Yang plays a young Eddie Huang (who we know of today as famous chef/ Baouhaus restaurateur Eddie Huang). Yang’s Eddie (who I’ve called “Kid Eddie” in my Fresh Off the Boat recaps) is still trying to find his place in the world, and his current method of figuring out who he is includes tons of rap music, hip-hop shirts, and a lot of trial and error.
I’m excited to share my interview with Yang (mediated through email by his father Jeff Yang, Wall Street Journal columnist and an SVP/head of multicultural insights at The Futures Company). In the interview, Yang talks about catching the acting bug, working with his TV family, and what he hopes audiences learn from the show. Fresh Off the Boat airs every Tuesday at 8/7c on ABC.
What made you interested in acting?
Well, one day, I just said to my dad, “Hey, being an actor looks pretty cool. Do you think I could ever be one?” My dad was pretty startled by this because I never showed any interest in acting before. But these two girls in my class, Mavis and Macy, were actors and it seemed interesting when they talked about their experiences in showbiz. So that got me curious. And he said, acting is really hard, and it can hurt to be turned down because actors get turned down a lot. But I still wanted to try.
My dad had a friend who knew about a movie, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, that was looking for an Asian kid about my age. So I went out to audition for that part, and they liked me. They called me back a few times and then they sent me to LA for a final audition. I was up against another kid, Ethan [Dizon], who ended up getting the part, because I didn’t have any experience. The casting director liked me and introduced me to my agents.
(I actually eventually met Ethan again later — he auditioned for the role of Emery in Fresh Off the Boat!)
This is your first big TV role; how does it feel to be the star of the show?
It’s really exciting because I get to have a chance that less than a handful of kids get to have. And only one Asian kid, me! I don’t think there’s ever been a show with an Asian kid as the lead before.
What do you love the most about playing Eddie?
What I love most is that I get to turn into a different character, somebody new. It’s like making friends with that character and it allows me to do things I haven’t done and maybe never would do in real life. Eddie is rougher and is less afraid to speak his mind than me. But in a lot of ways, he’s really similar to me.
What’s it like working with the rest of the cast?
It’s really fun! Because you get to meet so many new people and everyone on set is really nice. They play with me, help me out, and put up with my crazy nonsense. Forrest [Wheeler] is really smart. He thinks about the future a lot. And the present. Ian [Chen] is really playful and also really smart and sweet. We all play together, Minecraft and board games. We also all got these shoes with wheels called Heelies and were skating all over the set. And Randall [Park] and Constance [Wu] are really hard working and caring people. They take care of us like they’re our parents even though they only are on TV!
What do you think of the rap music?
I’m not as into rap as the real Eddie is but I’m getting into it. Randall loves hiphop and he made me a giant mix of his favorite songs (that don’t have too many bad words). I’m learning!
What do you hope people like about the show?
I hope people like my performance. Our performances I mean. I hope they can understand the jokes in the show, and learn something about what it’s like being Asian. Also don’t ever call us the C word.
Photo credit: Image Group LA, ABC