Constance Wu is opening up about her time on “Fresh Off the Boat” from 2015 to 2020, alleging that she experienced sexual harassment and intimidation from an unnamed producer on the ABC comedy, per The Hollywood Reporter.
“I kept my mouth shut for a really long time about a lot of sexual harassment and intimidation that I received the first two seasons of the show,” Wu, 40, said at the Atlantic Festival in Washington DC on Sept. 23, according to the publication. “Because, after the first two seasons, once it was a success, once I was no longer scared of losing my job, that’s when I was able to start saying ‘no’ to the harassment, ‘no’ to the intimidation, from this particular producer. And, so I thought: ‘You know what? I handled it. Nobody has to know. I don’t have to stain this Asian American producer’s reputation. I don’t have to stain the reputation of the show.'”
Wu — who played Huang family matriarch Jessica on the series — called the experience “traumatic,” adding: “I eventually realized it was important to talk about. That show was historic for Asian Americans. It was the only show on network television in over 20 years to star Asian Americans and I did not want to sully the reputation of the one show we had representing us”
Wu further opened up about the alleged harassment during her “Late Night With Seth Meyers” appearance on Oct. 3, admitting she initially didn’t want to write about it. “That was the last essay I wrote for the book, and only after being pushed by my editor,” Wu said. “And I was like, ‘I’m done with that chapter in my life.’ Because all of the sexual harassment, the inappropriate touching, the telling me to wear short skirts, and intimidation, that all only happened in the first two years of the show when I was still very scared. I had never done anything big before.”
She continued, “Once I felt a little bit of job security, then I started saying no to this producer, which infuriated him, but it was OK. So I thought, you know what? I handled it. I don’t need to stain the reputation of this show or this producer. I can just keep it inside.”
“Fresh Off the Boat” made history as the longest-running sitcom about Asian Americans in broadcast TV before it ultimately ended with its sixth season in 2020. When the show’s season six renewal was first announced in 2019, Wu received backlash for the tweets she shared in response to the news. In a now-deleted tweet, Wu wrote, “So upset right now that I’m literally crying. Ugh. F*ck.” And when a fan congratulated Wu on the “great news” on Twitter, she replied, “No, it’s not,” followed by, “F*cking hell.”
Wu addressed the backlash at the Atlantic Festival as well. According to THR, she said, “I wanted to have a fresh slate where I didn’t have to start a show with all these memories of abuse. A few people knew [the harassment] was happening, and to go to work every day and see those people who knew that he was sexually harassing me being ‘buddy-buddy’ with him felt like a betrayal every time. I loved everybody on that crew, and I loved working on that show, but it had that history of abuse, that it started with, and even though I handled it after two years, I was looking forward to a clean slate.”
In her interview with Meyers, Wu said that as a result of “keeping it inside,” she was never really able to be herself on set. “The thing I learned is that bad feelings and abuse don’t just go away because you will it to. It’s going to come out somewhere,” she explained. “People didn’t understand the context of those tweets . . . It led me to a really dark time, so I think I decided to include it in the book because I think it’s important that we engage in curiosity and empathy before we go straight to judgment.”
When reached for comment, reps for Wu directed POPSUGAR to her memoir “Making a Scene,” out Oct. 4. In her book, Wu writes that she apologized to the cast and crew of “Fresh Off the Boat” for the tweets when she returned to film the final season. She “never really spoke” to the producer again, but she “eventually forgave him” — and herself. “We were both in high-pressure situations without precedents — it’s only natural to stumble along the way,” she said. “Hollywood has a history of mocking and belittling Asian men. It’s hard to have big dreams in a culture that makes you feel so small.”
If you or someone you know would like to speak with someone who is trained to assist sexual assault survivors, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.