American Born Chinese follows Jin Wang, an average teenager, who juggles his high school social life with his home life. When he meets a new student on the first day of the school year, Jin is unwittingly entangled in a battle of Chinese mythological gods. During the press day, the cast and creator discuss bringing the comic book to life, working with Michelle Yeoh, and finding the perfect family dynamic.
Ben Wang (Jin Wang)
Chin Han (Simon Wang)
Yann Yann Yeo (Christine Wang)
Daniel Wu (The Monkey King)
Jimmy Liu (Wei-Chen)
Gene Luen Yang (Author of Graphic Novel)
What’s It Like Seeing Your Comic Come To Life?
Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel is coming to life in the “American Born Chinese” series, so of course we needed to know what that feels like for him.
Gene Luen Yang: I’ve used this word a lot. It’s very surreal to be in this moment. To be on the Zoom with movie stars and TV stars. 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. And 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+ now just shows that people can connect with our stories. And that’s incredibly gratifying.
Finding A Family Dynamic
Ben Wang, Chin Han, and Yann Yann Yeo immediately give off family vibes when you see them on screen. So we asked them how they found that family dynamic on set.
Ben Wang: I think at one point in real life, I just showed up at Yann Yann’s house, and she cooked dinner for me. The Chin Han showed up too so we took that and transplanted it and put it on set.
Chin Han: We went full method on this. When we weren’t shooting, we were spending time together and going for meals. We went for a baseball game. Then we would go shopping. It was literally like a real family. It was quite special being able to have all this time with your co-stars because normally on a film or a TV set, you’re isolated, or hiding in your trailer, or going home afterward, but we literally spent all our time together. It was like summer camp for us.
Ben Wang: That expands out to beyond the family too. Everybody involved with this production, it really felt like one big community. One big family. I think shows in the final product.
Yann Yann Yeo: You should have a look at Ben and my childhood photos. We actually look so much alike. We were both shocked at how much we looked alike as children. We’re always talking about how much we thank our casting people. They really bought that long-lost family together.
At the same time, Daniel Wu and Jimmy Liu play father and son. They also took the time offset to bond.
Daniel Wu: We tried to bond as much as we could possibly offset. It helps that Jimmy is a Warriors fan. If he was a Lakers fan, I don’t think I could have bonded with him as well. But because of that, we watched the playoffs. The finals were going on while we were filming this. So we’re constantly in between fight scenes, watching the game on my iPad, and then going back out to fight. But yeah, I think it was a natural relationship. Jimmy’s a good-looking guy. Kind of like me, you know? And so we developed that bond over that. I really admire Jimmy. He’s a super hard worker. The fight scenes were not easy at all. I’ve spent years on wirework, but it was the first time for him. And he was just like, amazing with it. Totally cool cucumber all the time; never stressed out. It was good to see his work ethic, and it was easy to work with him.
Working With Michelle Yeoh
Jimmy Liu also has a lot of scenes with Oscar-winner Michelle Yeoh, so we asked what it was like to work with her.
Jimmy Liu: She is very warm and kind. She really is like an Auntie to me. When we’re on set, she was always hugging me and giving me advice. She’s like really kind. The scenes we did together were fun. I was really happy to be working with her.
What Do You Hope People Take Away From “American Born Chinese”?
Ben Wang plays the lead in this film. He is extremely relatable in that everyone had been awkward in school before. We asked him what he hopes people take away from the series as a whole.
Ben Wang: It’s a fun show. First and foremost, for any viewer, what I want is for them to be entertained, for them to fall in love with these characters, the same way that I did when I first read the script. These are fantastically written characters. I think if people are watching and having fun, the deep themes are going to get naturally absorbed. So first and foremost, I hope people enjoy it. For me, as an actor, it was important that I show Jin having an arc this season, where he really develops and grows as a human being. I hope that younger people watching, and especially people who grew up in the same way that I did. I grew up in a small town in Minnesota, and I was one of the only Asian kids. I hope that if there’s a kid out there like me, who’s also feeling like an outsider. This is a show for kids who don’t feel like they necessarily fit in or are trying very hard. I hope that they can see this character and maybe they can find some hope for themselves too.
“American Born Chinese” starts streaming on Disney+ May 24th.
Tessa Smith AKA Mama's Geeky, is a journalist that covers geek and Disney culture on her own website, as well as freelances for other sites such as What's On Disney Plus and Screen Rant. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Marketing and loves all things geeky. She is a Disney Vacation Club member and a Founders Circle Member of Disney+. She is also an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes and a member of the Critics Choice Association. Tessa lives in Upstate New York with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs named Sansa and Khaleesi.