Screened for the first time on March 11 at the South by Southwest Film Festival, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is a science-fiction film that follows the character Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), who is “an aging Chinese immigrant … swept up in an insane adventure, where she alone can save the world by exploring other universes connecting with the lives she could have led,” according to information from the film industry website IMDb.
Medel plays the role of Becky Sregor, the girlfriend of Wang’s daughter, Joy, portrayed by Stephanie Hsu. In addition to Yeoh and Hsu, Medel also acts opposite such names as Jamie Lee Curtis, Jenny Slate, James Hong, Ke Huy Quan and Harry Shum Jr.
After being screened at South by Southwest, the film was released to select theaters, and then became available to theaters nationwide on Friday.
Speaking with the Daily News by phone on Wednesday afternoon after finishing an audition, Medel talked about the new movie, the production process, meeting some big names in the industry and what she’s learned during her time in New York.
Growing up in Ketchikan, Medel was an active participant in local theater.
Elizabeth Nelson, First City Players executive director, told the Daily News on Thursday that Medel was a frequent student in FCP’s ArtsCool summer camp and performed in a couple of FCP’s regular season shows, including a 2003 production of “Chicago.” When Medel went to college, she came back to teach ArtsCool, and will be coming back again this summer to teach “clowning classes” with FCP.
“She is an amazing human,” Nelson said.
Medel graduated from Emerson College in Boston in 2008 with a Bachelors of Arts degree in theater education with an acting emphasis. She then moved to New York City to pursue comedy (including stand-up performances) and acting.
Since making the move, her career has become dotted with all kinds of roles: one-time appearances on sketch comedy shows and sitcoms, dark and dramatic roles in independent films, lead roles in short movies and web-series, spotlights in music videos, and stand-up comedy shows that she continues to write and perform herself. She is also a founding member of the three-woman Cocoon Central Dance Team, a comedy and dance trio that’s produced a short film and other projects. In addition to Medel and Eleanore Pienta, the team features Sunita Mani, who also has a role in “Everything Everywhere All At Once.”
Medel’s first feature film role was playing a teenage girl in love with her brother in the 2012 independent movie “The Unspeakable Act.” In 2013, Medel received wide attention for her starring role in the music video for the song “Cry Like a Ghost” by Passion Pit —the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council shared a link with their online followers on Facebook when the video debuted.
And from there, she just kept going.
Medel explained how she become part of the “Everything Everywhere All At Once” cast.
Daniel Scheinert, one of the movie’s two directors, also attended Emerson College.
“We (Schienert and I) were doing comedy together there constantly,” Medel said. “And so that’s how we knew who each other was — you know, a person with a camera and an actor or comedian.”
She’s also good friends with the film’s other director, Dan Kwan.
She first met Kwan while staying at Emerson for an extra semester pursuing a teaching practicum. She worked with both Kwan and Schienert for the first time for the “Cry Like a Ghost” music video.
Schienert, Kwan and Medel teamed up several times to film projects for the Cocoon Central Dance Team. Kwan and Schienert were the executive producers behind the team’s 2017 feature comedy-dance film “Snowy Bing Bongs Across The North Star Combat Zone.”
About her role in “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” Medel said, “I think the reason I was cast in the movie is because they needed this character and they had sort of been thinking about me for it.”
And one of the actresses already in the cast, Stephanie Hsu, agreed, having known Medel already from a past production where the two women played Olympic athletes in a portrayal of the historic scandal between figure skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Carrigan.
“And we just, like, fell in love in the dressing room and then never got to work together again until this movie,” Medel said. “So yeah, short story long, it was just an offer, which is heaven.”
She was one of the last actors to join the cast, and the group quickly gelled.
Medel described her character Becky as essential to the film’s structure, and “sort of a like an anchor, or just … someone who’s very steady and is really there for Joy (Hsu’s character).”
The character of Becky is at the center of one of the conflicts that causes the universe’s timelines to start shifting.
Michelle Yeoh’s character, Evelyn Wang, is “trying to hold too many realities at once and it’s causing all these fracture and splits,” according to Medel.
