DISJOINTED is a new Netflix original series described as a workplace comedy starring Kathy Bates who is the owner of an L.A. area cannabis dispensary. Joining her are three “budtenders” (the show is full of cleverness like that!) including Elizabeth Ho who plays Jenny the “tokin asian”.
We had a chance to interview Elizabeth about her role and yes, we had to ask about cannibis culture.
How did you explain your latest role to friends, and a family, and what can you tell us about your character?
When I first told my friends and family about JENNY, everyone was pretty pumped. Although the tides are slowly turning, it’s always exciting to see more Asian American lead roles being created for television and film. Our stories deserve to be told.
Jenny is an overachiever with a big heart and a rebellious streak. At the start of the show, she’s standing at a precipitous moment in her life. Like many young women, she’s figuring out who she is while trying to maintain her family’s expectations of who they think she should be. As can so often be true as a second-generation Chinese American, she feels the pressure to achieve the American dream. She wants to make her family proud and not disappoint them. At the same time, Jenny is also trying to figure out who she is for herself, and what it means to be an independent young woman in the 21st century. She finds it hard to hold both of those things in her life, and her anxiety runs a little high because of it.
What excited you the most about working on show that has been picked up on Netflix?
I was most excited to be given the opportunity to film twenty episodes and know that the entirety of our first season would be shown. Today it is virtually unheard of for traditional network shows to film their whole first season, let alone, have that entire season make it on the air. It can be a very stressful situation as traditional network shows can be canceled at any time because of reviews and/or ratings. It’s often very heartbreaking for both the show and the audience to not get the opportunity to at least finish their first season storylines.
Netflix and other new media producers have changed much of that. Like other premium cable networks like HBO, they allow shows breathing room to find their feet and give the audience a full season to fall in love and turn into real fans. They also allow creative freedoms that traditional shows couldn’t approve because of censorship and/or who their ads were marketed to. On DISJOINTED not only do we get to swear (hearing Kathy Bates say “f*ck” is pretty amazing) but we also play with the medium of the sitcom. Sitcoms are by nature structured for commercial breaks. Our showrunner, David Javerbaum, used those breaks to create commercial “shorts” that paid tribute to specific advertising genres while providing social commentary on the cannabis culture and industry.
Kathy Bates plays such a different role on this show, what’s she like in real life? (I will never forget her in Misery)
In real life, Kathy is the cool sister/friend that you want to be when you grow up: she is gracious, down to earth, and has razor-sharp intelligence. The phrases “national treasure” and “force of nature” come to mind when thinking of her. I learned so much from working with her. Her attention to detail and her ability to listen is incredible. And to top it off, she’s unbelievably hilarious both on and off screen. Basically, I want to marry her. That’s what I’ve learned after answering this question.
That’s a surprise to hear that she’s so funny! So, what about working with Chuck Lorre? That must have been exciting too? What have you learned from him?
I was thrilled to work with Chuck Lorre again. We previously worked together on his show “Two and a Half Men.” He’s a legend in television for a reason: he has an unparalleled ability to tell complex stories about the human condition while making audiences laugh. Being able to work with him for those many months was unbelievable. Chuck taught me how to be efficient with story and humor. He is able to look at any script or scene, and with a surgeon’s precision be able to cut to the core of what is working and what needs to be changed. He wastes no time and constantly looks for the best in his team.
DISJOINTED was filmed with multi-cameras. How does that change the way you act? Or does it?
Multi-camera acting is the closest form of television to theater. The scenes are shot on a stage with three walls surrounding the set and a live audience reacting to each and every moment. And yes, the audience greatly influences the story and timing. While in rehearsal, you might have held for a laugh in one place, but during the live taping the audience might laugh in a completely different place, throwing off your timing and pacing. That sounds stressful, but it’s actually extremely fun and definitely makes you stay “present” and on your toes, two things that are invaluable as an actor to give a great performance.
How did you do, um… research for your role?
I identified with Jenny’s journey very personally. I too grew up in a household where what my family wanted and what I wanted weren’t always harmonious. In college, I tried to follow my parents’ wishes and pursue a degree in business. Ultimately (and behind their backs) I decided to major in theatre. It was an uncomfortable time of growth, but one that eventually led to me having the career that I have today. I have a great deal of empathy and understanding of the decisions Jenny goes through in the show.
In terms of understanding the cannabis culture, we had an incredible resource with our cannabis consultant Dr. Dina (she got her doctorate from Snoop Dogg, and yes, this is all true). A dispensary owner and cannabis activist herself, she was there to make sure we were accurately representing the industry, from daily dispensary tasks, to how a DEA raid would look and feel in real life.
There are lots of stereotypes in this show that most of us are familiar with…but anything you’ve learned about those using marijuana recreationally or medicinally?
I had no idea that there was a group of professional athletes that are medical marijuana advocates. In one of our “ads” coming up in the next ten episodes, we were lucky to work with “Gridiron Cannabis Coalition.” They are a group of former American Football players who advocate for the use of cannabis to help with the healing of injuries and illnesses caused both on and off the field. Unlike many addictive pharmaceutical opiates that are prescribed to manage pain, cannabis is a non-addictive treatment, is safer, and is equally (if not more) effective at treating pain.
When you get the munchies, what do you crave?
Good last question! I always want BCD soon tofu with dumplings, spicy. And then usually halo top birthday cake ice cream. God, I sound like such a stereotypical Asian actress. I love it.
This is so awesome! Thanks so much Elizabeth for taking the time for this feature! Looking forward to seeing you more!
DISJOINTED is now streaming globally exclusively on Netflix.