*Feature originally ran 9/20/17
There are many things to like about the TBS comedy “Wrecked” – the humor, the life-or-death stakes, the irresistible accent of series star Rhys Darby – but there’s one piece to the stranded on a desert island puzzle that we can’t help but love – Ally Maki.
The Washington native shines on the series, consistently delivering laughs in the midst of her character Jess’ attempts to strike a balance between enduring the tortures of a survivalist lifestyle and her own personal problems, most of which involve her on-again/off-again significant other, Todd, played to great douchery by Will Greenberg.
We recently sat down with Maki to discuss mosquito scars, why she loves that Jess is such a hot mess, and how she once played a keytar without ever having actually played a keytar.
TrunkSpace: Congrats on season 3 pick up!
Maki: Thank you so much.
TrunkSpace: I hope you’re a beach person because we assume that means more sand in your future!
Maki: It does. I have so many stories about our filming on our tropical set, but overall it’s pretty wonderful to film on a beach.
TrunkSpace: The universe is going to punish you at some point. Your next job is going to be like six months in Antarctica.
Maki: You know what, I have already been punished enough by the mosquitoes, so I feel like I’ve paid my dues.
TrunkSpace: Even though you were on the same island in the show, you actually filmed the first and second season in different locations, right?
Maki: Yes. The first one was in Puerto Rico. I love Puerto Rico, but the bugs there were such an issue. I left and I had, no joke, like 250 scars on my legs. We had to do like a workers comp file because I did seven months of laser scar removal because my legs looked like insanity. I couldn’t even show them at all because you would think something was wrong with me.
TrunkSpace: Yikes. That sounds rough. And then, we’d have to imagine that the sun itself is a bit of a liability.
Maki: Oh yeah and I’m very sensitive to any sort of heat. I’m the girl that, if I take half an Advil, I’ll pass out. I’m always stressed out by the heat and I’m constantly getting dehydrated, but then you don’t want to drink too much water because then you have to go to the bathroom a lot. It’s a whole thing. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: We know a lot of people instantly connect the show to “Lost” in terms of the premise, but it’s really more of like an “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” but with life-or-death stakes.
Maki: Yeah. Absolutely. I was the only person who had never seen “Lost” when I booked the show, so I really only knew the show as its own thing, and I definitely saw it as something completely different. It’s just so wacky and zany, and fun, and weird. I appreciate that people who loved “Lost” love the show as well, but it’s definitely its own thing.
TrunkSpace: And that thing is represented in the humor. Sometimes the funniest things in life come out of those moments where the stakes are high.
Maki: Oh yeah. I mean, you’re just elevating the stakes by 1000 percent. My character, Jess, is just, she’s an all-American, modern girl. She’s going through all the things that every woman goes through – dealing with a douchey boyfriend, or relationship, sex, this and that. She’s trying to find her inner strength, but it’s hilarious when you kind of put that in a life-or-death situation because it means so much to her. It’s very fun.
TrunkSpace: We hope every woman doesn’t have to deal with a douchey boyfriend at some point in their lives. There’s got to be some who get a Get Out Of Douchey Jail Free card.
Maki: I would love to meet and talk to a woman that has not had to deal with one because I have had far too many in my life. (Laughter) I would love to give those away to other people if they would like those.
TrunkSpace: (Laughter) From a performance standpoint, what is your favorite thing about Jess that you like diving into? What about her is worth dealing with heat and the mosquitoes for?
Maki: I honestly love that she’s somewhat of a hot mess because I kind of am in my own life too. It’s fun to see her go through all of these things and she’s really just trying to find her own independence and her own voice, but she has kind of a rough time getting there. She wears her heart on her sleeve so much, and she’s constantly making mistakes, but I love that she just kind of always gets right back in the game and goes completely head strong and nose first into all of these issues. It’s so much fun to play her. She’s a total mess, but I love her.
TrunkSpace: From what we read, you almost didn’t even read for Jess in the first place, right?
