Christine Ko on Mastering the Art of Deadpan and Lil Dicky’s Nickname for Her

Portrait of woman wearing green blazer
Emma McIntyre

From crying in Justin Bieber’s arms while wearing a bald cap to deftly handling Taco Bell etiquette, Dave’s eye-rolling secret weapon is suddenly everywhere all at once. Get to know actress Christine Ko like never before.

First, the basics:

  • Age: 32
  • Hometown: Atlanta
  • Lil Dicky’s nickname for her: Slug. “We text each other slug emojis.”
  • Past jobs: Cocktail server. Waitress. Uber drive.
  • Surreal celeb moment: “Justin sang Toy Story‘s ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’ between takes. I thought ‘How is this my job?’ “
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Men’s Journal: On last season’s Dave, starring rapper Lil Dicky, your character, Emma, tackled sexual taboos and wooden shirts. What’s new in Season 2?

Christine Ko: This season is wild. Dave really went there; his life is insane. And we tap into Emma’s backstory inspired by a friend from Dave’s real-life job at an ad agency…before he realized he was the greatest rapper alive. We also have musical guest stars whose songs I turned up the bass to in my car in college. Now these guys are acting across from me and asking if the scenes are OK.

Did you hit them with an Emma clapback like, “Don’t mistake my questions for me actually caring”?

I freaking love playing Emma. She doesn’t care what anybody thinks. When I first read the script I thought, “This girl is much cooler than me.” Emma’s what I wish I was like in high school. I would never be able to pull her lines off as myself but I love doing it for the show.

Best Emma line from Season 2?

“A fish is most definitely an animal.”

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What’s the secret to landing that Emma attitude?

I do big deadpan eyes. It’s my way of silently saying, “I see you. But I’m not listening or taking it in.” Dave’s character will say something sincere and I just look at him while groaning.

How did you master villainy in Disney Plus’s upcoming horror-comedy Just Beyond?

I thought it would be harder! But villainy is all the things that you sometimes think and don’t say because it’s mean. I play Ms. Fausse, a high school substitute teacher to these sweet kids. I go in and just ruin their lives. There’s no sensor when you’re the villain. You take pleasure seeing people in pain.

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You calmly introduced a new chalupa shell made out of chicken. Talk about the Taco Bell ad that was on ESPN every 15 minutes.

Ha! I had to master the technique of holding a chalupa and keeping the lettuce inside while not covering it with my hand. I had a lot of Naked Chicken Chalupas for that ad. I ate the first two because I was hungry and they’re good. But after two…

You called for the spit bucket?

I did.

Any other fast-food go-tos?

Arby’s curly fries.

Did Justin Bieber commit murder for you in the epic video Hold On?

No. We play a married couple. And sometimes people do the wrong thing to save the one they love, cheesy as that sounds. The first time we met was when the director called “Action!” and the scene was Justin seeing me find out I have terminal cancer. I’m wearing a bald cap and in tears and he’s holding and kissing me. His ability to jump in was impressive. I also was excited because they wanted an Asian girl for their video, and I felt honored to do it.

Attacks on Asian Americans spiked horrifically this year. How do you counter the haters?

The world will always have something against you, no matter how you look. I surround myself with people that hopefully as a group are doing good work for the culture. The reason I like to play different characters is that for so long Asian American actors have been in this stereotypical box. And my favorite thing about my roles is that nobody can say any one is a Christine Ko type.

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