Exclusive Fresh Off the Boat (ABC) Interview: Constance Wu On Why The Comedy Will Speak To Everyone

Fresh Off the Boat is set to take ABC’s comedy lineup by storm when it premieres Tuesday, February 10th at 8/7c. Set in the ’90s and based on comedian Eddie Huang’s memoir, the series follows an Asian American family as they give up life in the metropolitan world of Washington D.C. to open a restaurant in small town Florida.

Anchoring the series is 26-year-old Constance Wu, a relative newcomer who is taking on the role of Jessica, the mother to three children who is trying to make the best out of a situation that finds her stranded in a the strange world of suburbia. TV Equals spoke to Wu about what makes Fresh Off the Boat so refreshing, how she prepared for the role of Jessica, and much more.

TV Equals: You have guest starred in television series in the past, but how does it feel to step into a lead role?

Constance Wu: It’s different for sure. I have to be a lot more farsighted in terms of the arc of the story of the episode and also the arc of this family. When you go into a guest star role, like for example on Law & Order, you are focused on this one particular crime and how it affects this character, but when you are carrying a show as a series regular, I really had to create a biography and a long narrative of a history and a future for this character so it will inform my choices in a more resonant way.

TV Equals: How does it feel to play a mom?

Constance Wu: That was originally a challenge. Obviously, I don’t have kids of my own and I am very far from that stage of my life, so that is where a lot of work of the imagination has to come in. I drew from the book a little, which is a little bit more real than network TV would allow.

In terms of drawing parallels from my own life, I made sure every choice that I made came from a place of love, protection and family, which are areas I have connection to in my own life. From there just imagining what it would be like to have three children and how it would affect little things like how your posture would be affected and how that would impact the way you speak. Just imagining what it would be like and then utilizing those imaginary stories into a whole person.

TV Equals: The pilot is absolutely hilarious, and it feels like you are going to be a breakout star once it airs. Are you prepared for the extra attention?

Constance Wu: I guess you never know how prepared you are for something until it happens. I am a strong believer in the idea that in general you start before you are ready and you learn as you go along. I think even if I was incredibly prepped, no matter how much prep I had, it’s going to be a struggle and something I have to acclimate myself to. I hope I’m prepared.

TV Equals: What do you think makes Fresh Off the Boat a standout comedy?

Constance Wu: A lot of the press is focusing on how it is only the second time in history that a network has featured an entirely Asian American cast, and I think it stands out not because of what everyone else is saying about it being an Asian comedy, but because at this point in America, the Asian experience is so incredibly diverse that the story has become more of an archetype for the immigrant experience, not the Asian experience. I think that is a very unifying idea. The fact that we could unify ourselves via laughter is just one of the warmest ways you could do it. It really has become part of the immigrant experience to be new in town. Laughing over our similarities instead of fighting over our differences, that is what I think will make it special.

TV Equals: Can you tease what we can expect from the series going forward?

Constance Wu: There are many different possible scenarios. It could hit some nerves, good nerves and bad nerves. A lot of the sensitivity I think has been misdirected to parts of the pilot that we actually don’t make any jokes of, such as the strong mother type or the fact that my character has an accent, which in real life she has an accent. We are very aware of not making that the joke. People will always laugh at the wrong things and I think it would be a disservice to the immigrant experience to cater our show toward the people who don’t understand. We are doing our best to tell a truthful story with a little bit of lightheartedness.

TV Equals: Do you have a favorite scene or moment from the pilot that you can discuss?

Constance Wu: I do; Hudson Yang’s (Eddie) performance particularly in the scene where he is in the lunchroom. At first he gets really excited when the cool kids invite him over to eat with them and then when they see his different lunch they shun him. I think Hudson’s performance in that scene when he goes from really an excitement about being accepted to a real sense of shame about his very self and people making fun of that. I just think Hudson’s performance is so real and so human. I really love that moment in the pilot.

TV Equals: If you could guest star on any show what show would it be and why?

Constance Wu: Louis CK’s show, Louis because I think that his comedy comes from a place of self-awareness that is neither vain or overly self-deprecating. It’s honest and funny and I think his writing is really beautiful.

Fresh Off the Boat will have a special premiere on Wednesday, February 4th at 8:30pm before moving to its regular time slot on Tuesday, February 10th at 8/7c on ABC.


Follow me on Twitter @sljbowman