Jeena Yi is an “actor, crafter, baker, and eater” based in NYC. She got her start interning at a theatre in L.A., where she came to realize how much she loved storytelling through her work. After moving to New York and getting her MFA at Columbia University, Yi saw a production at the Belasco Theatre that inspired her. Four years later, Yi made her Broadway debut in that very theatre in Network. You can also find her in popular TV series such as Only Murders in the Building, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Succession, and soon to be in the film NYAD on Netflix and Good Enemy at the Minetta Lane Theatre! Offstage, she enjoys crafting and sewing, finding that creative outlets without the pressures of expectation or perfection help enrich and destress her. Yi’s advice to young artists? “No job is too small. Use every gig as an opportunity to work on your craft and watch your peers work. You can learn so much from each other and help one another.” Read on to learn more about Jeena Yi and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Jeena Yi
Heritage: Korean American
Hometown: Torrance, CA
Current City: New York City
Current project: Good Enemy by YiLong Liu, directed by Chay Yew, Audible Theater at Minetta Lane Theater in NYC, running Oct 25- Nov 27
What are some of your favorite credits/projects:
Playing Tong in Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone was one of my favorites. The cast and I bonded so much and developed a deep love and sense of family. I also loved playing Jeannie in an episode of Modern Love, written by the incredible Susan Soon He Stanton. I love Susan’s work and the role itself allowed me to play a woman in a complicated, loving but disintegrating marriage – as well as learn to fight with a katana sword. What a fantastic job, right?!
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
No job is too small. Use every gig as an opportunity to work on your craft and watch your peers work. You can learn so much from each other and help one another.
How did you get your start?
I was an intern at a theater in Los Angeles and played small bit parts. I knew no one in the industry and honestly spent the first few years just trying to navigate the city and learn how to actually be an actor. It was during those years that I realized how much I loved acting, storytelling, and that I wanted to go to grad school for acting.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
When I first moved to NYC, I saw a show at the Belasco Theatre and I loved the space so much. I thought to myself, “Wow – wouldn’t it be amazing if I ever got to do a show here?” Four years later I made my Broadway debut on that very stage. It was an incredible feeling.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
Probably coping with the ups and downs of this line of work. Setting healthy boundaries and maintaining healthy relationships with my loved ones is a daily practice. It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole and get into a negative talk cycle. I am very grateful for my friends and family.
Did you always want to be in the arts or did you have another path before you got here?
I always wanted to act since I was a child. But I never got the courage to actually say it out loud until I got to college. I was studying Landscape Architecture and it wasn’t until my final year of college that I had the courage to say out loud to my friends and family, “I want to be an actor”. There was a day when suddenly it hit me, if not now, when? It was then that I decided I was going to give acting a real and solid try.
What skills did you find to be the most helpful in your career?
Having an ability to laugh at myself has been immensely helpful. There are so many things in this career path that are out of your control. Sometimes you just have to laugh, ya know?
Where did you study at?
I got my MFA at Columbia University.
Do you have any self care practices you do to stay focused and sane? What was your self care routine before the pandemic and how has that (as well as your views of self care) changed throughout the pandemic?
I sew and dive into arts and craft projects between jobs. I find that it has been immensely helpful to have a creative hobby that does not have any financial/career driven pressures on them. They are just for me, and still challenge me. It helps me not to fall into the stressful place of worrying about the next job.
To find out more about Jeena Yi, please visit her at:
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