On my trip to LA for the McFarland USA press junket, we were also able to attend a screening of the two newest episodes of Fresh of the Boat (that air TONIGHT) as well as interview Nahnatchka Khan (Writer & Executive Producer), Kourtney Kang (Co-Executive Producer), Ian Chen (“Evan Huang”) and Forrest Wheeler (“Emery Huang”).
We arrived at the ABC Building about the same time that Ian and Forrest showed up and so we got to hang out with them and get pictures before we went inside. They are so cute and full of life. It was really a joy to meet them.
We all made our way up to the room in the building where we would be doing the screening and we were treated to dinner while we watched. It was great. Afterwards, we were able to have Nahnatchka and Kourtney sit down with us and have a Q&A about the show.
Here is what we learned:
How did you come up with the idea?
Nahnatchka Khan (NK) : Melvin Mar who is one of the other Exec Producers sent me a Memoir that Eddie Huang wrote and I read it, I thought it was fantastic and there was a section of it that focused on his Family moving to Orlando in 1995 so his Dad could own and operate a Steak House. I just thought, what a great setting that would be for a TV Show. So that’s what I sort of pitched to Melvin and Jake Kasden, who’s his Producing Partner and we took that to 20th or Studio, who was immediately on board with it and we pitched it to the Networks and mutliple Networks wanted it and ABC like Paul Lee and Samie Falvey who’s the President and the Head of Development [respectively] were like here’s why it belongs at ABC and here’s our commitment to diversity.
And they weren’t just words coming from those guys. They backed it up by their schedule, and so we thought it was the right fit. Then the Casting process and all that fun stuff began. But yeah, it was a cool journey.
How many kids did you guys get through before you found the right ones?
Who do you go back to for inspiration about growing up with Immigrant Parents?
NK : Man, we, it was tough. We had an Open Casting Call all across the Country and we found Forrest and Ian here locally. Hudson, who plays Eddie, put himself on tape. He lives in Brooklyn. So then we flew him out and we worked with him. He really had that 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. And Ian was so perfect as Evan where he is the perfect Momma’s little son, the youngest.
NK : My Parents were both born in Iran and my Brother and I were born here and it was that exact experience where when you’re from an Immigrant Family, that’s what you have to do is explain things. You have to sort of be that bridge between your Parents. You know, the sort of Old School and the New School, and explain things to them that I feel like other people’s Parents just understand.
And like the things that we sort of take for granted like in the Nascar run down where when you sort of really break it down, you sound a little crazy when you talk about it. And that’s this perspective the Immigrant story allows to kind of shine the spotlight on, you know, some of the things that we take for granted, and make fun of them.
Are these Characters based on people in your life?
NK : It was inspired by Eddie’s book so that was the initial inspiration for him and his two Brothers and his Mother and Father and his Grandmother. Once the Show got Greenlit, we put together a Writing Staff, then everybody started to contribute stuff from their lives and even in the Pilot for me it’s really channeling my families experience. So 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 KANG (KK) : That’s what I think is so neat about the Show is because even though it’s like this sort of like Asian thing, it’s really about this like broader sense of not feeling so much like you’re a part of things. I feel like it’s not just about the Asian or at any point when you’re different from what everybody else is doing. The great things about being Staff is there’s so many stories and it becomes bigger than just Eddie’s story. It’s a little bit of not just such funny stories. It all sort of becomes…
NK : The Collective and it’s bigger than any of us in such a cool way.
KK : It’s such a relatable [show]. I think that’s one of the great things that Notch did in developing the Show is that there’s so many entry points and it’s all based on something so real that everybody feels. Everybody feels like they don’t fit in at some point for some reason. So that’s what people latch onto, hopefully.
I love the ’90s references. How do you pick up which stuff you’re gonna go with?
NK : That was a conscious decision when we were developing it. The first question that always comes up is ‘why set it 20 years ago, why not make it present day? You could still tell the same story.’ And 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 know when you couldn’t just get online and find other people who thought like you or liked Music like you and 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. And that sort of reinforced their feeling of isolation and feeling like we need to make this work, and we’re following our dream. There’s no room for failure and so with that like as the sort of general idea of keeping it 20 years ago, we didn’t want that to be like the joke.
Do you like Steven King?
NK : Yes I do like Steven King and when we were breaking that story in the Writers Room, we were trying to figure out what bonds these two [Honey and Jessica] have. What do they bond over? What’s interesting? And there’s something really interesting about the idea that Steven King sets a lot of stories in places that should feel safe but aren’t. And so I liked the idea that Jessica feels that about Suburbia. You know, that it is familiar but she doesn’t know what’s coming around every corner. It’s a little bit like her going through this kind of story, not knowing what to expect. So I really liked the idea of making that the connection. Then we just licensed Delores Claiborne cause that was the Movie that was out in the Theaters but was cool. We never worked..(pauses and looks to Kourtney)…have you worked with kids before?
KK : No not really.
NK : That was a new thing working with the kids because I don’t know if you guys have heard this term called Pumpkining. It’s based on obviously on Cinderella but it’s a term when you’re shooting that the kids Pumpkin at a certain time. So it’s like 5:00 or 6:00 and they’re done and on the Call sheet, it’s like Forest is Pumpkining at 6 so you have to be done with Forest and it’s like what? Well we’re not ready. We have so much, we need to have Forest say all these things. And Ian’s Pumpkin is a half hour earlier cause he’s younger.
We were running around a little bit trying to make that work with the kids but it was really fun. It was great because also kids give you stuff [different]. You have the line on the page and they say it and then they say it in a different way that you never thought or intended and it makes it feel real and bring it all to life, it was really cool.
Is there a lot of Improv in the Scripting?
NK : We have Alts, jokes that we give to all the Actors too where we just want to try different things and then these guys are all so funny they’ll sometimes just riff and Randall especially is great at that. Constance is great and I think sometimes if Randall or Constance say things that are unexpected, right? (looking at Ian and Forrest) And you just have to sort of figure out how you’re gonna respond. And a lot of times those wind up, you know, those takes in editing are the funniest because they’re the most genuine.
So I think it’s really great and important to like keep that scene, so you can keep that spark, that Creative energy alive so it’s not just reading the same thing over and over.
The interview with Kourtney and Nahnatchka was fun to listen to and participate in. They are amazing ladies with a lot of great ideas that I think will really make this series great!
Next up were the cute boys Ian and Forrest who were really fun to interview and made us all laugh. They have the best answers to the questions because well, they are kids (ages 8 and 10) and they were really genuine. They talked back and forth and laughed. It was really great!
What’s the most exciting part about being on TV?
FW (Forrest Wheeler) : I think it’s just seeing yourself and seeing yourself on TV and really can’t believing that it’s you. [LAUGHS] Because when I watch it, is that really me or is that just some other person that they edited? [LAUGHS].
IC (Ian Chen) : Oh playing after we do the work. [LAUGHS]
What did you guys do with your first paycheck?
FW : College fund. At least that’s what I did.
IC : Well, I, I didn’t- what? What did you say?
FW : That’s what I did.
IC : What?
FW : I put my check in my college…
IC : Oh yeah, yeah, me too, me too. I did, yeah.
Have you guys done any acting before this?
IC : Yes.
FW : Yes.
What did you do?
IC : Well, I did, I did lots of commercials, and I think maybe aft- maybe after I got the job, I got Grey’s Anatomy.
FW : I didn’t, oh, okay. Uh, I’ve done, I’ve done a few commercials, and I’m also done a couple other series like New Girl and Community.
Do you think your characters are a lot like you in real life?
FW : Yes. The only difference between Emery and me is that, uh, I don’t have girlfriends yet. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] Maybe in a couple of years. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]
Does that make that part fun?
FW : Yes, [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]. Yes.
IC : Uh, so what was the question again?
Are you like your character on the show?
IC : I’m maybe, like, a tiny bit. Uh, some of the reasons are really tiny but, uh [AUDIENCE LAUGHS], and, first of all, I do not tattletale. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] I don’t really tell on anybody because, well, I’m the big brother and…
FW : And no one to tell on.
IC : Yeah, well, I have a baby brother, like…
FW : He doesn’t really do anything.
IC : Yeah, he doesn’t really do anything.
What do you like most about acting?
FW : I like meeting all the new people and learning different things, like learning how the camera works, how the art department works.
IC : Yeah, yeah.
FW : And editing, I guess. Meeting people.
IC : I really like the acting part or the on- being onset part. I really like trying new things out because the sound and the camera people, they let me try the cameras and the, the booms out…
FW : He’s a good boom person. Right, guy? Right? Right? Boom man- sound.
IC : Sound. Just sound.
What do you wanna be when you grow up?
FW : I wanna be an entrepreneur. [AUDIENCE RESPONDS] Well, I maybe wanna be a pilot or a captain of a cruise ship, or own a cruise ship company, or I wanna be a hotel owner. I wanna be a CEO…
IC : Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.
FW : So basically an entrepreneur, but, yes.
Do you have school on set or are you homeschooled, or what do you for school?
IC : We had school on set.
FW : He had homeschool.
IC : Yeah, we had homeschool. We went to…
FW : Connections?
IC : Yeah, Connections Academy and then after the shooting, I switched back and we finished the semester…
FW : Yeah.
IC : And then I went back to normal school two weeks ago or a week ago. Two weeks including today.
Do you miss it when you’re not in normal school? Or do you like the break?
IC : I like normal school better.
FC: I think I like the break. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] They’re both really good in different ways, though.
Did you watch the show on TV last night?
BOTH : Yes.
FW : I watched it with him.
IC : Yeah, yeah.
FW : We had a big party…
IC : We had a big party with all- we had fifty-six people [AUDIENCE RESPONDS], right? We had a lot of people. We had two friends and my friends, and some other people.
Do you guys hang out together all the time, now?
FW : Yeah.
IC : We go to his house, eat dinner, or when Hudson comes back from New York, sometimes he visits us.
FW : Yeah, and takes our things.
IC : And then we go eat together.
FW : Yeah, and do things.
What do your friends think about you being on the show?
FW : They think it’s really cool.
IC : They, they, uh, they think it’s really cool, too. One of my friends actually gave me an Oreo. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] Like, two Oreos. And he goes, like, I love your shows.
What do you guys like to do when you’re not acting?
IC : I like to do sports.
FW : I like to play.
Have you actually seen gremlins?
FW : No. Not yet. Maybe, though. I might see it tonight. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]
When stuff on the show, like the computer noises and stuff, do you have to have people explain that stuff to you…?
FW : I think mostly we understand.
IC : Yeah most of it we understand.
FW : There, there was one scene that I had to do where I had to talk about a pager, so I needed that to be explained. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] That’s pretty much the only thing, though.
IC : I pretty much understand everything. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]
Overall I really enjoyed the night. Watching the show, meeting with the producers and some of the cast was a lot of fun. The show is set in the 90’s and centers on 12 year old hip-hop loving Eddie Haung (Played by Hudson Yang) and is family that just moved from DC’s Chinatown to Orlando. His father Louis Huang (Played by Randall Park) owns the Cattleman’s Ranch restaurant.
Eddie’s mom Jessica Huang (Played by Constance Wu) loves her family fiercely and does everything she thinks is best to help them. The two younger brothers Evan Huang (played by Ian Chen) and Emery Huang (played by Forrest Wheeler) are a great addition to the comedy of the show. The family is in pursuit of the American Dream but is dealing with culture shock and trials of being away from family and friends. There is something for everyone to relate to in this adult comedy.
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The show airs Tuesdays at 8|7c on ABC so be sure to tune in tonight and watch.