The Flash writer Kai Wu talks Writing for TV, Bryan Fuller, and Diversity

The Flash executive story editor and writer, Kai Wu, didn’t originally want to be a writer. While she was growing up she used to think, “I guess I’ll be a Red Lobster manager, or something like that.” Born in Taiwan, Kai moved to the US a the age of 7 and raised in a small American town. However, her life changed upon seeing the movie Casper on the big screen. The movie not only pushed her to become a writer, she loved it so much that she also has everyone’s favorite friendly ghost tattooed on her skin. Since then Kai has made a career as a television writer and risen in the ranks by making waves on critically acclaimed shows like the deceased Hannibal and CW’s hit show The Flash. Jes Vu caught up with Kai recently to chat about her career.

What made you end up in TV writing?

I kind of fell into by accident. I didn’t really watch TV growing up except for Full House—I only watched movies. I worked at Gersh Agency, was an assistant in the Motion Pictures Lit Department, and went into development—I wanted to be in features then. I was really lucky there was a point someone had to help someone out. One of my co-workers at Gersh—an old co-worker—knew a showrunner, and said I’m looking for a writer’s assistant [job]. And he knew I wanted to be a writer, so he passed my resume along. I interviewed and I was very lucky to get the job. But I had no idea what writer’s assistant meant in TV. So I took it. I hated television because of that routine of going in every day—and I was a crappy writer’s assistant because I had no idea what I was doing. But I was also the showrunner’s assistant, which I was great because of my agency experience, so they didn’t fire me, thank goodness! After that, I didn’t want to be in TV again, but then I got a job on Burn Notice as Matt Nix’s assistant. I learned so much there, and from then, TV popped for me a little. People were responding to my TV samples more than my features, so I just went with it.

Your first staff writing gig was on Hannibal for Bryan Fuller—How did you get involved in Hannibal as well as The Flash?

I was, and I still am Bryan Fuller’s biggest fan. As a fan, I was obsessed with his work. Wonderfalls is my favorite television show, and I loved Dead Like Me. Through all my assistant jobs, I had met this woman named Kath Lingenfelter—an amazing writer—she wrote on Pushing Daisies. I knew Hannibal had gotten picked up, and I asked Kath if she would pass my resume on because I wante to be a writer’s assistant for Hannibal hoping that there would be this show called Mockingbird Lane. Bryan was at NBC, and I was hoping he could staff me for Mockingbird Lane. So I went to interview Bryan and Jesse Alexander for Hannibal. Miraculously, they offered me a staff writing job.

What was that feeling like getting your first gig?

I’d worked so many years and I never worked freelance—no one ever promoted me. [Bryan Fuller] didn’t have to. There was no reason for him to give me a chance, but he did. I was ecstatic! On top of that, it was Bryan Fuller. I’m like his biggest fan, so I was all smiles. Like wow. It’s a little surreal. So I got on Hannibal and very quickly you realize that it’s work too.

Now you’re currently on The Flash. Had you read The Flash comics or watched any of DC Comics’ animation before getting staffed on The Flash?

Before the job?—No. The night before the meeting? —a crap ton. It was really tough only because they literally asked “Can you come and meet tomorrow?” From 8 o’clock that night to whenever the meeting was the next day. I had read so much. I knew Arrow because I was watching Arrow a little bit here or there. So I was trying to go back an episode, trying to watch episodes The Flash guest starred on, and then I was going through all the villains and history. It was overwhelming because I guess they reboot their continuity a lot—so I was like what was happening? There was a lot of information to be consumed in that in that 12 hour period. Whenever I go into a meeting, I have to be overwhelmed by information, so even if it doesn’t come out, it’s in my subconscious. I was still watching episodes and reading stuff an hour before the meeting.

Writer Kai Wu with Grant Gustin (Barry Allen/The Flash)


You’ve worked with very difference shows and networks. How is Hannibal handled vs working at the the CW and The Flash.

Even though Hannibal is [a network show], it’s essentially a cable show. I think it’s just how explicit it needs to be, and I think with Hannibal…it was a lot of subtext—we’re always talking about things without talking about them. Every conversation with Will and Hannibal was something about them…it’s all circular, which that’s the kind of writing I actually like. With CW…I assume it’s like what writing for a big studio movie is because you’re reaching a wider audience. You have to be clearer….There’s also 23 episodes instead of 13.

I think that was the hardest adjustment for me, but I don’t think one is better than the other. It’s just different ways of writing. What’s fun about the CW—[The Flash] is lighter, so we are able to go super light, just the funnest situations will get on the page. With Hannibal, it’s a lot more cerebral in your head. It doesn’t need to be a lot of plot, it just had to be a lot of beautiful philosophical talk. So that’s different too. And I think that’s the show.

How has being a woman of color play a role in the writers’ room for you?

I think The Flash…some people will disagree with me—I think The Flash is incredibly diverse in that half the staff is women, and that itself to me is diversity because people focus only on race. I am the only one on the show that is non-white, but I can offer something. But as a woman, I can also offer a point-of-view. I’m incredibly proud to be on a show with so many women.

That’s also more interesting that it’s a comic book-based show and there’s so many women involved.

Yes! And kudos to all the DC shows. Arrow has women…Legends of TomorrowSupergirl has a lot of women, so it makes me I’m think it’s great. It frustrates me a little bit when people focus just on race. We get a lot of comments like “we need a writer of a certain race…we need more diversity.” If you look at the statistics of Hollywood, women make up 30 percent. We [as women] are a minority group to men…to straight white guys. So that’s an accomplishment. To me, it’s a testament of [The Flash showrunner] Andrew Kreisberg in hiring so many women. Aside from that, I think it gets too narrow or people just focus on one group, to this one race. As to any other “diversity” trait that may qualify…if you’re a gay, white guy, to me, you’re “diverse.” You’re able to offer this outsider’s’ point-of-view….I think we’re making progress. Could there be more? Yeah.

