Welcome to Zoom Date, our feature series where we get up close and personal via Zoom screen with our favorite celebs. They'll be giving us an honest peek into what their "new normal" looks like—from new rituals they've adopted since quarantine, to work projects in the age of isolation, to the beauty and health products they've been using to self-soothe.
Given that she is best known for intense, show-no-mercy characters like Suicide Squad’s Katana and The Female on The Boys (season 2 which just began streaming on Amazon with new episodes weekly), you’d be forgiven for experiencing some trepidation at the thought of coming face-to-face with Karen Fukuhara. In real life, though, the actress has more in common with one of her other roles: Glimmer, the passionate, aggressively optimistic do-gooder princess from She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. When I spoke to Fukuhara over a recent Zoom call, her sunny disposition colored every corner of our conversation—from her enthusiasm for skincare to her unfettered love of cooking.
With that said, I don’t want to give off the impression that Fukuhara is some indefatigable Pollyanna. Like everyone else, 2020 has hit her hard—and what impressed me most about this interview was the fact that she didn’t shy away from addressing difficult topics like mental health and feelings of hopelessness head-on. What I learned over the course of our conversation was that Fukuhara is just as comfortable talking about the way the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken her sense of purpose as she is talking about her love of Mad Men. In other words: she’s a real one. Read on for her thoughts on Korean beauty, YouTube ASMR, and maintaining connection in an alienating time.
How have things been for you lately?
I mean, I try to keep busy. I think I was more motivated at the beginning, but I’ve picked up so many little hobbies here and there, like guitar. Learning something from the beginning is really difficult, and it’s hard to keep up, especially when you don’t have a coach or a teacher to keep you accountable. I’ve picked up yoga. I usually like to go to the gym and lift weights, but we have only small weights at home, so I’m doing my least favorite workouts, which are the sweaty cardio HIIT workouts mixed in with yoga. I’ve picked up tennis and golf—I’m trying to pick up things that are more outdoorsy so we can be safe and also see some close friends. I’ve also watched way too many things, for sure.
What have you been watching?
Oh my goodness. In terms of animation, I’ve watched Isle of Dogs, and Bojack Horseman, which was amazing, and then my boyfriend and I just started Avatar: The Last Airbender. Just a few movies: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, L.A. Confidential, Sleepless in Seattle. Killing Eve—the new season was fantastic. True Detective, seasons 1 and 3. Altered Carbon, the first season with Joel Kinnaman. And then I May Destroy You; it’s a tough one, but it’s amazing, the way they tackle the issue of consent. I loved Mad Men, I loved it. I’m such an audiophile, and I don’t know what it was, but their sound department had this old-timey feel that just gives you this feeling of nostalgia. And then there’s a bunch of YouTube videos that have people cooking or doing day-to-day activities, and they don’t talk, you don’t see their faces—it’s a form of ASMR, but they’re so cinematic and beautifully done.
What are some of the other hobbies you’ve picked up? Are you one of those people who’s baking bread all the time?
Oh my goodness, I started baking in the beginning, and I realized how difficult it was, so I stopped. But I cook a lot. I cook a lot of Asian food, a lot of pasta, noodles. Yesterday I tried a Thai drunken noodle, and it was pretty good, not gonna lie! I feel like everybody answers that question of what you’re doing in quarantine the same way. When I say yoga and cooking, I can literally feel the interviewer’s interest slipping away because they’ve heard it so many times.
Well, what’s nice about those hobbies is that they’re things you can continue to integrate into your life, even after all of this is over.
Yeah! I didn’t realize how much I was spending eating out. It’s nice to be with your friends and not have to worry about what you’re making for the night, and it’s nice to be in a different setting, but lately I’ve been realizing that it’s very cost-effective if you stay in all the time. [LAUGHS] I’ve been buying groceries in bulk because of what’s happening, and I usually buy maybe three weeks’ worth at one time, and I also shop for my parents ‘cause I don’t want them to go to dangerous places. So the fridge is full, and sometimes you’re having a bad day and it’s almost therapeutic to go in there and cut some carrots, you know? It’s a routine, and you go in and you’re just on autopilot, and you know that you’re getting something yummy out of it and sharing that with a loved one. Also, I love Trader Joe’s. It’s my favorite. I miss their little coffees that they used to do, and the workers are always so welcoming, it’s crazy. I love them. Not sponsored by Trader Joe’s!
What does your day-to-day routine look like right now, and how is it different from what it looked like before?
Compared to our shooting days, it’s night and day, because we shoot 12 to 18 hours on set, and I think on our crew is around 150 people on an average day. You’re interacting with all of these people you’ve built a connection with, whether it’s your makeup artist and hair or your wardrobe or the producers or director and castmates, and sometimes over the weekend we go out together. It’s a lot about human interaction in our industry, and so not having that is difficult for someone who is used to having that. I would say that I’m more extroverted than introverted, so I feed off of other people’s energy, and I grab inspiration from the people around me, and so not having that is a change, and it takes getting used to. There are days when I just think, “Oh, I’m never gonna get another job. I’m never gonna work again.” I think the one thing I’m really struggling with is not having a clear sense of purpose and not feeling needed anywhere, because my sense of worth was related to work. Grappling with that is kind of my day to day, aside from all the hobbies I do. Cooking, cleaning—not cleaning. I hate cleaning. A lot of people like to say, “I love cleaning…”
I think the one thing I’m really struggling with is not having a clear sense of purpose and not feeling needed anywhere, because my sense of worth was related to work.
