Falling in love with Alice Kwan on Good Trouble is easy.
Falling in love with the multitalented star who plays her is even easier. Sherry Cola is an unapologetic, unstoppable rising star, and she’s taking Hollywood and the comedy world by storm. Her passion is unmatched.
TV Fanatic caught up with Sherry Cola again to discuss Good Trouble, her love of comedy, trailblazing through the industry as a queer, Asian-American woman, and much more. Grab a snack and enjoy the chat below!
Sherry: Jasmine, my dear. We meet again.
TVF: I know. I get a double dose of Sherry Cola. It sounds like a caffeinated energy drink.
That sounds like a reality show, a dating reality show, like A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila. [Laugh]
It does. You should do that. You’re doing everything else.
That also sounds like I’m coming for Fauci’s crown and in the booster game too.
[Laugh] OK, jumping in, the Good Trouble trailer looks SO GOOD. I’m super excited about it. It’s teasing risks and rewards, so what is Alice risking this season, and what does she hope will be her reward?
Alice has definitely been through a lot just from Good Trouble Season 1, with the evolution of finding her voice and being comfortable in her own skin.
Meanwhile, she’s kind of battling that cultural and generational gap with her parents. We saw that in some episodes in Good Trouble Season 4 when Alice got assaulted right after the show with Margaret and how she dealt with that with her parents in her ear with their own traumas.
That’s something that I learned in real life within the AAPI community. It’s so hard to find your place in this country, and to be that generation to stand up for yourself and actually fight and raise your voice when my parents didn’t, so it’s fascinating to navigate that dynamic.
I’m just honored that we’re showing that on Good Trouble and telling that specific story and having these necessary conversations cause Alice has so many identities; she’s queer, she’s Asian, she’s a woman. And another identity that I find parallel to Sherry’s life as well is that of a stand up comic in the comedy community.
Right. Of course.
That’s such a specific community as well. And the fact that she’s trying to find herself and her purpose in life and within the path she chose — it’s not easy.
There are few opportunities for a funny, queer Chinese-American girl; do you know what I’m saying? There’s still a lack of representation. So it’s powerful for Alice to choose that path and try to refine her voice right after this traumatic experience on board with Margaret Cho.
Is that what we will see her doing in the new episodes?
I think the second half of season four tells the story of Alice getting back on her feet, and also the relationship with Sumi. They’ve been exes; they’re invested in each other. There’s on and off again, back and forth, a push-pull aspect of their relationship.
That’s something else I’m really grateful for, which is the love shown between these two Asian women on screen. It’s something I’d never seen growing up. And for me to portray that, I’m excited to see the fans react to what happens with Alice and Sumi. For sure.
You covered my Alice and Sumi question. I love their love story, and I’m looking forward to that too.
And as you mentioned, the intergenerational aspect of the assault arc with Alice and her parent was handled beautifully and with such nuance. Will we see them during the back half of the season, too?
I think we absolutely do see her parents again. We also see her brother again. I adore that dynamic.
I didn’t grow up with blood brothers, so I find a lot of brothers in my adult life, in my industry life. Tommy Martinez is one of them, Sarunas Jackson and Joshua Pence. Having these true brothers now and a brother on-screen means so much. We really have so much chemistry.
You guys are great. You nailed the sibling dynamic so well.
On Good Trouble Season 3 Episode 15, we’re so adorable together. It shows that you can have completely different upbringings even in the same house.
But the conversation of that cultural, generational gap it’s still something I’m exploring in my own life with my own family. These conversations are so overdue, but better late than never, you know?
Even with the stop Asian hate storyline, Alice’s parents are trying to silence her because that’s what they’re used to, their traumatic experiences led them to do that in this country. But I’m the new generation to unlearn that and to speak up and actually stand up for myself and use my voice, and see that ripple effect way it inspires and motivates others.
It was an important arc and timely for all the reasons you mentioned — as a woman, as an Asian-American, queer woman, as a comedian… we’ve seen that angle becoming a topic of discussion recently with the whole Will Smith fiasco. Did you provide input for that storyline? What was the creative process like with that one?
Johanna Johnson, our showrunner, EP, creator, definitely lets me put in my two cents regarding Alice’s storyline and character arcs. They’ll often ask me about my personal experiences, whether or not I’ve been heckled on stage, et cetera.
