‘Fresh Off the Boat’ Star Constance Wu Emphasizes that Shows With White Casts Are Still About Race


Fresh Off the Boat star Constance Wu believes the white-normative culture of television forces Asian American actors to play against their identities.Wu, speaking with GQ about season two of Fresh off The Boat, said she felt Asian American actors strive to play roles that have nothing to do with being Asian.

If there’s a reason Asian Americans haven’t broken through in entertainment, it’s probably because we haven’t taken advantage of how special our viewpoint is. It’s not something to be ashamed of. If some motherfucker made you feel ashamed for it and teased you about it on the playground, then they’re the asshole.

In Fresh Off the Boat, a quasi-adaptation of chef Eddie Huang’s auto-biography about growing up in a Taiwanese-Chinese family surrounded by white culture in Texas, Wu plays Eddie’s mother, Jessica Huang. Fresh Off the Boat was part of last season’s surge of shows focusing on characters of color. (It’s also one of the best shows of the year.)

Adding that identifying race in television is an important step to creating real diversity, Wu noted that making a show with an all-white cast isn’t as big a problem as recognizing that shows about white culture aren’t racially neutral.

Right. I don’t know, it’s a difficult question to look at from a big perspective. For example, the other day I was talking to a friend the other day about HBO’s Togetherness. I was like, ‘It’s a show about white people.’ And he said ‘Oh, come on, they’re just people.’ But if somebody says my show is about Asian American people, nobody bats an eye. If you think about what that says about the normative context of TV, white people are allowed to exist as just people.

Season two of Fresh Off The Boat premieres Tuesday, September 22 on ABC.