Tallie Medel started performing on the stages of Ketchikan. Last week, they were under a much brighter spotlight at the 95th Academy Awards. Medel co-starred in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which took home seven awards at this year’s Oscars, including best picture.
“I’m absolutely in shock and still processing,” they said by phone from a sunny hammock in Los Angeles a few days after the event.
While Medel’s career has taken them out of Alaska and on to the Oscars, they credit their career to their hometown. Growing up in Ketchikan, Medel — who uses they/them and she/her pronouns — spent hours after school practicing ballet with Ketchikan Theatre Ballet or putting on a show with the First City Players.
“I owe so much to the arts and humanities council in Ketchikan,” Medel said.
After high school, Medel moved to Boston to attend Emerson College. It’s where they first met Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, the directors of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” who are known collectively as The Daniels.
Medel graduated from Emerson with a degree in theater education and an emphasis in acting. They then moved to New York City and built a career spanning dance, comedy and the unavoidable hybrid of dance-comedy. Medel is a co-founder of Cocoon Central Dance Team, which stars in the joyfully named, Daniels-directed “Snowy Bing Bongs across the North Star Combat Zone.” A copy of the Ketchikan Daily News makes a cameo appearance in the 40-minute film.
Medel has also appeared in a range of independent films and video projects. They starred in Passion Pit’s music video for “Cry Like a Ghost,” which The Daniels directed. They also had the lead role in the feature-length “Fourteen” and attended its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival.
“ ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ was obviously a big leap into the public eye that I hadn’t experienced yet,” Medel said, but the experience was similar to smaller films they’ve worked on. The set felt like summer camp. “All of our A-list actors were so thrilled to be there and be part of this really playful environment,” Medel said.
The film swirls around the rocky relationship that protagonist Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) has with her family, including daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu). Medel plays Joy’s girlfriend, Becky.
“She’s a kind person who is looking to create peace and harmony and spread love,” Medel said of their character. “She’s a ballast for Joy.”
The rift between mother and daughter leads Joy to fall into multiverse mayhem, threatening to summon doomsday via an everything bagel — if this sounds like a lot, the film also features hot dog fingers, a raccoon chef and a battle for the fate of the multiverse inside an extremely beige auditor’s office.
The movie is unlike any other, and its trajectory to best picture is likewise unique. The movie premiered at South by Southwest Film Festival in March 2022, about a year before the Oscars. It buzzed through the summer and erupted during the winter awards season, taking top prizes at nearly every major awards show.
“It’s been a fascinating year,” Medel said.
By the time best picture was announced at the Oscars, Medel’s cast and crewmates had already claimed six Academy Awards. Each win was met with “genuine roars of joy hearing the names of people who we love so much,” Medel said. “And so much crying. So much crying.”
Medel is staying in Los Angeles for a few weeks to perform their comedy dance show and teach clowning workshops. They’ve shared their clowning classes — which combine physical comedy with improvisation — at summer workshops in Ketchikan and Juneau, and hope to continue that connection to Southeast Alaska
Medel is also working on a screenplay about Ketchikan, which will “absolutely” feature dance and comedy.
“I can’t live without it,” Medel said. “When people respond to the thing that makes you happy, there’s nothing better.”