Exclusive Interview: Sanjay Shah (Screenwriter/Consulting Producer, "Fresh Off the Boat")

COLOR has covered Fresh Off the Boat extensively when it comes to the episodes and characters, including an interview with Kid Eddie himself, Hudson Yang. But now we’re going behind the scenes with Sanjay Shah, one of the screenwriters for Fresh Off the Boat.

I was happy to ask interview Shah via email about working on the show, what fans can expect from upcoming episodes, and how he feels about the public embracing the show. 

COLOR: How did you get into writing?

Sanjay Shah: I majored in something useless! Economics – total garbage.  I started doing stand up which lead me to TV writing.

So far, what do do you think about the public’s response to Fresh Off the Boat?

BET and Univision’s programming has been destroying network TV’s numbers for a decade. So I am not surprised that people showed up to watch our pilot.  I’m just happy that the show is about way more than race. That’s why I think the numbers grew.  

What do you love about the show?

That I can pitch using a song like H-Town’s “Knockin’ Da Boots” and somebody says yes.

I’ve read that Fresh Off the Boat as a writing room in which the majority of the writers are people of color. A lot of shows don’t have benefit of having a mostly POC writing room. What do you think about representation in the TV writing industry?

I think we have a long way to go. CBS is still doing Long Duk Dong shit. It is 2015.

Eddie Huang has been protective of his story and wasn’t sure exactly how the network would handle it (or, to paraphrase him, water it down). How have the writers made sure the integrity of his story stayed in the show?

We all read the book and continued to refer to it throughout the season. It is very hard to make a sitcom work, especially nowadays when networks are so quick to cancel. Nahnatchka Khan (our showrunner) did an awesome job figuring out how to do this show while maintaining respect for the source material. I don’t think there is any way we would’ve lasted more than a few episodes if not for her.

Fresh Off the Boat is making a name for itself as the second Asian-American focused TV show in over 20 years. Yet, there’s a ton more versions of the Asian-American experience that have yet to be shown on TV or movies. The only other shows I can think of that give a look into the Asian experience are the now-cancelled Sullivan and Son and two shows that star/starred South Asians, The Mindy Project and the cancelled show Outsourced. Even still, there hasn’t been much proper representation of the variety of Asian stories on television. This is a longwinded way of asking: How do you do think Fresh Off the Boat will open up the door to networks accepting more stories detailing Asian experiences of America?

If the networks like money they will. But Hollywood is more a “business” than a business. So who knows.    

ABC has recently ordered the pilot Dr. Ken and the kid star from that show, Albert Tsai, will be doing a guest appearance on Fresh Off the Boat. What do you think about ABC picking up Dr. Ken and also, what do think about Fresh Off the Boat’s influence on ABC picking the show up? (Or, do you think there was an influence at all?)

I think we probably had some influence.  I also know that Dr. Ken is multicam and ABC seems to be building out a new multicam TGIF block. So maybe that’s what they’re doing, but I can only guess. 

What can fans look forward to in later episodes of Fresh Off the Boat?

My favorite episodes are yet to come. And I got to write the finale, which will finally address why the Huangs wear shoes in the house. Okay, Twitter?

Is there anything you’d like to say to the fans of the show?
 
Bike to work. It is good for you. It will shred your thighs.