From her iconic role as Claudia Kishi on The Baby-Sitters Club to saving the world in The Secret Headquarters, Momona is leading the next generation of Hollywood greats.
Momona is beautifully creative and full of smiles. That’s how I want to start this piece, because sitting down to interview a 15-year-old going through the peaks and valleys of Hollywood feels unreal. Unreal that this young teenager is doing things that most adults cannot even fathom taking on: working long days and nights while still in school, navigating social media and the pressures that come with having a large platform, taking care of herself, staying grounded, and everything you could imagine would arise from, in more easily-understandable terms, being the most popular person in high school.
It comes with perks, but a whole lot of attention and expectation.
And I hate to be yet another person to put pressure on Momona, but the truth is, we see her going places — a young woman to keep on your radar.
And it’s not just the glow and talent she has in the industry but the way she’s handling it, someone managing a graceful grip on an ever-changing and entirely public landscape.
The young Japanese-Canadian Actress hails from Vancouver, and is currently in the thralls of her project, “The Secret Headquarters” which came out this past Friday. With utter excitement, Momona recalled how the sets were fully functional and realized it made the experience all that more special.
“Who gets to work in a secret headquarters, right? Like a childhood dream,” Momona said.
The Secret Headquarters is centered around a group of friends who while hanging out after school, discover the headquarters of one of the most powerful and famous superheroes. When obstacles arise and villains of the superhero attack, Momona's character and her friends must join forces to save the world.
The project includes notable actors like Owen Wilson, Jesse Williams, and Walter Scobell, and was, for Momona, a well-paced and collaborative effort. One of her favorite aspects of this project was that the directors allowed her to share, create, and develop her ideas in the process, and even confessed that one scene she filmed with a costar was improv for them.
“It was this one scene I worked on with Abby James. And we just did improv. And then we ended up actually shooting that, and it's in the movie now, which is so cool, right?” she said with excitement.
Extremely cool, I think, that early in her career she is presented with opportunities to discover new things about herself and her acting, particularly as she emerges from her last huge project, The Baby-Sitter’s Club which was a highly-successful global hit that aired for two seasons on Netflix.
“I was so new to acting at that point-I didn’t know what to expect…So I’m really lucky that, you know, I got a character like Claudia who I was just so similar to,” Momona reflected.
In this series, Momona played the iconic novel’s character Claudia Kishi, the fashionable and artistic spunky personality in the show. As Momona and I chatted about this experience, we got to dive into some really cool character work, the atmosphere that was created on set and among the cast, and especially wonderful, the culture that she shares with this character.
We opened our interview with her favorite thing to cook with her family: Temaki sushi: a build-your-own Japanese dinner where they create their own sushi rolls. Momona says that as one of her favorite things ever, she loves to combine all the different ingredients in unique ways, giving her the space and freedom to be in touch with her family and her Japanese culture.
We see some of these customs on screen in Claudia Kishi’s life too. It unites Momona and her character, creating a basis for her acting that allowed her to become one with Claudia. Momona also adored learning about art and fashion on set, admitting that Claudia’s fashion sense changed her own wardrobe!
“I think my fashion sense has definitely improved, just because of Claudia. I mean, being in the fitting room and watching them put together all these insane combinations of clothing was just so fun,” she smiled.
Momona and I also talked early and late nights on set, and one thing is for certain about this young actress: she is full of gratitude for the opportunities in front of her.
“I basically got to film with my best friends, like ever, just like every single day. What more could you wish for in this industry?” she said.
These costars became some of her closest friends, she told me, and ones who no matter how far they are or how much time goes by, still keep in touch. During filming, she experienced some really early mornings and some really late nights on set, but at the end of the day, acting is her favorite thing in the world. The schedule and atmosphere of being on set are some of her favorite things. To her, the set is a safe space where she can exist in total honesty.
“I just love being on set for like, hours and hours and hours. It is my favorite thing ever,” she said.
This love and passion shone very brightly when she reminisced about her experience filming The Baby-Sitter's Club, a positivity of someone who is at their happiest when working on a project, and also one who works relentlessly to achieve what she wants.
But the industry isn’t an easy place, a huge part of these difficulties resting in publicity and social media. Momona explained that while The Babysitter’s Club was being released, she felt pressure to post every day, to stay active and in touch with this community that has formed in her support. But as social media does, the pressure grew with her fame. While Momona is an active social media user and adores engaging with her fans, she has also grown to recognize the importance of taking care of herself. Especially, taking time off to relieve the pressure and take care of her mental health.
“I've learned to do it to my own ability, in my own moment, because I think it's so much more important to prioritize yourself and your mental health, instead of posting too much or being stressed about that. It was definitely a learning experience,” she admitted.
Words for all of us to keep in mind, as social media becomes a huge stressor for even those of us without thousands of followers.
But Momona has taken quite a mature outlook on these thousands of people that she has direct access to. In 2021, she did a feature for Glamour where she spoke out on the violence against the Asian community. She continues to gracefully shoulder the weight of the responsibility many expect from her.
As our conversation came to a close, I needed to ask her how she stays in touch with that 15-year-old.
With all of this duty so delicately burdened, did she have time to be the mall-and-movie-theatre-stay-in-the-pool-and-hang-out-with-friends sort of teenager we all have an undying attachment to?
Despite her busy schedule, Momona is soaking in her teenage years. To unwind, she watches TV, hangs out with friends, spends time with her family – things she considers just as important as conquering her next script.
“I know I've struggled with burnout in the past. So I think just spending time with my friends and my family, just living life as a teenager is how I like to bring myself back," Momona said.
And with her new upcoming voiceover project, Oni, which is based on Japanese folklore, and more projects to come, it’s incredible that she's cultivated a strong and stable support system around her.
It’s important too that here at MUD we aren’t just praising Momona for perfection. Those sort of standards are not the ones we want to put out there in the world, especially for a young woman finding her way in a world that seeks to define her. Instead, we praise her for her positivity, her hard work, and her dedication to being honest with herself and with us.
This is the kind of energy we admire and want to amplify, the one we love to see on our screens and on our feeds.
Full of smiles and deep creative energy, Momona is the kind of actress it’s easy to root for. She is incredible in her ability on screen, but more than that, her characters shine through in how she speaks, dreams, and how she presents herself. We are lucky to have someone voicing the right ideas on taking care of yourself and blazing paths, and one that keeps her feet on the ground but her dreams in the sky.
All I can say is that after spending time getting to know Momona Tamada, there is no doubt she’s doing it all right from the start.
Momona Tamada is the first to appear in our Trailblazer monthly cover, a series that seeks to elevate young creatives who are creating an impact in the industry and beyond.
Writer: Julianna Rezza Photographer: Noah Asanias Digi Tech: Gaelan Glenn 1st Assist: David Karuhije 2nd Assist: Tatum McClean Videographer: Daev Ogilvie
Stylist: Sarah D'Arcey Makeup: Minjee Mowat using Dior Beauty Hair: Erin Klassen with Nobasura using Shu Uemura
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