Comedian Sherry Cola talks acting, new season of ‘Good Trouble’ and lending her voice to ‘Turning Red’

Sherry Cola
Photo: Jonny Marlow

Sherry Cola has had a love for comedy since she was a kid. Whether it was hosting the high school talent show or taking part in film club to make videos, Cola fell in love with the entertainment industry, but wondered if it was a feasible goal due to the lack of representation.

In college, Cola tried a little bit of everything, just wanting to be an entertainer in some capacity, before ultimately landing in radio.

“I found radio in college. I did it for three and a half years and got a job at 97.1 FM,” said Cola. “That was just a goal I picked for the sake of having a goal. I was so scattered, I wanted to be a rapper, a stand-up comedian, to make funny videos — I wanted to entertain. After the radio job, I started climbing that ladder with the dream of becoming a morning host.”

Cola says she got her “big break” from Carson Daly, who offered her segments to do on his show. With that opportunity, Cola started to really pursue comedy more seriously by taking classes at Upright Citizens Brigade and doing more stand-up, and over the course of her career she has taken more of a liking to acting.

“I felt like, ‘Oh I was meant to do this, I should have been doing this my whole life,'” said Cola. “I fall in love with acting more and more every day. It’s really beautiful for us to express and tell these stories that can be related to such a mass audience. With stand-up, I made people laugh. I don’t know if I ever made them cry with my comedy, but that’s what’s beautiful about acting and onscreen story-telling.”

Cola currently stars in the Freeform drama series “Good Trouble” as Alice, the manager of the apartment building where the cast lives in Downtown Los Angeles called The Coterie. Cola says that playing Alice is a dream for her because she gets to see so much of herself in the role.

“Alice is someone who is very apologetic, puts everyone before herself and bottles up her emotions. As we progress through the show, we see Alice find her voice and be comfortable in her queer skin,” said Cola. “She discovers who she is, and as a queer Asian woman, you don’t see this type of character ever. I see how impactful her character is and I’m honored to portray her.” 

The fourth season of “Good Trouble” is expected to air in the spring of this year. Cola says that Alice’s journey to pursuing comedy (a journey that includes working with Margaret Cho, which was a life-long dream for Cola herself) is highlighted during this new season, as well as the ongoing obstacles that can get in the way.

“In season four, you see some of the challenges and obstacles that keep Alice from her dream. That really is the ultimate life thing, you have to keep you from moving forward, and it’s beautiful to see how fear and courage battle each other,” said Cola. “In ‘Good Trouble,’ these characters are struggling, growing, learning, fighting and living, it’s the most human thing. It’s cool to play a character that brings something out of me, shedding your own layers and finding something within that is a version of yourself. Alice is going through trauma and experiencing the highs and lows of life, it’s a beautiful thing to watch and for me to portray.”

Cola is also getting to flex her vocal muscles in Disney and Pixar’s new animated feature “Turning Red.” The story follows 13-year-old Meilin “Mei” Lee, a Chinese-Canadian girl who is horrified to discover after a nightmare that she turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets excited or stressed, thanks to a mystic connection with her ancestors.

Cola voices one of Mei’s aunties and shares the screen with several other actors such as Sandra Oh, Rosalie Chiang, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and James Wong.

“I love Pixar, I grew up watching Pixar and look forward to the new release every year. To voice one of the aunties in the movie is incredible,” said Cola. “Mei is a 13-year-old girl that is just trying to figure it out. When her emotions run high, she turns into a big red panda. It’s very cultural in a lot of ways, and to be in a classic Pixar film with a Chinese family and to share the screen with Sandra Oh is part of a dream come true.”

Though Cola’s time with radio has given her plenty of experience in a booth, doing a voice for Pixar would have felt like second nature for Cola regardless because she is just that comfortable behind a microphone.

“Using my voice in any way and expressing it is something I love doing. I think animation really showed me how much you can do with just your voice,” said Cola. “It’s all a way of creative expression through art, and in animation, you put all of your energy into it. You are exhausted after a session because you’re moving muscles to portray flying, falling, panicked, terrified, excited — all of it comes into play like in live-action. I’ve had a lot of years behind a mic to prepare myself for a Pixar movie, it was really so much fun.”

Cola has a number of projects on the horizon, including voice acting in Paramount Animation’s upcoming feature “The Tiger’s Apprentice” and she recently wrapped production on Adele Lim’s (“Crazy Rich Asians”) upcoming comedy project for Lionsgate. With all of these skills under her belt, Cola would love to take a crack at being in an action film.

“I’m coming for the sequel of ‘Shang-Chi,’ I want to be in a Marvel movie,” said Cola with a laugh. “I want to do some superhero, villain, action-y film. There are a lot of projects where I’ve had to dance, or dramatically cry, or be funny. But I want to be in an action film.”

“Turning Red” premieres in theaters and on Disney+ on March 11. You can follow Cola @shrrycola on Instagram and Twitter.