Anna akana miss 2059

Screengrab via Anna Akana/YouTube

The actor, director, producer, and YouTuber on her ongoing balancing act.

It’s a case of mistaken identity with galactic consequences in new go90 series Miss 2059. Instead of Arden, the trained hero, her beauty queen sister is sent to do battle for the fate of Earth. In the end, the battle to avoid global destruction isn’t so different from a pageant.

Anna Akana is the brains behind the New Form Digital series, which started as a short film in 2014. For that, which she refers to as the pilot, Akana pulled double duty as both sisters on-screen, as well as directing and producing. This time around, she’s only acting as Victoria, the beauty queen thrust into the galactic spotlight, being guided by Arden (now played by Nikki Soohoo).

“I don’t have to sit there and watch playback and analyze my face,” says Akana. “It’s so nice to show up and have one job to do.”

But that doesn't mean she’s totally hands off.

“With digital there’s a lot more trust in the creator,” she says, but explains that instead of doing everything on her own, she now has to defend her creative choices, or argue for what she wants with a team. “A lot of the times I really love that, because I’m not used to it. If everything sucks, it’s all my fault, and if everything's great I get all the glory.”

One notable time she was wrong: hair color. Akana wanted her character to don platinum, and her director was having none of it.

“We had this big fight over hair,” she laughs, explaining that her team argued that she should look contemporary, not like a space Lady Gaga. “When I was watching dailies I realized they were right. … It’s a beautiful chance to collaborate, and have people elevate something you created.”

The series also addresses the diversity that’s often lacking in Hollywood, with two Asian female leads, a cast of female-only competitors (well, they’re aliens, but female aliens), as well as a diversity of human races playing those characters. Akana stands out as among the top Asian-American women in the digital space, with 1.5 million subscribers amassed since she started posting videos in 2011. She’s also branched out, with a book on the way next year and a comedy tour. She’s seen the entertainment landscape change drastically in that time.

“There’s so many more digital opportunities,” she says. “You try to get a co-star or a guest star on a show, and then you sit around waiting for an opportunity. Now you can make your own stuff, you can sell it to a company. You’re not limited anymore to just TV or film. Now it’s regarded so much more with seriousness. Now everyone wants to be a digital series, that’s where all the audiences are going. Even though most of the time it’s not a huge budget like TV, but it’s still more than what we’re used to working with.”

For those creators still looking for their break, Akana says they should focus on YouTube for the love of it and not get discouraged along the way.

“You have to keep doing it because you really love doing it and want to get better,” she says of YouTube. “I didn’t get that popular until two years ago, and I’ve been doing it for six years. It’s tiring and you get burnt out, but I feel like the more consistent you are ultimately the better you get.”

The 12-episode Miss 2059 series will run exclusively on go90 this summer. The first two episodes are available now.

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