I don’t believe them.
I don’t do that. [LAUGHS] Although I did do a major closet dump and donated clothes this week, because it was getting out of hand.
You said that being in quarantine is really different from when you’re working on set. Are you supposed to have any projects coming up?
We usually film The Boys in Toronto over the summer, so we start in July-August and go until around November, but because of COVID they pushed it back, so I’m not sure when we’re going back, exactly. I’m just grateful that it’s renewed. When we have to do these Zoom press junkets on our own, and we have to set up our own lighting and sound, and then on top of that hair, makeup, wardrobe, you really appreciate everything that everyone was doing on set for you. I’ve never taken them for granted, but doing it yourself really puts it into perspective, Like: “Wow. I love them. We must work together again, because I can’t do this alone.” [LAUGHS]
What is it like having a new project coming out in quarantine? The final season of She-Ra came out this year, too, right?
Yeah, I’m sad it’s over. It’s bittersweet. Releasing something when we can’t do press together is sad, because we don’t get to hang out with everyone. For San Diego ComiCon, it hit me hard that I wasn’t able to go with The Boys and see some She-Ra fans in costume. I’m sad I didn’t see everyone, but She-Ra was still such a fond experience—one of the best experiences I’ve had.
What are you doing to take care of your mental health?
I’ve talked to my best friends a lot. I think when you’re cooped up in one space, you don’t wanna overbearingly always talk to the same person who’s living with you, because they’re in it with you, and they get tired, and that doesn’t give you another perspective or give you a feeling of refreshed newness. I think calling my really close friends from time to time for an hour or two and really catching up on their day-to-day and telling them about how I’ve been has really kept my mental health in check. And I started working with this charity organization called Off Their Plate. I don’t do it every day, but just being able to do a little bit of good has kind of helped me believe that I have a role in the world, rather than just being a blob.
Tell me about your volunteer work.
So I got a call from a middle school friend of mine whom I haven’t spoken to in years, and she said, “I’ve been working with this organization called Off Their Plate and we’re giving hospital workers meals, as well as restaurant workers economic relief so they can keep working and basically not get furloughed.” It kind of just aligned with everything I was already trying to do. One person trying to do something doesn’t make a huge impact, but working with them has been able to open up new opportunities where I drop off meals to hospitals, and the other day we provided help for low-income housing for Asian-Americans in L.A.
What else are you doing for self-care? Do you have a beauty routine that you’re loving in quarantine?
Okay, there’s a lot. I love Asian skincare products, so a lot of the time I’ll go to SokoGlam and they usually have a list of trending or popular things, and they also have a blog with a bunch of information on what’s good for your skin type. So I use Banilo Clean It Zero cleansing balm, which they wrote about, and it’s good for traveling because it’s not liquid, but you end up using a lot more product. So since we’re in quarantine I’m using the AmorePacific treatment cleansing oil for face and eyes, and it’s great. And then I wash my face with Farmacy’s Clean Bee Ultra Gentle Facial Cleanser.
I love Farmacy’s honey products.
I have to try the Honeymoon Glow serum! I have so much product just in boxes here because I have to use up something in order to use the next one. Because we’re in quarantine, I haven’t been able to get microdermabrasion to suck out all the gunk, so I’ve been using NuSkin’s Clay Pack, and your pores are just so clean after, it’s crazy. I also like Biologique Recherche Masque VIP, and I use it with their Lotion P50. And then I use this Acwell Licorice pH Balancing Essence Mist, which is a collaboration with SokoGlam, and it’s really good. Apparently, anything with licorice is really good in toners. Then I use a glycolic acid, and then I have this Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate, which has hyaluronic acid, because I have pretty dry skin. I also use this Japanese vitamin C serum, Milano CC—I have to get it imported, but the opening is tiny, tiny, tiny because sunlight will ruin vitamin C. I do different things morning and night, so it’s a different mix of things.
I feel like I need to keep it simple in the morning or I won’t do it. I do the complicated stuff at night.
I agree! For night, this has been a game changer: the Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask EX. I was in the market for a nighttime cream, because I felt like my skin was tight in the morning, and we’re in California, and it’s dry all year round, and I wanted something that would hydrate deeply. I think you’re supposed to not use it that much, but I use it every night. And then I use squalene oil during the wintertime. I’m not tied to a brand or anything, I just try to get something that just has pure squalene in it. But I think the main thing that’s been really good is Missha’s Time Revolution Night Repair Ampoule and Missha’s Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence, which is the dupe for SK II’s treatment essence. I think the SK II one is better, but sometimes for skin I think you have to change it up or your skin gets used to it. I like to keep my skin guessing: “What’s it gonna be today?” [LAUGHS]