While siblings Miya and Kai Cech from California braced the chilly Canadian weather for Mattel’s live-action film “American Girl: Corinne Tan,” the teenage actors discovered warmth in the unique experience of working together along with canine companions.
“American Girl: Corinne Tan,” inspired by the doll brand’s 2022 Girl of the Year — its first of Chinese descent — follows 13-year-old ski enthusiast Corinne (Miya) as she struggles to adapt to her new life in a blended family after her parents’ divorce. Meanwhile, her 10-year-old sister Gywnn (Kai) has already embraced her role in the new family.
Corinne unexpectedly finds purpose in training a search and rescue puppy named Flurry, leading to a journey of perseverance and acceptance.
“We haven't had a really big opportunity in the past to work together in such close proximity so that was really fun,” Miya tells NextShark. “And getting to not only live together in Canada while filming and just being on a new adventure, we also got to spend all that time on set together. We really got to have a good time, learn from each other and see what a scene could really create for our relationship.”
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The siblings believe their real-life bond influenced their on-screen chemistry. Miya related to her character in terms of adapting slowly to changes, while Kai identified with the happy and bubbly personality of Gywnn. Throughout filming, they also realized how their roles impacted their real-life relationship, bringing them closer as sisters.
“Our bond has definitely evolved after filming,” Kai shares. “Before, we didn't get to spend as much time together because [Miya] was away a lot on a lot of cool sets. But getting to work together was just so fun. When we first saw the dolls, it was so incredible that we looked so much alike them. And the fact that we got to film this movie is just awesome. We got to bond so much… I think that's definitely just like carried on throughout all the time we’re done filming so I think we're a lot closer.”
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“American Girl: Corinne Tan” sheds light on the exploration and complexities of growing up in an Asian household in the U.S., a theme that the siblings found particularly resonant in their own lives. Miya, who was adopted from Tokyo as a baby, shared her experiences as an Asian actor in the American entertainment industry.
“I'm half Japanese and half Chinese. I was adopted into a half Asian family. And so there are definitely times where I, especially being in this industry, there were times that I was kind of unsure how much of that aspect of my identity I should really be putting out there,” Miya says. “But I have learned that if you surround yourself with people who support you, whether they're of Asian descent or not, you will find that you are more comfortable and more capable of representing that part of you without judgment. And, in fact, being proud of it.”
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The sisters delve into a scene in the movie where the family contemplates changing the names of their Chinese dishes to English for their business. Miya expressed her delight in learning about the Chinese cuisine on set, guided by actress Michelle Krusiec, who portrays their mother, Judy, in the film.
Both Miya and Kai recognized the significance of the movie in offering representation for those with blended families, touching on themes of cultural identity, stepfamily dynamics and the diverse experiences of growing up in the U.S. They underscored the importance of such multifaceted representation for the younger generation, regardless of cultural backgrounds, emphasizing the need for relatable stories in today's diverse world.
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Miya shares her surreal feelings of being able to represent young Asian girls in the entertainment industry, having grown up watching classic films like "Karate Kid" and being influenced by trailblazers like Awkwafina.
“Knowing that ‘American Girl’ is angled at young girls who maybe are like me and want to be in the industry and get to see representation of my age or a Kai's age, it honestly makes me so happy,” Miya says. “I am so honored and so excited that I get to be a part of the people who are continuing that tradition.”
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Kai also believes that the special nature of being able to portray the first Chinese American “Girl of the Year” for American Girl is a recognition that holds great significance. She is enthusiastic about the film's impact, envisioning young girls walking into American Girl stores and feeling a sense of connection with the dolls.
“American Girl: Corinne Tan” was first released on Amazon Prime Video last year. But in terms of aspirations for the film airing on Netflix, the sisters expressed excitement about promoting the movie on a larger scale and it reaching a broader audience. They emphasized the importance of representation for young kids who may find inspiration in their on-screen characters.
The film is now available to stream on Netflix.
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