I may not have gotten a photo of Tia Carrere at her Q&A as part of FanExpo Vancouver, but I definitely left thinking that as far as human beings go, she’s one of the good ones, and I hope to do her Q&A justice. Room 11 at the Vancouver Convention Centre was pretty full – I would guess there were a good 200/250 people there (her main `competition’ was Stan Lee, in the Ballroom downstairs). Questions covered a breadth of her work – Relic Hunter (obv), Curb Your Enthusiasm, Wayne’s World, Dancing with the Stars, True Lies, Lilo & Stitch, Celebrity Apprentice and more. I’m going to recap by show, as I wasn’t taking notes and this just makes the most sense (and might jog my own memory).
The first question wasn’t so much a question but a compliment for being one of the first female role models for young Asian women to look up to as Sydney Fox. Tia shared that Relic Hunter wasn’t the first idea that she had discussed with the producers. One of the first (if not the first) ideas involved a weathergirl by day and superhero by night (Tia thought the timing would be right for someone to do it now – between all the vamp and the superhero shows, I think she’s on to something). But then the idea for a female Indiana Jones came up and she and the producers were all over that. She talked about how it was important for girls to consider careers as geologists, … (other careers mentioned that I’ve forgotten), and archaeologists. Casting her assistant was also key. The chemistry she had with Christien Anholt from the off she described as a clincher for him being offered the part. They had been looking for a blonde man with a slight build, but Christien although not slight at all, impressed them with his ability for physical comedy – he could be grabbed by the ear or the shirt collar, be thrown across the room, used as a human shield, and it worked. In my opinion, wonderfully; I still enjoy that show to this day when a re-run comes on.
Tia was also asked why the show didn’t seem to have a proper ending after the third season. As she explained, she had done 66 episodes, and was physically tired. She also wanted to progress in her personal life: get married, start a family, normal things. She also said that in hindsight, the show could have had two seasons left in it (network renewals willing), but apart from what she wanted/needed on a personal level, 9/11 happened during the final season, and Lindy Booth, who played Claudia, the third cog in the wheel of the show’s group dynamics left after Season 2. As a viewer of the show, I can honestly say I thought the feel of the show had definitely changed in Season 3. It just wasn’t `the same’.
Fighting in heels/boots also came up. It was difficult. Although she had suggested flatter shoes on more than one occasion, she was told `heels look better on television’, so heels it was. For one episode, the heels of the shoes kept sinking into the grass during a fight scene so she was also fighting to keep her balance and centre of gravity. She talked about the choreography of fight scenes and for one episode when there was a fight scene in a hotel kitchen when she had to defend herself with trays or roll racks into the bad guy’s path, she related when the reach of a rather large actor (described as 6’4” and 240 lbs) was so large, he did miss her face as he was supposed to, but his elbow clipped her hard on the nose. She then covered her nose for us and made a sign for `I’m going to need a minute’ and explained that she needed a few so she could sit down, assess the damage (nothing broken, nothing bleeding, neck still worked) – “okay, let’s go” was her verdict, and they carried on.
What was the most physically uncomfortable or otherwise gruelling experience on the show? Tia first talked about a scene in which Sydney and Nigel were in a sarcophagus and she apparently got a bit claustrophobic inside it. The crew did remove a panel of it and that improved matters a lot. The most uncomfortable though wasn’t being tied to a chair whilst the floor was crawling with snakes (two of which apparently went missing on the sound stage they worked on frequently so Tia was VERY careful when picking up cables etc for the next while), it was cold. Shooting in Paris, for early morning fight scenes that were underground for instance were the worst. Not only was it bone-chilling cold, but she needed to make sure she was properly warmed up to avoid being injured, despite the hour and everything else.
Where was it shot? Toronto and Paris for the first season. For the second, I think she said Toronto, Paris, and somewhere else. For the third, I believe it was Toronto, Paris, Seville, and Bristol. Tia also said that she was surprised that whilst in Paris she was flipping through an architectural magazine when she realised one of the apartments featured was the one she (and her mum) was living in at the time. Turns out it belonged to Merchant Ivory (of Room with a View fame, and many others) and she mentioned with a chuckle how she didn’t have the guts at the time to leave her photo and CV in a drawer somewhere in the hopes that Merchant or Ivory ever saw it.
True Lies – Tia was asked if Arnold Schwarzenegger was a good dancer. Tia talked about how good his carriage was. As a bodybuilder, she figured he was already very tight in the upper body (Tia admitted she needed to work on it as she identifies herself as being more of a sloucher; she also said her frame got a lot better on Dancing with the Stars) so his frame was great and she got the showier moves – it was the tango after all. Tia also said how the scene was originally shot in the round in this great big room and it was great, but during the editing process, the director, James Cameron no less, thought it wouldn’t work with the story because they were hiding in plain sight from the bad guys (or something) and they would’ve immediately been spotted on the dance floor and it didn’t make sense. Instead, the shots were tightly framed and Tia pretend-whined that they had cut out the best stuff of that dance scene.
Celebrity Apprentice – she was disappointed. This is me paraphrasing – Accustomed to working hard, she focussed on the tasks at hand (like making sandwiches) instead of playing it up for the camera. What contributed to the disappointment was how people would back-stab and sabotage one another, even if they were part of the same team, while mugging it for the camera. No bitterness whatsoever – she carefully chose her words: “That’s why they are who they are, and I am who I am” and how she had no problems sleeping at night.
