Last October, the New Zealand-born actress Michelle Ang made her debut on the web series "Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462." Nine months later, she became an Emmy nominee for outstanding actress in a short form comedy or drama series. "It was completely out of the blue," Ang told NBC News, noting that she didn't know she was even submitted to the award. Ang was the sole actor representing "The Walking Dead" series at this year's Emmy Awards.
Now, Ang is taking on a new challenge as a producer and actor in the upcoming independent film "For Izzy," which is currently crowdfunding to finish production. In the film, she plays a recovering opioid addict who befriends a woman with autism. When Ang read the script, it "really spoke" to her — and at the audition callbacks, she promised to help the writer-director get all the resources to get the film made.
Getting to this point has been an uphill climb. Ang has been an actress since she was 13, starring mostly in television dramas and sci-fi dramas in New Zealand and Australia, she said. Along with some roles in festival films, the regular television work gave Ang the motivation to try acting in the biggest market — a decision which meant coming to America. "I'm really glad that I was so naïve," Ang said. "If I knew then what I knew now, I probably wouldn't have tried."
Ang saw New Zealand as small and accessible, words that don't necessarily describe Hollywood. Rejection provided a humbling experience. "The whole point is to work with people who are at the top of their field," Ang said. Beyond her work on "Fear the Walking Dead," Ang has also acted in films, including "Triple 9," sharing the spotlight with Casey Affleck and Chiwetel Ejiofor, among others.
According to Ang, what makes the film different is the kind of actors who get to play the lead roles. Included in the film's cast are Elizabeth Sung ("Memoirs of a Geisha") and Jennifer Soo ("Yes, And…"). Ang said that even though the lead roles are being played by three Asian actresses, ethnicity doesn't define who they are in the story. All of them get to portray developed characters.
"Ethnicity has nothing to do with who they are in the story — they live a full life," Ang said. "There's a character who's a drug addict, but not a stereotypical Hollywood drug addict and is actively in recovery. There's a woman who is in the autism spectrum, but striving to be independent and unique. All of them are really complex and explore new stories."
The diversity and the realistic depiction played a big part in Ang's acceptance of the project. "The dialogue is changing in television — we're moving really well towards including diverse casts," she said. "Really big feature films aren't as diverse, so I'm going to start from grassroots, hopefully pick up some eyes, and continue from there."
Making a case for the movie, Ang says "For Izzy" represents original storytelling and films, calling people to donate if they want to see themselves reflected in the movies. Ang also points out that the story involves three lead women in plotlines that don't revolve around romance.
Even with a turn in production, Ang doesn't expect to write or direct soon. "I would love to, but I'm probably a terrible writer," she said, laughing. For now, Ang sees herself more in the idea propagation role, stating that she's a very good soundboard. "If anyone has interests in scripts, I'm always free to read them. That'd be my role," she said.
"For Izzy" is a narrative feature drama, written and directed by Alex Chu. Shooting of the film completed in June 2016 and the project is currently crowdfunding for post production.