With this one, it was focused on the Stop Asian Hate aspect. However, it did have something in the comedic aspect, the standup comic world. And being a comedian it’s a unique art because it’s one of the few arts that demand immediate feedback, and there’s a lot of pressure. It’s not as easy as it looks.
People expect you to make them laugh. Even after the Oscars thing, I was in Boston at a local college doing my thing with the Asian Association at Suffolk University, hoping to make a difference, when Chris Rock happened to be in town, doing his first show since the Oscars.
I went to see Chris after, and everyone in line was expecting him to talk about it. And that’s the thing it takes more than three days.
Process a trauma, one, and two, craft a joke that’s nuanced, tasteful, and funny at the same time. You see how much pressure there is for the medium.
Obviously, Chris did not talk about it; he really is a class act. The whole thing is conflicting for me because Will Smith is one of my heroes as well, and he’s someone I always said I wanted to work with growing up. I love Jada, and I dreamed of being in the industry and being a power couple, and of course, Chris Rock is a standup legend.
Right. It’s all layered and complicated and conflicting. I get it. Especially from the perspective of a fellow comedian who does standup, I appreciate your insight into the comedy world and what that’s like for you.
Yeah. As a standup, it’s such a specific art that we love doing, the adrenaline of hopping off stage and hoping for the best. You are writing these jokes yourself. This is not a scripted television show where you say words that other people write for you.
You are pouring your heart, brain, and experiences into these jokes. You’re performing it by yourself on a stage, hoping it does well. If it doesn’t, when that first joke doesn’t hit, that completely could affect your entire performance. But there’s such a rush and thrill in it. It challenges you, makes you better, and keeps you quick on your feet.
I imagine it does. It’s clear what you’re passionate about, and I love that you share that passion and the depth behind it.
There’s a power in comedy that allows you to teach. It allows you to have an actual intentional method. People in my audience can walk away learning something about being queer, or they could walk away learning something about Asian women. I might have just broken a stereotype that they walked in thinking.
I think there’s more to comedy than just the punchlines; in a beautiful way, we can make people laugh and open their minds. But back to my original point, being a comedian is harder than it looks! I always say that if you have a stage, even if it’s a small stage, you simply can’t waste it.
I’m grateful for Good Trouble because this show taught me so much. Every conversation we have on this show is a tough conversation but a very necessary conversation.
I would say the AAPI community around the Stop Asian Hate — we would not have been able to fight that fight and have such a fire within us had it not been for BLM, had it not been for the protests that just happened. We would not have stood up for our own Asian community in the same way, either.
With Good Trouble, I’ve learned to be an ally. I’ve learned the importance and effectiveness of solidarity. I’ve learned more about trans rights. I’ve learned more about fighting for equal pay.
Our show is literally called Good Trouble, named after the late, great John Lewis. Our show was established in 2018, and the world is catching up to these concepts and having these conversations. I feel really honored and grateful to be a part of this show. That’s actually keeping it real.
I love watching you guys. You all cover so much content. It’s just all very, just real. I think that’s fantastic, and you are fantastic. You stay booked and busy!
You were the Grand Marshal at Pride, right? That had to be surreal.
I was “Celebrity Grand Marshal” at San Francisco Pride, and what a feeling to just be surrounded and greeted by the queer community, everyone just embracing who they are and not being ashamed to live out loud.
I always talk about the identities I possess as a Chinese-American and a queer immigrant woman. These are identities that society never rooted for, and these were things you wanted to hide. But we’re just embracing these identities as superpowers and not weaknesses. ‘Cause that’s what we were brainwashed into thinking for so long.
The fact that I was even considered to be Celebrity Grand Marshal, come on. That is so dreamy. It was really cool.
And then just hopping off the parade, going on stage, doing standup, and making people laugh, it was such a celebration and a reminder that there’s still so much to fight for, with everything on the news alone.
Marginalized communities still don’t have the upper hand, but if we stick together, have each other’s backs, and continue to make noise, we’ve seen with our own eyes that the power of the people can create change.
And you wrapped a film…
It’s untitled, and It’s from the writer of Crazy, Rich, Asians, Adele Lim. It’s her directorial debut. This is an R-rated Lionsgate and Point Grey feature. And it’s just unapologetic Asian faces.
It sounds fun, and the cast alone looks so good!
Ashley Park, Stephanie Hsu, and newcomer, Sabrina Wu, who plays my cousin. There’s so much heart, there’s so much culture, but most of all, there’s so much chaos, and I can’t wait for the world to see it.