Kai Wu with Victor Garber (Dr. Martin Stein on The Flash)


In that respect…how has TV changed since you first started your career as an assistant?

The way people write scripts. I remember going to a panel where Shonda Rhimes said if you write characters descriptions and you write everyone’s race out except for the white person—then you’re fired. Because it implies that white is the norm. So either you put a race for every single person—white, black, Asian—or you don’t at all. And that is something I notice I do too. Even for me as a minority, I still do it—Now, I’m very careful. If I’m naming race, I’m naming the white person as well because that’s not just a given. So I think [writing] is changing. Also, describing women not just by how they look. I mean, that is huge. I remember reading an old script I had and I was like “Good God, I can’t believe I’m doing it too!”—And I’m a woman too. So much of it is subconscious.

What advice do you have for those who want to be a writer like yourself?

Make sure you write. Because I think a lot of people don’t write. They’ll stop at one or two scripts. Also, my friends are going to hate me for this…with all the noise about diversity, and more women…yes, there’s all these things we can fix, but sometimes complaining about them without doing anything just doesn’t work because you’re relying on someone else to fix the problem.

If there’s a problem—and there is a problem—you keep on writing. If I get up there, I make sure it is balanced, so that’s how I can change it. Right now, don’t let those things deter you. Don’t focus so much on it. Be aware, but make sure when you have the chance, you’re fair and you’re even. I feel like there’s a lot of people that’s like “This is unfair!”—Life is unfair. Hollywood is definitely not a bureaucracy, so I have no idea what they were getting into. But you can do your part when you have the power.

With that final note, what advice would you give to people that you would have given to your younger self starting out?

I’ve seen a lot of assistants get bitter when people get ahead. They’ll be like “oh that person got ahead because of that connection.” Again, this is Hollywood. This is life—it’s not fair sometimes. Just stop worrying about other people, and worry about yourself. It took me a while too. You’ll carry a lot of negative energy, and I truly believe negative energy affects you. As soon as I let go of that, it’s kind of like “You know what? I need to focus on myself and not who got ahead of me.” It’s easier to say because in that time, you’re working so hard as an assistant, people are getting promoted before you—But that’s all just noise. At the end of the day, you’re doing this because you love telling stories, so go write your stories!

For more of Kai, follow her Twitter @chinoiskai! Otherwise, catch the season finale of The Flash tomorrow night, May 24 on the CW at 8pm ET/PT.


Images provided courtesy of Kai Wu

If Game of Thrones characters were Asian and Pacific Islander

Game of Thrones finally returned to HBO on Sunday, and as an avid fantasy buff, I am ecstatic to see more of Season 6. As an Asian American, however, I find it a little disappointing to see so few Asian faces in the high fantasy genre. Most fantasy shows take place in a medieval setting or borrow from European lore, so it’s very rare to see an Asian knight charging into battle unless it’s a period piece set in Asia. (Let’s face it, Marco Polo is so historically inaccurate that it might as well be considered fantasy.)

Even when a character is written as Asian, Hollywood has a longstanding practice of casting white actors to portray Asian characters (Emma Stone, Aloha) or rewriting the part for racial erasure (Tom Cruise, Edge of Tomorrow). We have yet to see if the casting of Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell is a form of yellowface or whitewashing; either way, it’s another missed opportunity to see an Asian actor in a leading role.

So, in hopes of proving to Hollywood that there are talented and bankable Asian actors who can take on epic roles, I’ve decided to recast some characters from GoT as Asians. For the purpose of this exercise, GoT cast members who are of Asian descent—Indira Varma, Jessica Henwick, and Jason Momoa—have not been included in this list. Let’s begin!
[tab title=”Daenerys”]
Gemma Chan as Daenerys Targaryen

Photo: Camera Press
Photo: Camera Press

With her striking looks and commanding presence, Gemma Chan is more than capable of portraying the Mother of Dragons. Since last year, the Chinese British actress has garnered highly praises for her nuanced performance as a synth in AMC’s sci-fi drama Humans. You may also recognize Chan from her guest appearances in the hit BBC shows Doctor Who and Sherlock.
[tab title=”Cersei”]
Lucy Liu as Cersei Lannister

Photo: Kill Bill Vol.1
Photo: Kill Bill Vol.1

 It takes an exceptional actress to play a cruel yet vulnerable villain like Cersei Lannister, and as one of the few leading Asian American ladies in film and television, Lucy Liu has the talent to take on the challenge. The New Yorker continues to break gender and racial stereotypes with her portrayal of Joan Watson in CBS’s Elementary and has proved that she can pull off fierce villains like O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill and Ling Woo in Ally McBeal. With her experience, poise and charisma, Liu has all the makings of a mean queen.
[tab title=”Jaime”]
Daniel Wu as Jaime Lannister

Photo: Vanity Fair
Photo: Vanity Fair

Into the Badlands hero Wu is no novice when it comes to wielding a sword. The California native rose to stardom as an action star in Hong Kong under the mentorship of Jackie Chan. Over the course of his sixty-plus films career, Wu has been featured in martial arts films, romantic comedies, thrillers and art-house films. His wide acting range would be a perfect asset in portraying the morally ambiguous (and handsome) Jaime Lannister.
[tab title=”Joffrey”]

Justin Chon as Joffrey Baratheon

Photo: Soompi
Photo: Soompi

King Joffrey is a cruel, sociopathic and spoiled brat that everyone loves to hate, and Chon knows how to play a petulant man-child, thanks to his experience on comedies like Man Up, 21 & Over and the Ktown Cowboys web series. The Twilight star has also branched out to more dramatic roles, including Andy Lau’s gangster flick Revenge of the Green Dragons and the upcoming action-thriller Like Lambs.
[tab title=”Petyr”]

Naveen Andrews as Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger)

Photo: ABC

Andrews, a British-born actor of Indian descent, first rose to fame in Hollywood after starring as Sayid in the hit 2004 series Lost. Although Andrew’s tenure in ABC’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland was cut short, his performance as Jafar confirms that he has the charm (and posh accent) to play a suave but ruthless manipulator like Littlefinger.

[tab title=”Varys”]
C.S. Lee as Varys

Photo by Ryan McVay

Yes, Lee is bald, but it’s his solid foundation in theatre and lengthy experience as a television actor that makes him a good match for Varys, the royal spymaster. Lee is best known for his portrayal of the forensics analyst Vince Masuka in DEXTER and has been featured in several high-profile shows, including Chuck, True Detective and Fresh Off the Boat.
[tab title=”Arya”]

Krista Marie Yu as Arya Stark

Photo by Shanna Fisher

Yu currently stars as Ken Jeong’s rebellious and quick-witted daughter, Molly, in ABC’s Dr. Ken—a role that could serve as groundwork to play the snarky and independent Arya Stark.
[tab title=”Sandor”]

Dante Basco as Sandor Clegane (The Hound)

Photo by Craig Stubing/Haikus with Hotties

 The Filipino American is already famous for voicing Zuko, a brooding Fire prince with a facial burn scar, so it’s not much of a stretch for him to play The Hound. Basco has also dabbled in sword-fighting thanks to his breakout role as Rufio, the cocky alpha-male leader of the Lost Boys, in Spielberg’s Hook. With his killer scowl, Basco could easily channel The Hound’s cynicism and aggressive warrior spirit.
[tab title=”Sansa”]

Arden Cho as Sansa Stark

Photo: Jackfroot
Photo: Jackfroot

The Teen Wolf star certainly has the beauty to play Sansa Stark with her doe eyes and sweet smile. More importantly, Cho has the ability to project Sansa’s vulnerability, resilience and quiet tenacity since the actress herself was once a target of bullying in her adolescence.

[tab title=”Ramsay”]
Randall Park as Ramsay Bolton

Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

At first glance, the Fresh Off the Boat star may seem too goofy to play the sadistic bastard (sorry, former bastard). However, Park has already played a real-life villain as Kim Jong-un in Seth Rogen’s satirical comedy The Interview. Ramsay Bolton might be the most despicable villain in GoT, but he is playful enough to crack jokes and quips at the people he’s torturing. Park’s broad smile would work as a great facade to Ramsay’s psychopathic ways.
[tab title=”Theon”]

Teo Yoo as Theon Greyjoy

Photo: Seoul Searching
Photo: Seoul Searching

 Having been classically trained at New York and London, the dashing German-born Korean actor has the craft to transform himself from the narcissistic, philandering Theon to the traumatized and deformed Reek. Yoo’s most recent screen credits include Equals, Bitcoins Heist and the Sundance coming-of-age film Seoul Searching.
[tab title=”Brienne”]

Frankie Adams as Brienne of Tarth


An amateur boxer standing at six feet tall, Frankie Adams not only has the physical stature to play Brienne but also the acting chops. The Samoan Kiwi made her acting debut at age sixteen in New Zealand’s top medical series Shortland Street and recently landed the series regular role of Bobbie Draper, a tough Martian solider, in SyFy’s space opera The Expanse.
[tab title=”Jon”]

John Cho as Jon Snow

Photo: Angry Asian Man
Photo: Angry Asian Man

Sure, the Korean American may not be the right age to play Jon Snow, but you have to admit, “You know nothing, John Cho” has a nice ring to it. Cho, who exudes confidence and leading man quality, would be a great fit as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, especially since he’s already played a capable commander in the Star Trek films.

[tab title=”Margaery”]

Jessika Van as Margaery Tyrell

Photo: CBS/Rush Hour

Gorgeous with a mischievous smile and sultry lilt in her voice, Van would make a lovely Margery Tyrell—a young queen whose beauty is only rivaled by her shrewdness. The Taiwanese American actress first broke into Hollywood as Becca, the sly ringleader of an Asian clique, in MTV’s teen comedy Awkward, and later starred as the sensual Grace Park in Benson Lee’s Seoul Searching.
[tab title=”Tommen”]

Ryan Potter as Tommen Baratheon

Photo: Ryan Potter
Photo: Ryan Potter

As a former Nickelodeon star and the voice of Hiro Hamada in Disney’s Big Hero 6, Potter carries a friendly and good-natured demeanor—a vital trait in channeling Tommen Baratheon, the kind-hearted but easily manipulated boy-king of Westeros.
[tab title=”Jorah”]

Daniel Dae Kim as Jorah Mormont

Photo: 3AD
Photo: 3AD

DDK has a knack for playing noble but flawed characters, including Jin-Soo Kwon in Lost and Chin Ho Kelly in Hawaii Five-0, and is well suited for Jorah Mormont, an exiled knight obsessively loyal to a queen he betrayed. There’s no doubt the Korean American would bring gravitas to the role with his intelligence and eloquence. Just imagine DDK’s bass voice saying “Khaleesi.”
[tab title=”Daario”]

Manish Dayal as Daario Naharis


As Daenerys’ roguish protector and lover, Dayal would make audiences swoon with his smoldering brown eyes and easy-going smile. The handsome Indian American actor starred opposite Helen Mirren in The Hundred-Foot Journey and is best known in television for his recurring role as Raj Kher in CW’s 90210.
[tab title=”Melisandre”]

Maggie Q as Melisandre (Red Priestess)

Photo: CW/Nikita
Photo: CW/Nikita

(Photo: Nikita poster)

 Maggie Q has a reputation for playing sexy, lethal characters with enigmatic pasts. The Nikita starlet has a her natural grace and intensity to deliver a terrifying performance as Melisandre, the Red Priestess.

