Photo: Sam Kang

Christine Ko

If you haven’t watched DAVE (on Disney+ in the UK and Hulu in the US), then you are seriously missing out! It’s FX’s most-watched comedy, with the first season attracting 8 million views per episode, and starring a variety of artists such as Macklemore, Trippie Redd, YG, and many more. In the Dave Burd aka Lil Dicky-co-created TV show, we are introduced to a fictionalized version of him –  a neurotic man in his late twenties hailing from the suburbs who strongly believes that he is destined to become one of the greatest rappers of all time. Christine Ko stars as Emma Wu, who is Ally’s (Dave’s girlfriend) roommate and friend, and Dave’s graphic designer. Her fun deadpan truly stands out in the comedy – but watch for yourself. 

It’s been a great year for Ko last year – not only has she graced our screens in Dave, she also portrays Nina, the new Board president of the Arconia in season 2 of the hit series Only Murders in the Building. Additionally, she takes on the role of a leader of the resistance in the recent season of the Emmy-winning series The Handmaid’s Tale – Christine Ko’s talent is undeniable. We had a chat with her about all things Dave, fries-eating contests, and stealing canoes. 

Photo: Sam Kang

Let’s talk about your current role as Emma in Dave. The show is such a fun watch. How did the whole casting process go and what were you doing when you found out that you got the role?

It was really fascinating, because so many of our main actors are rappers,  or they’re stand-up comedians. I would say Taylor and I are really the only cast members that were really acting with our main profession. And I came on at episode two of season one, so they had already shot the pilot a year before they even added me on. And Dave was looking for another female character who he wanted to integrate well with his friend group. So I’m the only character that’s not based off of a real person. That’s the fascinating thing about it because Dave writes a lot about his life. It’s loosely based on his own experiences. And Emma is not a real person. She’s not based on someone. Whereas everybody else is. You know, GaTa is actually his real hype man. His manager’s really named Mike and he has a DJ named Elz. So they’re playing real people. And I think it’s so fun because Emma’s kind of this made-up character. And I think that’s why the casting process was so interesting because the way they described her was that she’s the coolest person in the room, which is not how I feel when I walk into a room. So I was like, okay, that’s going to take some acting. They just kind of wanted to find someone who is brutally honest, sometimes could be the smartest person in the room, but sometimes she plays dumb just to make things interesting for herself. She really just has a wild lifestyle, whether it’s music or friendships or how she is dating men. The way she describes her dating life is that she would have sex with anyone in a port-a-potty and that would be interesting to her. I will say she’s so different from me. When I went to set they didn’t even recognize me because I’m usually in yoga pants with my hair down and I wear black gray and beige and Emma wears bright pink, Jordans with purple eyeshadow, and cool hairstyles. She’s such a fashionista. She’s actually made me come out of my comfort zone and really get into fashion. So when I found out I got the role it was actually my fiance’s birthday. I was planning his birthday party. We still laugh about it because instead of going to a fancy dinner we decided to do a french fry tasting because he loves french fries. We were in the middle of a french fry tasting and I found out I got the job.

A french fry tasting? I need to steal that idea from you!

Oh, it’s fabulous. You have to order from all the really fancy restaurants, especially the good French restaurants that have steak frites. And then put them all side by side and really see which ones you like. Because you’d be surprised at what wins and what doesn’t.

Which one won for you then?

You know what was fascinating? We were in New York at the time, so we were able to order from Balthazar’s. And the Balthazar fries are very similar to McDonald’s fries. McDonald’s is the best if you eat it within a minute. It blows every single fry out of the water. But then after five or 10 minutes, Balthazar’s fries are the ones, because they’re real potatoes and they taste really, really good when you heat them up. 

I love that, when I go to New York later this year, I will make sure to try it! But yeah, I love that the character didn’t really exist in real life. You could basically make her your own – how did you prepare to become her? 

