Eddie Huang knows the ins and outs of a culture clash.
The chef and television food-show personality’s Asian-American family lived one in the 1990s, when they relocated from Washington, D.C., to Orlando — each member dealing with the transition differently, as Huang recounted in his 2013 memoir. The book becomes a same-named ABC sitcom when “Fresh Off the Boat” premieres with two episodes Wednesday (Feb. 4), then settles into its regular slot the following Tuesday.
Hudson Yang plays the young Huang, whose brothers are portrayed by Ian Chen and Forrest Wheeler. Their American-dream-pursuing, steakhouse-running father and cook-at-home mother (Randall Park, Constance Wu) have differing views of making the move to a new locale … but they won’t hesitate to put up a united front, threatening to sue the school if one of their sons is expelled after being taunted by a new classmate.
Yang auditioned on tape to play Huang, and the young actor tells Zap2it, “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s my first big thing, and it’s been a great time hanging out with Eddie and everybody who’s been in the show.” Huang considers his on-screen counterpart “awesome. This was the toughest role to cast. What I liked about Hudson is how real he was. He’s very raw, and he hasn’t been consumed by this whole process.”
Noting “this is not an easy show to make,” Huang wrote a recent article in which he deemed the series “pasteurized network television” while allowing that it still reflects that “the feeling of being different is universal.” ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee responds, “We love Eddie. He’s a firebrand. It’s a comedy, and the show is not a documentary of his book.”
Huang maintains, “I care the most about the conversation that’s going to happen because of this show. It’s important for me that the show stays responsible to the book and the Asian community, and to people of color in general. And I believe the show is doing that.”
Clearly, Huang’s parents are barometers of that, but he says, “My mom never read the book. She could care less. She just wants the checks. My dad was really proud of me. I showed him the pilot, and he understood what the show was doing. And I think the show is strategic and smart in how it’s easing the viewer into that.”