[tab title=”Oberyn”]

Daniel Henney as Oberyn Martell

Photo: FayesVision/WENN
Photo: FayesVision/WENN

Handsome, athletic, charismatic, and with a great sense of humor to boot—Henney would make one hell of an Oberyn. The Korean American model-turned-actor has a large international following, much like the fan-favorite Dorne prince. After crossing over to Hollywood with X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Big Hero 6, Henney is currently a series regular on CBS’ Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.
[tab title=”Tyrion”]

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister

Photo: HBO
Photo: HBO

Dinklage was George R.R. Martin and the GoT showrunners’ first and only choice for the role of Tyrion, and rightfully.  I can’t think of any actor who could equal Dinklage’s performance as the brilliant, sharp-tongued Lannister dwarf. With that said, I think we’re allowed at least one white actor on this list—you know, for the sake of diversity.


Reera Yoo is a former editor of KoreAm Journal and current contributor to (where she was also a past editor). She is a Ravenclaw, writer, filmmaker and K-pop enthusiast. Follow her on twitter @reeraboo
Cover image via South by Southwest

Five Things We Want to See In The Big Hero 6 TV Show

Hiro and Baymax are back! Last week, Disney XD announced a new Big Hero 6 television show based on the Academy Award-winning animated movie. Set to premiere in 2017, the show is going to pick up where the movie left off and focus on Hiro’s adventures at San Fransokyo Institute of Technology.

While it’s agreed that we can probably expect more witty banter, fist bumps and life lessons, we also have some other expectations for the direction of the show. Let’s take a look at what we want to see going into it.

1. No Culture-Washing

Big Hero 6 is so obviously multicultural that it may seem like we shouldn’t have a problem with it. However, the Big Hero 6 comic originally took place in Japan and had an all-Japanese cast of characters. The movie not only played on stereotypical Asian architecture to create the city of San Fransokyo instead of just setting it in Tokyo, it also changed the ethnicities of three of the six main characters in order to create non-Asian characters Honey Lemon, Wasabi and Fred. Nobody is saying that we don’t like these characters BUT erasing the Asian-ness of the original BH6 is not cool. While some of these things probably won’t be changed for the TV show, maybe Disney can introduce some of the original Asian heroes and villains from the comic book.


2. Science!

Big Hero 6 is based around science and the movie was chalk-full of the coolest science and technology. While science in fictional stories is always kind of questionable, it’d be super exciting if the show brought current theoretical and practical sciences to life in bigger and better cartoon form (for educational purposes of course). And, of course, it’d add more cool inventions to the BH6 arsenal.


3. Backstory on Hiro’s Family (i.e. bring Tadashi back)

Obviously, Tadashi (Daniel Henney) probably won’t make an appearance in the current timeline of television show, but we can still dream a little about seeing him in flashbacks. In the movie, Hiro and Tadashi live with their Aunt Kass (Maya Rudolph) and there’s no real explanation as to what their lives were like before the death of their parents, so the one way to bring him back would be to develop Hiro’s backstory, which could also inform how he handles certain situations at school.


4. Integration with the Marvel Universe

People forget that Big Hero 6 is technically a Marvel movie (complete with an after-credits scene with a Stan Lee cameo). We probably won’t be seeing Baymax and Hiro in the Infinity Wars movies, but it would be cool to see BH6 team up with Marvel characters like Spider-man or Iron Man (who many have proposed made a cameo in the Nerd Lab in the film) or to integrate the Infinity Wars plot in there some how.  


5. More Glorious Baymax Humor (Accompanied By Equally Glorious Hiro Sarcasm)

More visual and verbal gags such as running out of batteries, not being fast, and constantly diagnosing Hiro with puberty and other teen afflictions.



Images via Disney

Kollab Watches: Fresh Off the Boat 2.09 – “The Real Santa”

Fresh Off the Boat caps off its midseason finale with its very first Christmas special, “The Real Santa.” In this week’s episode viewers are treated to new perspectives to typical holiday shenanigans, including the search for the perfect gift and maintaining the illusion of Santa Claus for children still young enough to believe in him, all with a Huang-twist.

The holidays have arrived as we’re introduced to Jessica’s miniature holiday town, or as she calls “Jessica Town.” As she admires her set-up, she vents her concerns to Louis about her dismay over the portrayal of Santa Claus as a blue-collared, overweight Christmas icon. In usual Jessica fashion, she takes matters into her own hands; first by bringing on Honey’s husband to pose as an Ivy League-educated, physics-crazed Santa Claus at the holiday party at Cattleman’s Ranch. However, when Mitch accidentally breaks the illusion, Jessica rewrites Santa’s story even further by telling her son Evan that Santa is Chinese, much to Louis’ disapproval. All is well until Evan speaks out on how Santa should be present at his school’s assembly, rather than the “politically correct” gray blob mascot that replaces him, and everyone in the room cheers him on up until his comment about Santa being Chinese. The lies have caught up with Jessica, as she must find a solution to Evan’s confusion once and for all.

From my point of view, Jessica’s storyline is a polarizing one. Her disapproval of Santa lacking a degree from a university, specifically from the engineering field, is perpetuating a damaging stereotype. Yes, people may laugh and only consider the comical story of Jessica taking the legend of Santa too seriously, but with the model minority myth still strongly believed in society today, the direction she went with rewriting Santa’s story only reinforces it, especially when she later tells Evan that he is Chinese.