Medel explained that Evelyn’s father, Waymond Wang, played by Ke Huy Quan, immigrated to the United States and has a rocky relationship with his daughter.
“So since he’s come to the states, she (Evelyn) wants to present like, ‘This was a good choice for me to come here and everything is great,'” Medel said. “And Joy wants to introduce my character, Becky, as her girlfriend. And Evelyn introduced me instead as the friend … and so that’s one of the early conflicts in the movie.”
It’s just one of the problems that the characters need to sort out while righting the order of the universe in the two-and-a-half hour film.
Working alongside some well-known industry names was surreal for Medel, who described everybody she worked with as “the best.”
“It really blew my mind to be, like, in those rooms with those people,” she added.
Jamie Lee Curtis, known for her decades of work in movies, including the popular “Halloween” franchise, sat side-by-side with Medel in the film’s hair and make-up trailer. Curtis plays the role of Deidre Beaubeidra.
“Jamie Curtis introduced herself to me in the trailer,” Medel. “I think (she was) the only person that I, like, sort of chickened out introducing myself to.”
But before Medel knew it, “Jamie stuck her hand out and shook my hand while she was, you know, having her hair and makeup applied.”
Medel described the actress as generous, warm and loving — “sort of mothering, she just really cares about you.”
Jenny Slate, who plays Big Nose and is known for her comedy and voice acting (as well as a reoccurring role on the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation), revealed that she is a big fan of “Snowy Bing Bongs in the North Star Combat Zone” and other works of the Cocoon Central Dance Team, according to Medel.
“(Slate) really likes ‘Cocoon’ and had said, like, ‘I want to work with you guys on something,'” Medel recalled. “And so it sort of felt like we were just picking up a conversation when I met Jenny.”
Slate, Curtis and Medel became friends on set, with Medel remembering a standout moment when Curtis casually perched herself on Medel’s knee, aiming to show the other women a funny YouTube video.
“I don’t know, anything is possible, I guess,” Medel quipped about what she learned by filming the movie. “I got Jamie Lee Curtis to sit on my lap. Anything is possible.”
Ke Huy Quan, who portrayed Waymond Wang in the movie, had played the fan-favorite role of Data in the 1985 Steven Spielberg movie “The Goonies,” and also acted in the Indiana Jones movie franchise.
Quan and Medel worked together on her first day of shooting.
“And so I just had to jump in and be like, ‘OK, go improvise with this person that you’ve loved since you were a child,'” she said. “… He’s so, like, in our collective memory as kids who grew up on movies and he’s so professional.”
Quan now follows her on Instagram.
Medel also described the exper
ience of working with James Hong, an actor with decades of credits in movies and TV.
“He’s so funny,” she said “He would do the craziest (things) to make people laugh on (set).”
The whole shooting process for “Everything Everywhere All At Once” took about a month.
She said the sets that Kwan and Scheinert created were “really collaborative” environments.
“Like for (a) movie of the scope, it’s really ambitious,” Medel said about the film, which had a budget of about $25 million for production, according to the film review and information website Rotten Tomatoes.
“It wasn’t actually a low budget,” she said. “And everybody was there because they really want ed to be there. … They were all so excited to be working on this movie.”
The movie premiered on March 11 at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. It was the first film to be screened.
She recalled dancing at the cast’s wrap party with co-star Harry Shum Jr. — who was a main cast member on the sitcom ‘Glee,’ and also one of her favorite dancers from the 2008 movie “Step up 2 the Streets.”
“We went dancing together and then at the wrap party, and (at) South by Southwest, after the premiere, there were a lot of dance parties,” Medel said. “… And I think I just had to keep convincing myself, like, ‘It’s OK that you’re here. You can do this, you belong here.’ And it’s very fun. It was really, really special and the premiere was so, so special.”
Medel noted that “Everything Everywhere All At Once” booted the Oscar-award winning Korean film “Parasite” from the top spot on the movie-ranking website Letterboxed.
