Entertainment

Fresh Off the Boat’s Showrunner Talks Joking About Race (Without Being Racist)

"Fresh Off The Boat" (Kevin Foley/ABC)
“Fresh Off The Boat” (Kevin Foley/ABC)

 

(Entertainment Weekly) – ABC’s newest quirky family sitcom, which premieres Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET, follows the Huang clan as they move from D.C.’s Chinatown to the lily-white Orlando suburbs. As the title (an epithet for recent immigrants) implies, Fresh isn’t afraid to court controversy—without making its characters into targets. EW spoke to creator Nahnatchka Khan about how she and her writers walk that line.

Let’s start at the beginning: How did you become the executive producer of this show?

I’d just done this show, Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apt. 23, that had been canceled. I drank for like two months straight. I was like, “I can’t handle this.” So after I came out of my drunken stupor, I read the book [Eddie Huang’s memoir Fresh Off the Boat], and I thought it was great. I really related to the first generation American/immigrant idea, because that’s my story as well. I’m not Chinese, but both of my parents were born in Iran; my brother and I were the first ones born here. First in our family to go to college, that whole thing. It just really resonated with me, [being] that sort of bridge generation between where you’ve come from and where you’re going.

The memoir Eddie Huang wrote literally takes it all the way up to adulthood, but there was a section based in Orlando in the mid-’90s, when his dad moved their whole family to start this Old West-themed steakhouse. I was like, “That’s where I would set the show.” ABC really got it—I pitched it to [ABC president] Paul Lee directly. He likes to say that he’s also an immigrant, but he comes from England, so I don’t know if that really counts. That’s like bringing in whiter people, you know? But they totally got it.

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