know what kind of car you would most like to have?
THAM: I’m not too sure yet. Definitely a bigger car, because I feel safer in bigger cars.
AX: What do you like to do when you’re not performing? Do you have any hobbies?
THAM: I love fashion and I love to look at fashion, whether it’s window-shopping or looking at fashion online. That’s something as well that I’d like to incorporate into my career later on in life. I definitely love to, if there’s enough time, travel, whether it’s long journeys across the world or short journeys around a new city that I’m in. Being in Toronto and filming the show, I definitely really enjoyed exploring the city and finding cute little restaurants and boutiques and the charm of the city with my friends and my cast mates and my family.
AX: Do you have input into Corki’s costumes?
THAM: A little bit, yeah. The wardrobe department is really very kind on our show. I sometimes might add a little accessory or change up the skirt to a look.
AX: Do you know what you want your career path to be?
THAM: Well, I’d definitely love to continue in acting, I’d love to be in some features, but from doing the show and being in the recording studio for the music, I’ve definitely developed a love for singing and performing songs. So I’d love to, if the opportunity came up, also do singing and music in my career.
AX: What would you most like people to know about MAKE IT POP?
THAM: I hope that people will take away from MAKE IT POP a great time. I think that the comedy is amazing on our show, I hope that people can laugh along with us, I hope that people can relate to our characters and enjoy singing and dancing as the characters do on the show.
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Article: MAKE IT POP: Erika Tham discusses new Nickelodeon show – exclusive interview