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June 6, 2023

American Born Chinese: The Controversial Book Character We Don't See On The Show

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During “American Born Chinese,” we’re introduced to Freddy Wong, played by Ke Huy Quan. Wong is a comic-relief character on “Beyond Repair,” an in-universe ’90s sitcom in “American Born Chinese.” Wong essentially serves as a replacement for Chin-Kee because, in the character’s journey throughout the Disney+ series, he still addresses some of the anti-Asian stereotypes Western entertainment has historically presented. Although the character isn’t as harsh as Chin-Kee in Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel original, he still did cause enough concern for Quan to pass on the role initially before getting a chance to learn of Kelvin Yu’s intentions with Wong.

As “American Born Chinese” peels back a layer to focus on Jamie Yao, the actor behind Wong, we get a more subtle and nuanced exploration of Hollywood and an Asian actor forced to play into an industry’s ignorant system to succeed. This is primarily thanks to the character’s origin — Yu’s experience on the WB show “Popular” as the stereotypical Freddy Gong. 

Not only did Yu come up with a solid solution, but as he expressed to the New York Times, he also confronted his past. “The only way to defeat your fear is to wear its armaments,” Yu told the Times.”That’s how you steal its power.”

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