Disclosure: This is part of a sponsored collaboration with Disney and the Walt Disney Animation Studios. I received an all-expense paid trip so that I could gather and share this information. However, all experiences and opinions are always 100% honest and my own.
Interview with Nahnatchka Khan executive producer of Fresh Off the Boat
We had so much fun interviewing the executive producer, writer and the sweetest kids ever from Fresh Off The Boat. Here’s some q and a from the trip.
How’d you come up with the idea for Fresh Off The Boat?
Eddie Huang had written a memoir book with the same title and someone sent it to me to read. I loved that it was set in Orlando in a Steak House and I thought it would make a great tv show. Pitched it to ABC and they wanted it and had a commitment to diversity.
Me with Forrest and Ian from Fresh off the Boat. The sweetest kids ever and so funny too!
How many kids did you get through to find your perfect kid cast?
We had open casting all across America. We found Forrest and Ian locally in LA area. Hudson, aka Eddie sent in a tape and he’s not done other things so we kidded him that he was the 3rd tree in his school play. He had that raw authenticiy that we were looking for in Eddie. Forrest was perfect as Emery who is in contrast to Eddie. Everything comes easy for Emery in the show. Ian is perfect as Evan, mama’s perfect baby. Everyone loves the baby of the family.
Who do you go to for inspiration? My parents were immigrants too and I had to do all the translating for them.
My parents immigrated from Iran and I had to do all the translating for them as well. I was the bridge from old school to new school. Little things get misunderstood I remember my mom not understanding KFC. Why would I buy food in a bucket? A bucket is for cleaning not food. My food should be on a platter. So little things like that were really hard to explain. The immigrant story gives you lots of fun stories that occur like the bucket. It allows you to shine the spotlight on the immigrant lives and make fun of the things we take for granted that should be understood and aren’t.
How do you come up with all the funny story lines?
We have a great collaborative writing team. We sit around a table and tell stories of growing up in our own homes. It’s a real collaborative effort with all of us pitching in ideas and experiences we bring to the table from our own lives. It’s about outsiders. Like Honey in the 2nd episode and Candace Wu’s character Jessica. Honey’s an outsider in this storyline because the other moms don’t really like her. Her and Jessica are both outsiders and they have a connection because of that. The show’s about being an outsider and almost everyone can relate to that at one time or another in their life. I’ve worked on other shows where the stories were hard to think of and on this one the stories come so easily. You can be an outsider from the music you listen too to the fact that your family can’t afford the air jordans.
We love the 90’s references. How do you choose which ones you’re going to use?
They’re all conscious efforts. You know people were asking why set it 20 years ago? Well 20 years ago was the last time we couldn’t go find a group like us on the internet. So if you were different you were just different. We felt like that increased the isolation when you either made friends with the people in school or neighborhood or you were out of luck. There’s no chat room or place online to go to to find people who like your music or your sport.
Has Eddie seen the show? Does he like it?
Yeah, I mean it’s probably weird to see a fictionalized version of his life onscreen. But he’s seen the pilot and thought it was funny. There was really a Cattleman’s Ranch in Orlando. When we got the go ahead we went to Orlando and met with Eddie’s family. We drove by the old Cattleman’s Ranch which is now a Hooters.
Loved the Stephen King references, do you like Stephen King?
I do like Stephen King. We were trying to find a common bond for them. Stephen sets a lot of his books in places that should be safe and aren’t. We kind of feel like Jessica should feel safe in suburbia but she doesn’t. So that’s a common bond.
Have you worked with kids before?
No, not really. We had the challenge of learning that the kids pumpkin at different times. Pumpkining is like when Cinderella has to go. It’s her time to leave so let her go. Working with kids you learn they break down at a certain point. They’re tired and grumpy and just done. We had to learn when that was. Then we had to work around that. We were like I’m not ready for him to be done. I have more for him to do or say. But you can’t. They say things differently then we write them. And we’re like oh that sounded great. We never thought to have them say it like that. It also makes for a fun work environment. They make the set fun and young as they wheel around in their heelys.
How many episodes were made?
We’ve done 12 plus the pilot.
Is there a lot of improv in the scripting?
Yes definitely. Sometimes when they try things that ends up being the funniest stuff. Then we put it in the show. So yeah there’s improv that does go on.
Tonight’s episode of FRESH OFF THE BOAT – “The Shunning” – When the cul-de-sac plans a block party to celebrate NASCAR, Louis urges the family to use the event to make new friends (and promote Cattleman’s Ranch Steakhouse). But Jessica has problems fitting in, especially after she befriends a beautiful trophy wife the roller blade moms don’t like. Meanwhile, Eddie schemes to win the respect of the neighborhood kids, in the time-period premiere of ABC’s new comedy series “Fresh Off the Boat,” TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10 (8:00-8:30 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Nicole Wilder) and another one starting at 8:30 Success Perm! Make sure to watch it tonight with me!
Shown: HUDSON YANG, LEAIRE GEORGE, FORREST WHEELER, ELOISE ESTEVEZ
Follow along with Fresh off the Boat
@TheIanChen @wheeler_forrest @kourtneykang
Check out my other McFarland posts: Intro to McFarland, my first trip post of what we did and where we went and my first exclusive interview with Kevin Costner.
And my Big Hero 6 posts where I introduce the directors to you, Fresh off the Boat where we speak with the executive producer and my Bad Hair Day movie review post and interview with Leigh Allyn-Baker.