Synopsis : Jin Wang, an average teenager, juggles his high school social life with his home life; when he meets a new student on the first day of the school year, even more worlds collide as Jin is unwittingly entangled in a battle of Chinese mythological gods.
Creator: Kelvin Yu
Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Ben Wang, Yann Yann Yeo, Chin Han, Daniel Wu.
TV Network: Disney+
Premiere Date: May 24, 2023
Executive producers: Destin Daniel Cretton, Asher goldstein, Jake Kasdan, Melvin Mar, Gene Luen Yang, Kelvin Yu
Press conference with Actors Ben Wang, Sydney Taylor, Chin Han, Yeo Yann Yann
Q: Yann Yann, Chin Han, and Ben, talk about the family dynamic [between] you on screen. How were you able to work that out? What was that process like?
B.W : At one point In real life, I just showed up at Yann Yann’s house and she cooked dinner for me. Chin Han showed up too. Then we just took that and transplanted it on set. I feel like it’s our dynamic.
C.H : We went full method on this, right? When we went shooting, we were spending time together, going for meals. We went to a baseball game. We’d go shopping with Yann Yann. It was literally like a real family and it was quite special being able to have all this time with your co-stars. Normally on a film or a TV set, you’re Isolated or hiding out in your trailer going home after work. But, we literally spent all the time together. It was like summer camp for us.
B.W : And that expands out to beyond the family too. I feel like everybody involved with this production really felt like one big community, one big family, and I think shows in the final product.
Y.Y.Y : You should have a look at our childhood photo, Ben and my childhood photo, we actually look so much alike.
B.W : It’s true.
C.H : Oh my God. We both were shocked at how much we looked alike as children.
B.W : We put our baby photos next to each other and we just look like the same person.
S.T : I can’t tell you guys apart.
C.H : And now I’m worried.
Y.Y.Y : We’ll always talk about how much we thank our casting people. They really brought us, the long lost family together.
C.H : We did an experiment. We spliced the top of my face and put it alongside Ben’s face. We had the same eyes and we took the second half of Ben’s face and put it alongside Yen-Yen’s face and they look completely the same. He has the top of my face and the bottom is Yann Yann’s. It makes for the perfect face, really.
Y.Y.Y : How did you do that? Casting love. Thank you, guys.
Q: The show is a lot about how high school is so awkward. What was your high school experience like?
S.T : I was homeschooled, so I was awkward on my own, but I got to experience my awkward high school years with Ben. Now all of you get to see how horrifically awkward it is.
B.W : She got to run the simulator. I got to do the time machine. I went to public high school and was also awkward on my own. Perfect. what you see is kind of what it was.
S.T : I was awkward in middle school if that counts. It all counts, having a rough time in middle school.
Y.Y.Y : My high school was in Malaysia. I am one big sports geek. I am always on the field running or I’m in the sea windsurfing. That’s what I did in high school.
C.H : I was into sports. That was a lot of fun. But that didn’t spare me from any awkwardness. I think that’s the reason why I took up swimming because it’s something you can do on your own and swim back and forth. It was only until a little later that I did theater and that helped me regulate my awkwardness. I always wished that I was part of a bigger group like the famous five or the secret seven or the hardy boys. who wanted to solve mysteries — those were some of my favorite books. Awesome.
Q: Ben, you’re playing this teen in the show and lots of kids — everybody — will watch this. What would you want a teen to learn about your character? What would you want them to take away from watching you perform in the show? What would that be for you?
B.W : It’s a fun show. First and foremost, what I want is for any viewer to be entertained, for them to fall in love with these characters the same way that I did when I first read the script. These are fantastically written characters. People watch for those deep themes and important topics that the show touches [onto]. If people are watching and having fun, those things will naturally get absorbed. I hope people enjoy it. For me as an actor, it was important that the show — and this character — has an arc during this season where he develops and grows as a human being.
