Q&A with actress Kelly Marie Tran

I was Secretary of Peer Counseling, Vice President of Choir, Co-President of the Vietnamese Student Association, Spirit & Publicity Chair for my class council, and also a member of Key Club! I loved being in choir and doing all the school musicals. I still keep in touch with friends from Westview, & some of my fondest memories are with them.

I think my focus on college was way over-blown. To be honest, I think I could do everything I am doing now without a college education. I think the social/emotional growth I obtained in college was important to me, but I think that when I was at Westview –– there was a lot of shame around going to a community college or taking time off to focus on other things/figure out what you want. It was unfair. And wrong. I don’t think people should be shamed because they don’t want to do what the people around them are doing.

I think I’d have to be delusional to think my career would go the way it has. I continue to be surprised by how I’m growing and learning in this world. If I wasn’t an actress, I’d be a scientist — I’d study the brain and psychology. It’s fascinating to me. 

Not at all. I remember feeling pressured to have my life planned out, but I’ve found my greatest joys in life have come from the surprises that come with following your own path, regardless of how scary it is.

When I was at Westview, all my friends were very high achievers — we were all in a million clubs and had leadership positions. I think being around all my friends really taught me how to organize all my extracurriculars as well as prioritize my time. I keep saying this and I’ll say it again — my friends were really what got me through Westview and I still see them every time I visit San Diego! It sounds so cliche, but people are really what make any experience worthwhile!

My friends and I talk about this all the time. I think our current education system is incredibly flawed. The inaccessibility to higher education for those who are not born into money is wild to me. Also — I think schools should teach students skills they’ll actually use in life. For example, it would have been so helpful to have a class that helped students understand what an undertaking it is to take out student loans to go to college. In my case, I had to book the biggest franchise in the world to pay off two years of public in-state college tuition. That is INSANE! I also wish we had a class where we learned how to file our taxes, and learned the difference between being an employee and an independent contractor. I also wish we learned how to deal with health insurance, car insurance, and how to build credit. These are all life skills and strangely, we learn nothing about them in high school or college.

I got to play Adelaide in “Guys & Dolls” my senior year and I’ll never forget it. It was such an amazing experience — I still have the poster up in my room at my parents’ house!

I worked at Golden Spoon in Rancho Penasquitos! I started as a cashier and eventually I got promoted to a shift leader. I worked there for two years, part of my junior and senior years as well as my first year in college. Whenever I’m in PQ, I still visit! I can’t resist the peanut butter cup/cake batter combo with heath bar and graham cracker toppings! SO GOOD!

I would say — don’t put too much pressure on what college you attend. The important thing is the connections you make and what you make out of the experience. No matter where you are, find what interests you and go for it — it will surprise you how willing people are to help!

Like any journey, there were ups and downs. Some days were good, some were horrible. But when it came down to it, I remember just being really in love with the work — I loved acting, loved singing, loved doing improv — loved all the friends I made while doing it. I remember working all the day jobs being really difficult and soul sucking, but at the end of the day, I recognized that if I had to struggle the rest of my life but I still got to make beautiful things with people I loved, it would still be worth it.

I worked so many different jobs in order to support my acting ventures — I nannied, I was an office manager, a bookkeeper, a personal assistant, a hostess, a food tour guide, I passed out flyers on Hollywood Blvd — you name it. Those years were definitely challenging, but again, I would say that my friends really got me through that time. Having an impossible dream seems a lot less impossible when you have friends who are also pursuing it, who believe in you, who encourage you and support you. I made some of my closest friends in those years and they mean the world to me.

I really believed at one point that if I ever became a working actor, I’d have no more problems in my life—but that’s not the case at all. The things I worry about are just different—and I’ve found there’s always more room for growth and discovery.

I leave LA — I travel, oftentimes alone. I make sure that I always make space to listen to that little voice inside of me, which I believe everyone has. Sometimes it’s hard to hear yourself when the world is so noisy. Journaling helps. Therapy is wonderful. At the end of the day, my job is to protect my ability to maintain my creativity and integrity. It has always been the most important thing to me.  

That’s such a kind thing to say. When I was in high school, I was a huge fan of Harry Potter — I still am. Those stories mean the world to me, and I was such a fan of Katie Leung (Cho Chang)—she felt like a light in the darkness when it came to the severe lack of representation in media during that time. I’m so proud to say that I have since become friends with her and she is such an incredible artist and friend!