ABC debuted a brand new sitcom, Fresh Off the Boat, last week that we think you might enjoy. I attended a press junket in Los Angeles for Disney and had the opportunity to preview tonight’s episodes. I found the cast lovable and the 1990s references great, but I do feel that this is a sitcom for adults.
Based on chef Eddie Huang’s best-selling memoir of the same name, “Fresh Off the Boat”, this comedy series follows an Asian American family in the 1990s who relocates from Chinatown in Washington, D.C. to suburban Orlando. The series is narrated by the star Eddie, a hip-hop-loving 11-year-old, who struggles with not only his family’s move but his identity in his new school and neighborhood.
Eddie’s dad moved the family to pursue the American dream by opening a western-themed restaurant named Cattleman’s Ranch Steakhouse. The part of Eddie’s dad Louis is played by Randall Park. With three kids and a wife, who isn’t sure of her new neighborhood ladies, Louis is determined to defy the odds and make his restaurant work.
Being one of the first times that both an Asian-American man and woman are the stars and carrying an entire series, we had the chance to sit down with the executive producers, Nahnatchka Khan and Kourney Kang, to ask about this ground-breaking sitcom. Here is a portion of that interview…
Q. How did you come up with the idea?
Khan: Melvin Mar who is one of the other Exec Producers sent me a memoir that Eddie Huang wrote and I thought it was fantastic. It had a section of it that focused on Eddie’s family moving to Orlando so that his dad could own and operate a steakhouse and I just thought it would be a great setting 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. 20th Century got on board and ABC was ultimately the right fit because of their dedication to diversity.
Q: How many kids did you guys get through before you found the kids for the show?
Khan: Man, it was tough. We had open casting calls for the kids across the country and in Canada. We found the younger boys in Los Angeles and the older boy (Hudson) in Brooklyn, NY. Newcomer Hudson was great because he had that raw authenticity that we were looking for in young Eddie. Forrest Wheeler was so perfect as young Emery as a counter-part to Eddie who just everything comes easy for. Ian Chen was the perfect young, mama’s little son.
Q: Are these characters based on people in your life?
Khan: The show is inspired by Eddie’s book and his family and grandmother, and once we got the green light for the show, we put together a team of writers who then all contributed things from our own lives for the show. The thing that is so great about television is that it’s a collective, collaborative medium and in order for a show to succeed, you have to have a lot of people’s stories and a lot of people have to be able to relate to it even if they don’t have that exact same experience.
Kang: Even though it is about this Asian thing, it is much more about a broader sense of not feeling so much like you are a part of things. It’s not just about being Asian, but any point when you are different from what everyone else is doing.
Khan: There were so many story ideas on the board because people could just identify with a lot of different parts of it – the music part, even that was an element of not really understanding the music that people were listening to and you felt different because you liked something different. Not being able to afford Air Jordans or whatever. It’s such a relatable show and that is 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 like everybody feels. Everybody feels that they don’t fit in for some reason.
Q: I love the ’90s references. How do you pick up which stuff you’re gonna go with?
Khan: We kept it based in 1995 because that is the time right before the internet exploded. You couldn’t just get online and find people who thought like you and liked music like you. You had to sort of make it work with where you were. The dialog is real.
Take a peek at the preview for tonight…