Bill and I always love checking out new shows that come out. That is why when I traveled to LA last week, I was beyond excited to check out Fresh Off The Boat! Didn’t watch the premiere last week? Here’s what the show is about:
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.
“Fresh Off the Boat” stars Randall Park as Louis, Constance Wu as Jessica, Hudson Yang as Eddie, Forrest Wheeler as Emery and Ian Chen as Evan. Eddie Huang provides the voice-over narration. “Fresh Off the Boat” was written by Nahnatchka Khan, who also serves as executive producer. Kourtney Kang is a writer and Co-Executive Producer. Jake Kasdan and Melvin Mar are executive producers, and Eddie Huang is producer.
Now, that I’ve got all that out of the way – I know you want to know what I think. I actually got to watch the first two shows before I left. They were on ABC on Wednesday night (that was a special showing. It normally is on Tuesdays from 8 – 8:30.) We really like Fresh Off The Boat. Since the show takes place in the 90s, there are just so many references that I absolutely love. Yes, the family is Chinese, but the issues they go through are universal. I moved 7 times before I was in 2nd grade – I still remember trying to fit in every time I had to change schools. Even you don’t move a ton, I think we can all relate to trying to find ourselves and our place in this crazy world. Plus, I love a show that makes me laugh, and this does just that.
As part of my trip to LA, I was able to actually meet and interview both Nahnatchka Khan and Kourtney Kang. One of the first questions we asked was where they went to for inspiration about growing up with immigrant parents. Nahnatchka had the best answer:
My Parents were both born in Iran, and my brother and I were born here. When you’re from an immigrant family, you have to explain things. You have to be that bridge between your parents – the sort of Old School and the New School – explain things to them that I feel like other people’s Parents just understand. I remember like when KFC was a big. My Mom didn’t understand that you would pay for food that came in a bucket. She was like that’s a cleaning item. If I’m paying for it, I want it on a platter or a plate.
That what’s so fun about doing a show like this. It’s like when you explain things, you sound a little bit crazy. Things that we sort of take for granted like in the Nascar run down (this occurs in one of the later shows you will see) where when you sort of really break it down, you sound a little crazy when you talk about it. This perspective allows us to shine the spotlight on some of the things that we take for granted.
We also asked about the characters and if they are based off real people. For those who don’t know, Fresh Off The Boat is based off of the memoir Fresh Off The Boat written by Eddie Huang. Nahnatchka told us:
It was inspired by Eddie’s book so that was the initial sort of inspiration. It was him, his two brothers, his mother, his father and his Grandmother. Once the show got greenlit, we put together a writing staff. Everybody started to contribute stuff from their lives. For me, it’s really channeling my parents and my brothers and my experience. That’s what is so great about television. It’s a collective collaboration. For a show to succeed, you have to have a lot of people’s stories and people have to be able to relate to it even if they don’t have that exact same experience. If you’re from any kind of immigrant experience or if you just felt like an outsider for whatever reason, this is a show that you can relate to.
Kourtney also commented:
It’s such a relatable show. There’s so many entry points, and it’s all based in something so real that like everybody feels. Everybody feels like they don’t fit in at some point for some reason. If this was a Writer’s Room right now, I’m sure we could go around and everyone could tell 5 stories about something that happened to them and you could use any of those stories in this. I think that’s what people latch onto.
I then got to ask about the show being in the 90s. It’s one of my favorite parts of it, because really it just reminds me of that time. I mean – who doesn’t want to go back 20 years?
The first question that always sort of comes up is why set it 20 years ago, like why not make it present day. You could still tell the same story. For me, it was really important to keep it 20 years ago because of the references but also because it was the last time before the Internet sort of exploded. You couldn’t just get online and like find other people who thought like you or liked music like you. You had to make it work with where you were. You had to befriend kids at school or the neighborhood, and if not, then you were alone. That reinforced their feeling of isolation and feeling like we need to make this work.
We also asked about how many kids they had to audition to find the perfect ones.
It was tough. We had an open casting call all across the country. We found Forrest and Ian here locally and we found Hudson (who plays Eddie) because he put himself on tape. He lives in Brooklyn. We flew him out, and we worked with him. He’d never done anything before. He really had that sort of raw authenticity that we were looking for in young Eddie, and Forrest was so perfect as Emery, the Counterpart to Eddie, who everything comes easy for. Ian was so perfect as Evan where just he is the perfect Momma’s little son, the youngest.
The most fun part of the night was interviewing Ian Chen (“Evan Huang”) and Forrest Wheeler (“Emery Huang”). These boys are 8 and 10, and totally reminded me of my kids (who are 7 and 11). They totally made us laugh.
We started our interview asking them what’s the most exciting part about being on TV. Forrest told us:
I think it’s just seeing yourself on TV and not believing that it’s you. When I watch it, I ask is that really me or is that just some other person that they edited?
We then asked them what they did with their first paycheck. Both boys put their first paychecks in their college funds!
We then asked them if their characters were a lot like them in real life. Forrest told us:
Yes. The only difference between Emery and me is that I don’t have girlfriends yet. Maybe in a couple of years.
Ian told us:
First of all, I do not tattletale. I don’t really tell on anybody because, well, I’m the big brother.
My favorite answers had to be when we asked them what their friends think about them being on the show. Forrest told us that they think it’s really cool. It was Ian’s answer that I am still laughing over:
They think it’s really cool, too. One of my friends actually gave me an Oreo. Like, two Oreos. And he goes I love your shows.
Having a son this age, I can totally see this conversation happening between 8 year olds! LOL
Having seen the first 4 shows, I can tell you that I really do like this series. It is something this white girl can relate to. Plus, after our interviews with these incredible people involved with the show, I have a new appreciation for it!
Will you be watching Fresh Off The Boat? Did you learn anything new about this series or the people involved with it?