Interview with Martha Millan of “The Cleaning Lady” on FOX by Thane 12/30/21
It was awesome to interview Martha about diversity and world travel. Both subjects have a place in my heart.
Thane: How do you think people will respond to the cleaning lady?
Martha: Wow, that’s such a great question. Nobody’s asked me that yet. I think in terms of just the show’s content, there’s so many groundbreaking elements to it with representation, diversity, dealing with topical issues. Then, of course, there’s all the action and the drama and everything. So, I think in terms of just being – I think they’re definitely going to be surprised with the content of the show, but at the same time, drawn in by the relationships that they see throughout the series. The show deals with a lot of family issues, and I think that’s where the relatability comes in with the show. So, I’m hoping that they’re going to be excited.
Thane: How does your character fit into the show?
Martha: I play Fiona De La Rosa. The lead character of the show is played by Elodie Yung, who is incredible in this show. She is known for her action as Electra, but you see so many vulnerable parts of her throughout the series that I think a lot of people are going to be just so beautifully connected to her. And she’s married to my brother. So, we play best friends on the show, and we deal with a lot of challenging issues. I myself am undocumented, and Thony De La Rosa, through her plight of trying to save her son from an immunodeficiency disorder, she gets involved with the underworld and becomes the cleaning lady for the mob. So, there’re so many things that can happen and go wrong, but it’s wonderful to see both characters really rise up against the challenges that they face.
Thane: Do you think that there’s a shortage of roles for Asian actors?
Martha: I think, for me, I think things are changing. Definitely prior to – for me, I grew up in Australia. I moved to America in terms of really finding better opportunities for my career, mainly because representation wasn’t available here. Now, I’m happy to say that coming home. I’m here in Australia right now Zooming. I see all the ads, and I see the shows, and it’s changed incredibly. There’s so much diversity through commercials and on the TV shows in Australia that it’s so wonderful to see that a lot of opportunities are opening opening up for everyone. I still think, yes, there definitely could be more done for nontraditional casting and just casting people for their talent rather than their heritage. Obviously, with certain plots there’s that necessity, but when it comes to certain storylines, if someone can play a lawyer without any specificity of culture, I think anyone should be able to go for that. And I think that is something that’s happening and we see these days, which is wonderful.
Thane: You’ve been a guest on many TV shows. Do you have a particular favorite show you’ve acted on?
Martha: Let me see. I have to say The OA. I think that was such a creative show, and the thing was, I didn’t even know what the story was about. I only got my scene. I shot my scene, and that was it. So, I just thought that I was playing a very complicated mother, but I think, to actually play Filipino in that show in terms of her character and complexities was really challenging and was a great way to kind of showcase just my emotional depth and just to really be a part of such an immensely creative plot line.
Thane: How do you feel about the current state of diversity in Hollywood?
Martha: Wonderful question. I think it’s changing, clearly with the example [of] this show. It’s groundbreaking on all elements – the whole the cast itself. I’m Filipino Australian. Elodie is Cambodian French. Aidan is Mexican. We have the Armenian culture being explored in Aiden’s world, and then you have an Argentine. I mean, there’re so many cultures that are represented on all fronts, even from the writers, on the writer side, and that’s why I think there’s so many changes. It’s a testament to FOX’s, I guess, support in really kind of spearheading the challenge for people to open up diversity and allowing for changes to happen, because if you think about it, the generation today, they’re exposed to so many cultures through social media. All the kids, they know that there’s a world out there, and that it should be represented and that to have a narrow point of view is archaic. And that’s where the appetite for new content that represents the whole world globally comes from. So, I think it’s wonderful that we’re a part of that. And, yeah, it’s kind of exciting, because, for me, it’s about opening up new roles for marginalized voices and representing them in not such a linear way and two dimensional but in a way that encompasses all their complexities as humans, because life’s messy. So, despite whatever culture you’re from, we’re all kind of going through those emotional roller coasters.
Thane: As a person with a disability, I find that writers can kind of be clueless on handling our characters. Do you feel that way about the way characters of diverse ethnic backgrounds are written?
