Ambition comes in all sizes as 13-year-old actress, Momona Tamada, takes on the iconic role of Claudia Kishi in the reboot of the 1990 TV series, The Baby-Sitters Club, based on the popular books by Ann M. Martin. The role of Claudia made an indelible impression on this Vancouver-raised teenager, as it did for many Asian-Americans. For Momona, who was raised by Japanese parents, originally watching Claudia on-screen was life-altering. This beloved character, arguably the most popular in the Club, spawned a Netflix documentary (The Claudia Kishi Club) as well as a podcast.
Momona confesses that the weight of this career-defining role was not lost on her. “I definitely feel the pressure, for sure, because Claudia is so iconic. Also, growing up, I looked up to the few Asian actors that I saw on screen,” she says. “And so being able to be that for younger generations and beyond is so cool. I’m always trying my best to be setting good examples for people.”
A fan of the novel series, she says, “Seeing a character that had so many things in common with me was just so cool. And Claudia is so free-spirited and so bold – she’s a huge inspiration for me,” she explains. “I read the books in elementary school and I absolutely loved them, so being able to be a part of this reboot was a huge dream come true for me.”
In contrast to Claudia, Momona is a serious, hard-working student. “I’ve never had any problems with my grades, but it’s something that I know a lot of kids struggle with, so that’s one thing I definitely didn't identify with Claudia.” When Claudia isn’t embroiled in her Vice Presidential duties in The Baby-Sitter’s Club, she turns her gaze to fashion, describing herself as a ‘fashion maven.’ Momona says, “I was interested in fashion but I wasn’t huge into fashion. But after portraying Claudia, her fashion sense definitely influenced mine. And made me think more outside the box when it came to fashion.
“Also, I love art and I’ve always been a super-creative person. Claudia’s personality has influenced mine. She taught me to always do what you think is right, and not worry about what other people think of you.”
Momona is an award-winning dancer and has been competing since the age of four. She’s performed in the B.C. Summer Games Opening Ceremonies and with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet
“I always knew I wanted to be in this industry but maybe more with dance, though, after my agent recommended I go to some acting auditions – I gave that a try. Although the first one I did didn’t go the best,” she chuckles, “but I realized that was where I wanted to be. I fell in love with acting right away.”
This has been a big year for Tamada, she also stars in To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You and is soon to reprise her third film in the franchise, as well as playing lead roles in such critically acclaimed movies as The Main Event, last year’s The Terror, and Amazon’s The Boys.
Momona was raised with her younger brother, though it doesn’t appear he will follow in her thespian footsteps. “He’s a skateboarder, and he’s pretty good at it,” she says. “My mom is managing me now but she’s always been super artistic, which is where I get my creative side from. She used to be an esthetician and a nail artist, so she’s used to very detailed work. And my dad builds log homes, so he does a lot of work around the house.”
The cast includes former teen icon Alicia Silverstone, 43, who starred in the ‘90s hit Clueless, among many other roles, including Batman & Robin (1997) and, more recently, The Lodge (2019) and Bad Therapy (2020). Momona admits she was a little starstruck by Silverstone. “I loved watching her in Clueless. When I met her my jaw just dropped,” she recalls. “It was such an honor to work with her.”
And who would be her ultimate dream co-star?
“Probably Natalie Portman. She was my age when she did The Professional. She was incredible, as she still is now, so to work with her would be a dream come true.”
The Baby-Sitters Club reboot has already garnered rave reviews in the US, and this relatively chaste series about our favorite teen entrepreneurs in Stoneybrook, Connecticut who run a local babysitting service, remains popular with today’s audiences.
“It’s popular because it’s so relatable,” Momoma explains. “It brings back nostalgia, the books are already super relatable, and everyone can really see themselves in the show. The characters really build their own personality by mixing and matching personalities from the other girls.” Life lessons can be gleaned from watching the show. “Yes. The problems these girls are facing are very real to this time,” she says. “People should know that they’re not alone. That’s not only important for kids to know but parents as well.”