Growing up I was obsessed with the Spice Girls. I just thought they were the coolest of cool and they represented so many different kinds of women. I kind of had this in my mind where I was like okay, I’m someone who feels like I’m self-aware. I get a little nervous at big parties and Emma’s the opposite. So I basically was like, do everything the opposite from your natural inclination. What would a Spice Girl do when they walk into a room? How would they react? It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to the CEO of a company or if you’re talking to a random stranger at the gas station. To Emma,  it doesn’t matter who you are. She kind of addresses everyone exactly the same. It was really fun to discover her with Dave. The writers always give Emma really funny jokes. She says the most outlandish things, but at the same time, I thought it would be cool to play her really dry. Very deadpan, she does not laugh easily and I think her reactions to how narcissistic Dave can be sometimes is so funny. That’s really a lot of the comedy, you know? And I’ll never forget in season two, there’s an episode where Dave is rambling on about whether a fish is an animal. And then he just goes on and on. And Emma just lands this line where she says that a fish is definitely an animal. And she just stares at him. And that’s the fun dynamic between the two, you know? It’s an odd couple of the neurotic guy and then the girl that doesn’t have time for this. I think in season three we really, really amp it up because they’re stuck on this tour bus together and she’s directing this documentary for him and so he’s constantly asking her to do things and she just keeps pushing back and pushing back. And so that’s kind of what we’re waiting for at the end of the season. They’re two very interesting, odd characters. And then you have GaTa, who’s very high energy as well. He’s a hype man. And so I think it’s really nice to balance it out with someone who’s very calm and collected and honest, those are the three things that Emma always is. And nobody can really tell what’s on her mind, which is kind of cool. That’s a superpower, I think.

Photo: Sam Kang

I love that, it is a crazy dynamic but that makes them work so well together. Like you said already, the show stars a lot of artists, like Doja Cat, Rick Ross, and even Usher. What has been your favorite guest appearance so far?

I really loved Usher, I’m not gonna lie. I loved his acting too. He’s just so funny. You just don’t expect this gorgeous man, who’s an amazing dancer, to talk about getting into fistfights with people. Because we’re a comedy, we’re allowed to be in really outrageous situations. Usher would never do that. I had a really good time with so many of the guest stars. And to me, there are a lot of really good actors on our show. There was just an episode called The Storm and the girl that played Meg carried the episode. In that whole episode, she wants to be a TikTok dancer and she’s so good at that. And then she’s so heartwarming in the episode because you see her family in Mississippi and her Christian values. To me, that’s the most fascinating thing – that you can put people like that together. And that’s what makes the show so good, I think. It’s not just about celebrities. It’s about really, really good storytelling.

I agree! There is such a great blend of artists and actors in the show. It works really well.

Yeah! And whether we talk about politics, whether we talk about really intense issues, it’s not a show that shies away from that. It’s, how do we use this platform and address things? We’ll talk about really, really intense subjects, and then in the dumbest way possible, we’ll also really try to make you laugh during it. I think that’s why people enjoy it. They watch a show and they don’t feel like they’re being told that they think a certain way. 

I mean, it’s the best-rated show on FX for a reason. 

Yes, exactly. We felt so proud when we heard about it being the highest-watched comedy of all time. They really try to push the narrative and change the set, and that’s why this one’s so interesting. It’s got different stories and also different tones. It feels really good because we have so much support from the FX family. And Dave really respects the actors, too. We improvise a lot on set. We still have our writers there to say,  Ok Christine, you want to say it like this? What if…  and give me a bunch of alternatives. So it’s not me being a genius coming up with it, it’s me wanting to find it in my voice. And they’re like, great, let’s give you 10 different lines to say it in that way. And that’s how we kind of make it our own. 

So if there was a fourth season, hopefully, what would you like Emma to explore? 