I hope that younger people watch, especially people who grew up in the same way that I did, in a small town in Minnesota. It’s like a trope, I shout out “Minnesota” every time I do one of these interviews, “Go Minnesota, greatest state in the union.” I was one of the only Asian kids in my school. This is about my experiences. I hope that if there’s a kid out there like me, who’s feeling like, “Oh, this is a show for outsiders.” This is a show for kids who don’t feel like they necessarily fit in or are trying very hard [to do so]. I hope that they can see this character and see it as an interface for themselves. And the character group, maybe they can find hope for themselves too.
Q: Chin Han and Yan Yan, the Paris characters are also very relatable. What part did you find most relatable to those characters? For Asians, they’re silent sometimes and don’t speak up for themselves.
C.H : One of the things that drew me to the show was that it accurately portrayed the Asian work ethic, which is work hard, keep going, someone will recognize you. At some point in time all the hard work will pay off. As for being a parent, you have to be strict, you have to be scheduled and have structure. I see that all the time with the friends around me who have children, but what you don’t see is all the love that happens within a family and all the struggles too, and all the conversations that couples have about what their futures are going to be.
And I think we do this quite honestly, and I think quite candidly in this movie, sometimes it’s a bit uncomfortable to watch because it’s so true to life. But I think working with Yen-Yen, and we spent a lot of time going through the dialogue, going through the scenes, going through the stories to make sure that we find a language that is authentic. you know, and relationships that are true, that people can see themselves in.
Yann Yann: It’s really rewarding when we finish a scene and our show-runner or people on set come over and say, “You just transported us now to our childhood at that moment of time when you two were talking.” That’s something that’s very rewarding for me. I hope the audience will relate to it very, very much.
Q: You all had the pleasure of working with Destin Creighton on your episodes. What is it like working with him and the team of directors that you worked with who have a unique view on Asian-American living?
B.W : Fantastic. Destin’s great. He’s very tall, so you trust him inherently as a director.
S.T : That was awesome. He made me so nervous. Oh my God, he made me so nervous. He’s really hard to read. I found he was.
B.W : He’s very stoic, especially on set when he’s working — he’s very chill. I felt that working with him and honestly, with every single director, that you were in good hands. You felt like you were in the hands of people who really cared about telling a good story, having fun, and also portraying all of these specificities to the Asian-American experience in an authentic way.
That was bolstered by the fact that every single department had someone there from that specific background who would understand the specificities of these things. it was to the point where you’d walk into the fake house that they built for us, and see these tiny details that only someone who really grew up in a house like that would know about — like the rose on the cupboard, like the little jellies in a jar above the fridge, who knows about that other than someone who had to stare at it for their entire childhood. It felt really good and was very helpful for us as actors to be transported to that specific place, to have those incrementally small details around that you don’t even perceive.
Y.Y.Y : I’m working with Destin. The first time, the very first day for me on set, he spent so much time with me and Ben to find our characters. That’s the first scene you see when both of us appear in the whole series. I was so grateful that he spent that time because I was here and no one was there. Everybody’s so busy preparing the shoot, the filming, and no one talked to me.
I was so nervous, I was panicky about finding the character. I haven’t seen my son, I haven’t seen Jin, I haven’t seen Ben for a while. So when we went on set, he took the time for us to explore. The exploration on the day really set down the character. I’m ever so grateful to have a director like Destin come in and do such detail work with me. Thank you.
B.W : That first scene took about five hours. Yes. Way longer than any other scene we shot, but he knew that we needed that time.
S.T : I remember I was there that day in my trailer and just asked him to drive me over because I was bored and wanted to watch. I had them drive me over so I could sit there and see what everyone else was doing.
B.W: That’s right, she had the next scene.
S.T : Yeah, that was the following scene. She was there for five hours.
Y.Y.Y : Story Sydney.
S.T : I had fun watching.
C.H : He loves the process of acting and in turn, loves actors and you can feel it. He gives us the time to explore, which is the greatest gift a director could… On top of that, he does wear killer Hawaiian shirts which puts everyone at ease and makes us feel so comfortable in his presence. It was quite a delight. And working with people like Lucy Liu, who’s an actress herself — she so understands the process and what we go through. She speaks our language. Having a director like that really allows us to be fully expressive.
It is scheduled to premiere on Disney+ on May 24, 2023.
Here’s the trailer of the series.