Check out our interview with actor Devin Kawaoka who can be seen as Charlie on the Apple Original comedy series “Shrinking” with Jason Segel and Harrison Ford. Devin can also be seen as a recurring role on NBC’s hit series “Chicago Med” portraying first year surgical resident Dr. Kai Tanaka-Reed.
Previously Devin has appeared on multiple television shows including “Lucifier,” Marvel’s “The Runaways,” and “Criminal Minds.” In 2022 he starred in Jeremy O. Harris’ award winning “Slave Play” at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. The show received 12 Tony nominations becoming the most nominated non-musical play ever.
Follow Devin on IG @devinkawaoka
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Curious, Joyful, Always Hungry
How did you get started acting?
When I was a kid, I saw the movie Newsies. I pointed to the screen and said “Mom, I wanna do that.” She said if I wanted to be an actor then I had to learn the craft of acting. So she signed me up for a class. I’ve been a student of acting ever since.
How has this changed your life?
Acting is now what I eat, sleep and breathe. Without it, my life would be incredibly different. I found my community in acting as well as my purpose.
What is the best and worst part of being an actor?
I love being part of stories that matter. Stories that make a difference in people’s lives, whether it’s offering them a distraction from the everyday, a group of friends to cry with when things get tough or a challenge and a call to action to make change in the world. That is the power of being an artist. And actors are artists of the heart and mind. I would say the worst part about being an actor is the instability of the day to day. It’s difficult to not know where your next paycheck is coming from. But I think what makes this more challenging is that success is not necessarily merit based. You can be the most talented actor in the world and no one is waiting in line to hire you. Constant rejection or invisibility can put a dent in the healthiest of confidences. Acting is a mental game as much as it is a waiting game and it takes a toll.
How do you prepare for a role?
It’s taken me a long time to figure this out. I have a step by step process that starts with what the characters see, exploring given circumstances and relationships established by the writer. I mull on childhood memories that inform how and why they operate in the world. I try to allow anything and everything to be possible.
Tell us about your work in the new Apple TV+ series “Shrinking?”
Shrinking is about a recently widowed therapist named Jimmy. And the loss of his wife reverberates throughout his life, his daughter’s life, his co workers lives, and his friends lives. We see how they process their grief and sadness and most importantly, laugh in the face of loss. I play the affable, supportive-boyfriend-of-the-year, extremely handsome (if I do say so myself) Charlie, who is the love interest of Brian, Jimmy’s best friend, played by the genius Michael Urie.
How is working alongside big names like Jason Segel and Harrison Ford?
Pinch me, am I dreaming? It’s such a legend of a cast with Jason Segal, Harrison Ford, Christa Miller, Jessica Williams, Michael Urie, Luke Tennie, and Lukita Maxwell. I mean one second I’m in a scene acting and crying and then I look over and Harrison is eating a dorito and cracking a joke. One take he winked at me with that Indiana Jones wink and I wanted to stop the whole set and say “Did you see that? That wink!? That’s the take!” But seriously, this is such a special group. They are all brilliant at what they do and the nicest of people. You can’t ask for anything more.
And about your work in NBC’s hit series “Chicago Med?”
I play Kai Tanaka-Reed, Chicago Med’s newest surgical resident. He is as arrogant as surgeons come. He is equal parts bullish confidence and young, foolish with a lot to learn. He’s very fun to play as he is always expressing some opinion that ruffles the other doctors’ feathers. However, all of his bluster comes from some deep insecurities and challenges he’s met in his life and although he believes that the only person he can count on is himself, he will need to learn that the support of others will be vital to get through his residency.
What kind of roles do you like or would like to play and why?
I feel so lucky playing Charlie and Kai: One comedic and one dramatic. One overly kind and the other overly arrogant. Next I’d love to play a villain of some kind, or at least a flawed hero. I am a fairly big rule follower and I love getting to play people who have complete disregard for the rules.
If you weren’t acting, what would you be up to right now?
I have caught the travel bug. I’m dreaming of South America, Japan, the south of France, Italy, etc. I’m looking for adventure and to feel the wind in my hair.
Can you name 3 actors/actresses you would love to work with?
Steven Yuen, Lauren Ambrose, and Richard Madden.
What’s your advice for the newer actors?
Study. Your. Craft. Get good at the job. The jobs will come to you.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
I’m not one for meeting my heroes because you’ll always be disappointed. But if I could, I would visit my Dad for one more day. He passed in 2016 and I wish I could share with him everything that has happened in my life since.
Best advice ever given?
Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. Just kidding. Always be who you are. Or else you won’t be around when someone is looking for you.
Do you support any charity?
I worked at the Hunts Point Alliance for Children in the South Bronx for eight years. It is a not-for-profit very close to my heart. I love the families up there, the educational opportunity they bring and the community that supports them.
Where do you see yourself and your career in 5 years from now?
As long as I am working most days on something I love, I will be happy.
Favorite song? Why?
Hold On by Wilson Philips. It’s a song about taking up space with vulnerability.
Where we can follow you?
@devinkawaoka on Instagram and Twitter
Book: Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu
Quote: “Eat a dick, Pam!”
Tv Series: Severance on Apple TV
Favorite Food: Sushi
Travel Destination: Japan
Sports Team: Serena Williams
Photo Credit: JJ Geiger