Minae Noji stars as OB/GYN Dr. Kelly Lee on ABC’s General Hospital and SoapNet’s new General Hospital spin off, Night Shift. Landing the role was a dream come true for the Hollywood, CA native, being a big fan of General Hospital for years. Her first day on the set she was nervous to meet Steve Burton (Jason) -- who she says reminds her of “Superman,” and she adores co-stars Kimberly McCullough (Robin) and Kent King (Lainey).
But Noji is no stranger to daytime. She did a stint in a recurring role on the Bold and the Beautiful prior to her arrival in Port Charles. She also costarred opposite John Travolta and Uma Thurman in MGM’s Be Cool as “Miss Bangkok” a sexy singer partnered with rapper “Raji’” (Vince Vaughn). She followed that up with a featured role in Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award winning Memoirs of a Geisha.
Film festival favorites such as Instant Trauma, where she played Yoko Ono to the delusional hero’s John Lennon, and The Last Run with Fred Savage have further established Minae as serious comedic talent. Other indie features include Honor Bound, God’s Waiting List and the film Judge is God, for which she also has a producing credit. Additional television credits include Bobby Cannon (ABC pilot), and a guest starring appearance on Spin City (ABC).
Growing up in Hacienda Heights, CA (“The same hometown as Fergalicious! :D,” Noji interjects”) she loved Lucille Ball and Jerry Lewis. “I’ve watched all of Jerry Lewis’ films and have seen every episode of I Love Lucy. I’m obviously a big fan of comedy!” she revealed.
It’s not surprising then that Noji worked as a child actress in theater and television, earning recurring roles on Together We Stand (CBS) with Elliot Gould and A Year in the Life (NBC) with Adam Arkin. She speaks semi-fluent Japanese and at age 16 she won a recording contract and toured South America and Asia as a Japanese recording artist before becoming a vocal finalist on Star Search. She attended the University of California, Irvine and graduated with a BA in Sociology. She took a year off when she was chosen from among thousands to be part of the ensemble cast of the 1st National Touring Company of MISS SAIGON, which enjoyed a lengthy run on Broadway.
Her artistic talents are not limited to acting and singing as she recently joined with another young actress Emy Coligado to create EmyMinae, a company that designs and produces unique handmade woman's accessories for boutiques like Fred Segal and Planet Blue. In an effort to spread the love they've decided to split part of the profits with various worthwhile charities such as Save the Children Fund and the Make a Wish Foundation.
In addition, Noji is particularly proud of her offbeat talents, which include: animal sounds, hyper-extended splits and toe tricks.
Noji found some time from her busy schedule shooting two shows at once to catch us up on life at General Hospital, both the day and night time shifts. She’s fun and very candid in her responses. We love her!
Soapdom: We just gotta know. Are you a soap fan? If so, what is your favorite soap?
Minae Noji: I grew up watching General Hospital! It was part of my ritual when I got home from school. I would run home, quickly slap together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, grab my favorite blanket and plop myself down right in front of the TV. General Hospital had the best characters and storylines. And the cliff hangers each week always got me. I was addicted!
Soapdom: Please explain how you landed the role of Kelly Lee, i.e. your audition process.
MN: Since I am a huge fan of General Hospital, I was elated when I heard that I got an audition for the role of Dr. Kelly Lee. The audition process was pretty intense. There were quite a few call backs. I remember the morning of the final audition. I felt really good and confident. That is until… I was sitting in the casting office, looked down at my feet and realized I was wearing two different shoes! One shoe was a black, strappy heel and the other was a silver sling back! I think in my rush to get ready that morning, I just wasn’t paying attention. I never did find out if the producers and casting director noticed! Moral of the story…whenever you leave the house…always make sure you’re wearing matching shoes. And it may not hurt to double check on the underwear, too.
Soapdom: You’ve done movies and film. How does daytime compare?
MN: Working on General Hospital has been the most amazing and challenging experience. Since soaps air everyday, the shooting schedule is pretty intense. For example, on a typical day on a film set, we work through an average of 1-2 scenes per day. On daytime, we shoot 40-55 scenes in one day! That’s a big difference. This means that not only do we need to memorize our lines quickly, but we must do our scenes in one take.
Soapdom: Starring on two shows simultaneously is a ton of work. Are there any pitfalls?