It’s just bold and outspoken and in your face at the same time. There are specifics about Asian identity. It’s just a little bit of everything. And so relatable about family, your chosen family, finding yourself even as an adult. All these things are universal. I’m thrilled for the world to see it. It’s still untitled for now.
It’s R-rated, so I know it will be fun.
Listen, we don’t hold back. It’s a version of myself, if you will, that I’ve always wanted on the screen because, at the end of the day, even though Alice and I have so much overlap in terms of identity, we are very different people.
As minorities in the industry, I’ve noticed there is sort of this tight-knit inner-community that forms this safe place in a sense for actors of color because it’s still a tough industry for BIPOC.
Have you had that moment where it’s like all the people who paved the way for you are just there and mentoring you? You’ve worked with so many people already, so many icons and legends.
I know! The fact that I shared the screen with Margaret Cho, who was the original queer, Asian-American female stand comic, was just so full circle. And I texted her because she was a Grand Marshal of San Francisco Pride once upon a time as well.
She is one of my absolute idols and inspiration. Everything that came out of her mouth was outspoken and bold. Everything she said proved someone wrong. I saw her as someone who broke stereotypes and watched her stand up when I was young. I wanted to be as liberated as her, and here I am doing my thing.
Another moment that happened recently, I hosted this Asian industry gala at the Beverly Hilton in December. The fact that it wasn’t broadcasted, that’s a whole other conversation. It’s still not taking the AAPI community seriously. It was Beverly Hills and like any other award show. I was the host, and I absolutely killed it.
And there was Sandra Oh in the audience, John Cho, Destin Daniel Cretton — the director of Shang-Chi, these are big players in Hollywood, yet it wasn’t broadcasted. They tried, but no one was down. It absolutely should have been on TV and gotten more attention. Once again, it’s still a conversation of representation for Asians in Hollywood.
I know. It’s such an ongoing freaking battle!
We’ve seen some progress, but honey, we’re not even close, and we need more, and we are not backing down, baby. We’re here to stay!
But it was cool. There was a moment backstage when Sandra Oh was just gushing over me. It’s just a pinch-me moment. And now I’m also in an animated movie with her. It’s a Paramount Animation called The Tiger’s Apprentice, which comes out early next year. And that includes Sandra Oh, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, and Bowen Yang.
Another all-star cast!
Yeah, it’s such a fun animated movie based on a trilogy of books. Just to be with my community, finally, making waves, I’m really fortunate to be in the industry in this time. It’s because of the trailblazers like Michelle Yeoh, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Sandra Oh — they did the work, and they faced even more problematic times.
Because of them, I can preach on the red carpet, do press, really live out loud, and speak my truth. They did so much more work for me to be able to be here and out and do my thing on the screen and stage. There’s still so much work to be done, but I’m here, and I’m going to make sure that we get the representation we deserve.
And you damn well are doing that. So does it ever hit you at all that you’re a trailblazer all on your own? Does it ever hit you that you’re somebody’s Sandra, or Lucy, or Margaret?
[Laugh] Well, you know what..
I’m so hard on myself, and I’m my own worst critic because I’m nowhere near where I need to be yet. There’s still so much work to be done.
Hey, you’re everywhere!
I’m everything, everywhere, all at once. To be honest, I do see it in my own way when there are people in my DMs talking about how they feel seen — when there are people who come up to me after my standup shows and show me love. These little ways on Instagram, on the street, honestly, there’s a lot of recognition. It’s a beautiful feeling.
I just want to keep doing it cause this is for them. This is for everyone. This is for the generation coming up behind me that needs that fire and reminder that they’re worthy, their stories are worth telling, and their voices need to be heard.
I really do have that passion; if I have a platform or a stage on any scale, I simply can’t waste it. So I’m just going to keep pushing and listen, Jasmine; there are some things I can’t even talk about. I’m going to New York to shoot another movie. And this one is also just iconic in its own way.
So listen, the story is just beginning, honey. And there are chapters, baby. There are trilogies. I’m just ready for it. I’ve been ready, and I just hope the world is ready for me.
Oh, we are definitely ready for you. I’m thrilled to hear you have so much more in store for us, and I’m really happy for you and proud of you.
Thanks, babe. Thank you so much.
—– This interview was edited for clarity and length—-
Good Trouble premieres tonight at 10/9c on Freeform.
And check out our exclusive discussion with the Good Trouble Cast about 4B.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.