Wu thought it was a refreshing and impressive work, but he also thought it was very complicated and abstract. When he was approached to do the project, he had a lot of questions. The trickiest was Chin-Kee.
Chin-Kee is a cartoonish racist stereotype, a Chinese man who wears traditional clothes with horse teeth, a long braided line and an ugly accent. Taken out of context, Chin-Kee is downright offensive. Wu wasn’t sure how they could make all three storylines work, especially with the graphic novel’s abstract ending.
“But you know, (showrunner) Kelvin Yu and Gene got together and did a really cool updated adaptation because I think when Gene wrote this it was based on his experiences growing up in our generation, the years 70.”
chinese born american is set in modern times and expanded to accommodate all eight episodes of the first season. “I thought it was a brilliant stroke of genius to be able to do this,” adds Wu. “I mean, who knew the Bob’s Burgers could the guy do that? (Yu is the executive producer of Bob’s Burgers)”
In the series, Chin-Kee is transformed into Freddy Wong (Ke Huy Quan), a dated comic book character in an old sitcom that plays in the background. It’s derogatory, but not nearly as offensive as the original Chin-Kee character (Chin-Kee is a play on “chinky”). Gene Luen Yang is quick to point out that many changes have been made to the Disney+ adaptation.
“For a 200-page graphic novel, it has three storylines, but you could say it has a beginning, middle, and end for eight episodes. You need at least eight beginnings, middles and endings, so you need to expand the world.