Constance Wu: I Didnt Speak Out on Fresh Off the Boat Abuse Because TV Lacked AAPI Representation
Constance Wu opened up about her experience on ABC sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat” with an Asian American producer who sexually harassed her.
Wu, whose memoir “Making a Scene” includes specific requests from the unnamed producer to wear short skirts, have long hair, and send him selfies late at night, appeared on Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Red Table Talk” Facebook Watch series to further discuss the abuse claims. Wu also explained her infamous viral tweets voicing her disappointment that “Fresh Off the Boat” was renewed.
“It’s funny because people were basically canceling me for being ungrateful and ungraceful. They were saying I didn’t think about the other peoples’ jobs on the show and how selfish that was, and how I was behaving like a diva,” Wu said. “And what people didn’t realize is during my first couple years on ‘Fresh Off the Boat,’ I was sexually harassed and I was intimidated and threatened all the time.”
Wu continued, “This producer, he was an Asian American, and the thing that was most painful was he was so derogatory and harassing towards me, but because this show was sort of a beacon of representation for Asian Americans, and I sort of became a symbol of representation, I didn’t want to sully the one show with sexual harassment claims against the one Asian American man who is doing all this better work for the community.”
The “Hustlers” star added, “So I think that’s sort of what happened when I tweeted that stuff. It seemed out of character if you don’t know me and if you don’t know all the pain and abuse I had to swallow for years, and the reason I’m crying now is because you sort of have to be honest about it as it happens so it doesn’t come out later the way it does.”
Wu noted that the harassment happened on set, with the unnamed male producer asking her to “‘show me this friend, I want to see if I’ll fuck her or not,’” among other vulgar comments.
“I also felt guilty because I felt like I was playing into it. I’ve got to pretend I’m part of the boys’ club,” Wu said.
The producer groped Wu one time on the way to a basketball game. “It was ‘not that bad’ compared to other stories I’ve heard,” Wu added. “But the point is, it shouldn’t have happened at all.”
She said the producer targeted women of Asian American descent, which complicated the matter for Wu.
“The thing that was really interesting was to Black and white women, he displayed the utmost respect,” Wu said. “And I’ve since heard accounts from other Asian actresses, ‘Oh yeah, me too. This happened to me with this guy too.’”
At the time, the “Crazy Rich Asians” actress debated going to human resources on the ABC series or not.
“I spoke up to a couple of people who I thought were friends or allies and nobody encouraged me to go to HR though because they didn’t want the show to get cancelled,” Wu said, noting that years later a female colleague encouraged to go to HR but she “thought nobody is going to believe me, I don’t have evidence.”
“I regret that,” Wu said. “She was right, I should have reported it to HR because that’s their job…To see your abuser being buddy-buddy with everybody, it feels like a betrayal.”
As for the “Fresh Off the Boat” series ending, Wu said that she “actually felt lied to” as the sitcom was set to conclude in Season 5. “The last episode of prior season had been written as finale,” Wu said. “[But] it was sort of a bad look to cancel the one Asian American sitcom when ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ renewed this conversation.”
Wu, who is also a rape survivor, noted that her tweets sharing her annoyance at the renewal of “Fresh Off the Boat” was the amalgam of a “perfect storm of many things.”
“I had swallowed the abuse for so long,” Wu said of the production harassment. “That producer and I didn’t talk for the remaining three or four years of the show. I really wanted a clean slate that didn’t hold so many memories of intimidation and fear.”
Wu later attempted suicide after the backlash to her tweets. But now, Wu is reflecting on her assaults and silence.
“In a strange way I didn’t want to fight back and make a scene,” Wu said, citing the reason behind the title of her memoir. “I didn’t register it as rape because we’re so used to thinking of it as violence. It was a quiet experience.”
Now, Wu is using her voice.
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