On the other hand, having Jessica say that Santa is Chinese also sheds light on a subject that’s not as thoroughly discussed. Why does Santa always have to be white? While one may argue that it’s because he hails from European folklore, considering the number of people of different ethnicities who celebrate Christmas, it’s wise to consider the possibility that it doesn’t always take a white man to be Santa (as Jessica proves near the end of the episode). Through this lie, she provides an opportunity for Evan to see how someone of his race can bring holiday cheer to children all over the world.

Meanwhile, Emery has put together a wonderful gift for Jessica for Christmas by creating his own replica of the bakery missing from Jessica Town. However, when Honey presents her a bakery that she found, the poor boy it stooped as he doesn’t know what to give to her with only days left until Christmas. He turns to Eddie, who doesn’t have a gift yet for Jessica, for guidance. Much to Emery’s dismay Eddie suggests to keeps it chill by taking “action with inaction.” Eddie eventually churns out a poem that he suggests can be from both of them and Emery makes it look presentable by rewriting it on a scroll. However, when he realizes that the poem wasn’t Eddie’s handy work but rather the lyrics to Tupac Shakur’s “Dear Mama,” Emery is at a roadblock again over what to give his mom. Fortunately for him, and as predicted by Eddie, it all works out in the end.

It’s uncommon to see just Emery and Eddie together in a storyline for a whole episode. It was hilarious to see just how opposite their personalities are as their ideologies collided over strategizing gift ideas for Jessica. My only complaint was that due to their plot not being as big as Jessica’s, we didn’t really get to see too much of them together. Hopefully we’ll get a larger story with them in the future, for actors Hudson Yang and Forrest Wheeler work really well together.

I was also psyched to see that Eddie is a Tupac fan. From the minute we were introduced to him in the first season, I was always curious as to whether or not he was, given his love for rap music. I was able to pick up on Eddie’s admiration for Tupac the minute he read “his” poem and not later when Emery saw Grandma watching the “Dear Mama” music video.

This episode of Fresh Off the Boat nicely concludes the show’s first full year on the air. The second season continues when the next episode airs on February 2, 2016. Until then, Happy Holidays everyone!


Cover Image: ABC/Kelsey McNeal

Kollab Watches: Fresh Off the Boat 2.09 – “We Done Son”

This week’s episode of Fresh Off the Boat is all about relationships. Whether if it’s with a friend, a love interest, or a family member, the relationships you have with people are some of the most valuable things in life. Though sometimes, there are just some relationships that are meant to be let go.

The joint house restoration business between Jessica, Grandma and Honey is off to a rough start. Any suggestion that Honey makes is frugally dismissed by Jessica, even though on her end, Jessica spends $500 monthly to consult Madam Xing, her fortuneteller. When Honey calls out Jessica over taking her fortuneteller’s advice over her “partner’s”, a frustrated but prideful Jessica decides to end their relationship. For a while Jessica seems content with the decision, but after realizing that she doesn’t want to wind up “alone and right”, like Grandma Huang, she attempts to make it right with Honey. Unfortunately, Honey is in no position to forgive. What is Jessica to do?

Meanwhile, Louis is also dealing with a friendship at odds when his former roommate Barry comes to stay for a few days. Barry is nowhere on Jessica’s good side, because he never paid back a loan that Louis gave to him for a vitamin company they attempted to start back in the day. So when Louis finds himself face-to-face with another investment deal, he must decide between loaning over money he’ll likely never see again or save himself a lot of hardship and let go of this guy once and for all.

What I liked about these two storylines for Jessica and Louis was that they really tested their personality traits. Jessica is headstrong, stubborn, almost never admits she’s wrong when she is and rarely ever apologizes. Louis has an open perspective on life and tries to see the good in people. In the episode, they were each challenged with having to do the opposite of what they would normally do. Jessica had to swallow her pride in order to save her friendship with Honey and Louis had to stand up for himself and not let Barry talk him into giving him anymore money. I found these instances to be an interesting path for the writer (Ali Wong, one of the several Asians in FOtB’s writing room) to present.

Similar to the Chinese superstitions examined in the season one episode “Very Superstitious” (which Ali Wong also wrote), it was interesting to see how the practice of Chinese fortune telling was incorporated into this episode. While Jessica didn’t dive too deep into why knowing her fortune was very important to her, fortune telling is a respected practice in Chinese culture used in social and business decisions even to this day. Looking back on the episode, while Honey was in the right for calling out Jessica’s willingness to listen to Madam Xing over her, she could also have been seen as insensitive for not respecting a part of Jessica’s culture. After all, as we see by the end of the episode, Madam Xing was technically right about when they should sell the house.

It wasn’t just the adults who were at odds with the relationships in their lives. Eddie wants to buy a $50 necklace for Allison for her birthday, and in order to raise money to buy it, he takes up a new job at the house of his new neighbor, rapper DMX (or Earl when in the presence of his baby daughter Genesis). Not only is Eddie forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but he’s also given so much work to do that he becomes so tired and grumpy at school, not even Allison wants to be around him. At a loss over being away from her, Eddie’s new boss takes him under his wing (as well as his greenhouse of orchids) and teaches him how “presence triumphs presents.”

Once again, this episode shows how far Eddie has come along since the first season. Before when he wanted to buy something, he was told to get a job to earn the money. This time around, he instantly went looking for work when the price of the necklace was out of his budget. At the same time, Eddie also shows how much Allison really means to him by putting in all this effort to give her something nice for her birthday. It’s a sweet gesture and a trait that’s not always found in middle school boys.

