Ke Huy Quan, who played Evelyn’s husband Waymond in EEAAO, plays Freddy Wong, a racist caricature from an old sitcom. One of the story arcs in the original graphic novel follows Chin-Kee, a caricature of Chinese stereotypes. Chin-Kee (a play on “chinky”) makes a powerful point about racism but taken out of context would be highly offensive. Freddy Wong resolves this by softening the caricature into something more palatable for Disney+. Mar takes some credit for getting Quan on board. They had met years before on another project and wound up talking for hours. ”I knew him socially and it all just sort of came together. We got really lucky.”

Other EEAAO crossover actors include Stephanie Hsu, who played Joy, Evelyn and Waymond’s daughter, James Hong, who played the Wang grandfather Gong Gong, and Brian Le who really took one for the team with a certain “auditor of the month” trophy. Hsu is cast as Shiji Niangniang, a legendary demoness who transformed into Daoist goddess. Hong’s role is as the Jade Emperor, the first god of Daoism. And Le plays Zhu Bajie, better known as Pigsy, one of the companions of the Monkey King. The Monkey King is named Sun Wukong, and his tale is told in the 16th century classic novel Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. American Born Chinese is interwoven with the tale of the Monkey King, although it takes liberties with the story by imagining what happens to Sun Wukong after Journey to the West

Daniel Wu plays the Monkey King. He felt that the parallel casting was a timely and auspicious coincidence.

“Then we didn’t know that Michelle and Ke would go on this amazing journey to win the Oscar,” Wu says. Nevertheless, he recognizes the similarities. “It’s one cool Asian American project to another one. Both are about family and a parent and child relationship. I think it’s really cool to be able to present two different ways of storytelling, but a very similar theme.”

“We won the casting lottery,” adds Mar. “Those guys win Oscars and it helps us.”

Ben Wang plays Jin Wang, the central “ABC” in American Born Chinese. “Well, we kind of got a front row seat to their whole journey for that movie,” says Wang. He remembers that few knew about EEAAO, and those that did thought it was going to be a small, sort of weird, indie film. “And it is a weird indie movie, but it was anything except small.”


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