IN CONVERSATION WITH MIDORI FRANCIS
Interview by Jana Letonja
Midori Francis can currently be seen on season 19 of ABC’s hit drama series ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ as Mika Yasuda. She was most recently seen in the HBO Max series ‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’ and will be next starring in the horror thriller film ‘Unseen’, which premiered on 7th March.
Midori, you’re one of the new surgical interns on the 19th season of ABC’s hit series ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. What was your first reaction when you got cast on this iconic series?
Honestly, a lot was happening at the time. I was trying to navigate scheduling for another project and it all happened so quickly. Before I knew it, I had accepted the offer and was moving to Los Angeles. But once the dust settled and I met the four other interns and realized we would be coming in together as this little unit, I was so excited. Then I had to ship my couch.
You play mika Yasuda, someone who is used to being overlooked and underestimated. How would you describe Mika? And how would you describe this newest group of interns?
I think Mika does everything in her power to not be overlooked because she grew up feeling that way. I love this about her. She isn’t afraid to put herself out there and be who she is. Mika has made a lot of sacrifices to make it through med school and become a doctor. She’s scrappy. She has a dark sense of humor that comes from being a survivor. She’s impulsive and a bit hot headed at times. She loves what she does. She can be a bit of a mess, but is working on it.
What do you love the most about being on set of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’?
The people. It feels like a family. And Crafty. Free food will never get old. Bella and Josh are the kindest, coolest cats and I love going to Crafty to get my favorite snacks and to just say hi.
Recently, we’ve also been able to watch you in HBO Max’s ‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’ as Leighton’s love interest. How realistically do you think this series shows how college girls deal with the struggles and hardships of college and adulthood?
I think the show captures this transitionary period in one’s life in such a fun and spirited way. I love how each of the characters is so intent on asserting themselves individually, even though it’s clear from the outside they don’t quite know who that is yet. The college years are a time of finding oneself.
You began your career in theater, on stage, for which you received NYIT, Obie and Drama Desk Awards. Do you ever miss theater and being on stage, now that you’ve done many TV and film projects?
Theater is way more difficult, there’s no question about it. On film and television you get multiple takes, you do one scene at a time, one angle at a time. In theater, you step out onto this blank stage and whatever performance you give that night is the performance that particular audience walks away with. No editing. It’s terrifying and rewarding. High stakes. I miss that thrill for sure and I also miss the magic in creating something with a group of people that is only going to ever exist in that short time and space. It’s so beautiful and ephemeral.
Working alongside which actor or actress made you feel the most starstruck so far?
I did a tiny scene with Cate Blanchett early in my career and I was such a major fan of hers that I probably blacked out.
What are your dreams and goals for the future of your career?
I love what I do for a living so much. I love the collaboration and the community building. I love the moment of ‘action’ when it’s just you and the scene.
My dreams and goals for the future of my career are to take on as many meaty roles and interesting characters as possible. I like how varied my jobs have been until this point and I always hope to be able to hop around between genres and tone. I hope to develop more on-the-job skills, including how to advocate for myself in a productive manner and how to navigate all the personalities and situations that can come between myself and the work. I want to get stronger and more skilled. I want to play a superhero and the opposite of one. I want to play in dirty, dingy worlds and bright expansive ones. I want to continue to find my people, the ones who inspire me and whom I inspire. I want to be a creator.
Just now, we’re able to watch you in the horror thriller film ‘Unseen’, where you star as Emily, a woman who has been kidnapped by her crazy ex-boyfriend and due to a combination of drugs in her system and her glasses being broken, she ends up calling the wrong number for help and now has to put her life in the hands of a complete stranger. Tell us a bit more about this film, of course without giving away too much for those who have not seen it yet.
‘Unseen’ marks the directorial debut of my friend and collaborator, Yoko Okumura. She has taken some bold cinematic risks with this film that I think pay off. ‘Unseen’ is a thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat with a punk-rock feel and deep heart.
How was it for you to step into the shoes of Emily, a woman who has been kidnapped? What preparations did you undergo to get to portray her character as realistically as possible?
It was amazing. Emily is such a survivor. She is strong and confident and ultimately never gives up, with the help of Sam.
I did a lot of physical preparation for this role. I knew the script demanded a lot of stamina. These were long days of constant running, tripping, climbing, crawling, etc. I made sure to get into better shape and specifically to focus on strength training. I also experimented with being outside without my contacts in, to learn a little bit more about what it’s like to be in that space.
Emotionally, I focused on what it meant to be a survivor and I took the circumstances very seriously. I made sure my fear was grounded, varied and coming from a real place. I used my surroundings to my advantage, always having the trees and sky and dirt to draw from. I fought for my life.
How hard was it disconnecting from Emily and the heaviness she had to endure after filming such a dark story?
I actually found the opposite to be true. As an actor, I was waiting for a moment to be called upon to go deeper and raise the stakes. It was incredible for me to get some of my demons out, so to speak. Emily requires a lot of power and I enjoyed being in that space.
I think we all wonder what we would do in these kinds of situations and practice it through in our heads. I think people like to see these sort of things lived out in front of them in film and TV. Psychologically, we take comfort in living out our fears in the safety of a movie theater or living room. I was aware that I needed to live through these moments with Emily honestly, but I was also always aware that I was playing pretend.
I’ve also gotten better at self-care over the years. By the time I shot this film, I understood what it meant to have a post-shoot ritual like a long, hot bath.
Talent MIDORI FRANCIS @midoriglory
Photographer SARIEL ELKAIM @sariel.elkaim
Stylist PARIS COLE @paris_cole
Glam SASHA O’NEILL & YASMIN INSTABOULI @sashalvaoneill @yasminist @thewallgroup
Editor TIMI LETONJA @timiletonja
Interview by JANA LETONJA @janaletonja