This week’s episode was another score for Fresh Off the Boat!


Featured image courtesy of ABC

Dear Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Thank You from a West Covina Filipina

Dear creators, actors, and producers of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,

First off, as a West Covina native, I want to thank you for putting West Covina on the map. Thanks for showing that Southern California isn’t one blob of beach glamour but rather, it’s made of a ton of diverse suburbs that many Southern Californians call home. Sure, West Covina is a boring town that took me 18 years to get out of, but it’s also lovable — which Crazy Ex definitely portrays.

Last Monday night, you aired your 6th episode “My First Thanksgiving with Josh!” in which Rebecca Bunch spends Thanksgiving with her ex-boyfriend Josh Chan’s family — and they happen to be Filipino.

You should be proud of yourselves. This has been called a “landmark moment for Filipinos on American TV” and it’s probably the first time a lot of Filipinos have been on an American TV show all at once. The CW is also changing the game with its other programs —  – more specifically, Jane the Virgin, for which actress Gina Rodriguez has won a Golden Globe for Best Actress (the first Golden Globe ever won for the network). In an industry where people of color seem to be deprived of screen time, y’all are doing something right.

I want to take the time to show you exactly what you did right, whether you meant to or not. As if seeing my hometown on broadcast television didn’t give me enough feels, seeing Filipinos —- people who look like me and my family — made me straight up sentimental.

A Filipino Thanksgiving on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – Source: Fusion/The CW

So, while the warm fuzzies and butterflies last, I want to thank you for:

Recognizing us as “Asian”… You show that we also go through the pressure of the model minority myth, and that this myth is destructive. Josh just wants to work at a chill electronics store, but his dad wants him to work in a hospital. Instead of presenting the model minority as being entirely constitutive of Josh’s personality, you show how he struggles against it  a struggle that resonates with many Asian Americans, including Filipino Americans.

…but also specifying us as “Filipino.” But you also got some Filipino-specific details: the fact that many of us are Catholic by way of the Spanish, our cuisine (bless Rebecca and her diniguan-related troubles), and the workings of a Filipino party. You also showed that we come from everywhere. When Josh lists the cities his family members are coming from, you cleverly mention cities with large Filipino populations — Stockton, Temecula, Glendale, just to name a few.

Showing how important family is to Filipinos. When you represent Filipinos on screen and you want to do it accurately, you better make sure to show how important family is to us. You not only did that, but you also made family the center of the entire “My First Thanksgiving with Josh!” episode and a constant site of struggle for Rebecca throughout the series. Rebecca is right to ask, “Would I like to be surrounded by the unconditional love of 100 Filipinos?” Of course she would. Filipino families are big and they show some big love, too.

For simply putting us on the screen. .Before Crazy Ex, it was hard to recall seeing a Filipino who wasn’t Manny Pacquiao anywhere on American television. Filipinos are the second largest Asian American population in Los Angeles, but we are practically invisible when it comes to television or film  only 6% of main characters on TV are Asian. You’ve made a dent in that percentage with Josh Chan, which is a big deal.

Vincent Rodriguez III as Josh Chan – Source: The CW

Of course, the show — no matter how awesomely campy — is not without its faults. Allow me to make some suggestions:

  • Don’t cross the line with the stereotypes. They were funny, but you tend to go wild with them… which could be a hit or miss. I get that you were poking fun at Rebecca by satirizing her through the age-old trope of the “Mighty Whitey,” but we’re still really underrepresented, so the few representations that do exist will likely shape the perceptions that others have of us. Any variation of us as “The Other” is a bit sketch.
  • Be careful with the representations of other folks of color on the screen, specifically the Latina characters. Valencia is hypersexualized; Mrs. Hernandez doesn’t talk (Please clarify this in future episodes). Also, West Covina’s population is 45.73% Latino —- clearly not reflected in your show.
  • Bring back the boba guys from the Cup of Boba hut. Because they were hilarious. And the 626 loves its boba.
Vincent Rodriguez III as Josh and Rachel Bloom as Rebecca having boba – Photo: Greg Gayne/The CW

Much love and power to you,



Featured image courtesy of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend/CW

Five Reasons to Tune in for “Into the Badlands”

Have you been watching AMC’s new post-apocalyptic martial arts drama Into the Badlands? No? Well good thing we’re here to convince you! The Kollab Blog had the opportunity to go to a screening held in conjunction with CAPE to see the badassery firsthand along with a Q&A with the cast and creators followed afterward.

Here are our top 5 reasons why you should tune in to this epic series:

1) Daniel Wu. Born and raised in the Bay Area, Wu takes the screen as the leading man after a career in Hong Kong for 18 years. The 40 year old actor plays Sunny, a feared and ruthlessly loyal Clipper who begins to question his way of life, in the multicultural dystopian universe.

Daniel Wu as Sunny – Into the Badlands/AMC

Fun fact: Daniel Wu was originally brought in as Executive Producer for the project but it became overwhelming clear during the audition process that he was the best fit for Sunny based on both his acting and martial arts experience. His role in this show was both physically and mentally challenging: If he wasn’t shooting then he was problem solving or coordinating something behind the scenes.

2) Aramis Knight plays M.K., a young man with yet-to-be-explained potential.  This young talent, serves as an impetus in the story. Alongside Wu, they embark on an Odyssey across the land in which they learn, fight and grow. Who wouldn’t want Daniel Wu to be their mentor figure?

Aramis Knight as M.K. – Into the Badlands/AMC

Fun fact: He is only 16! This kid’s got a bright future ahead of him.

