Devon Aoki: Racer Chick
19-year-old model/actress Devon Aoki was born in New York, raised in Malibu, and educated in London where she started modeling. Her inheritance from her Japanese dad and German/English mom led to an exotic look that put her in high demand for ad campaigns in the states and Europe. Her music video appearances led to film work and now a role as Suki, a tough female driver on the Miami race circuit in the Fast and Furious sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious.
We met petite Devon recently in Los Angeles and found her to be much softer and more polite than her rough-edged character. If her acting career stalls [not likely], she won't starve. Her dad started the chain of Bene Hana Japanese restaurants! We also learned that, before making this movie about hot-shot drivers, she had no driver's license!
TeenHollywood: Was this your first big acting job?
Devon: I did a short film, a feature film - three actually, with John Malkovich, when I was a lot younger. And then I did a music video and another film a couple of months ago, and this was sort of my first real project, and now I'm shooting another one. It's starting now, little by little.
TeenHollywood: Was modeling a conscious steppingstone for this?
Devon: Definitely. It's led to a lot. Of course, I was presented with a lot of different opportunities like traveling and meeting people that otherwise I probably wouldn't have met, especially at that age. And so I have nothing but good things to say about it.
TeenHollywood: How did you get involved with modeling?
Devon: It wasn't something that I actively pursued, it was something that caught me by surprise. I didn't plan on being a model, because at the time I was in school, I was 14 years old and in school, and you don't think of anything other than academics at that age, you're getting ready for college.
I met Karl Lagerfeld early on and then I started working with him, and that got the ball rolling.
TeenHollywood: Do you think being of mixed descent and exotic helped in modeling?
Devon: Yes. When I started to work in the fashion industry there was a definite stereotype that everyone was looking for and I wanted to diversify what I thought should be diversified in the first place. My mom's German/English and my dad is Japanese, and I'm half and half, and I've been brought up with both sides equally, which is important to me. So I definitely think that I represent both. That's who I am.
TeenHollywood: You had to learn to drive for this?
Devon: Yes I did. I actually didn't have a license when I first got the role, and then I went to Miami for pre-production I did a two-week crash course, learning how to drive. It was incredible the set up they had there. They had a huge open space for us to basically do whatever we wanted to do. A line of about 20 or 30 cars to choose from, it was unbelievable; a team of professional stunt drivers. To learn in that environment for a first time driver was mind-blowing.
TeenHollywood: When did they find out that you'd never driven before and what was their reaction?
Devon: In Miami, John [Singleton, director] found out and he was like, 'What? Are you serious? You don't drive?' I said, 'No,' He said, 'Okay, we have to get you straight into driving school.' But I was like, 'I'll catch up, you don't have to worry about a thing.''
TeenHollywood: What did they teach you?
Devon: Everything. I'd never actually been in the driver's seat of any car, so the first day, I spent about five minutes in an automatic, and they were like, 'Okay, you've got this, now you've got to move on to the real deal cars.' So I was like 'Okay.' I learned how to drive stick, and the first thing we did racing, we did sliding into parking spaces, we did unbelievable things that I never thought that I would be able to do.
Teenhollywood: Did they know that you didn't know how to drive at all? How did you get the job?
Devon: [laughing] It's funny, because I think that they probably just assumed that I had a license, because if you live in the States and you're sixteen, usually you have license by then. I went through the course and I learned how to drive, and now I can definitely say that I can drive as well as anybody.
TeenHollywood: Do you have a license now?
Devon: I have a permit, I haven't had a chance to get a license yet, because after filming this I started another project, and I barely have five minutes to go to the DMV and to do it.
TeenHollywood: Okay, we are still curious. How did you grow up without getting a license? Were you busy modeling in England?
Devon: Living in England - it's not a requirement to have a car over there, you get around by going on the underground, or you take a yellow cab, and that's the easiest way to do it. Driving in London is very complicated, there's no rhyme or reason to the streets over there, so I would opt not to drive, especially being in high school.
TeenHollywood: Weren't you scared with Paul [Walker] and all the experienced drivers in your race scene?
