Tricia Fukuhara Was Working at Harry Potter World When She Got Cast in “Rise of the Pink Ladies”
In our Q&A series Last Call, we get down to the bottom of every last thing with some of our favorite celebs – from the last time they were starstruck to the last song they listened to. This week, “Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies” star Tricia Fukuhara takes our call.
One thing about Tricia Fukuhara is that she can hustle. Before the actor was cast as Nancy in Paramount+’s “Rise of the Pink Ladies,” which released its first season finale on June 1, she was working odd jobs in Los Angeles. “I had three jobs at the time,” she tells POPSUGAR of the period when she was auditioning for the role. And she was literally on a shift at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when she got the news she’d landed the part.
“It was my frog choir job at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” she says. “During my lunch break, I got a call saying that I had to do one more audition. And I was freaking out because I didn’t have anything to wear. I came in a hoodie and leggings, and Nancy would never wear that.” Outfit aside, she also didn’t have a computer – and really anywhere to take a Zoom call from.
After securing a dark office space in one of the buildings (and praying no one would barge in), she logged into Zoom through her phone. “And that’s when they told me that I booked,” she says. Celebrations would have to wait. She hung up and returned to the frog choir, before hustling over to Dodger Stadium for another gig.
“It’s a huge win for my community, for my friends, my family, my support system.”
During that time in Fukuhara’s life, she became part of a community of up and coming actors who were also struggling so hard to make it, and she gets “emotional” now just thinking about how those people have supported and championed her role on “Rise of the Pink Ladies.” “It’s a huge win for my community, for my friends, my family, my support system. Everyone at Universal Studios and Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line is so happy for me,” she says. She adds that Frankie Rodriguez, who stars in “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” was the first one from that group of friends to land a big role. “I was so proud of him,” she says. “And I felt like he gave all of us hope that it could happen for any of us at any minute.”
“It’s hard to keep going to your million jobs and you don’t have good health insurance and you don’t have benefits and you don’t know if you’re actually ever going to make it, you just want to be a working actor,” she says.
It didn’t help that there had just been a few bumps in the road for Fukuhara. A month before she booked “Rise of the Pink Ladies,” she says she was blacklisted from working as an extra in “Obi-Wan Kenobi” because she had to miss time on set for a different audition. “I literally was like, ‘I’m never going to work again,’ ” she remembers. Thankfully, she was wrong.
Though “Rise of the Pink Ladies” is a new direction for “Grease,” Fukuhara’s journey with the beloved musical started when she was a kid. She first watched the movie with a cousin when she was around 7, and her sixth grade class performed “We Go Together.” In high school, she choreographed “Summer Lovin'” for her dance team, and she’s a longtime fan of the cult classic “Grease 2.”
When Fukuhara first read the casting breakdown for Nancy – “She’s a 16-year-old Japanese American. She is eccentric and unapologetically herself. She loves fashion.” – she wasn’t quite sure what to make of the character. It turned out the show’s creative team – showrunner Annabel Oakes and songwriter Justin Tranter – was also figuring it out. As she went through audition rounds, it felt like they were honing in on the character in real time. “We were kind of finding her together in those Zoom meetings,” she says.
The series filmed in Vancouver, Canada, in 2022, and Fukuhara and the other Pinks – Marisa Davila who plays Jane, Cheyenne Isabel Wells who plays Olivia, and Ari Notartomaso who plays Cynthia – were thrown right into the fire. The very first thing they shot was the end of episode one, when their characters sing a reprise of “Different This Year.” Holding hands, sitting in a circle on a bed, they’re lifted into the sky. And it was a little scary.
“And so you’re holding each other’s hands. And everyone was like, ‘Are you okay? Are you okay?’ We’re checking in on each other,” she remembers. “And we were singing, ‘We’re the new top tier. Look out. We are here. It’s gonna be different this year.’ And I felt like we were truly supporting each other, literally, on that bed. And also figuratively. I could feel it.” In that moment, the new Pinks – and their bond – was cemented.
Keep reading to see what Fukuhara has to say about her last day on set, the music she’s been listening to, and more.
What was the last day on the “Rise of the Pink Ladies” set like?
It was very long. I’m not even sure how many hours we shot, but it ended up going till I think six or seven in the morning. It was an intense day because not only was it our last day, we had to get everything in. And then we stayed up to celebrate. I want to say we all stayed up for two days straight, so that we could all toast with pink champagne.
Besides “Rise of the Pink Ladies,” what was the last musical you watched?
I just watched the first two episodes of “Schmicago.” I stayed on the same floor of a hotel as Titus Burgess when he was shooting “Schmicago.” I came out of the elevator and he had his laundry, but I never heard him singing.
When was the last time you were starstruck?
We were staying at a hotel for our press junkets and our premiere and we were in the lobby. And I was like, “Oh my god, is that Keanu Reeves? Take a picture of me with him in the back.” If you zoom in, he’s looking straight at the camera.
Who was the last “Rise of the Pink Ladies” costar you texted?
I just texted Ari.
What was the last song you listened to?
“Talk It Up” by Sammy Rae & the Friends. I’m obsessed with that song and album.
What is the most recent photo in your camera roll?
Probably one of my cat.
What was the last show you binge-watched?
What was the last thing you bought online?
I bought some color shampoo. It will put the purple back in your hair.
What was the last thing you did for fun?
I do this thing called happy planning. This is kind of nerdy of me, but I find it very fun and kind of therapeutic. Essentially I use it like a scrapbook, but it’s also a planner. I write down everything I’ve done, and then I put little stickers in there and I use washi tape. It’s a whole cute thing.
What was the last thing you did for self care?
I took a social media break. Social media gives me so much anxiety and I overthink everything, so my self care has been not posting pictures of every single event that I’ve been doing.
What was the last gift you received?
My best friend sent me flowers for the release date. It was really sweet.
What was the last piece of advice that changed your life?
My brother gave me this advice in high school, and I remember writing it down. It’s just to care less about what other people think about you. That’s how I’ve been trying to live for the last 15 years.
Season one of “Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies” is streaming now on Paramount+.