3) Sure the show itself is intriguing but the opening credits alone are a work of art that blends East and West masterfully through an animated mix between contemporary comic book drawings and classic scroll paintings. Seeing the diverse names of the cast against the graphics and musical score feels like a huge high five moment every time.


Fun fact: It’s an empowering and beautiful intro that perfectly sums up the vibes of the show, made by none other than Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda.

4) The Badlands are a world that audiences have never seen before. It’s a deliberate mash-up of everything that the executive producers/showrunners/writers, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (of Shanghai Noon and Smallville), think are cool: Asian Cinema, Pre-Edo Japan, Japanese Medieval Society, HK Cinema, Cowboy/Western, Dystopian Society… You can’t categorize it because it’s a unique world. Eventually you just don’t think about what it’s referencing, you just watch.

Fun Fact: “The story is very loosely based on Journey to the West’ which is how the Monkey King brought Buddhism from India to China. It’s about all these challenges he meets on the way and how they transform him from a rebellious, naughty Monkey King into a Buddha himself. So, that’s the real spritual backbone of the show — you see this character Sunny looking for something greater than he has known.”

5) It bringing Martial Arts drama to TV. Can you imagine a world without phones and email? In this series no modern electronics exist and martial arts is the great equalizer. Men and women alike fight hand to hand. But there’s more beyond the words and fighting. At the end of the day it’s about the compelling stories and complex people struggling with the common topics of power and freedom. The martial arts are just the visual eye candy and glue that helps to tell the story of spiritual and individual transformation.

Alexa Ioannides as Tilda – Into the Badlands/AMC

Fun Fact: The actors went through a 6 week fight camp where they went through training with a elite team from HK led by Master Dee Dee, martial arts coordinator (Crouching Tiger, Matrix) to get in tip top shape for the fight choreography and learn the basics of martial arts.


Cover image  courtesy of AMC

Kollab Watches: Fresh Off the Boat 2.08 – “Huangsgiving”

If there’s one thing that can be said about Thanksgiving is that it brings families together, for better or for worse. While it’s a great opportunity to kick it with relatives you haven’t seen in a while, such a gathering also sets up for the worst of the grudges and other possible family dilemmas to resurface. In this week’s episode of Fresh Off the Boat, “Huangsgiving,” we see Jessica’s desire to outdo her attention-seeking sister come out, as the Huang family assembles to prepare for their first Thanksgiving in the Sunshine State.

Normally it’s Jessica’s sister Connie who plays host to Thanksgiving. However, this time around, their mother formally announces during her traditional 5:30 AM phone call that it’s Jessica and her family who have been given the honor. Unfortunately, despite having preparations set as far as what food to prepare and what additional people to invite, things begin to fall apart quickly.

Upon Connie’s family’s arrival the day before Thanksgiving, Connie is quick to announce how she’s having issues with her marriage to her husband Steve. Despite Jessica not buying her pity party, Louis offers him the couch to sleep on for the night. However, Steve convinces Louis to join him for “a little drink” and he finds himself lying outside the house the next morning, with the ultimate of hangovers and a half-eaten burrito on his chest. Jessica naturally assumes the drinking was a strategy for taking advantage of the Huang family.

The chaos continues throughout the day , including supposed ready-to-cook Cornish hens being delivered live, a raw turkey in the oven that Louis forgot to turn on, stingy and sour cranberries, and Louis gets knocked out during a friendly game of football. Nothing goes according to plan (including Steve’s attempts to win back Connie). This is ABC however, so everything turns out alright in the end for the Huangs in an (almost) heartwarming fashion.

This episode had a number of great callbacks to moments from the previous season. Jessica’s brief phone call with Connie, complete with passive-aggressive subtitles, was a great nod at season one episode, “Success Perm.” Also returning from that episode were the two grandmas being badasses together again, as well as Eddie struggling to keep up with his cousin Justin; whose taste in music is “like chasing the wind.”

I did find the return of Jessica’s gay ex-boyfriend Oscar (in tow with his new NPR-loving boyfriend no less) a little out of place, though it’s explained that he’s a favorite of Jessica’s mother and being used to sway her approval. Honestly, even if it wasn’t a big part of the story, how many people here would actually invite their exes to their Thanksgiving feast?

Much like the organized chaos of actual Thanksgivings, there was no official B plot in this episode; just a bunch of smaller vignettes, supporting the main storyline of Jessica and Louis putting together the best Huangsgiving ever. I personally liked how the episode was able to carry itself with one primary storyline all the way through and it’s a testament to the strength of the characters that it worked out so well. This bodes well for future “special” episodes. On the downside though, we had less time to spend with some of the other characters, like the kids. Yes, Emery and Evan were frustrated that Honey was not taking their table decorations seriously, and Eddie and Justin put their musical differences aside to download pictures of sexy girls (or a sensible Tracy Chapman) on the Internet, but their stories were more on the periphery to the main plot.

The second holiday episode of Fresh Off the Boat was a success, especially following the news that two more episodes have been added to its season’s line-up.

Please note that the next episode of Fresh Off the Boat won’t be until Tuesday December 1st.


Featured image courtesy of ABC

Kollab Watches: Fresh Off the Boat 2.07 – “The Big 1-2”

I’ve been enjoying the episodes of Fresh Off the Boat this season where Louis and Jessica have taken center stage, but I was happy to see this week’s episode, “The Big 1-2,” re-direct its focus on the children of the Huang family. In this episode, all three got to test and challenge the rules placed upon them, as they made space for either breaking out of character or just wanting to grow.

