LUNA BLAISE | ‘MANIFEST’ Destiny’s Child
Undeniably luminous in a grey sweatsuit and Gucci sneakers, 17-year old Luna Blaise sits down with me on set to discuss music, the industry, and our mutual love/hate relationship with Los Angeles and New York. At Luna’s request, “Bohemian Rhapsody” plays softly in the background while she and her mom, Angelyna, gush over Freddie Mercury and the new biopic. Singling along, not missing so much as a syllable, a short intermission takes place to sip on her vanilla latte.
As the shoot commences, Luna requests a music change- David Bowie. “Space Oddity,” adds queue; “Ziggy Stardust,” adds to queue; “Under Pressure,” adds to queue. In sync to Bowie’s tracks, she twirls around in the first look- head to toe Saint Laurent- reminiscent of a Studio 54 scene. Attempting to play it cool, Blaise can’t help but crack a joke in front of the lens, endlessly entertaining the set crew.
Between shots and makeup retouches, Luna and I sit down- allowing me to pick her brain on topics of James Franco, Jacob Sartorius, and her passions in music and acting. Radiating a deep yellow aura, she’s not only a free spirit but a multi-faceted creative. With infinite aspirations, Luna makes a clear distinction that contentment is her main objective.
How did you decide to pursue acting from a young age?
Well, both of my parents are in the entertainment industry. My dad is a director, and my mom is a producer, so I always grew up on sets. My parents tried to keep me away from it as much as possible, but as a little girl, I always wanted to go on the stage and perform for people. I think it was around the age of eight, I really had a voice, and I realized I wanted to do this. I wanted to be on TV, and movie screens. So my parents took that and said, “Okay, if you like it, stick with it, but if you don't like it, you can stop at any time.” I ended up doing it, and I loved it. I did commercials for a long time and auditioned a bunch, but it’s was hard, people hustle. As a kid, I didn't know what the hustle was, but I was doing it. I was auditioning all the time, and at 11, I booked the show that I was on for five years, Fresh Off the Boat, on ABC. I grew up on that show; I was on it from 11 to 17. I wasn't a series regular, so I was still auditioning all the time. I never thought anything of it; I was going, going, going, and at 17, I stopped Fresh Off the Boat. Then, I booked Manifest, and now that's my life. I'm very, very fortunate and lucky that I've been able to work from 11 on.
You experienced a breakthrough in the 2013 film Memoria, what was that experience like for you?
I was so little; I was 11, and everyone else in that movie was much older. It was pretty crazy. I didn't appreciate it enough at the time because I was so young, but being in a James Franco film is pretty cool. Filming that, I came to understand what acting is: portraying someone else and bringing them to life. If you see the movie, it's totally not who I am in any way, but that's what I love about acting. And then, you either leave that character behind and never think about them again, or you can have them with you all the time. I learned a lot from Memoria. Being surrounded by older people like James and everyone; it taught me a lot. But it was funny, going from that straight into Fresh Off the Boat, a comedy family show.
You made your television debut with Fresh Off The Boat and went on to win a Young Artist Award for your role as Nicole. How has that role influenced you as an actress?
The last season that I was on, my character came out as gay, and that was incredible. I felt honored because our showrunner is lesbian, and I was portraying her story, and I felt completely honored to be able to do that. I feel blessed to be able to be on such a historic show. It was the first show in I think 80 years to have an all Asian cast practically (Margaret Cho's All-American Girl was the last show featuring an all Asian cast 1994-1995). To be on that show for five years is amazing. As I said, you can either keep the character forever, or you can let go of it. I played Nicole for five years so she will be in my heart forever. In my last episode on Fresh Off the Boat, it showed a montage throughout the years on the show, and it was amazing to see us all grow alongside each other. They're all family at this point.
More recently, you’ve been working on the NBC Sci-Fi mystery drama Manifest. What is your role as Olive like in comparison to Nicole?
It's completely different. Nicole was very sassy, very confident, and she had a darker edge. What they have in common is they know what they want. With Nicole, she could get what she wanted. With Olive, she knows what she wants, but doesn't always get it. I've never played a character like Olive before, who struggles with depression and anxiety. I'm super lucky with everything that I do and to be able to portray a character that touches people like that is enriching.
How did you find inspiration to portray that vulnerability?
As a teenager, I think everyone struggles with some form of depression or anxiety. But, I find additional inspiration through what I watch. I take from books, movies, other TV shows, and people in my life. I take that and put it into one character; sometimes it’s a challenge having to cry every day- which I do, but, you know, that's part of the process! It's part of what I have to do, and I'm super lucky. The show [Manifest] has taken off in a way that we had no idea. We’re taking it day by day, and we're fortunate to have such a strong platform and an incredible cast and crew. It's dope, and I hope that we get a second season.
When you’re not filming or working on music, what are your days like?
I’m sleeping. I slept 15 hours in one day last week. I turn down my blinds, turn my phone off, and hibernate; I need sleep. I’m either eating, sleeping, or trying to do yoga, but usually not.
Your music career jump started about a year ago; how did you decide to delve into music and explore that industry?
I fell in love with songwriting. It's a passion of mine even though I can't get into the studio 24/7. With my music career, I’m letting it do its thing. Of course, I still have songs that I want to put out, and I need to get back into the studio, but it’s hard managing everything. Songwriting is one part of music that I do all the time. I’ve had to get acclimated and wrap my head around the fact that I now live in New York; so now I have to start finding studios, and all the stuff that’s in my usual schedule. I’m going back to LA now; hopefully, I'm able to get back on the grind, which I've kind of lost track of in the music world. It's fun being able to tell a story, with acting and singing, but in entirely different ways. With music, you’re telling your story, and with acting, you’re telling someone else's.
A couple of years ago, you gracefully dealt with an Instagram fury of hate comments post “Sweatshirt” music video with Jacob Sartorius. How did you push through that?
Honestly, it's funny now. I just thought of it as a job! Jacob is one of my best friends now, and we've totally grown from whatever that was. Those girls were crazy, and it's funny because I thought, “These girls have so much time to hate me, so I'm going to make them love me,” and that's what I did. I turned most of those haters into fans; I get comments every single day saying, “I used to hate you, but I love you know.” Haters are your number one fans, and I love it. They dove into everything to try and bring me down, and I confronted it by saying, “If you guys aren't going to like me then just stop because I'm not going to notice you or care about what you say. But, if you give me a chance, maybe I can make you like me.” I definitely still have haters because that comes with having any platform, but it doesn't even phase me, to be honest; it’s just natural now. If you've got hate in your career, it's okay; not everyone is going to love you.
Do you hope to follow your father's footsteps and direct?
I really do. I don't know if I’ll ever come close to doing what my dad does, but I hope. I want to shadow directors on my show and other sets. We need more female directors! I think it's important for women to share their perspective on everything as well.
What are your end-goal aspirations in the realm of music and acting?
I’ll go wherever life takes me. This could all stop tomorrow, and I would keep on going, but, my end-goal is to be happy, and happy with what I'm doing. If your job starts to feel like a job, then quit, but only if you don’t love it. Of course, there's going to be bad days, but at the end of the day, you have to love what you're doing.
What upcoming projects can we look forward to?
Manifest, of course. I’ll have some music coming out in the near future, and hopefully another movie soon!