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ABC hopes to keep new ‘Boat’ Afloat

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PASADENA, Calif. — Based on celebrity chef Eddie Huang’s memoir of the same name, the new ABC sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat” premieres with two episodes Wednesday starting at 8:30 p.m. The series — the first broadcast show to focus on an Asian-American character in over 20 years — chronicles his sometimes funny, sometimes difficult coming of age in the ’90s as he and his Taiwanese immigrant parents moved from Chinatown in Washington, D.C., to suburban Orlando. Huang, who serves as narrator and an executive producer on the series, as well as cast members and fellow producers Nahnatchka Khan and Jake Kasdan, met with reporters here recently at the Television Critics Association press tour to discuss the show. Below are excerpts from that panel discussion.

On why the series is set in the ’90s:


KHAN: Well, it did take place in the ’90s in Eddie’s memoir. But for us to keep it set in the ’90s for the show was a conscious decision, because I think that that’s sort of the last period of time before the Internet exploded and you had to be where you were. So you couldn’t go online and find like-minded kids if you felt isolated. You had to make it work with the kids around you and the kids at school and the people in your neighborhood.

On growing up and feeling like an outsider:

HUANG: In general, it was rough because you will see — not just with Chinese families, Taiwanese families, but you will see it with Pakistani, Indian, Dominican families — you live in a neighborhood, and your cousins are down the street. When I lived in D.C., I had three sets of cousins within a quarter-mile. I could ride my bike to their house.

Moving to Orlando was really weird to not have my family around. That was No. 1. No. 2, kids weren’t really listening to hip-hop that much. They were more into football than basketball. I had never played football in my life.


For me in general, it was just going from a place where you had a reference group and you had a support system to a place where you were really alone. And I was trying to understand suburbia, because suburbia doesn’t really make that much sense.

And the book is very much about figuring out who I am regardless of where I am and creating my place wherever I go, and I think that relates.

On the portrayal of his parents in the series, particularly his acerbic mother, Jessica:

HUANG: You know, my mom never read the book. She [couldn’t] care less. She just wants the checks. (Laughs.) And my dad is a much more thoughtful person and he was really proud of me. I remember showing him the pilot. He understood the context of what the show was doing. And his comment was just like, “Man, I hope they show that I’m a capable, smart guy that was aware.” And I feel like as the season goes on, the father character does become stronger and more aware.

Interview was edited and condensed. Sarah Rodman can be reached at srodman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman.