actress Sydney Shiotani
With so many television shows about parents and kids, there’s always a fresh face in the crowd worth finding out more about.
If you were watching Pamela Adlon’s award-winning FX comedy series “Better Things”
this season, then you know what I’m talking about. The show follows Adlon as single mom, Sam Fox, who struggles to balance her career and her three daughters (Mikey Madison, Hannah Alligood, Olivia Edward).
In the season three finale Shake the Cocktail,
Frankie (Alligood) has decided she isn’t going to live at home anymore. As the storyline unfolds, Sam is on a mission to find out where her daughter is and eventually discovers, and must come to terms with, the fact that Frankie is now living with her good friend Obsidian, played by teen actress Sydney Shiotani
The appearance marks Sydney’s television debut, but you wouldn’t know it from her naturalistic performance. This talented 17-year old actress has also emerged at film festivals starring in the dramatic short, “Origin X,” about two teens hiding their secret abilities.
The young actress of Japanese, Filipino and Italian descent, has been honing her skills at the respected performing arts high school Valley Academy of Arts & Sciences and will be heading to study Acting at Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts this fall. Sydney is multi-talented, with singing and dancing also in her repertoire, and is a self-taught musician who can play five instruments.
Sydney Shiotani recently took some time to answer a few questions:
Tell us about your role in “Better Things.”
SYDNEY: My character Obsidian is one of Frankie's friends who agrees to let her stay over at her house while Frankie and her mom Sam cool off from a fight. Sam finds them outside a restaurant and after Frankie rudely tells Sam to leave, Obsidian tries to comfort Sam and informs her that Frankie has been staying with her, and it's been really awesome, with Frankie helping with the dishes and being very clean.
How was it to work alongside Pamela Adlon?
SYDNEY: Working with Pamela was incredible. She's an absolute inspiration and a joy to work with. She creates such a positive work environment for everyone in the cast and treats everyone with respect no matter if you're in front or behind the camera- on screen for 30 minutes or 3.
What would you consider your characters ‘best’ quality? And their ‘worst’?
SYDNEY: I would say Obsidian's best quality is that she's very empathetic and easygoing. She's always looking out for her friends and even lets Frankie stay at her house when she gets into a fight with her mom. However, these traits also equate to her worst- she's kind to a fault. She feels bad about not telling Frankie's mom that her daughter has been staying with her for so long but couldn't find it in her heart to say no to her friend.
Any interesting stories from the set you can share with us?
SYDNEY: In one of the scenes we were pretending to study at a restaurant so we all had notebooks in front of us. Pamela said we could go ahead and write/draw anything we wanted to while we were filming. We had a lot of fun in between takes writing obscure events in a calendar we found in the back of one of the books and drawing silly doodles in the margins.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned from working on this project?
SYDNEY: The biggest lesson I learned is how the head of the show really affects the work environment. Pamela is so playful and full of positive energy and that definitely carried over to the rest of the cast and crew. Even though she makes it a fun working environment, her positivity doesn't make it any less productive. If anything, it motivated all of us to work harder.
Since you’re heading to college next year, what are you looking forward to the most?
SYDNEY: I'm most looking forward to moving to a new state and experiencing a different environment from what I grew up in here in LA. I was always drawn to the East Coast and the different opportunities it can bring, and meeting new people is definitely a plus! I'll be in the BFA Acting program at Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Jersey, and I'll get to spend my entire junior year in London with my class!
And, now just for fun:
Who’s your favorite actor/actress?
SYDNEY: I really admire Benedict Cumberbatch as an actor. He can so masterfully play such a wide range of characters and throws himself completely into whatever role he's taking on. He's never afraid to put himself out there and go all out even when he's doing mo-cap or his own stunt work.
What role from the past do you wish you could have played?
SYDNEY: Something like Tessa Thompson's role in the “Thor” movies or Daisy Ridley's in the new “Star Wars” trilogy is like a dream role for me. They're both strong female characters who count on themselves before others and go on a long, emotional journey- kicking ass along the way. To play someone from such a popular franchise and be able to bring that character to life for fans around the world who have followed the stories for so long would be incredible.
Favorite movie or TV show from your childhood.
SYDNEY: I know it's cheesy but growing up I always loved the “Harry Potter” films. I was so fascinated with how someone could create a whole other world in such great detail, Rowling had me completely hooked.
Tell us one thing that would surprise our readers to learn about you.
SYDNEY: People are usually surprised when I say that I love classic rock and metal. I grew up around Metallica, Guns n' Roses, AC/DC, and Def Leppard and wholly blame my parents for it.
How can fans keep up with you?
SYDNEY: They can follow me on Instagram: @sydney_shiotani link
Thanks, Sydney – we can’t wait to see what you do next!
Sydney Shiotani with Pamela Adlon in "Better Things" (photo courtesy: FX)
Sydney Shiotani and Pamela Adlon on-set "Better Things"