Maki: Yeah. I was kind of in this weird head space because I had just done this show with Nick Frost and Justin Long, and it was literally my dream project and we were on a hold for about a year. I just found out randomly that the show was not going and it was absolutely devastating for me. The audition for “Wrecked” came very soon after, so it was one of those things that I was like, “Screw it! I’m not even sure if I’m ready to get back in the game again because I’m so depressed about it.” And I also just thought, at that time in the industry, we’re in this place where I didn’t really believe that it was possible for an Asian American woman to be playing this part just based upon years and years of the roles that people would see me for and not see me for, or pity see me for. So I was kind of like, “Is this going to be a waste of my time?”
It wasn’t. It was because of our amazing casting director Julie Ashton, who’s a friend and she’s honestly the only reason why I ever worked in this business, but she was like, “Honestly, we’re going so out of the box so come in and see what happens.” It’s one of those things where I kind of just let it go, and I was just the right girl for the role. Thank God for TBS and the Shipleys and everyone because, yeah, I almost did not go in.
TrunkSpace: Life always zigs when you plan for it to zag.
Maki: Absolutely. It’s kind of funny, I always look back to the moment of my rock bottom when I was told that the Fox show wasn’t going through, and I was like, “Is it even going to happen?” I was really kind of just doubting myself in the industry and everything. I look back now and I think about all of the adventures that I’ve had and how incredibly amazing the show is. It’s just awesome. I feel so lucky.
TrunkSpace: Beyond the job and your career itself, what is one of the coolest things to come out of the opportunity “Wrecked” has provided? We know you did Conan’s show, for example, which to us, would have been an amazing chapter in our life book.
Maki: Well, Conan is like a number one bucket list thing for me, so that was another moment I was like, “I can’t even believe that this is possible!” If I had gone back to my 14-year-old self and would’ve been like, “Hey, one day you’re going to do a late night talk show,” I would have honestly just pissed my pants. It was so meaningful because I was getting so many messages from people in the Asian American community, or just young girls of color. I had this one girl who literally said she watched it and she cried because she’d never really seen someone that looked like her on a late night talk show before. It makes you feel like, “I do exist in this world, and people like me exist. Our stories matter.” It’s really a cool thing.
TrunkSpace: Here’s the thing, Ally. You’re beautiful. You’re talented. You’re funny. But quite possibly the best thing we discovered about you is that, yes, you played the keytar!
Maki: Oh my gosh!
TrunkSpace: As far as visuals go, it really is the greatest instrument ever invented.
Maki: (Laughter) I know. One of my friends calls me Robin Sparkles. She’s like, “You’re like my own Robin Sparkles in real life.”
TrunkSpace: If you discover that there has been a big jump in viewers on the “It’s a Hair Thing” video, that’s because of us. We’ve watched it over and over and over again.
Maki: (Laughter) Oh my gosh. So hilarious. When people find out about it, I’m like, “Please don’t Google it. Please don’t Google it!” It’s so embarrassing, but you know, we all have our embarrassing stories.
TrunkSpace: Did you have to kind of rebrand yourself after that period?
Maki: Here’s the thing, that was not where I started. I actually started out always in acting. I did theater all growing up. I was scouted when I was 14. I moved out here as an actress. I started doing stuff for the Disney Channel and stuff, but the only reason why I did the girl band was, honestly, because there was such a lack of things for me to do as an Asian girl. There was just nothing. There were only things here and there, little things, so my agent was like, “I think you should go out for this girl band. They’re really interested in you and they’re looking for an Asian girl.” I was like, “Please no! I don’t want to do it!” I was classically trained as a pianist, not like the keytar or whatever. They were like, “Please just go in.” I had to learn Avril Lavigne’s “Skater Boy” and I went in and they were like, “Well, you got it!”
It’s really just this blip, and it was never what I wanted to do and never what I was supposed to do. And then one day they were like, “Hey, so we want to change it up and we want you to play the keytar.” I was like, “What?!?!” I never even learned how to play it. It was never even plugged in.
TrunkSpace: Life is all about the journey, and as far as journeys go, that’s a hell of a story to share!
Maki: I always think when I have embarrassing things, I’m like, “This will be a great story on a talk show or in an interview one day.” That helps me get through it. (Laughter)
Featured Photo By: Rick Bhatia