Ramona Young talks finding her place on Legends of Tomorrow


With Legends of Tomorrow returning from hiatus, Culturess interviewed actress Ramona Young about doubt, improvisation, and time travel.

From the moment she wandered into the Time Bureau with a cart of food, Mona Wu felt as though she belonged on Legends of Tomorrow. The delivery girl-turned-magical creature handler perfectly embodies the spirit of The CW’s weirdest superhero series, her bubbly energy belying a keen mind and kind heart. Even though she has only been in six episodes, it’s already impossible to imagine the show without her.

Unlike her character, Ramona Young did not come onto the scene by accident. On the contrary, after graduating from high school at the age of 16, the San Gabriel-born actress graduated from California State University, Los Angeles with a degree in theatre and dance. Later, she studied at Playhouse West, a NoHo-based school founded by Robert Carnegie and Jeff Goldblum that specializes in the Meisner technique. During her burgeoning career, Young has done theatre, television, and film, her projects ranging from Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) to raunch-com (Blockers) and science-fiction (Z Nation).

Ahead of the Legends of Tomorrow midseason premiere on April 1, Culturess had the chance to talk with Young about pursuing acting, joining a show in its fourth season, and not taking herself too seriously.

So, how did you get interested in acting?

Getting into acting was a gradual process. I started with taking my first acting class in college, and then after that, I just kind of continued with it and decided that I wanted to do it for a living.

You studied at Playhouse West. How did having that formal training help you?

It really helped me with knowing what to do with a part. It gave me a lot of practice. But honestly, television and film [are] really different from stage work and scene acting. I did learn a really great foundation for the technique that I still use today.

Do you think formal training is necessary for actors?

No, I don’t. I think some actors – especially when they start off as children – just have so much experience, and they learn from all the great actors around them. They kind of pick up how to act, and they don’t really need to go to school at all. So, I think it just depends from person to person. I personally didn’t have that experience, so I decided I wanted to go to school.

Was there a particular moment when you decided that this was definitely the career you wanted to pursue? And did you have any doubts or uncertainty about that?

I always have doubts. [laughs] I always have doubts. And growing up, everyone around me wasn’t the most supportive people, so it only added onto my doubts. But I was just a very stubborn person.

I guess the moment I decided was when I was going into grad school for special education, and I left the last class sobbing. I was crying because I felt like I was doing something wrong, like I was doing something that wasn’t me at all. So after I tried doing what everyone else said, which was to get a normal degree, get a normal job, I left the class crying, and I decided that I wasn’t going to be happy doing it. So, I decided to switch over to acting.

When you say that people around you growing up weren’t the most supportive, what do you mean?

My family wanted something more stable for me. They wanted my life to be as easy and manageable as possible, when they realized I wanted to be an actress they were concerned.

That’s good that you went with your instinct.

Yeah, I’m really happy I went with that.

At this point, what would you say your goal is as an actor? What do you want to achieve with the roles that you take?

I want to experience different things. I want to learn about life through acting. I want to become a better person and a deeper person through acting. What’s most important for me is getting to live the most out of life as I possibly can, and I just happened to do it through acting.

What motivated you to take on a project like Legends of Tomorrow?

I read the sides for it, and I just thought it was so much fun and it was so different. I’ve never played a character like [Mona] before. I loved how fun the script was. And it just excited me in that way.

What did you find unique about Mona?

I think what was unique about her was that I’ve never played anything like her before, but at the same time, I related to her so much.

When you say that you related to her, in what way?

I think Mona wears her heart on her sleeve and she’s a child at heart, and she’s very optimistic, and I feel that I relate to all of those qualities very deeply.

How did you first approach the role?

Well, new characters are always a little scary to play because you’re still figuring her out. What’s most important is playing her honestly and making her a real human being. But other than that, it was a lot of experimenting and working alongside the writers and the directors.

Are you allowed to improvise on the show?

Yeah! For the first episode, one of the writers — her name is Morgan [Faust] — she was the nicest person and she was just like, “Hey, I’m not sure if this joke works. Why don’t you improvise?” It was like the first scene I had done, and it made me feel so much more comfortable that I was allowed to make suggestions and play and be free with the script.

