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Talking Books, Boats and Bunnies with Constance Wu
7 pressing questions with our October Guest Judge
Book of the Month
Book of the Month: Your selection, The Wangs vs. The World, is about a family that emigrated from Taiwan to Los Angeles. Â In your role on ABC's hit series Fresh off the Boat, your character (Jessica Huang), emigrated from Taiwan to Florida. Â How does Jessica's experience as an immigrant compare to the Wangs? Â
Constance Wu: In Fresh Off the Boat, the Huang family begins with humble origins and great ambitions; each family member trying to create their identity in the New Foreign place called Florida. In The Wangs vs. The World, the Wang family begins with excessive wealth that is abruptly lost, causing each family member to question the foundation of their identities and trace its roots back to the New Foreign place called China.Â Both stories are about identity but have different starting points. The Wangs get the opportunity to explore their essential selves: who we are when we have nothing? The Huangs get to build up and create their selves: who are we trying to become?
In The Wangs, the Wang family starts off wealthy and abruptly loses all of their money. Â What advice would the extremely frugal Jessica Huang have for a family that has only known excess?
I think Jessica would try to pare down the excess to essentials by selling off all the expensive stuff. Then, she'd put the profits in secure low-risk investments or into her children's college education. She's very practical and would put security for her children above all else.
Your own parents emigrated from Taiwan. Â Recognizing that The Wangs is an outsized parody, were there any parts of the book that rang true to you? Â
The curiosity for my own Mainland Chinese ancestral roots felt familiar to me.
On Fresh off the Boat, Jessica is obsessed with Melrose Place. What television shows were you obsessed with growing up?
I was a very bookish kid, so I didn't have any TV shows I obsessed over. But I remember a fondness for Mister Rogers. I also really liked PBS specials that had to do with theatre, dance, music. Â I remember taping this Hammerstein special and watching it over and over again. Â I love old musicals.
You're a big supporter of other Asian-American celebrities. What were some of the obstacles you faced trying to make it Hollywood?
Debt, rejection, shame, fear, loneliness, doubt, jealousy
You have a ridiculously cute one-eyed bunny, Lida Rose. Our members are big animal lovers. Why a bunny vs a cat or a dog?
Bunny rabbits, with their gentle brightness and light, have a way of calming me and making me appreciate the little miracles of life. Â I think it says a great deal about our species that we have the emotional desire and capacity to care for and love prey animals. Â It is one of the best parts of our nature. Â I like to nourish the best parts of myself, rather than indulge in the worst. Â Even the concept of a birdfeeder is really wonderful when you think about it.
You've said you're 'œall about the uncool' and that you don't want to be 'œHollywood's It-Girl.' Is it possible to be uncool AND Hollywood's It-Girl at the same time?
Haha this is honestly a lot of semantics. Â There's the false exterior idea of cool (style, mannerisms, expressions etc) And there's actual cool, which is like an internal sense of detachment. Â When that detachment is sprung from apathy or vanity then it probably won't be cool enough to make someone 'œit.' Â However, when that detachment comes from a deeply rooted sense of self, then usually a person is very cool because they don't require external validation. Â That, my dears, is 'œit'.