It was really important that you guys, people with active voices representing the community, like [Fresh Off the Boat]. Because of that approval and support, that gave a lot of people [permission to enjoy the show]. You know how white people go to a Chinese restaurant and see all Chinese people there? You’re like, “This is a good restaurant.” –Randall Park
Last week I flew to ABC Studios in L.A. to interview Randall Park and the producers of Fresh Off the Boat. I appreciate that ABC Disney sees how important Asian American voices are in conversations about this groundbreaking sitcom.
Before my fellow Asian American bloggers sat down and accosted Randall, Nahnatchka “Natch” Khan, Kourtney Kang, and Melvin Mar with our questions, we got an advanced look of tonight’s new episode. “License to Sell” airs tonight on ABC at 8PM ET. This week’s episode is about Jessica Huang’s budding career as a realtor and is hilarious. (As usual.) Louis’s (Randall Park) storyline is actually based off something from writer/producer Nahnatchka Khan’s childhood. Don’t miss it!
First of all, everyone we spoke to, from the team at ABC Disney to the Fresh Off the Boat folks, were incredibly nice and generous with their time. My fellow Asian American bloggers and I asked a ton of questions and they were happy to answer all of them. They weren’t afraid to discuss race and some of the criticism the show has received.
The pilot received criticism for the scene where Walter–who is African American– calls Eddie a “chink” (which actually happened to the real Eddie Huang and is in his memoir). Natch explained why keeping this scene in the pilot was integral to the show:
We knew we only had one chance and we had to come out swinging. Let’s not water it down. We wanted it to be real. When you are a person of color, that is always part of your life…If we had one chance to tell one story in one pilot, let’s come out and say it. These people are moving to the south. Nobody looks like them. It’s on people’s minds. Let’s just go for it. Let’s call it like it is and see how they respond to it.
In episode 8 “Phillip Goldstein,” Walter and Eddie find common ground over the Beastie Boys and become friends. I was glad to see this part of the story come full circle and amends were made. When the pilot was picked up, Natch was glad they had “more episodes allowed us to look at that arc…and [see] what’s an interesting way to evolve the story in a way that we can all be proud of.”
When asked what he wanted kids to take away from Fresh Off the Boat, Randall responded that he wants them to “enjoy the show, not to think too much about it and have it be a regular thing their life.” He iterates that
This [Asian Americans] is normal. Kids growing up, all they know is a black president. The next president will be white and they’ll think that’s weird. I hope our show will help usher in that way of thinking for these kids as opposed to our childhood where we were always deprived.
Producer Melvin Mar hopes that the show will encourage the younger generations of Asian Americans to “learn to speak up a little bit. Don’t be a problem, but learn to own a little bit of it.” I think that’s good advice for everyone. It’s important to learn how to speak up for yourself and the community you represent.
What struck me most is that Randall, Natch, Kourtney, and Melvin are incredibly passionate about Fresh Off the Boat. They all emphasized how the studio and network supported of the show from the very beginning. Melvin let it drop that ABC Disney is campaigning for Fresh Off the Boat for an Emmy nomination. Fingers crossed!
We discussed many different things about the show, but I want to leave you with advice from Randall Park:
Regardless of your race, the show emphasizes “Be yourself.” Every character is different. Every character is unapologetic. Every character comes from a place of love. That’s a good message. Be yourself.
And yes, I did get my selfie with Randall Park.
L-R: Stephanie Huang Porter, Tee Burgess, TerriAnn Van Gosliga, Randall Park, Melvin Mar, Thien-Kim Lam, Grace Hwang Lynch; Image Credit: Cookies and Clogs
Read more about the interview at my fellow bloggers’ sites:
- Randall Park and Fresh Off the Boat Producers Meet With Asian Bloggers (HapaMama)
- Just Be Yourself #FreshOfftheBoat (Frankly, My Dear)
- Fresh Off the Boat Interviews with Randall Park & Melvin Mar and Kourtney Kang & Nahnatchka Khan (Cookies and Clogs)
Special thanks to BC Disney for recognizing the influence of the Asian American bloggers and flying me to California to meet actor Randall Park and the producers of the hit sitcom Fresh Off the Boat. All opinions expressed are my own.