Why Fresh Off the Boat's Producer Was Bashing His Own "Historic" Show

Chef Eddie Huang, who is a producer on the series based on his memoir, initially had concerns about ABC's plans for his life story

By Tierney Bricker Jan 14, 2015 9:32 PMTags
Fresh Off The BoatABC

Talk about awkward timing.

Just before the cast and creative team behind Fresh Off the Boat, ABC's new comedy based on chef Eddie Huang's 2003 memoir of the same name, was set to take the stage in front of reporters at the 2015 Winter TCA Press Tour on Wednesday, an op-ed written by Huang ran in New York magazine.

In the article, Huang, a producer on the show, which he also narrates, initially criticized the network's adaptation of his story about his Taiwanese family adapting to life in America in the '90s.

"The network's approach was to tell a universal, ambiguous, cornstarch story about Asian-Americans resembling moo go gai pan written by a Persian-American who cut her teeth on race relations writing for Seth MacFarlane," he wrote, referring to executive producer Nahnatchka Khan. "My story had become an entertaining but domesticated vehicle to sell dominant culture with Kidz Bop, pot shots, and the emasculated Asian male."

And during Fresh Off the Boat's panel, Huang defended his article, which eventually ended with Huang supporting the pilot episode, writing, "They did it."

"To be honest, I care the most about the conversation that's going to happen because of this show. This show to me is historic, this show has a huge place culturally in America," he said. "In general, it's important, for me, to have a qualified support for the show and to make sure the show stays authentic and stays responsible to the book…to the Asian community and people of color in America in general cultural. I believe the show is doing that and the show is very strategic and smart in how it's opening things up."


Huang went on to praise the network and show for including a scene in which another student uses a racial slur against Eddie in the series premiere.

"To deal with the word 'chink' in the pilot episode of a comedy on network television was borderline genius and insane at the same time," Huang said.

Khan was also on the panel and said the article and what he wrote didn't bother her. "I was thrilled when I read the article I was like, 'I just found the source material for my next project,'" she joked.

She then continued, "I really value Eddie's voice in the process. The fact that we're here is a historic thing. I always value free speech…he's the heart and soul of the inspiration for the show."

And while the op-ed featured heated debate and discussions between Huang and executive producer Melvin Mar, and Huang joked on the panel that the two "hate each other, but it's been great," he said, "I really, genuinely feel that when you do something historic, that has to do with race relations, there has to be conflict, there has to be debate." 

Star Constance Wu, who plays Eddie's mother, added, "Progress arises out of conflict, not out of pretending everything is hunky-dory."

Fresh Off the Boat premieres Feb. 4 on ABC.