Medel’s participation in the acting and comedy industries has taken dedication, time and a desire to experiment.
She’s racked up quite the list of roles, from brief appearances on comedy shows like Inside Amy Schumer, Late Night Snack with Rachel Dratch, and the Emmy-winning comedy “Broad City;” to music videos for songs like “Cry Like a Ghost” and Capital Cities’ “I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo.”
She also was involved in the web-short “Gary Saves the Graveyard,” which is connected to the renowned improv troupe Upright Citizens Brigade, that has turned out alums such as Amy Poehler (“Saturday Night Live,” “Parks and Recreation”), Jordan Klepper (“The Daily Show”), and Donald Glover (“Community” and musician under the name Childish Gambino).
In the 2020 independent film “The Carnivores,” she’s a concerned wife keeping an eye on her husband and her sickly dog. She’s one of the main characters in a 2018 independent film “Jules of Light and Dark,” a drama about relationships formed during a stint in rehab. In 2012’s independent movie “The Unspeakable Act,” Medel portrays a teenage girl with a dark obsession for her older brother.
But the transition to being a working actress and comedian wasn’t simple or easy for Medel. It was a time of being humbled.
“Because my first experience at Emerson College was, like, my improv team, (which) had clout,” she reflected. “And so we would do shows, like, around the city and were, like, in college, like, a big deal. So then when I got to New York, it really felt like, I always tell everyone, I fell flat on my face and had to learn how to be.”
She said she didn’t realize she “was a big fish in a small pond” until arriving in NYC — “then you know, (I’m) just another person there who had moved there for the same reason.”
Her biggest mistake, she said, was “trying to control the story” of the projects she took on.
“That was a huge waste of time,” Medel said. “Because I can’t control what anybody thinks. And I was really intimidated by everybody and wanted so badly to be, you know, like one of these geniuses that I would watch perform at shows.”
The lessons were necessary, she said.
“I know that, but it’s not like I’m wise. I would never profess to knowing a single thing. I don’t know anything, but I think it’s OK,” Medel said. “… Because these are such crazy times, I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I might never get to be in another movie. But I love our movie. I think ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ is, like, just magnificent and I’m so happy that it exists.”
In her years away from Ketchikan, Medel has made connections throughout the comedy and acting communities, but she’s held on to what links her to home.
While performing a skit about Alaska for the web show “On This Day” in early 2019, she included a slideshow of Ketchikan, with one of the images depicting Rotary Beach.
She recalled afternoons spent at Ketchikan Theatre Ballet, a visit from Hilary Koch and her mother in Boston, and conversations with Bett Jakubec, among other longtime locals.
Medel also still receives spam phone calls from numbers with the Alaska area code, and still follows the Ketchikan Public Library on social media. Medel also commented on another former Ketchikan resident’s success in show business. Rudy Pankow stars in the Netflix original series “Outer Banks,” which premiered in summer 2020 and has two seasons currently available on the streaming platform.
“I can’t believe (it),” Medel said. “When I found out that Rudy was a celebrity, I was like, ‘Wow this is insane,’ and I got really jealous. He has so many Instagram followers.”
Medel credits Ketchikan’s arts and theater community for supporting young artists like herself.
“Having a thriving arts community is really special and it’s so obvious when a town has it and when it doesn’t,” she said. “And I love that Ketchikan uplifts, like, all kinds of voices.”
That’s especially important in a town like Ketchikan, Medel said, where winters can bring short, dark and wet days more often than not.
She shared that she thinks it can be challenging for youth in the community to succeed without resources like those that are available from the arts communities in town. Medel plans to return to Ketchikan this summer to teach community “clowning classes.”
“There’s like … this sort of darkness there,” she said. “And then it’s also simultaneously like one of the most beautiful places that I can dream. I love being there so much.”
Where to watch
“Everything Everywhere All The Once” was released in theaters nationwide on Friday.
It is directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Schienert, and produced by Jonathon Wang.
According to the film critic website Rotten Tomatoes, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” received a 96% audience approval score.
The movie is rated R and runs for two hours and 26 minutes.