Sometimes they bring us into the writers’ room and they really ask us what we want to do. And we had talked about Emma’s family at some point, where she came from because she’s such a fascinating person. How does this person grow up? There are some hints to it. In The Storm, you see a moment where she looks at the Bible and she says, I used to know every word. And so I think that gives a little hint to the viewers of what her life was like. And I think what’s really cool about this season is episode nine. We’re going to see her documentary. And so for the first time, you’re going to see her point of view on Dave. You know, we’ve always seen her be a friend and be supportive, but now she’s behind the camera and she’s kind of showing a lot of secrets. Does she paint Dave in a good light? Does she paint Dave in a bad light? Who knows? And I think it’ll really open up stuff for season 4 to see the aftermath of opening the curtain and seeing what’s behind it. I haven’t seen the final cut, so I’m looking forward to it too, but we shot a lot of stuff and I will say all the documentary footage that you’re seeing was stuff that I really shot. They gave me a camera when we were on set and they were just like, go around and shoot stuff. So a lot of that concert footage that you see is really me just being in the pits with the fans and just shooting Dave and being pushed around and stuff. It was fascinating. I was like, this is the first time I’m a cameraman. But I liked it and the footage turned out really good.

Photo: Sam Kang

So when you finish a series or when you finish filming, and when it’s getting released to the public, do you actually watch it yourself after? I do hear that some actors refuse to watch things they starred in.

For sure, yeah. I totally understand that, because when you watch yourself, you’re like, oh my God, I’m just focused on my hair, and it feels so egotistical to watch yourself. But for me, because so much of it is improvised and changed on the day, it’s really fun for me to see the whole episode come together. I know what the script is and I know what they were looking for, but I really never know what makes the final cut. I love watching it. Dave is such a fun show to watch with a group of people. Because everyone will be reacting differently to everything. Like episode two, when we did the music video in Philly, people were losing their minds as to just how fast it was. You know, there’s a moment where there’s weird goo coming out of him and everybody’s laughing so hard. So we get together Wednesday nights and we watch them together and it’s great. I also love the music, I love hip-hop. I’m always shazaming what the songs are. I’ll text Dave, and I’ll be like, Dave, what’s this song? And he’s like, I wrote it. And I’ll think, oh, okay, okay, well, send me the mp3 because I want it. It’s a great rewatch too, because you’ll watch it again and be like, oh my god, I totally missed this thing in the background. I guarantee you’ll catch a lot of Easter eggs because everything is planned out.

I feel like if you watch a show a second or a third time, you always find new things. For example, I’m not afraid to admit it, I’ve watched Friends ten times, and I still find so many things that never occurred to me before!

Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve watched hundreds of episodes of Friends and I’ll still just like to leave it on when I see it in the background. We’re like Friends, just a little more diverse and a lot more music, you know. But Dave is like following a group of misfits, and this time we’re just traveling across the US and meeting a bunch of strangers, so how crazy could that be? 

Very true! So apart from your role in Dave, your catalog has been quite impressive and your roles have been so different and diverse, was there a particular role you found most challenging or special?

I think for me, I wouldn’t say it was difficult to do because I had such a good experience on The Handmaid’s Tale. I really enjoyed my time with Elizabeth Moss. I say all the time that if I ever get to be number one on a show, I want to be like her. She’s just such a good leader and she made everyone feel so comfortable. But the weight of the story is so intense, and I was playing this woman that ran a camp that helps these refugees, and it was kind of like the Underground Railroad where people were escaping this horrible country. I was like, oh man, okay, this is such a powerful role that has so much depth. Also, I had just finished Only Murders in the Building, so I had finished this comedy and I was like, okay, I’m gonna go to Toronto now and shoot this heavy drama. I like to be challenged and for me, I love trying different characters and she just felt so different. So playing Lily was one of those bucket list moments, but also I learned so much from those actors. Hopefully after Dave, I get to do some kind of gritty drama again, because I love being out in the woods and being cold. 

Speaking about that, are you working on any other projects that you’re allowed to talk about yet? 

