She plays the cold but appealing Treville in Cherrydale's All For One but she's probably the sweetest little cinnamon roll to exist! Check out our chat with Denise Yuen to learn more about what it was like bringing Treville to life!
netTVnow: How did you get involved with All For One?
Denise Yuen: I originally heard about the series from a friend and who told me about how the series was looking for, I don’t remember if it was specifically an Asian actor, but definitely a non-Caucasian actor. So I sent in a reel and then they sent me the breakdown for Treville and as soon as I read for her it just clicked really well for me.
netTVnow: What drew you to the character of Treville?
DY: Originally she was actually a little bit different. They rewrote her character a little bit, originally she was a little bit more maternal and a lot more warm [laughs]. My audition for her was very different than the way I played her in the show. I think it was much more closer to me, much more empathetic and definitely had a vibe of wanting to mentor Dorothy, which she kinda does in the show but she has much a more distant approach. Still she kind of had this air of strength to her which I really liked and she was still very caring.
I think Treville, deep down is very caring and a nurturing person. She just has a bit of a wall and doesn’t quite know how to break through that wall and connect with others. I think it’s the strength mainly and also I remember when we were emailing back and forth and I found out that RJ (Lackie) was the writer on the show, I remember a breakdown for another show that he had written before, Inhuman Condition, and I remember actually reading with a friend because she was going in for an audition for that and I remember really loving his writing. So that was another appeal for me.
netTVnow: What is your favorite part of Treville? She’s a very complex character.
DY: I know that deep down she has a heart of gold and she really cares for the girls. She doesn’t quite know how to show it. I connect really well with that aspect of her and I think that’s why it’s my favorite thing about her. I moved around a lot growing up, I left home in Hong Kong at a young age and went to boarding school but when I came to the States, I sort of bounced around a bit too. So I really understand that aspect of trying to connect all the time with groups of people who may already have their own friend groups and it’s not easy! I understand how Treville feels like she’s on the outside of things and yet, she’s actually a total sweetheart and I love that about her.
netTVnow: Was All For One your first web series and what did you find most surprising about it?
DY: Yes, this was! I was just really surprised by how short the episodes were, first of all, but I know that’s a very trendy thing right now. Web series tend to be quite short but back when I auditioned I think the only web series I was familiar with was Carmilla. So I actually auditioned for a part in season two, so I zipped through all of the first season to prepare and that was kind of my first experience and I remember thinking, “Wow, this is great!”
There are so many things about web series in general and All For One that I find interesting and different from anything that I’ve ever experienced. Even the set being that one shot and then scenes happening in front of it and talking directly to the camera, all of that stuff is novel to me and is just a brand new format. I was never trained for that. It’s a little bit like theater actually, which I really like. It’s this one stage and you’re just acting with people.
I also found that the storytelling is also so different because of how it’s just the five minutes and then presumably a bunch of stuff happens off camera and then it’s another five minute episode. It’s such a fascinating way of storytelling that’s so different.
netTVnow: I’m glad you pointed that out because a lot of things happen off camera. We never get to meet Anne but it’s pretty noticeable early on that Treville is very protective of her and they’re very close and a lot of what we learn about Anne is learned through Treville. So what was it like for you to essentially bring that character to life?
DY: It’s never established in the show what kind of relationship Anne and Treville have. There’s speculation on if they’re together and all that. I actually never had a conversation with RJ or Sarah (Shelson) on their relationship, we never specified that. So to me, I played it as if she was a close friend to me and someone I really respected and someone I was possessive over because she is my President and it was partly a power thing. So you know the scene when Dorothy is texting Anne there’s a bit of personal jealousy but professional jealousy too.
I think it’s one of those things that feels like I’m the gatekeeper to the queen, that’s how I painted her in my work. And the extra layer of protectiveness comes after we find out that scandalous secret of Anne’s. So there’s an aspect of Treville not wanting Anne to be more exposed than she already has because she’s already in a dangerous place.
netTVnow: In preparation for the role, did you make up any backstory for Treville?