Devon: I felt relatively fearless under those circumstances in the car. I was like, 'Okay, we have a medic standing by, we have team of the best stunt coordinators in the world, I'm not going to get hurt, so let's go for it.' I was really happy to be there, and really happy driving for the first time.
TeenHollywood: How important is the sex appeal of the film?
Devon: I think the most important thing is obviously the cars, that's why everybody goes to see the movie, but I think sex appeal is important in any movie to a certain extent, depending on what the genre the film is. I think Eva Mendes [her co-star] is incredibly beautiful, and I think besides her being very talented, it's kind of obvious also that she's gorgeous and that's probably one of the reasons why they cast her.
TeenHollywood: You are pretty hot in the movie too. How do you see yourself?
Devon: I don't know. I saw the movie last night for the first time, so it has to sink in, but hopefully I come across as being a good character in a good part.
TeenHollywood: What about working with Tyrese and Paul - what do you think about them?
Devon: I was at the theatre yesterday [at the Wango Tango concert in L.A.], when Tyrese took his shirt off and everybody went absolutely crazy - even the two men sitting next to me looked and me and went, 'How did he get a body like that?' You've got to ask him, I don't know. I think they are beautiful male specimens.
TeenHollywood: Let's dish. What is hottest about each guy?
Devon: Tyrese, I love his smile, he's got lots of teeth, these white teeth and of course he has a great body. He's a really good looking guy. And Paul, I would say his eyes, he's got incredible eyes.
TeenHollywood: How did Director John Singleton work with you on this film?
Devon: The first couple of weeks we were in pre-production, we would meet up and talk and get to know each other more so that when we started filming there was more of a camaraderie there, that we could draw upon. That was one of the things he did that I thought was unusual, and people said that that was very unusual for a director to be actually present at those things, when we would just run our lines sometimes, and sometimes just do the most random exercises to just get us acquainted with each other. That was something that was different about him.
TeenHollywood: Did you like your character?
Devon: I like the fact that she holds her own. She's an incredibly talented driver and makes it over the bridge. I really felt like I was her when I was in Miami; I was like, 'This is my pink car, these are my girls, and I'm going to beat you.' That's definitely how I felt. I mean I was driving around in the pink car, I got a little confused for awhile, am I Devon or am I Suki?
TeenHollywood: How much of the driving stunts did you actually do?
Devon: One of the things that I did was really simple, just to pull up, but it was complicated for me, just pulling to a stop. You have to hit a mark and you have to have the tail slide out, and there are a lot of things to think about, plus you don't want to run over the lighting guy, and you definitely don't want to hit the cones, you don't want to hurt anybody!
TeenHollywood: How much did you know about this racing world before you did the movie?
Devon: Not too much. I saw the first Fast and the Furious and that was the first time that I was really exposed to the racing world, besides going to the Grand Prix and seeing Nascar. You don't realize that it's such a movement, especially in Miami. A lot of kids would come to the set in their own cars. They're very much a part of this street culture, that lives and breathes for racing. But I wasn't really too familiar with it. Car manuals become your bible. You read them every day, because you want to know about what everyone's talking about, especially working with the rest of the cast because they are so into cars, especially Paul, who after he finished the first Fast and Furious went and bought himself a race car.
TeenHollywood: Have you bought a car yet?
Devon: I'm actually looking. It's funny, it's really difficult to find a car after you work on Fast and the Furious - nothing seems to really compare.
TeenHollywood: What's the next movie you're working on?
Devon: It's called Debs, and we have a great cast, we have Jordana [Brewster] from the first movie, Michael Clarke Duncan, Meagan Good from Biker Boyz and Sarah Foster, so the cast is great and the story's about a group of girls who solve a code in their SAT's and become enrolled in this secret academy, and they go and fight crime, it's kind of like Charlie's Angels, but with a twist. It's really cool. I play a French girl and have a very thick French accent and I carry an Uzi. The one I've been carrying lately has been plastic with plastic bullets, so I can't actually shoot anyone.
TeenHollywood: You're only 19, where do you go from here?
Devon: I don't know, hopefully I'll continue to work on film and other projects and be inspired by people around me.
Lynn Barker is a Hollywood-based entertainment journalist and produced screenwriter.