Perhaps one of the most anticipated young adult Asian American media releases this year is Disney+’s upcoming streaming series American Born Chinese, The series, set to release on May 24 on Disney+, is based on Gene Luen Yang’s award winning graphic novel of the same name. The series (and the book) follows the life of Jin Wang (played by Ben Wang – “Chang Can Dunk”), a Chinese American teenager navigating the angst of being a teenager interlaced with both overt and subtle racism at his high school. Throw into the mix the son of the Monkey King (Wei-Chen Sun), the Monkey King, Pigsy and Guanyin, and you’ve almost got the equivalent of an Asian American Marvel Universe, with plenty of action packed Kung-fu scenes included.
The series expands and differs from the original graphic novel in interesting and sometimes touching ways. The setting moves from the 1980-90’s to present day, and adds a lot more color around the home family dynamics Jin Wang has to deal with in addition to his troubles at school, and highlights the troubles his parents, Simon and Christine Wang (played by Chin Han – Mortal Kombat and Yeo Yann Yann – Wet Season) face navigating America as immigrants. Asian Americans who grew up in the U.S. will recognize many of the microaggressions, challenges, and dilemmas facing Jin Wang. Gene Luen Yang captures many of the quintessential experiences, one of the many reasons Yang’s graphic novel has had so much acclaim and success.
The series stars an Asian/Asian American cast, including many of the key stars of Everything Everywhere All at Once (winner of seven Oscars at the 2023 Academy Awards including best actress for Michelle Yeoh – Guanyin and best supporting actor for Ke Huy Quan – Freddy Wong). Add to that Emmy® Award-winning executive producer Kelvin Yu (“Bob’s Burgers,” “Central Park”), Lucy Liu directing an episode, and other Asian/Asian American actors, including Daniel Wu (“Reminiscence”), Stephanie Hsu (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”), and former Taekwondo champion Jimmy Liu (“Just Add Magic”).
As both an Asian American immigrant who grew up in the United States and an Asian American parent of a teenager, I’m always excited to see the Asian American experience represented in mainstream media. I was an early reader of Yang’s book, and am so happy to see it transformed into series for television, and was lucky enough to listen to and meet Yang at an event at the Asian Art Museum earlier this year, when he was the featured speaker in a “Meet the Artist” event.
I was also fortunate enough to be invited to a premiere of American Born Chinese at San Francisco’s Castro Theater, as part of CAAMFest, and included a panel discussion with Gene Luen Yang, Kelvin Yu, Daniel Wu, Yeo Yann Yann, and Chin Han. With many thanks to 8Asians author, John, 8Asians is able to give you the virtual presentation of that panel discussion:
The panel answered questions on their inspiration, how the series differed from the book, and the importance of Asian / Asian American representation and was moderated by SF Chronicle Senior Arts & Entertainment Editor, Mariecar Mendoza. Below are photos taken at the event:
h/t John for the photos
All 8 episodes of American Born Chinese are set to release on Disney+ on May 24, 2023.
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