Charlotte Nicdao was frustrated, to put it mildly.
For more than a year, she had been commuting between her native Melbourne, Australia, and Los Angeles in hopes of landing a meaty Hollywood role. Her gig on NBC's summer dramedy Camp was kaput. Auditions led nowhere.
"I started grieving for a dream that wasn't happening," she recalls. Then her manager laid it out in no uncertain terms: it was now or never. "This fire lit inside me," she says. "I told her, 'I can do it. Put me in a room and I'm going to book it.'"
One day later, she auditioned for an off-center comedy called Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet. Sure enough, Nicdao was a woman of her word.
Set in the offices of a videogame studio, the Apple TV+ series follows a team of game developers as they prepare to launch a new installment of their epic fantasy series. Nicdao plays Poppy, a put-upon chief engineer who constantly bickers with her hotshot boss (Rob McElhenney, who cocreated the show with his It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia costar Charlie Day).
"Like so many women in similar industries, she feels that she doesn't get the credit that she deserves," Nicdao says of Poppy. "But those two need each other, because her creative ideas don't resonate with anyone but herself."
To dig into the character, Nicdao played lots and lots of videogames. "I got a Nintendo Switch, and I would spend entire days playing [The Legend of] Zelda," she says. "My husband [folk musician Bayden Hine] was like, 'You need to get off the couch,' and I was like, 'No, this is work and it's really important.'"
The Filipina-Australian actress admits she was glued to the screen throughout her formative years as well. "I saw every episode of Friends and Gossip Girl," she says. "They were so aspirational."
At the time, she was still studying music and determined to become a professional jazz singer and pianist. She released a pop EP in 2014 with her band, the Sloth Orchestra. Nicdao changed her mind when her dad — "the only Asian actor in Australia over 50" — sent her out on auditions in high school and she started nabbing parts on Aussie TV shows.
"It was really scary to suddenly realize that I loved something else," she says. As she awaits word on a second season of Mythic Quest, Nicdao, now a fulltime Angeleno, insists she has no regrets about her big decision. "Music is hard, and you have to practice so much — acting is like a walk in the park," she says. Pause. "No, I'm kidding! You know that, right?"
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 1, 2020
For more on Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet, click here