Suzy Nakamura Informs Herself With ‘The Dollop,’ Sister Wendy and Her Mother’s Diary
When last we saw Suzy Nakamura on “Avenue 5,” her character, the strictly business executive assistant Iris Kimura, was headed for Earth — with her billionaire boss, Herman Judd (Josh Gad), still aboard his company’s marooned space cruise ship instead of the supply shuttle home.
Guess who’s in charge now.
Season 2 of Armando Iannucci’s sci-fi comedy, returning to HBO on Oct. 10, finds Iris at the helm of mission control, trying to rescue the interplanetary vacation liner that the government has turned its back on. Her plan: Raise awareness with a sudsy streaming show that dramatizes the mayhem above, with uncommonly attractive actors portraying the real-life motley crew.
“Armando thinks of these ideas and when you read them in the script, they sound ridiculous,” Nakamura said. “But then when you see it with your own eyeballs, it’s just fantastic.”
So is her role as the casserole-wielding busybody neighbor in the final season of “Dead to Me,” arriving on Netflix on Nov. 17. The part was originally written for one episode, but Nakamura worked so well as a comic foil to Christina Applegate’s grieving widow that they kept her on — and left the camera rolling to capture their improvised zingers.
“I was Karen before Karen was a meme,” she laughed.
In a video call from her dining room in West Hollywood, Nakamura — who shot “Avenue 5” in London last fall and then played a presidential press secretary in “POTUS” on Broadway this year — talked about why joke-writing on Twitter, her Nike mules and “This Is Spinal Tap” tickle her fancy.
These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
1. “The Dollop” podcastDave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds are stand-ups. The premise is, Dave tells a story to Gareth that he doesn’t know about American history. You’re learning about the cheese that went to the White House, so it’s informational. And it’s entertaining because, out of context, a lot of what went down in this country sounds crazy and ridiculous. It’s like a spoonful of sugar.
2. TwitterI don’t necessarily tweet a lot. I tweet more when I’m unemployed because I still do think of a joke once in a while. Look, it could be a [expletive] show, obviously, and a hellhole, but I like that you can curate it so it only serves me. There’s something about that economy of words, and for funny people and comedians and writers, I think it’s the perfect medium. It makes me laugh every day.
3. Zum Bar Goat’s Milk SoapI love big bars of soap. I bring it everywhere. I brought it to New York. I just brought it camping. I’ve been ordering it specifically from Missouri for 20 years. You can get rosemary, you can get lavender, you can get sea salt. Just as long as it doesn’t smell like your grandma’s bathroom.
4. Mules as slippersI don’t wear shoes in the house but as I get older, I can’t wear the fuzzy slippers that have no sole because they hurt my feet. But now Nike and Adidas [lifts her leg to show off her shoe] have come out with these mules. So I can wear a shoe in the house for the first time in my Asian life.
5. Regent’s CanalWhen we were in lockdown, I could walk along the canal in either direction and see London. I feel like it saved my sanity and gave me peace. It goes behind Regent’s Park. It goes behind the zoo. You could see animals being fed or running around. They also have these magnet fishermen. They’re throwing these huge, powerful magnets in the canal, and they pull up shopping carts and bikes and that kind of stuff. But sometimes they find old-timey safes and guns and bullets, and all those knives and things Victorians threw over the bridge probably to get away with some crime.
6. Origami My mother taught me and my brother to fold really basic things when we were kids, and both my brother and I will return to it. Maybe it’s meditative or maybe it’s familiar. If ever we are at a restaurant and there’s a piece of paper that comes around your napkin, we’ll start folding it. We’ll fold anything. Because it’s disposable, there’s not a preciousness to origami.
7. “This Is Spinal Tap” I was at the Ed Sullivan Theater to do a comedy sketch for “The Late Show” and this production assistant was leading me around. We’re going into this labyrinth of the theater, and I said to him, “This is like ‘Spinal Tap.’” And he goes, “What?” He’s so young! I was so disappointed that he hadn’t seen the movie that I gave him homework. I was like, “You need to watch this right now because you’re in comedy. This is the beginning of the mockumentary. This is what everyone compares everything else to.”
8. The Morgan and British Libraries I like when you can see manuscripts or pieces of paper. In the British Library, you can see Jane Austen’s writing desk. In the Morgan, you can see the Brontë sisters’ tiny, tiny, tiny writing. It connects me to the writers and humanizes them. Charles Dickens is sort of like a god, but to see something that makes him accessible is just so thrilling to me.
9. My mother’s diary It’s a five-year diary, and the first entry is 1941. She’s 12 years old. And it goes through all four years in an internment camp in Idaho. She talks about: “Oh, they’re talking about taking the Japanese.” “Now we have to leave. Everyone said goodbye at school.” “It’s the first time I’ve been on a train.” I’m sure my aunts and uncles went through a traumatic, awful time, but she was so young. People ask you, if there’s a fire, what do you grab? I would grab the diary. Everything else is replaceable.
10. Sister WendyShe had a series on PBS years ago where she did a tour of six museums in the United States. She’s a contemplative nun, where they live in isolation, but she leaves the monastery to talk about art. And she’s the perfect person to translate it to me. She’s passionate and has a sense of humor about it. I bought a book of hers called “1000 Masterpieces.” It’s my go-to encyclopedia for art. I feel like even though she’s a contemplative nun and I’m a Buddhist character actor, we have a lot in common.