Wayne’s World – the first one had virtually no budget: $16 million (her numbers, she also said it was the studio’s least funded film that year apparently) and a shooting schedule that was only 28 days: very rare for a feature film, two takes was not uncommon. When asked about a Wayne’s World 3, Tia said she’d bring it up to Mike Myers this coming Tuesday, as they were all getting together at the Academy of Dramatic Arts and Sciences for Wayne’s World’s 21st birthday party (so stay tuned). Yes, that was her voice on Ballroom Blitz. Not her favourite style of music, preferring softer, melodic music (of the kind she’s won Grammys for, she did mention Grammys). It was also hard on the vocal chords. Shooting all day and recording at night. This was before the days when you could nip in for a quick laser treatment, the best treatment was rest, and that was difficult. She laughingly suggested that if there were a Wayne’s World 3, she could imagine Cassandra singing in a tiki lounge on Hawaii and Wayne turning up and telling her she needed to rock and the story could go from there. When asked about why there hadn’t been one up until now, she mentioned the numbers. Wayne’s World made over $120 million and Wayne’s World 2 made a fraction of that, so from a numbers standpoint, there was no interest from the studio.
Her voiceover work was discussed. Tia was almost the voice of Disney’s Mulan but the scheduling did not work as she was doing Kull with Kevin Sorbo in Czechoslovakia at the time. The channels of communication remained open and when Disney wanted to do a film set in Hawaii she was very happy to be part of it. She has fond memories of Nani and also how as someone born and raised on Hawaii, she was able to provide the `local flavour’ – demonstrating how local people would say certain words or phrases so the finished film could sound as authentically Hawaiian as possible. She also reminisced about voice work for the video game The Daedalus Encounter (asked about by a fan). Not having any experience on a game, she described how someone had to download it onto a CD so she could view it on her computer to see what her character would even be doing.
Someone who had also been born and raised on Hawaii asked if she couldn’t wait to get off the island. Tia said that as far as she was concerned, the highest thing she could aspire to was being a singer in a tiki lounge in Waikiki. She was discovered by accident, the parents of a producer saw her in a grocery store and approached her saying that she was really pretty and that their son was making a movie and that she should meet him. She had never acted before, auditioned, and ended up getting the lead part, and here we are. Leaving the island was never her goal.
When asked, she talked about a film called 20 Dates and how she hoped people knew it was a mockumentary. She was married to the film’s producer so it wasn’t a real date anyway. The questioner asked if she was aware that the premise appears to have been copied with the film My Date With Drew. Tia had never seen it and couldn’t speak to that but did offer an interesting tidbit about the 20 Dates movie. Myles, the wife-hunting lead man, did actually meet his wife on one of the dates. It was the woman who worked in the linen store and they’re still married to this day.
Someone asked if she knew and hung out with other Hollywood actors of Filipino heritage. Jokingly she said in that accent, that she and Lou Diamond Phillips and (someone else’s name I’m blanking on), and Rob Schneider (“Bet you didn’t know that” – I didn’t, but then I didn’t know hers either) hung out at each other’s houses all the time. But, actually, she and Lou Diamond Phillips did travel to The Philippines at the invitation of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The trip was about restoring WWII benefits that were taken away under the US presidency of George Bush to Filipino men who had been recruited by the US to fight alongside US forces in WWII. More people were supposed to have come (including Rob Schneider), but there had been a coup attempt and they decided not to go. Someone in the audience queried the success of that mission, Tia thought it had been a success because there had been a celebration that the benefits were reinstated. The audience member seemed to think it was extended only to the surviving veterans and not to their families.
Her scariest role: Cha-Cha on Curb Your Enthusiasm mostly because it was all improvised.
Weirdest script ever sent: nothing came to mind, but she has received some interesting letters over the years. A few even made it to an old address while she was still living there…and they were from men in prison who had to write them in crayon. She moved, but not because of the fan mail.
Which character she most resembled in real life: she went through a few names including that she wasn’t nearly as courageous as Sydney Fox before settling on Cha-Cha, which due to the improvisation of the character, had more Tia in it than any other character she’d ever played.
One of the things that impressed me was in respect to her 7 ½-year-old daughter. Aesthetically blessed, she gets a lot of compliments of how pretty she is. Tia said she is very deliberate in always reinforcing that with something else: how clever or smart or intelligent she is, or how good she is at something. She hopes her daughter will resist being passive and something about being admired. She wants to raise a strong and independent woman (does that remind you of anyone?) and she said with a chuckle that her daughter is already rather `saucy’.
I really liked this format. People who wanted to ask questions merely had to raise their hands and Tia would make eye contact and say “Hi” to let them know it was their turn. No standing up, no microphone to speak into, just conversation. It was a very relaxed atmosphere. Some questions were more difficult to understand than others, but Tia answered every question considerately and as completely as she could. On some level, I was worried there wouldn’t be enough questions to fill her slot – I feared awkward silence (be kind: this was my first Con/Expo experience). I needn’t have worried – even at our relaxed pace, one hand after another went up and it was a very fast and informative 45 minutes. Wouldn’t you agree?