Brighton, N.Y. (WROC) — Devin Kawaoka is showing up all over the TV landscape.
You can see him shows like Chicago Med, Shrinking and Lucifer.
It’s a career that started on stages in Rochester, but the Brighton grad wasn’t always L.A. bound.
In fact, at one point, he had to choose between the stage and the slopes.
He talks about his love of skiing and acting won the day in this interview with Adam Chodak.
Adam Chodak: In the interviews I’ve seen with you you often talk about Rochester. It seems like Rochester is still a big part of you.
Devin Kawaoka: I’ve got a lot of Rochester pride. In fact, I had such a great childhood growing up. I went to Brighton High School. I did community theater there. I loved that town. I worked at Java’s downtown on Gibbs Street. I opened Cafe Cibon, then I opened Captain Wally’s at RIT. I love that place. My family still lives there in Brighton and, yeah, it just has a warm place in my heart. And of course I always brag about Wegmans whenever I can.
AC: A lot of actors I talk with from Rochester, they often talk about the very comforting and encouraging theater scene.
DK: I started when I was a kid at Justine Garsys doing summer theater. Justine was a big influence in my life.
AC: The incredible thing is not only were you moving up in the world of acting, but you were also doing downhill skiing as well.
DK: I skied down at Hunt Hollow and we would race at all the local mountains and my dad actually who learned to ski very late in life was my ski coach for many years until, and I think he’d say this, until I got better than him and he couldn’t coach me anymore.
AC: How did you choose between the two?
DK: I was really loving the community of theater. I would show up to rehearsal and kept gravitating to the people. I remember one year, I think it was my junior year, I was doing a play at GEVA Theater and so I was missing practice down at Hunt Hollow and I went for my first practice and my coach kind of barked at me and said, you’re not practicing enough and I sort of knew that I had to make a choice and I made the tough call to tell my dad I was going to stop ski racing my junior year of high school, but good for me because here we are.
AC: You’re on all these shows and people are going to go, oh I know him from Chicago Med or Lucifer. When it comes to streaming, what impact has that had on actors like you?
DK: I mean there’s just so much work, there’s so many ways to tell stories, so many unique points of view. And there’s an every-changing landscape in terms of which streamers are creating new content, but seems like every week there’s a new streamer to have a hit show on and I feel so lucky to be in this business in the Golden Age of television.
AC: But you’re still doing stage work like Slave Play when we’re having all these sensitive conversations and art and theater have always been on the forefront of that and there you are.
DK: Slave Play was a really inspiring for me. Jeremy O. Harris wrote one of the most dynamic plays I’ve read in my lifetime and the minute I read it I knew I had to be a part of it. I wanted to be part of that conversation and specifically in that play he wrote about a white passing man and I’m half Japanese, but I get mistaken for white and that experience is not written about very often and it was really wonderful to get to contribute to that story and what he had to stay about it and I know audiences were really engaged by that material so it was really fun to be a part of.
AC: When it comes to acting, what’s the secret for you?
DK: To always be myself. To steal from myself, to steal from my images, from my life, from myself at any given time. Any time I’ve abandoned myself it’s not led me down the right path so always be yourself.
AC: Any advice for actors in your hometown, kids, who are thinking about going for, they hear how hard it is in LA or New York City, what’s your advice to them?
DK: Your parents are going to tell you not to do this because they think it’s not a good investment, but here’s the thing: we’re one of the largest economic drivers in America, bigger than a lot of the other industries, so argue there is a lot of money to be made in the arts, but also just believe in yourself, believe what stories you have to tell, what you have to contribute to the world and what you want the be and how you want the world to exist, believe in who you are. It’s so important that we have young people in this business who keep challenging us to do better and tell better stories and more interesting stories and I hope you all come and join the arts community.