I love that I said gritty drama and I’m about to tell you about a studio comedy. I can’t say the name yet, but I’ve just signed on to do this really fun studio comedy and it’s a very heavy female ensemble, female director, and female writers. I’m so excited for it, I can’t even tell you. We’re supposed to shoot it after the summer. And I think that will be really fun because I think for the first time I’m gonna be playing someone closer to me. And there’s gonna be a lot of fashion. There’s gonna be a lot of summer outfits. 

Sounds exciting! But you also occasionally star in adverts like Taco Bell, and McDonald’s, and appear in music videos. How do you approach those jobs, is it the same mindset for you as acting in series?

Exactly the same. They’re hiring me to play this role. For the Justin Bieber video, they had a whole storyline and very much wanted it to be shot like a film. And there was a script. I love Justin’s music. And at the same time, I didn’t know there was a whole backstory behind what he wanted to tell. With Taco Bell, they cast me when they’re looking for these characters. And Taco Bell was based on Bridgerton. So we were in these really cool gowns. And they were like, you know, what if in that time we had people that look like me and we’re more diverse. I just got to wear a really pretty dress and eat chicken chalupas for eight hours. And I definitely used the spit bucket. But I also ate a lot of chalupas and I had a good time.

Photo: Sam Kang

The dream.

Yeah, the dream, I know, right? I can’t complain. But I think for me, I love what I do so much. And it doesn’t really matter what the medium is, whether it’s a music video or commercial or TV or film. II just love playing characters and I think that’s why people can’t really figure out what a Christine Ko type is because I don’t really have a type. You’re never going to know whether you’re good at something unless you just go for it. And so hopefully, I can be like Leonardo DiCaprio in 20 years down the line and be like, OK, now I’ve reached what I want to do. But until then, I’m just going to experiment. And maybe you’ll see me playing an Android at some point. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s next for me. Look out for that. You can call Denis Villeneuve and tell him that I will be a sandworm in the next however many dunes that he wants to do. God, that would be the dream.

I mean, you can speak it into existence?

Yeah! Who knew this actress, all she wanted to do was be a worm, a giant worm in the desert.

I’ll look out for your sandworm debut. I just have to ask you, what’s the craziest prop you ever stole from a set? 

Oh my gosh, I really try not to because I’m one of those people who are scared they’re going to call me. I know I got weird stuff. Does Emma have weird stuff? Emma just likes good clothes. I was on a show called The Great Indoors. It was my very first comedy and it was about the outdoors. And so at one point they gave me a canoe and I don’t why I took it because I live in Los Angeles. I was moving this freaking canoe from apartment to studio apartment to studio apartment and there was nowhere to put it. I kept leaving it, putting it in the garage and it was covered in spider webs. Dnd people be like whose fucking canoe is this, and I couldn’t get rid of it because I’m sure it’s worth a lot of money, but I’ll never use it. And so I will say this, I listed it on Craigslist and someone took it. So somebody has that canoe somewhere. And that’s the weirdest thing. I learned from that moment on, don’t take shit unless you’re actually going to use it

I love how you could have taken anything, but no, you take the canoe which is massive! That’s so funny. But yeah, last but not least, what’s your guilty pleasure film? 

Oh my gosh, My Best Friend’s Wedding. It’s my favorite film of all time. I know every word. If I’m in a bad mood or I have a tough day, I just put it on. And then I see Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney and life is good. GaTa just shot a movie with Dermot Mulroney and I am so jealous. I was like, GaTa, you just need to please invite me to the premiere. Series-wise, I love Succession. It’s the last season. It’s so good. I love the acting, it’s a dream drama series that I would love to be in. But also I love Indian Matchmaking!

Oh, I love that too. They just released Jewish Matchmaking on Netflix. I would recommend that,

Yes, I just saw that it just came on. Okay, I’m adding that to the list. 

Thank you so much for your time!