The web series star addresses the fan response to her casting, and more in her very first Emma Approved interview.
Joanna Sotomura plays Emma Woodhouse in Emma Approved, a web series that modernises and adapts Jane Austen’s Emma. The show has been created by the same team behind The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Welcome to Sanditon, the former having recently picked up an Emmy for its transmedia content.
Emma has had countless adaptations, yet Sotomura manages to give this old character a brand new twist. In this exclusive interview, we ask her the same quickfire questions we put to her co-star, Brent Bailey – plus one special question, that addresses the sentiments many fans have had towards her specific casting.
In this exclusive interview, Sotomura opens up about being a multi-racial actress in Hollywood, auditioning for The Lizzie Bennet Diaries spin-off Welcome to Sanditon, and her experiences with the Emma Approved fandom.
Interview: Joanna Sotomura talks ‘Emma Approved’
Fans have been very vocal about their appreciation that the series is helmed by a multi-racial actor. What do you think about this?
I couldn’t be happier! In Hollywood it’s easy for Asian actresses to get type-cast in stereotypical roles, so to play an iconic character such as Emma is a wonderful opportunity. She is a strong, confident entrepreneur who is persistent, charming and successful and the color of her skin makes no difference.
The fact that the fans not only accept this but also embrace it makes me very excited to see where we’ve come as a society. Most of all it makes me very proud to be a multi-racial actress. I can’t thank our fans enough for their love and support!
Tell us about your audition process?
I first auditioned for the role of Letitia Griffiths in Welcome to Sanditon. I didn’t get the part but luckily the team brought me back to read for their next project. They kept the new series under wraps so I didn’t know what character I was actually auditioning for. All I knew was that she was an ambitious force of nature with a fierce attitude.
When I found out I was actually auditioning for Emma I couldn’t have been more excited! Luckily they liked what I had to offer and cast me to play this amazing lady!
What was your experience with Austen, with ‘Emma’, prior to beginning ‘Emma Approved’?
I first read Emma in Junior High School and loved how unwavering she was. I had a hard time standing up for myself at that time in my life and greatly admired Emma’s strength. To this day, I wish I could be as determined and straightforward as her.
Emma’s unapologetic attitude may make her hard to love at times but there is something to be admired about such an audacious spirit. When I booked the role, I went back and revisited some of Austen’s work and was reminded of just how timeless her heroines are.
‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’ is now Emmy approved. Does the success of the previous two series from this creative team add any pressure to you?
Haha oh yeah! It definitely adds pressure to follow an Emmy award winning show but at the same time it motivates me to do the best job I can possibly do.
Thankfully, that same award winning team is behind Emma Approved so I know we’re in good hands. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was such a phenomenal series and I am just honored to be a part of the team’s next chapter!
How have you found the experience with the fandom so far? Were you warned in advance of what to expect?
I was definitely warned but nothing could have prepared me for just how amazing our fans would be! They have been so dedicated and welcoming. I am absolutely blown away by their talent and creativity. My mom actually just found some fan-art that she’s planning to print and frame! Not to mention the speed that they can gif things is incredible!
What do you think is the most important difference between Austen’s Emma, and your portrayal?
I like to think there are a lot of similarities between Austen’s Emma and our portrayal. In both versions, Emma is witty and a bit playful by nature. In the book, we see her playfulness through her relationship with Mr. Knightley and in our interpretation it comes out through their banter but also in her vlogs. This format allows me to really explore her cheeky side and so far it’s been a lot of fun!