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
- Genre: Action
- Executive producers: Destin Daniel Cretton, Asher goldstein, Jake Kasdan, Melvin Mar, Gene Luen Yang, Kelvin Yu
Press Conference with Actors Daniel Wu, Jimmy Liu, Writer/Producer Gene Luen Yang, Executive Producer Melvin Mar
Q: Jimmy, did you do some physical training? What kind of preparation did you do for this role? And for the producer Gene Luen Yang, will we ever find out who his mother is?
J.L : I did stunt training for three weeks before we started shooting. I had to learn like how to control the 筋骨棒, the stick. It was pretty hard at the beginning, but it started getting easier after I learned how to communicate with the stick.
G.L.Y : Can I add something that Jimmy left out? When we had our casting meeting with him, this is what he told us, “I’m a Taekwondo champion. Number one in Taiwan.” You should say that right now so everybody knows.
J.L : Yeah, I’m a Taekwondo champion in Taiwan.
D.W : Yeah, he got his black belt when he was 10. So that’s pretty crazy.
M.M: Jimmy came in hot. He was like, “Guys, listen, I’m a champion. You want me?”
D.W : Pretty confident, dude.
G.L.Y : Not just a champion. Champion number one.
Q: Gene, this is one of the most popular comic books that a lot of kids have been able to get excited about and can see themselves in it. How did you feel about the show right around the corner and everyone gets to see it?
G.L.Y : It’s very surreal to be in this moment, to be on the Zoom with movie stars and TV stars and also to see the story get out to a wider audience. I remember doing the comic as a self-published comic when I was in my 20s. The reason I self-published it was because I just didn’t think that many people would be interested in a story about an Asian American boy. So to have it on Disney Plus now just shows that people can connect with our stories. That’s incredibly gratifying.
Q : Jimmy and Daniel, how did you guys build the father/son relationship in that rapport when you’re usually fighting literally physically most of the series?
DW : We tried to bond as much as we could. It helps that Jimmy is a Warriors fan. He was a Lakers fan.
D.W : I don’t think I could have bonded with him as well. Because of that, we watched the playoffs and the finals were going on while we were filming. We were constantly in between fight scenes, watching the game on my iPad and then going back out to fight. It was a natural relationship. Jimmy’s a good-looking guy, kind of like me. We developed the bond over that.
M.M : You could tell Jimmy and Dan are just lovely people, some of my favorite people. They have suspect basketball tastes so there you go.
D.W : We still have to win game seven.
M.M : You have to get past game six, that’s tonight.
J.L : That’s easy. That’ll be easy.
M.M : They annoyed about basketball. That’s the rapport.
D.W: But I really admire Jimmy. He’s like a super hard worker. The fight scenes were not easy at all. I spent years on wire work. It was the first time for him, and he was just amazing with it. Totally cool, cucumber all the time, never stressed out. It’s just good to see his work ethic. It was easy to work with him.
Q: Do you think that the xenophobia and stereotypes towards Asians is getting better or worse like in recent years like with all these new shows that are coming that are giving Asian representation. Do you feel like it’s changed for the better?
DW: Things have changed a lot in the past five to 10 years, definitely. Certainly since when I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, where you had very little representation. if you did, it was bad representation. Now we’re seeing more authentic representation, but at the same time we’re seeing, as we saw during COVID, Asian hate crimes happening. That has a lot to do with political rhetoric outside of the entertainment business, and it’s ramping up now with talks about the cold war, this and that.
These are things we have to be vigilant about. That’s why representation is so important for us. What we learned during COVID was that a lot of Americans look at Asian Americans as non-Americans, as potential foreigners. The shows like this, with greater diversity and more representation, show that we are actually part of the American fabric. What I love about “American-born Chinese” is that it’s telling a very specific Chinese-American story, but at the same time, it’s a very universal story about a kid just trying to fit in and figure himself out. Everybody in this country has felt that way in high school at some point. We’re trying to, with a little bit of soft power, influence people to realize that we’re all the same. There really shouldn’t be divisions like we have right now.
G.L.Y: I think in a lot of ways, Daniel’s career shows the progress of Asian Americans. Daniel is an Asian American. He grew up in the Bay Area, hence the warrior fan-ness of him.
M.M : He’s perfect.
G.L.Y : A lot of people in America don’t realize this, but in Asia, he is a mega star, where he can’t walk down the street without getting mobbed. He can’t go into a regular restaurant and just eat a meal because he’s so intensely famous. He’s like a Jackie Chan level star. Even though he’s one of us, an Asian-American. He’s finally able to kind of make a breakthrough into American culture shows. Maybe America is finally ready for a real Asian-American superstar.
M.M : I second what Gene said, you look at Daniel’s career. We’re about the same age. He went to Asia to be in stuff. And there was a huge part of when we were growing up, and even when I was getting started in this business, where it just wasn’t a thing we did, which was Asian American lead. I’m sure he has a really interesting point of view on it now that he’s back in the States, coming back to the industry. Now we have shows like “American Born Chinese” and movies like “Crazy Rich Asians” and whatnot, and then we’re importing Jimmy Liu from Taiwan. All of that helps the overall idea of narrative change for Asian Americans.
Q: Looking at the graphic novel, some of the conversations have taken on new shapes. How did you and the rest of the creative team go about reshaping this story while maintaining the essence that so many of us love?
M.M: I was going to throw it to you, Gene, but I was going to say that it’s a pity that our colleague Kelvin Yu can couldn’t be here. He is the genius show runner that figured out a really good version of this. This connects to Gene’s hesitance on adapting it to begin with.
G.L.Y : That’s exactly it. I am sad too. I think we all agree that [it’s a shame that] Kelvin couldn’t join us. He put so much of his brain and heart into this show. I can’t really imagine anybody else being able to do what he did. I was very hesitant for a very long time. I had a bit of interest early on. The book was published in 2006 and I was always hesitant because I was worried that some of the parts of the book would be poorly adapted. If you adapt it poorly, then you might undermine the point and might undermine the message.
Ultimately, Calvin and Melvin and I — we had multiple conversations. From those conversations, I got the sense that these guys really got it and understood. Early on, we made the decision to move the story from the vague ‘80s or ‘90s, which is when the book is set, to 2023, [making] a modern-day story and the conversation about Asian Americans has changed from then until now, so the hope is that both the book and the television series express the same core. They’re kind of in dialogue with each other when you read the book and then also watch the show. You get a sense of how Asian America has changed over the last 17 years
Q: Jimmy, talk about working with Michelle because I love some of your scenes together.
A: She’s very warm and kind. She’s like a real auntie to me because when we’re on set, she’s always hugging me. She’s really kind and the scenes we do together and I’ve been really happy to be with her.
Here’s the trailer of the film.