EXCLUSIVE: 'Fear the Walking Dead' Star Michelle Ang on Pregnancy, Emmy Nom & Diversity in Hollywood


After almost a decade of riding the highs and lows of chasing her American acting dreams, Fear the Walking Dead's Michelle Ang was stunned when she got a call congratulating her for her Emmy nomination.

But behind
the professional high is even bigger news: The 32-year-old New Zealander is pregnant
and will show of her growing baby bump on the prestigious awards show’s red
carpet. And don’t be surprised if she has a stash of chicken nuggets in her

“I’ve been
craving sh*tty chicken nuggets, which is weird because I haven’t eaten fast
food in years,” Ang says. She is expecting her first child with her musician
boyfriend in November. “And in my first trimester all I wanted was
kimchi or pickles -- fermented, sour, stinky things!”

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With her
character, Alex, surviving the web series Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462,
Ang transitioned to the AMC television show earlier this year but had no
inkling her webisode work would also lead to an Emmy nomination for Best
Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series.

hadn’t realized I was even in the mix to be nominated, so it wasn’t on my radar
-- plus I had just come back from visiting my grandmothers in Malaysia, so I
definitely hadn’t been keeping up with the entertainment news,” Ang says. “I
was so confused as to why we were on a conference call -- I knew I did
something either really bad or really good!”

Home alone at the time, Ang told her dog, but it took the
rest of the day for the news to fully sink in. “When you’re from a smaller
country and trying to be in the entertainment industry, you don’t want to think
about how hard it can be and the possibility you might not even get your foot
into the door,” she says. “At no point in my daydreams did I expect to be
nominated for one of the big awards in America. Maybe in a funny fantasy sense!
Standing here now and thinking back to little me when I was getting on a plane
and coming here, it’s like, ‘Wow.’ There’s no way that girl would have known
that she would be in such amazing company and a nominee at such an amazing
awards ceremony.”

MORE: Everything You Need to Know Before Watching 'Fear the Walking Dead'

The news marked a triumphant moment in the hard road to
Hollywood success for Ang, who cut her teeth doing New Zealand shows The
and Outrageous Fortune and Australian soap Neighbours,
for which she received an Australian Logie award nomination

Transitioning from a well-established career Down Under to
“starting from the bottom again” was challenging, and the L.A. audition circuit
proved to be “10,000 times larger and more competitive” than New Zealand’s.
However, Ang, a trained ballet
dancer, persevered and
landed roles in MTV’s Underemployed,
guest-starred on Grey’s Anatomy, and picked up film roles in Fallen
and opposite Woody Harrelson in the action thriller Triple 9.

But it’s Fear the Walking Dead that remains a
highlight for Ang, who became a fan of the series while she starred in its
accompanying webisodes. She also got to work alongside fellow New Zealander
Cliff Curtis (Travis Manawa), which led to a “really easy and immediate camaraderie,”
compared to many shows where guest stars feel like “the new kid at school.”

Getty Images

While Alex’s future on the show remains up in the air, Ang
has enjoyed being part of the series’ diverse cast -- a contrast to her early
days in Hollywood, where roles for Asian actresses were limited.

“When I first came over to America my distinct impression
was that if you were ethnic you were relegated completely to supporting roles
in television,” Ang says. “For lead roles in film, unless it was set in an
Asian community or country, you’d be dreaming, which was a contrast to coming
from playing series regulars and main characters back in New Zealand. Even
though it’s a larger market here, it felt like there was a glass ceiling for
ethnic actors.”

“Over the years people have become more vocal and it has led
to change, as has the changing population of this country,” she continues. “Now
my experience is that you’re actually able to be considered as a series lead on
television, and in the past two years I’ve booked indie film projects where I’m
the lead who just happens to be Asian -- which is a huge coup.”

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adds that the mainstream film world still has “a long way to go correcting the
imbalance,” but she is meanwhile relishing the opportunities in indie films,
including For Izzy, a project she
co-produced led by an all-Asian cast. The film is currently crowdsourcing its
post-production costs via Indiegogo.

While the timing of her career reaching a peak at the same
time she takes on motherhood presents challenges, she has no plans to slow down
and hopes the two will complement each other.

“In acting, if you’re not at A-list-level status, you’re
always wondering about when your next job is going to come and you’re treading
water to keep your career trajectory on path,” Ang says. “It can be quite daunting as a woman to be like, ‘I actually also want to have
a family.’”

“So making the choice to not be scared about that and then
finding out we’re heading onto that journey was pretty huge, but it’s been
really rewarding and exciting,” she continues. “I don’t anticipate it to be
easy, but it’s a really great crescendo in life. As an actor, having vibrancy
and a full life lends itself to good work, so I’m sure having a baby and all
the new experiences that come with it will feed into my career, and they’ll
hopefully help each other!”

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