'The Baby-Sitters Club' actress Momona Tamada on playing an Asian American pop culture icon

  • TV
  • Thursday, 16 Jul 2020

Momona Tamada plays Claudia Kishi in 'The Baby-Sitters Club'. Photo: Hadnout

For many Asian Americans who grew up reading The Baby-Sitters Club book series in the 1980s and 1990s, Claudia Kishi is something of a pop culture icon, so much so that she's the centre of a new Netflix documentary, The Claudia Kishi Club.

But Momona Tamada, 13, who stars as Claudia in the streaming platform's series The Baby-Sitters Club, hadn't fully grasped the enduring influence of her character until recently (the role was also played by Tricia Joe in a 1995 film adaptation).

"When I started researching a lot about Claudia, I definitely saw how much of an impact she made on so many people's lives, which is so cool. That I get to be that for younger generations – it's, like, crazy," the Japanese Canadian actress said.

"I've been getting lots of emails saying like, 'Oh, thank you so much for being this representation for me because I related to Claudia so, so much.' And I think that's just incredible."

Momona, a competitive dancer since age four, is still early in her acting career but has already built a resume that includes roles in The Terror and as a young Lara Jean in Netflix's To All The Boys I've Loved Before films. She calls To All the Boys... star Lana Condor and Natalie Portman her acting role models.

As the artsy, academically disinclined vice president of the Baby-Sitters Club, Claudia is the fashion-forward and fun-loving heart of the critically acclaimed show.

Momona says she sees a few similarities between her and Claudia, including their love of art and their shared Japanese heritage.

Unlike Claudia, though, Momona says she earns good grades in school and speaks Japanese, although she admits she's working on keeping that up, as evidenced when her grandmother (who lives in Japan) visited her in Canada before Momona started filming the show. She recalls encountering a language barrier.

"So, that was very difficult to me, and that was an emotion that I could apply to playing Claudia, which was really cool," she explains.

The series puts a thoroughly modern, Gen-Z spin on the beloved book series: the baby-sitters use social media, protest socioeconomic inequality and talk openly about coming-of-age trials and tribulations, like experiencing one's first menstrual cycle.

"My friends are all like, it's so funny to hear you say, 'menstruation, ' and it's like, everyone's like laughing about that," she says with a giggle, touching on the show's first episode, where Momona is shown making a sculpture on the subject.

The show also includes nostalgic nods to its roots, like the landline phone which the BSC uses to communicate with potential clients.

A Zoomer herself, the actress says she was already familiar with landlines having played with toy versions of them as a child. But she was surprised to learn, via this interview, that they were once necessary to access the Internet. She lights up at the revelation.

"That's so cool," she says before adding, thoughtfully,"I mean, it sounds like that would be a little difficult." – Reuters

The Baby-Sitters Club and The Claudia Kishi Club are available on Netflix.

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