Eddie continues to make the transition from child to adolescent as he celebrates his twelfth birthday. After last year’s Star Wars-themed birthday party fail, Eddie tells his parents that he doesn’t want a party this year and instead wants to spend the day with his friends at the mall. However, as Jessica and Louis arrive at the mall, balloons in tow, to surprise him, they catch him having a secret birthday party with his friends and, to Louis’ dismay, Mitch. Confronting him about it over dinner, Eddie calls out his parents’ overly strict rules for his inability to be himself at home. To his surprise, his parents decide to start relaxing the rules, and this leads to after effects both good… and weird.

Meanwhile, Emery and Evan, who are tired of being constantly ignored by their parents in favor of their troublemaking brother, decide to break from their goody two shoes and start living life on the wild side. When their big reveal of how they went to see the PG-13 rated Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls gets no reaction, they decide to step it up by messing up their clothes and hair, sticking their hands into a jar of Nutella before eating it, and pouring their Legos all over the floor, like badasses! They turn out to be the worst rebels in the world, as none of their mischief is met with any reaction of a sort. Even their last resort of running away to Denver falls through when the sight of their empty suburban street scares them into staying home. But in the weirdest way possible, and to their delight, it all works out in the end when they find themselves grounded (possibly for the first time in their lives).

I continue to enjoy seeing different sides of Eddie. He’s becoming better-rounded as a character as he’s slowly growing from a self-absorbed, hip hop-loving boy to a young man who has just as many conflicts and insecurities as anyone else. It’s an evolution that feels real as actor Hudson Yang does a successful job at portraying Eddie’s struggles. Plus, given that he too just turned twelve recently, I can only imagine bringing more of an authentic feel for the character as he continues to grow. (Fun fact: I don’t know if anyone else considered this, but did anyone find it weird that the show made Eddie’s birthday in November when the real Eddie’s birthday is in March?)

As for Emery and Evan, I continue to laugh out loud over the humorous and mischievous antics they get themselves into. My brother was watching the episode with me and during their little montage, every act of “rebellion” was met with a sarcastic but appropriate “They did not!” from him. Despite their young age, actors Forrest Wheeler and Ian Chen are already on the path to becoming comedic pros, as their timing is spot on.

Overall, it was another fun episode of Fresh Off the Boat with great one-liners from Jessica and more of Louis’ charismatic and open perspective on life. I can’t  wait to see how future episodes branch off from what occurred in this episode.


Featured image courtesy of ABC

Kollab Watches: Fresh off the Boat Episode 2.06 – “Good Morning Orlando”

Remember how I said that the fourth episode for this season of Fresh Off the Boat was a definite favorite? Well this week’s episode, “Good Morning Orlando,” can officially be added to the same list. From the humorous awkwardness that comes with first love, to a social commentary that definitely hits close to home, this episode went above and beyond with stories to enjoy and contemplate.

It’s been two weeks since the Fall Ball, and Eddie hasn’t spoken to Allison since then, but that hasn’t stopped him from thinking about her (“She punched me in the armpit. It was amazing!”). However, according to her group’s messenger boy Ned (don’t ask), it turns out they’ve been an item since that fateful mash pit. Soon Eddie’s friends wind up with Allison’s other friends and they go on a romantic first group date of passing each other on the escalators at the mall. But when one of Eddie’s friends suddenly faces a break up from a girl he didn’t realize he was with, they come to realize: Who the hell are their girlfriends?

I thought it was humorous how the episode portrayed Eddie, his friends, and their first girlfriends’ idea of dating ( and where passing each other on an escalator is equivalent to nailing a first date). It’s a nostalgic look back at the days of first experiencing butterflies in your stomach just from the sight of someone you’re into, and the nagging questions of whether you should talk to them, what you should say, and whether or not the feeling is mutual. It was also fun to take a nostalgic look back at a pre-mobile phone era. If this story had taken place today, I think Eddie would have probably received that “Hi!” from Allison via text (or Snapchat?), instead of a physical note. It was sweet that in the end, Eddie finally figures out – via the wisdom of Emery- that to make a relationship work, communication is key (and maybe the girls should consider this advice too and not have a representative do all the dirty work for them).

Meanwhile, Louis is approached by the co-hosts of Good Morning Orlando to come onto the show and promote Cattlemen’s Ranch. Jessica sees it as a perfect opportunity to bring more business- and ultimately more money- to the restaurant (especially after she didn’t take Honey’s husband’s advice about checking her now termite-infected restored house). He appears to make a good impression on the show by cracking imitations of Donald Duck and Rocky Balboa. However, upon his arrival home, Jessica calls him out on his foolishness and accuses him of how he might have created a negative portrayal of Chinese people, invoking the one thing Louis hated from Sixteen Candles, Long Duk Dong (yeah, she went there). But when he is banned following a second appearance on the show where he accused the co-hosts of racism, Louis comes to his senses that he can’t please everyone and should just be himself.

While promotion leading up to this episode was mainly concerning whether or not Eddie and his friends have game at the tender age of twelve, it was Louis’ storyline that I loved most about this episode. I liked that Louis told Jessica, after she lectured him on how he should be acting on TV, that “one person can’t be everything.” It was a clever way to talk about #repsweats, a term coined earlier this year describing the many expectations placed on Asian Americans on TV to “properly” represent themselves to audiences, because as a community we are so afraid of misrepresentations (like with Long Duk Dong). Putting that internal struggle of our community into the context of Louis’ story line in this episode was brilliant and helps deliver that message to viewers who might not have been aware of it before. We are fortunate today to have two shows (so far) that center around Asian American families, and as Louis would likely agree, we still have a ways to go before we get over the #repsweats, but it’s a start.

On a final note, I don’t know if Fresh Off the Boat is one of those shows where shipping couples is a thing, but now that Eddie and Allison are actually together, what would their couple name be? Eddison?


Featured image courtesy of ABC