Looking through your resume, I noticed a common thread in that you’ve done a lot of comedic roles. Even Legends has a definite sense of humor, even though it’s technically a drama. Have you always thought of yourself as a funny person?

I have never thought of myself as a funny person. But maybe that’s how I naturally am, and I’m still trying to embrace that.

Legends of Tomorrow veers between very different tones; it can be pretty goofy at times and then very serious and sincere in the next scene. How do you manage that tonal balance?

Just go with the flow. Just go with the flow, and it works out great.

Since Mona is a new character and you’re coming onto a show in its fourth season, how did you adjust to being on a set where some of the other actors have worked together for a long time?

Yeah, it was very intimidating. But the moment I walked onto set, everyone, including the crew and the cast, was so warm and lovely that I fit in like a glove. Everyone was so welcoming, and they would invite me to things when they would go out and hang out, and I just felt like part of the family. It was really kind of them to do so.

That’s good. Of course, Legends of Tomorrow is a time-travel show. Is there any particular era in history that you would want to visit if you could?

Ooh. Um, ancient Greece would be fun to visit. I don’t know… Back when samurai were around and shoguns, that era would be fun to visit. There are so many!

What about a point in your life? Like, on the show, a lot of the time the characters are trying to deal with something in their pasts and they try to change it. It doesn’t usually work out, but I was wondering if there’s anything in your life that you’d want to revisit.

Um, no, absolutely not. I feel like if I were to ever go back in time, I would miss out on everything that I could possibly learn from now. So, I wouldn’t really change a thing.

Is there anything you can tell us about where Mona is going for the rest of season 4?

I really recommend watching this episode that’s going to come back after hiatus on April 1, because that’s when really big things happen to her character.

You have some background in singing. I was wondering if there’s any chance that there will be a musical episode at some point.

You know, I’m not the only person in the cast that sings, so I don’t know… If the writers were smart, they’d totally take advantage of that.

You’re still a very young actor, but as you’ve gotten more experience, what’s been your impression of the industry? Do you have any advice for other young actors?

I get a lot of messages from younger people who are afraid to make the dive into acting because they’re afraid, like, what if I don’t make it? It’s a common thing that I hear. And I guess my advice is to just not worry about that, you know? It’s not about making it or not making it. Acting is really about doing it because you love it, whether you make it or not. If you have that mindset, then you’re in the right place.

What would you say is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

A challenge I face? I think one of them is taking my career too seriously. Over time, I’ve learned that what’s most important is taking care of myself and really enjoying life and not just my career.

Are there any specific strategies that you have when you need to get motivated or inspired?

Life itself is very inspiring. If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, and I know I have, I go out and I try something different, and I look at life and I observe life and I read a good book, and I look at art. And it’s like a breath of fresh air, you know?

On a more personal note, I was wondering, how has your background as an Asian American affected your approach or attitude to your career as an actor?

Personally, it doesn’t affect me at all. It might affect people around me; it might affect casting or writers or directors. But I am who I am, and it doesn’t affect me at all. Like, I’m a human being when it comes to the end of the day.

Does it affect the roles that you choose? Like, do you feel pressure to choose roles that are “good representation”?

I don’t feel the pressure or the responsibility to take on, like oh, I have to be the one that changes the industry. I’m just here to be me. I’m here to play roles honestly, and I honestly don’t take it that seriously.

You traveled a lot when you were young. How did that influence your approach to acting?

Yeah, I think moving around a lot clarified for me what things matter to me versus don’t matter to me. I think maybe if I moved around less, my background would matter more, right? But because I moved around so much, those things aren’t important. What became more important is the present and this moment, just because I moved around so much. Like, sometimes I would switch schools after going to school for a day. Sometimes I would switch schools after a week. So, what mattered wasn’t where I came from; it was just what I had to offer at that very moment.

To wrap up, what are your plans for the future? Are you interested in moving into leading roles, or do you prefer supporting roles?

I’m always striving for the bigger and better. I’m always striving for something different. I always want to learn more. So, whatever makes me more open, whatever makes me know more, I’m all for it.

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Legends of Tomorrow airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.