Randall Park (The Interview) and Constance Wu star in the new ABC comedy series Fresh Off the Boat which generated its fair share of controversy before its premiere on February 4, 2015. The series is based on Eddie Huang’s memoir and although the premise was questioned prior to its debut, critics have been getting behind the series after viewing the first episodes. Time calls it “a funny, smart comedy about the complexities of being different in America” while Variety says the series “combines the nostalgia of The Wonder Years and The Goldbergs with a specific take on the immigrant experience in general, and Asian-Americans in particular.” Variety also praised the cast and singled out Constance Wu as the series’ possible breakout star.
Wu was among the cast who participated in the 2015 Television Critics Association’s winter tour and during a press conference she spoke about the comedy series. Asked about playing a character who’s a great combination of sarcastic and loving, Wu replied, “Well, Randall [Park] and I met both Jessica and Louis Huang. We flew down to Orlando. We saw their house, the house that Eddie spent his high school [years in]. […]One of the most refreshing things about Jessica for me was that she doesn’t care if people like her or not because she has a very strong sense of self. So, she’s not catering her personality to other people’s anxieties about her. And I think that’s the spirit I tried to take into my character, is not catering my character to the anxieties or perceptions of other people as well and just being motivated by her sense of self worth and her fierce love for her kids.”
As for increasing opportunities for Asians in Hollywood, Wu believes there have been improvements in recent years. “I feel like there’s starting to be more opportunities for Asians to be, like, first and second leads,” said Wu. “Whereas just for the past several years that I’ve been an actress, I do think that a lot of shows are willing to cast Asians, but always in, like, the third or fourth.”
Asked why she thinks casting opportunities have opened up now and what has changed recently to make it that way, Wu answered, “I actually think it’s a little bit bold to say it’s definitely changed. I feel like it is starting to change, and we are a part of that. If this is a success and it does well, it will encourage people to invest in shows that do have Asians as the first lead, not as the third lead. So I think the landscape is changing with digital everything now. Networks do have to try different things, and I think it’s very bold of ABC to have this really diverse programming.”
The Plot (Courtesy of ABC):
It’s 1995 and 11-year-old hip-hop loving Eddie Huang has just moved with his family from Chinatown in Washington D.C. to suburban Orlando. They quickly discover things are very different there. Orlando doesn’t even have a Chinatown . . . unless you count the Huang house.
Eddie’s dad, Louis, has dragged the family to the ‘burbs to pursue his version of the American dream, opening Cattleman’s Ranch Steakhouse, a struggling western-themed restaurant. Louis thinks that the best way to get customers in the door is to hire a white host to greet them and make them feel comfortable. Eddie’s mom, Jessica, has agreed to the move, but she finds Orlando a strange place — from the rollerblading stay-at-home moms, to the hospital-like grocery stores, to the fact that the humidity has ruined her hair.
Meanwhile, Eddie is just trying to figure out his place in this new world, which is proving extremely difficult. When the kids at school make fun of his homemade Chinese lunch, he begs his mom to get him “white people lunch”… aka, Lunchables. Like one of his idols, The Notorious B.I.G, Eddie’s a guy with mad dreams — first, get a seat at the table. Second, meet Shaq. Third, change the game (possibly with the help of Shaq). It’s a classic immigrant story, seen through the eyes of a first-generation Asian American kid.
– By Fred Topel
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