Martha: Absolutely. I think, in the past, absolutely. Like I know, for me, representation of a Southeast Asian woman was depicted in Crocodile Dundee in a scene that was definitely something that I was just so ashamed of that it affected me so much, and it affected the way I thought people saw me or viewed me. I think these days now, with the openness and, again, the exposure to the world, culturally, people are changing their perceptions of not just in, again, a very narrow point of view, [but] they’re opening up just the humanity of people’s characters. And I think it’s a testament to the writers on the show. Miranda Kwok, who’s the creator [and] Melissa Carter, who is the showrunner, they really wanted to nurture that creativity amongst the writers to give authenticity to our characters, because the writers were also, you know, Filipino, Mexican, and just it was completely diverse so that there was a true authenticity to it. So, I do understand your point of view in terms of misrepresentation, because if they’re not in your shoes, or if they don’t understand the experiences you’ve gone through, how can someone write about it, if they haven’t felt it? So, yeah, I think that lends to the authenticity of this show.
Would more diversity behind the scenes help, such as executive producers and writers?
Martha: I think it does. I mean, again, Miranda Kwok is an example of that. She is Asian Canadian living in America now. I think, just in terms of the fact that she really wanted to create a show that centered on the Southeast Asian culture, and then to put a Southeast Asian female lead at the forefront was groundbreaking. And for Marissa Carter, the showrunner, to really embrace that and create an environment to enhance the diversity among the the actors and the writers who are on the show, employing that diversity really says a lot about the changes that’s happening in the world. It’s indicative of what is necessary to kind of evolve. Otherwise, if we’re holding on to such old values, then there’s consequences to that, I think, with what we’re all seeing right now. But I am an optimist. So, being a part of the show is part of that movement.
Are there any other structural changes that you’d like to see that could increase diversity?
Martha: Structural is a very good, you know, a topic to put out there. That’s something that I think most people forget, and I think, because now, a lot of diverse backgrounds are being put in the forefront in terms of how they shape their stories from their point of views is important. It’s their voice, and you can’t find authenticity unless it’s through experiences from your own background and from your own life. So, I think in order to create that expression through the media, you have to allow that ceiling to break and allow the the diverse voices and marginalized voices to express themselves authentically. And to be honest with you, I think it’s to the benefit of all media, and you see that in terms of what people are watching and the content that’s out there. There’s more appetite for things that are expressed creatively through representation, because everybody sees this representation all over social media. You’re connected immediately to that, and yeah, it’s a disadvantage if you if you don’t move forward with that evolution.
Thane: I see you have traveled quite a bit. Do you feel that your traveling experience and being exposed to different cultures has enriched your acting career at all, and how so?
Martha: Yeah, traveling is so important. I mean, as an Australian, I think we travel a lot, because we’re so far away from everything, but this was something that is a passion of mine, because whenever I travel, I really want to immerse myself in the society, in the culture in the society. I don’t normally stay at resorts or anything like that. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but I also would love to see just the reality of people’s lives in each in each country I visit, because I want to understand and immerse myself in their food, the way they respond to certain situations, how their lives are lived. And with that knowledge coming from visiting different countries, you’re able to understand people more in such a – I guess you empathize with people more, because you understand where they’re coming from, from different perspectives, all different perspectives. If you have more perspectives, culturally, I think, you’ll just be more open to experiencing different things and allowing for more changes that don’t really hinder you as a person.
Thane: What were your favorite places to visit?
Martha: There was this one place in Panama where I flew in; I was traveling with my ex boyfriend at that time on a plane, and I was traveling with chickens. And I remember there was a grandma and a grandson strapped in one seat belt at the front of the plane, and we were just going to this island in Panama, and we had to land in the middle of the jungle, because he had to check the propeller. Luckily – I mean, I don’t know how lucky we were, but he said, “I think it’s good enough.” Then, we landed in the middle of the jungle to to be greeted by these children who took us to this island, and at that time, there was no one there. It was an island the size of a football field, and we would deep sea dive and just kind of catch her at breakfast by just finding the fish in the water and sleeping on the sand. We had huts, separate huts and everything. So, that, for me, was adventurous. It was it was [unintelligible] though too.
Thane: Tell us about your online drama education program for children.
Martha: For me, it’s all about confidence, building confidence. Yes, there are definitely – I’m not looking to make child actors or whatever in that sense, but I will definitely help them to achieve their aspirations and dreams of becoming an actor, but it’s all about kind of just getting them out of their shell, connecting, really building their confidence. I think these days in terms of with a lot of the social media and they’re connected to their phones, yes, they’re able to express themselves through Tik Tok and everything in that, but I think to really build a connection between people is a great way with the classes that I’ve developed. And just to see how unfiltered they are, and fearless, it’s a great reminder for adults just to kind of tap into that as well. So, I learn more from them, actually, whenever I teach them, because I see how there’s just magic that happens whenever they do respond without any filtering. And as adults, we’re so programmed and conditioned to act and behave and live a certain lifestyle, and we forget the magic that we have too, as people. So, it’s kind of cool. So, it’s very reciprocal in terms of the education for me and for them.
