The love for art and entertainment came at an early age for the actress Ali Fumiko Whitney and since then her life has been a path all about it. She is American, Japanese-English-Scottish descent, currently living in Manhattan and making her mark with her new film, “The Road Dance”, in which she is the only American actress. A lover of sport as a useful mental stress relief, Ali Fumiko also enjoys volunteering at Harlem Village Academics.
How did it all start? Tell us about your love for acting and its development to date.
My mom, Elizabeth Reiko Kubota (Whitney), was an actress and introduced me to the arts at a very young age. She took me to my first Broadway show when I was four years old, and I instantly fell in love! I was constantly finding ways to perform as a child and have always loved to sing and dance! While I grew up playing sports my whole life, I decided to join my High School’s drama club when I was 16, which gave me the confidence to audition for performing arts programs. Going to UCLA for their School of Theater, Film, and Television was a dream come true for me and the rest is history!
The film “The Road Dance” had its world premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2021 and had its US premiere at the Santa Barbara Film Festival on March 3. Can you tell us more about your character and plot? We know that you are the only American actress in the film.
I play the character of Annie Macleod in the Road Dance. The story follows my sister, Kirsty, as she overcomes a tragic event in her life on the brink of WWI in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. At the heart of the story is the love between a mother and her two daughters, the bond between two sisters, and how these women band together to overcome hardship. Making the film was a magical experience as we got to live on the Isle of Lewis and film in the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village where the actual islanders lived back then. My character of Annie embodies quiet strength as the younger sister and really acts as the anchor to the family.
The film is inspired by the 2002 novel written by John MacKay, have you ever read it? If so, did the characterization of the character inspire you in any way?
When I first received the script, I read the book to compare the two. Annie was made into a much more pivotal part of the story within the movie adaptation, which I was thrilled about. Despite her more reserved demeanor, she really plays an important role in the family dynamic. When I first met with writer and director, Richie Adams, I fought hard for Annie to be portrayed as more than just a prop to the family. The book encapsulates how difficult life was on the island, particularly for these young women, so it was important to me that Annie represented this fact.
In 2022 we will also see the release of the horror film “Snow Valley”, is there already a date?
I cannot give too much away as it has not been announced yet, but I am very excited for audiences to finally see the film. I had a blast playing Kiko and you can expect to see a lot of comedy from this thriller, so stay tuned!
Have you ever had second thoughts or doubts about not being able to realize your ambitions? If you hadn’t been an actress, what would you have liked to become?
Of course! In a career full of constant rejection, it is normal to feel defeated at times. I remind myself often that what is meant for me will not pass me by and I must trust in the Universe’s plan. If I hadn’t pursued acting, I would have most likely become a teacher. Working with kids has always been a passion of mine and brought me immense joy. I hope to still incorporate teaching and working with kids into my career down the road.
We know that you volunteer at the charter school, Harlem Village Academics, in New York. Do you want to tell us about this project?
HVA is a charter school I learned about when I was 14 years old. They have grown and developed immensely since then and now have multiple elementary and middle schools, a high school, as well as their first-ever Pre-K classes. HVA really focuses on teaching its students to become independent thinkers and compassionate individuals who can make an impact and contribution to society. The founder, Deborah Kenny, along with the incredible faculty at HVA truly care and invest in the future of their students. I am honored to volunteer for them and be amongst the company of such a powerful program geared toward equality in education for all students. If you are interested in learning more about the program and donating or volunteering, please visit their website online: harlemvillageacademies.org
You are a great lover of sports and fitness. How does this help mental health? Is it a topic you think we need to talk about more?
Being physically active has always helped ease my anxiety. Something as simple as going for a walk to begin or end my day really helps clear my head and ground myself. I think mental health should be spoken about more with children. There was always a weird stigma surrounding therapy and mental health when I was growing up, and I wish I had felt more comfortable speaking about any struggles I was facing. My hope is that kids from an early age can reach out and receive help if they are struggling mentally. Now I know for me, physical and mental health are linked. Self-care contributes to a healthier and more positive mindset for me.
Sustainability and therefore, of course, also sustainable fashion are issues that are important to us. We have seen that you shop consciously, would you like to give some advice about it to other people who would like to know more?
I’m still new to figuring out the best ways to shop sustainably, but I will say one thing I have found helpful is doing research on the brands. I have found a few brands that I love that are environmentally conscious and eco-friendly when it comes to making clothing, and I try to stick to those brands as much as possible. My next step is learning where the best thrift stores in NYC are! My mom is the queen of keeping all her old clothing, so at the moment, her closet is my go-to spot for second-hand shopping 🙂