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Actress Krista Marie Yu Comes of Age on ‘Dr. Ken’

Krista Marie Yu, who plays Molly on ABC's "Dr. Ken" Photo by Shanna Fisher

Armed with a smart phone and a cache of snarky comebacks, Molly Park is the spirited 16-year-old American daughter many parents are familiar with. Played by Krista Marie Yu on ABC’s “Dr. Ken,” the family comedy sitcom loosely based on the life of comedian actor Ken Jeong, which returns to television Sept. 23, Molly finds herself undergoing all the usual rites of passage, from her first love to her first taste of alcohol, despite her parents’ efforts to stifle her rebellious streak.

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While she may play an inexperienced teenage girl on television, Yu graduated from Carnegie Mellon University’s acting program with a bachelor of fine arts in 2011. She has appeared in feature films such as “Love the Coopers” and guest starred on shows including “Switched at Birth,” “Agent Carter,” and “The Thundermans.” The Berkeley, California, native spoke with NBC News about Molly’s character growth in the upcoming second season of “Dr. Ken” and why she should be cast in the live-action remake of Disney’s “Mulan.”

What’s it like having Ken Jeong and Suzy Nakamura as your TV parents?

They both are not only incredible actors, but incredible people. I’m so lucky they are always there supporting me and giving me advice every day, and I learn something new just from watching them work. One of my favorite pieces of advice from Ken is when he told me is “it’s not about being famous, it’s what you choose to do with the fame.” Ken is amazing. And a practical piece of advice Suzy once gave me is to make sure I cross my legs when I’m sitting in a skirt — she’s always looking out for me!

Thanks to “Dr. Ken” and “Fresh Off the Boat,” network television now has two starring Asian-American families. Did you have any Asian American heroes on TV growing up? What’s it like being on the other side of the screen now?

My hero has always been Kristi Yamaguchi. She proved to the world that it’s possible to be both kind, successful, and Asian all at the same time!

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I still look up to her so much. I feel very proud to be representing an Asian-American girl on television — a girl that doesn’t fall under any specific Asian stereotype, and part of an Asian-American family that reflects a family that’s no different than your next door neighbors, despite our race. I hope our shows are the first of many, many more.

Why do you think a lot of viewers like Molly, who is your typical American teenager? What can viewers expect from her in season two?

I think people like Molly because she’s smart and always keeps Ken and Allison on their toes, as most teenagers do. I think other families can relate and laugh along with us. In season two, Molly changes a lot. She realizes if she wants to get into a top college, she can’t just “have fun” in high school. So in the second season she has started to take life, grades, and her family more seriously.

What was the best feedback you’ve gotten from someone who’s watched the show?

It’s so wonderful to receive such tremendous support from the Asian-American community. The best feedback I’ve gotten is when an older man told me Ken is his hero. He said that Ken doesn’t make him feel ashamed to be an Asian man, as he reflects a leading man, whereas many times in the entertainment industry, Asian men have been reflected in a emasculating way, making them feel embarrassed.

What is your dream role? Who would you love to work with and why?

I especially love movies that involve a young girl as the protagonist. I love “Juno” so much! My dream role would be any role in which a young girl faces tough life challenges and conquers them with strength and courage. And I would love to work with Michael J. Fox, because Marty McFly is so cool.

Who would you like to see star in the upcoming live-action “Mulan" movie?

I can sing all the parts from the song “A Girl Worth Fighting For” — does that qualify me to try out?!

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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