Meet ‘The Road Dance’ Star Ali Fumiko Whitney
Theater kids get a bad reputation, but actress Ali Fumiko Whitney is here to change the narrative. The Road Dance star fell in love with the stage when she was four years old. From the moment she watched her first Broadway show, she knew she wanted to perform.
Like many actors, though, Whitney’s love for theater has propelled her into a film career. Her first film, The Road Dance, premieres on May 20th and she’s excited to pursue more opportunities in front of the camera. Where will her next gig take her?
Musical theater has become a cathartic experience for Ali Fumiko Whitney. She especially loves how song & dance comes into play when words just aren’t enough. It’s a magical & transcendent experience that brings the Road Dance star joy she struggles to put into words.
Whitney’s favorite musicals are West Side Story, In the Heights, Les Misérables, Legally Blonde, and South Pacific. West Side Story holds a special place in her heart as #1 since it’s the play that made her want to be an actress. It must’ve been the rhythmic snapping and coordinated pirouettes.
Lights, cameras, action!
Ali Fumiko Whitney recalls recreating scenes from her favorite childhood movies with her sister, Rachel Michiko Whitney. When they pulled scenes from Harry Potter, Rachel always got to be Hermione Granger and made Whitney play Ron Weasley since she was younger.
However, watching her mom work as an actress in the ‘80s gave her the push she needed to pursue her own spotlight. The Road Dance star has also been influenced by actresses like Reese Witherspoon, Julia Roberts, Emma Watson, and Kate Hudson. Whitney has found herself most mesmerized by their careers as well as the grace with which they carry themselves in real life.
Whitney’s biggest musical theater influence is Ashley Park. She looks up to Park as a pioneer for Asian American actresses on stage and she is constantly in awe of her work. This is why representation matters!
An unexpected guest
In Fall 2020, the Road Dance star’s sister, Rachel Michiko Whitney, approached her about Snow Valley. The film follows a newly engaged couple as their ski weekend goes horribly awry after the arrival of an unexpected guest and dark supernatural forces.
Rachel and her friends were inspired to create the film after having quarantined together in Park City, Utah. With the brilliant Brandon Murphy behind the script, all Whitney had to do was say yes to playing the sister to her sister’s character.
The brilliant Brandon Murphy wrote the film for Rachel to star in, and the role of the sister was up for grabs. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by creatives, including my sister, who keep me in mind for projects like this.
Part of being surrounded by creatives, especially her sister, means Whitney gets to call dibs on projects like this. It also means the Road Dance star gets to step into a role meant for one scene and see it fully realized into something more important.
Acting alongside her real-life sister made her more comfortable in the role and gave her the courage to improvise. The film is currently in post-production, but it’s looking at a 2022 release in theaters worldwide.
Whitney’s next project focuses on the story of a mother and her two daughters using their strength to overcome tragedy. The Road Dance stars Whitney as Annie Macleod alongside Hermione Corfield, Will Fletcher, and Morven Christie. Whitney was introduced to the role by the producer who bought the rights to the original books.
She got to explore the Scottish side of her family while filming in Scotland. It even gave her an amazing opportunity to practice her own accent, which she spoke in both on & off set. Whitney credits the locals of Stornoway for helping her stay in character, which she found encouraging.
The Road Dance star also felt responsible for portraying the real-life story with honesty. Whitney did a lot of research to make sure she understood what life was like for young women during the early 1900s. Cast & crew alike powered through turbulent weather to bring a sense of strength in community to the screen. More importantly, Whitney wants the audience to understand the love between both mothers & daughters and between sisters.
HVA & Hugh Jackman
The Road Dance star has found a new love for film, but her ultimate goal is to return to the stage and star in a Broadway show. Working with Hugh Jackman has been one of her dreams since he starred in The Music Man. She admires his ability to adapt to any role. She also respects him for the kindness & generosity he showed her when they met when she was fourteen years old.
Whitney met Jackman through the Harlem Village Academics charter school. As a longtime supporter, he took her and her family on a tour of the school. The experience encouraged her to begin reading to HVA students through their literacy buddy program after leaving college.
The experience fostered her love of theater by helping her share it with the students. Helping them put on productions, like The Wizard of Oz, inspired her to continue volunteering her time. Whitney doesn’t just value her own career, which shows her own strength of character.
As for her own career, the Road Dance star is very attracted to roles involving Asian American stories. She wants to bring stories to the screen that reflect her own life – especially with strong female leads.
Whitney emphasizes the importance of a strong support system for up-and-coming performers. For herself, she goes into journal mode while working. She uses research, photos, music, quotes, etc. to help her find the character and easily bring them to the forefront in front of the camera.
Yet, it’s having a support system outside of work that Whitney cites as being even more important. It keeps one focused and less likely to compare themselves to others. She allows her own support system to lift her up and celebrate her successes. Fans can look forward to seeing more of her in the future.
Thank you for reading! To keep up with Ali Fumiko Whitney, find her on Instagram, @alifumikowhitney.