MJ: Even though the characters are the same on both shows, the storylines are different. So, the most challenging thing is to remember which storyline and relationships are occurring on which show. Quite honestly, I’ve been having such a blast working on General Hospital and Night Shift. I’m having the time of my life!
Soapdom: How did they schedule the production of both shows?
MJ: They shoot GH Monday thru Thursday and Night Shift works all day Friday.
Soapdom: Is production on Night Shift’s first 13 wrapped for now? If not, when?
MJ: Right now we are on episode 9. So we are almost there! We should be wrapped by the end of August. But I don’t want it to end….I want it to go on forever and ever!
Soapdom: Now down to the nitty gritty! Who are your favorite GH scene partners and why?
MJ: I LOVE Kimberly McCullough (Robin) and Kent King (Lainey). They are my favorite girls! I had the opportunity to really get to know these two women and I feel really blessed to have them in my life. Whenever the three of us do a scene together, we just laugh, joke and catch up on gossip the whole time! I really believe in girl bonding and I’m so glad that General Hospital has expanded our friendships on the show.
Soapdom: Who was the first actor you met on your first day of work? Did they make you feel welcome, or was it scary?
MJ: The first actor I met was Steve Burton (Jason Morgan). I was very nervous to work with him since I had a big crush on him. Steve reminds me of Superman. He is strong and sweet and saves people but has secrets…just like a real superhero! But when I finally met Steve on set, he was so warm and welcoming…all of my nerves melted away! I still fantasize about him saving me from a burning building, carrying me in his arms, with me screaming, “My hero!”
Soapdom: You and about 50 million other red blooded American femmes! Tell us a little about the character of Dr. Kelly Lee.
MJ: Dr. Kelly Lee is the best gynecologist in the entire world! Okay, maybe not the world…but at least in all of Port Charles. She is smart, flirty, fun, sassy and has a good heart. Kelly has been single for a while now, but I know she would love to be in love and find the man of her dreams. She is afraid to love and be loved and she has a very big secret. You have to watch Night Shift to find out more!
Soapdom: Is Kelly at all like you personally? If so, how? If not, why not?
MJ: Kelly Lee is a lot like me in many ways. I can be pretty serious when it comes to work, but I also love to have fun with the girls! I’m a firm believer in women friendships. I’m also very protective of my heart and can relate to my character when it comes to love. However, there is no way I could drink as much as Kelly Lee does! She drinks like a truck driver! After one drink, I stick to my Shirley Temples. And I am definitely much more of a wimp when it comes to blood than my character is. I get faint when I see a paper cut on my finger, let alone blood and incisions from a C-Section or a Hysterectomy!!! I’m getting nauseated right now just talking about it.
Soapdom: Have there been any funny or outlandish things that have happened on set so far?
MJ: I remember I was doing a very serious doctor scene on set once. I was conveying some bad news to a patient and during my lines I remember thinking to myself, “Is it cold in here or is it just me?” A few seconds later, I looked down at my legs and I realized that I was cold because the waist band of my pant scrubs got loose and fell to the floor and I was doing the scene in my underwear!
Soapdom: In your opinion, what are the major differences between General Hospital, and GH Night Shift?
MJ: Night Shift is definitely a bit edgier and steamier than General Hospital. And since it’s an episodic, there is less repeat of the storylines. Also, the NS cast is overall a younger group of people, so the energy feels different. There are a lot of new cast members on Night Shift that are pretty hot, so tune in and get ready to salivate!
Soapdom: When will you find out if Night Shift gets picked up for additional episodes?
MJ: I don’t know! Soon I hope. Fingers crossed!
Soapdom: You bet. We’ve got our fingers and toes crossed! Now for the burning question. What animal sounds do you make? (I do a pretty good elephant sound, myself. LOL)
MJ: As for my famous animal sounds…I am very good at doing a hungry monkey, an angry chicken and a cat in heat.
Soapdom: If you could do any other job, what would it be and why.
MJ: I would probably work at an aquarium. One of those people that hold a microphone and say, “And to my right here is our Plycostamus named Harry. Otherwise known as a ‘sucker fish.’ Harry likes to eat algae and fish poo.” I’ve always been fascinated with sea life. As a kid, I would wish that I could be a barnacle and live on a whale or a boat. I wanted to be a part of the ocean and live with the fishes.
Speaking of living with denizens of the deep, Noji does just that. She makes her home in Los Angeles with a 13-inch catfish named “Nessie.”
|< Prev||Next >|