Thane: Is there anything else that you want to share with the TVMEG.com audience?
Martha: I think the one thing that I want to share with the show is, just be who you are. I think a lot of the characters in the show struggle with so many limitations of labels, and you’ll find that their struggles to break through those labels, whether you’re undocumented, whether you’re a mobster, whether you’re, you know, what the other characters – I’m sorry; I’m kind of blanking out on the other characters, but just I think the plight of the underdog of just really empowering yourself is also a very strong message that comes through the show of The Cleaning Lady. And you’ll see through Elodie Yung’s performances – yes, everybody knows her is Electra, but her emotional vulnerability comes through so much that I think a lot of people will connect in terms of just going for what they want in life and really doing what you can for your family and how far do you go. So, I think that’s a great kind of question and challenge for all of us to to embark in our own lives.
This is the end of the interview. Thank you, Martha.
It was such a pleasure meeting you, Thane. I really appreciate your time and I hope you have an awesome awesome new year. Okay, it’s gonna be a great one.
Here is the Video!
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
Multi-faceted and talented Australian-Filipino actress Martha Millan (“The OA”) stars in the main cast as ‘Fiona Da La Rosa’ in FOX’s upcoming drama series “The Cleaning Lady.” From executive producers Miranda Kwok (“The 100”), Melissa Carter (“Queen Sugar”), Michael Offer (“Homeland,” “How to Get Away with Murder”), and Shay Mitchell (“You,” “Pretty Little Liars”) and based on the 2017 Argentinian show “La Chica Que Limpia,” “The Cleaning Lady” is a thrilling and emotional driven character drama about a whip-smart Cambodian doctor (Elodie Yung) who comes to the U.S. for a medical treatment to save her ailing son. However, when the system fails and pushes her into hiding, she refuses to be beaten down and marginalized. Instead, she becomes a cleaning lady for organized crime using her cunning and intelligence to forge her own path in the criminal world. The new FOX drama series is the first ever American TV show focusing on Filipinos. “The Cleaning Lady” premiere on Monday, January 3rd at 9/8c on FOX.
‘Fiona De La Rosa’ is the Filipina sister-in-law and fellow cleaning lady of ‘Thony’ (Yung) who is undocumented in the US while raising her children as a single parent. Fiona struggles dealing with the hardships of being undocumented while helping Thony in her journey to save her ailing son. Martha describes her character as “a fun, emotionally volatile and chaotic hot mess, but her journey throughout the series is one of empowerment and strength while helping Thony save her son’s life. Both women show true resilience as we follow them in their plight to give their children the best they can under extraordinary circumstances.”
Millan is best known for her work in “The OA,” “Succession,” “Entourage,” “Madam Secretary,” “Strong Medicine,” “The Third Watch,” all three primary shows of the “Law & Order” franchise, THE GREAT NEW WONDERFUL with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jim Parsons and Will Arnett and the recently released indie film THE DRUMMER in which she starred alongside Donald Glover.
Born in the Philippines, Martha moved to Australia at 4 years old and grew up in Sydney, Australia. Martha discovered her love for acting when she decided to take acting as an elective and performed in her first play in high school as Gwendolen in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Martha attended the University of Sydney and studied English and History before she deferred a year and ended up in Los Angeles attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. While taking a trip to New York City, she auditioned on a whim and was accepted to the original Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York where she graduated. She has since been a true New Yorker at heart. While booking acting jobs, Martha had great success in modeling and have done endless national print and commercial work for Verizon, AT&T, Target, Clairol, Home Depot and more, in addition to editorial work.
In addition to acting, Martha is also an acting teacher for children. She previously taught acting for extracurricular and after school programs in Brooklyn public schools until COVID hit and she decided to create her own global online drama education program for children aged 10-16 years old based all over the world in Brazil, Portugal, Israel, US, and more. Martha is also a world traveler and have visited a plethora of countries like Spain, Greece, Aruba, Peru, Indonesia, Guatemala, Panama, Mexico, etc. As an active and athletic child, Martha continues to stay healthy and fit by running everyday and practicing high intensity training. Martha is an advocate for diversity and is proud to be starring on a series portraying Filipinos.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda