by TAMMY TARNG
Visual Communications, a non-profit media arts organization, hosted the 4th Conference for Creative Content (C3) on Dec. 6, featuring an exclusive panel for the upcoming TV show Fresh Off the Boat. After a screening of the pilot episode, Amy Hill (All-American Girl) moderated a panel which included actor Randall Park, Executive Producers Nahnatchka Khan and Melvin Mar, and ABC’s Executive Vice President of Comedy Samie Kim Falvey.
The pilot takes you back to the era of Shaq, Nas shirts and Lunchables, but don’t let the nostalgia fool you. The main character Eddie, played by Hudson Yang, faces a struggle that is still very relevant today: finding the compromise between standing up for oneself and wanting to be more like everyone else. When Eddie gets rejected from the white kids’ table for having smelly lunch, he gives in and tells his mother that he wants “white people lunch.”
As Khan said, “I think [the show is] all about the specific stories we decide to tell and the different access points for the viewer…the idea of just not fitting in. And also the idea of being in that sort of first generation experience…it’s a very specific point of view, where you know where you come from is so different from where you’re going. And I think it’s almost like you are a scout that like goes out to the world and reports back to your family, and tells them what’s going on. Like Kentucky Fried Chicken to your mother, you know what I mean?” And on the flip side, that observation provides a mirror for Americans watching it to celebrate their traditions as they laugh at them. In that sense, the show translates to something very universally American to the audience.
Described by the executive producers as the “little show that could,” Fresh Off the Boat has been receiving positive feedback from the many screenings that have been held so far. Park admits that the entire process — from filming, to the pilot getting picked up, to being on panels such as C3– has left him “mind blown every day.”
And the support of the Asian American community continues to be a critical part of the show’s spirit. Falvey points out,”Having the support of the Asian American community is very important to us, mostly because this is a story from an Asian point of view from an authentic story, and we didn’t want it to be perceived as anything but that.”
The show’s aim is to be one that doesn’t apologize. It’s very specific: mid-90s, Asian family in Orlando with a running theme of hip-hop. “The embracing of that by the audience has been tremendous,” says Khan. “They get it. Even within his own family, Eddie is the black sheep. You know? So there’s so many layers, if you want to start peeling the onion, that is meaningful to people –that people relate to on all different kinds of levels.”
So while the show’s premise (and title) is based off of Eddie Huang’s 2013 memoir, the show’s growth hopes to encapsulate a connection with audiences of varied ages and races through a universal, human understanding and connection.
ABC had been looking for an immigrant family show for a while. “We felt like it really was the original American story, and it was not being told.” Falvey explains. Pilots had been shot and different stories explored, but this was the one that clicked. “We knew it would really transcend race and be this love letter to America if executed properly.”
And yet, money talks. A selling point for ABC was the spending power of Asians. At the beginning of C3, Nielsen — a sponsor of the conference –spoke of reasons Asians are a valuable audience. The Asian American community is one of the fastest growing, has a huge amount of buying power, spends more time watching videos than other groups, and has a higher video viewing rate on tablets and mobile phones than other community.
As for casting Eddie Huang’s character, the team was “looking for someone who had that swagger,” and found it in young Hudson Yang who sat in the second row of the audience with his father and friend, who also makes an appearance in pilot.
At the end of the day, the show is meant to allow audiences to laugh and identify. As long as Fresh Off the Boat makes you laugh and gives you a sense of culture, connection and family, then it’s done its job.
Catch ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat in February! The pilot will air Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 8:30 pm. and a second episode will air at 9:30. Fresh Off the Boat will move to its regular 8:00 pm Tuesday timeslot on Feb. 10.
Panel photos courtesy of Tammy Tarng. Featured image courtesy of ABC.
Originally published on Audrey Magazine.