Charlyne Yi: Geek Love

Movies Features Charlyne Yi
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Hometown: Los Angeles
Film: Paper Heart
For Fans Of: Jim Jarmusch, Michael Cera, Rainn Wilson

In recent years, there’s been no shortage of well-soundtracked "alternative" romantic comedies, and most have hinged on a very particular archetype: the unassuming nerd girl. Equal parts brains and quirk, 23-year-old Charlyne Yi is a real-world version of those characters—and she has no reservations about that. "I’m sort of a dork," she deadpans.

In Paper Heartindie heartthrob Michael Cera that she doesn’t believe in love. But after she falls for Cera, the film’s focus shifts to follow the couple as they stutter and stumble through the growing pains of young romance.

Paper Heart debuted at Sundance 2009, and was immediately hailed as a breakout hit. “We were really surprised by the reaction—after Sundance we expected to only get screenings in L.A. and maybe New York,” Yi says in her staccato voice. "Instead it blew up into this big cultural thing, like it’s our generation’s next great love story or something."

Though she shrugs off real-life comparisons to her on-screen persona (contrary to Internet rumors, she and Cera aren’t actually dating), Yi has some first-class geek credentials. She’s an accordion whiz, is working on a comic book for Oni Press and draws crowds with her surreal and self-aware comedy act. "I’m already doing more shows," she says of her recent return to the standup circuit. "While we were filming I went from performing three, four nights a week to once a month at most. It’s one of the things I missed the most."

She also has an HBO series and another movie in the works, but her lifelong ambition is just to rock out a little. "It’s one of those pipe dreams I keep coming back to over and over, ever since I could play an instrument—just to be in a band and perform with your friends."

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