DY: I think the backstory I created was basically what I told you about bringing my life into it, because it was so easy [laughs]. Because just looking at her character and how she’s so hard and seemingly so cold, and quite tough. I can imagine that she had to go through some difficult times growing up and had to learn to be independent very quickly, to be that strong and also have that protective guard. She has a particularly cold veneer and that’s gotta be some kind of defense mechanism that was fostered throughout her childhood.
I just related so well to her that I brought myself into it knowing that she’s not a bitch. She’s cold and she’s got some hang ups and she really likes control! I love that about her [laughs]. It’s one of my favorite parts and I think it’s so funny because when she loses control it’s hilarious!
netTVnow: She gets so uncomfortable and I love it! You played it perfectly.
DY: Thank you [laughs]. Her control issues are great, something I really like about the character because it adds comedy because she’s so serious. You know originally, when I first read my audition sides, Treville was the President, there was no mention of Anne. So she was the President and there was a lot more natural confidence that I brought into that audition, being comfortable in the throne kind of thing [laughs] but I love Treville is not the queen bee, that she does answer to someone and as a result she wants that power but she doesn’t actually quite have it and so when she sees Dorothy go over her and text Anne, there’s something about that where she grips onto it extra tightly and it’s hilarious.
We don’t know if there’s going to be a season two, but I’m very fascinated by the idea of Treville campaigning for President, in terms of how she’s going to do it, the approach she’s going to take and how much she really wants it. And what her intentions really are, whether it’s a power thing or if it’s doing good for the sorority. And I think seeing her campaign against Portia would be interesting.
netTVnow: Knowing the kind of person Treville is, it’s interesting to me that she even wanted to be in a sorority to begin with.
DY: That’s true [laughs]! It’s interesting because I think I could figure out how she decided to go through recruitment so easily but how she made it through is like a conundrum! I can imagine Treville probably watched Legally Blonde and thought, “That’s how I make friends.” How she made it through recruitment? She probably made herself incredibly useful, I bet she was very strategic about it. I think she knows better than to think she can rely on her social graces [laughs] so I think she’s a lot more thoughtful and strategic way to go about it.
netTVnow: That’s interesting because in the book Treville is a warrior and pretty ruthless.
DY: Oh, a bit ruthless? I bet Treville has a bit of ruthlessness to her, I think she does actually and I don’t think it’s a ruthlessness that’s very well thought out. I don’t think she’s a mean or cruel person but I think she can be ruthless because she’s not entirely socially tactful and so sometimes to get what she wants, she might have one idea of how to do that.
netTVnow: If we were to get a season two, where would you like to see Treville’s storyline to go?
DY: I would love to see her campaign for President against Portia and see how that develops. I feel like that would be a storyline that would be very revealing of her character. I’d like to know more about her background as well and kind of what her story is. Why Treville is the way she is and what is underneath that icy veneer. I’m very curious to know the complexity of that, the dynamic of that, how cold she is deep down and what the key is to open up that tightly wound aspect of her. And also what her relationship is with Anne. I’d like to see that! Are they together? Who knows? Maybe we’d see a completely different side of Treville. Maybe if you unlock her she’s just a complete mush you know [laughs]? Maybe she’s a total kitten, who knows!
netTVnow: She might be a total sap!
DY: Yeah! I think that when people are that protective, they have something to protect.
netTVnow: If you could have play any other character, who would you ahve wanted to play and why?
DY: Oh! Either Dorothy or Ariana, hard choice. I have a side of me that’s really tomboyish. I don’t think it really comes across when you see Treville [laughs]. She’s very well put together, but there’s a side of me that’s boyish that likes to get aggressive or play aggressive at least. I’d probably pick Dorothy, I’m not as cool as Ariana [laughs]. If I was cast as Ariana, I’d be terribly miscast. She would not come off as cool as she does now [laughs] because Angie (Lopez) is super cool.
netTVnow: Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share?
DY: I have a couple upcoming projects that I can’t share at the moment, but I will keep you guys posted when I can!