Lyrica Okano, best known for her role of Nico Minoru in Marvel’s Runaways, co-stars in the new romantic/time travel drama Press Play. Okano talked to Deepest Dream about bonding with Press Play co-star Clara Rugaard, shooting in Hawaii, and being a part of the impactful Runaways.
Press Play centers on Laura (Clara Rugaard), a young woman who has a seemingly perfect romance with Harrison (Lewis Pullman). Lyrica Okano is Laura’s best friend Chloe, and she ended up being the couple’s matchmaker (she is Harrison’s sibling). When Harrison tragically passes away, Laura is understandably distraught. But when she discovers a mixtape she shared with Harrison can transport her back in time, Laura is determined to change Harrison’s fate.
Directed and co-written by Greg Björkman, the feature contains songs by Japanese Breakfast, Father John Misty, Dayglow and The Thorns. I was engaged with the story and the performances (Danny Glover is a welcome sight as the owner of a record store that employs Harrison), and would love to hear your thoughts on Press Play!
An element of Press Play centers on the joy of making mix tapes. Do you feel that making mix tapes or collecting physical media is back in style?
Okano: I think we do miss something actually tangible. At least for me. But because I’m in that generation where I got to be a part of a little bit of both (Gen X and millenials), before everything started to become digital and online, I do find those things very nostalgic.
I wasn’t really alive yet to enjoy cassettes and vinyl all that much. But my parents did so I knew that they existed. It struck a nerve for me in that sense.
What was it like shooting in Hawaii for Press Play? Were you able to enjoy the location or was it pretty much all work from the get go?
Okano: I was so lucky and honored to be able to film in such a beautiful location such as Hawaii. I was able to kind of work with Greg and Clara and Lewis to prep for the film. We had a few rehearsals.
While doing that, we were able to venture around the island and see different sights and hang out. That was really beautiful. I was there for about two and a half months altogether. All the food there is phenomenal. I was just really lucky to be able to just eat everything.
For the audio version of the Lyrica Okano interview, check out the latest installment of CinemAddicts:
Did you like the themes behind Press Play? It’s a time travel film, but it’s also suggesting the ones who have passed never really go away if you keep them close to your heart.
Okano: Yeah for sure. I’m a hopeless romantic in that sense and also a music lover and time travel is cool. I love those stories, but I really thought it was interesting in how they were able to weave in the different songs throughout the film and be able to make it so real.
They did a beautiful job of doing that. Also the message of being really present and enjoying every moment with the people you love. Especially in the year 2022, the pandemic has been in our lives for a while. The message is very real.
How was your collaboration with Clara Rugaard?
Okano: I had the wonderful experience of becoming her friend while also seeing her acting for the first time in person. It was just beautiful to kind of . . . you know I’m in love with Clara. Who’s not?
She is super talented and super kind. I have to say when I came on to shoot this movie, I was tired just from shooting a long season (of Marvel’s Runaways). She breathed in new air for me. She was so excited to be there and she was a breath of fresh air. An amazing person. I have to thank her for that.
What is it like for you to know that there is a new generation of Asian Americans who are inspired by you work on Marvel’s Runaways as Nico? That must be a very gratifying and important element of your job.
Okano: I think it is. I didn’t even realize it was such a huge part of why I did what I did until I was actually on the show and got to meet all the fans and meet the people who love Nico so much.
They told me stories about how much they saw themselves in this character and it was pretty much the first time they felt that way. It takes me back to when I was a little kid and pretty much the only stories I could relate to were Ghibli films.
Hayao Miyazaki movies were all I had to be like “Yeah that could be me in Spirited Away with all the gods and monsters and the bathhouse.”
So yeah, we’ve come a long way with Nico and Runaways but we still have a lot more to do.
Were you there when Japanese Breakfast came into the production?
Okano: Oh my gosh. Yeah. When I first read the script, (Japanese Breakfast) was not a part of it. It was a different song (and) a different band that was supposed to play for that scene.
On the island while we were shooting, Greg the director told me he was going to have Japanese Breakfast play instead and I (said), “Yes, awesome choice.” And he was like, “You know them?” Of course, I’m a huge fan!
We were staying in the same hotel and I ran into them. I was in the elevator. They came into the elevator – I stared at them for a couple seconds too long and then they freaked out and they left.
Then of course they found out I was part of this movie. But yeah, I’m a huge fan. It’s crazy. We’re lucky to have them.
Is it true you’re going to reprise your role as Nico Minoru in Midnight Suns? Is that correct?
Okano: I thought I wasn’t allowed to talk about it. I thought it was a secret. But them someone told me it was on IMDB?
And Wikipedia as well.
Okano: Okay well then there you go. Yes, I am returning as Nico into the Marvel Universe’s Midnight Suns. I voice the character on that game.
On the Find Your Film podcast we review Apples, Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes and Murder at Yellowstone City:
Is that a different kind of acting for you?
It’s so different. I was so nervous to be a part of this video game because I don’t consider myself a voice actor. I have so much respect for the people who do it because it’s a lot of training.
It’s not just (wherein) you step in front of a mic and you’re able to do amazing work. It comes from somewhere. I thought, am I the right person for this job?
I’m glad I did it though. It was a great learning experience and I got to reunite with my character but it definitely felt a little different from shooting the show.
Can you name one of your all-time favorite movies?
Okano: Kiki’s Delivery Service. It’s a Ghibli film made by Hayao Miyazaki. As a young kid, watching Kiki’s Delivery Service I saw myself in Kiki or I saw her in me. I was a witch for every Halloween and I was like, “That’s my girl. That’s my character.”
And just the story of self exploration and finding your home and your family. That really hits close to home because I have to do that for work all the time.
Do you ever fantasize about watching Miyazaki movies all day?
Okano: I want to go to Japan and go to the museum. Is it still open?
I’ve never heard of the museum.
Okano: It’s a thing. I don’t know after the pandemic how it is. But I’m hoping it’s still there because I want to go there one day. I would spend the whole day there.
Lyrica thank you for your time and I love Press Play.
Okano: Thank you for having me. It was amazing talking to you.
Press Play is now playing in theaters and is available on Digital and On Demand.
Full video interview with Okano is below:
This is one of the songs featured on Press Play and I’ve loved this song since it was birthed! Take a listen: