Before beginning his workday, Hudson Yang, ABC’s 12-year-old lead in Fresh Off the Boat, spoke to me about acting, food, family, his co-stars, and future aspirations.
Hi, Hudson. When did you first become interested in acting?
Iit was kind of random when I first wanted to become an actor. At first, I was just watching TV, and I saw, what’s her name? The girl from Gravity or something? She got $80 million dollars, and I was, like, “Oh my God, I want to make that kind of money.” So, I told my dad, “Dad, I want to be an actor!” And he was like, “Oh, really? Okay.” He thought I was joking. Then, one of his friends told him, “If your son really wants to do this, there’s an audition coming up for a show called The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete.” That audition was when someone first told me, “You have to get an agent. You’re really talented.” I didn’t get the role, but I got really close. So, I got the agent, and I kept on doing auditions, and I got this show.
You didn’t do any sort of acting before that original audition?
No. I didn’t even do any plays before that.
You do a wonderful job on Fresh Off of the Boat. You play a character who really resonates with me and other Asian Americans that I know. I was once an Asian kid who grew up in the '90s and early 2000s in a white suburban neighborhood in Michigan. Where do you get the inspiration for the role?
It depends on what kind of inspiration we’re talking about. When I think of inspiration I think of the people on set that help me by being there, like Constance, Randall, Forest, and Ian. That’s kind of what I think of when I hear inspiration because they may not be what made me act, but they help me when I’m on set. They’re like real family. They’re my energy source for my acting. If it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t have been so prepared for the show.
Do you think that the characters Jessica and Louis Huang, your parents in Fresh Off the Boat, are at all similar to your own parents?
I really do. I feel like my mom and my dad care for me deeply, and they’re a lot like Jessica and Louis because they want to make sure I’m okay, they want to give me the best of both worlds, and they try so hard. But then, sometimes, when they try so hard, they end up doing things that are either upsetting or not cool, in my standards, you know.
What do you mean by that?
I kind of mean that the stuff they do—they don’t act like Gs. Sometimes the stuff they do is embarrassing. Like, if you go to a birthday party (this has probably happened to everybody before) and your mom is talking about, “Oh! Look at this baby picture. He’s in the bathroom!” or if you have a crush on someone, your mom is like, “I heard that my son has a crush on you.” And that’s not a G move, you know?
In real life, Randall and Constance are really cool. They take care of us. You’d think they’re like your real parents, except they’re really trained and professional.
As a pre-teen actor, do you still have the time to do a lot pre-teen stuff? Eddie is interested in girls, particularly Nicole. Are there any love interests in the mix?
Really, not in real life. There are barely any girls on set, besides my girlfriend on the TV show. I don’t feel like I’m interested in women at this stage yet. My mom keeps on asking me, “Do you have any crushes?” I used to when I was back in my old school, but I don’t know. It feels a little different now.
How do you think Fresh Off the Boat will impact how other Americans view Asian Americans?
I think the biggest thing is that it will make Americans feel a little bit more comfortable. It’s like, “We’re on shows too, you know.” It’s not like there are no Asians on TV anymore, so we’re more equal. We’re making our mark.
There are episodes that discuss issues of identity. I find that the Asian American identity is very fluid, and I think that is definitely seen through your character. It upsets the stereotypes. Have you ever been affected by stereotypes in your life?
I have never had that happen to me. I feel like I am really lucky, because most of the kids at my school embrace that I’m Asian. The biggest thing is that there are a lot of other Asian kids in my school that I can relate to, unlike Eddie. So, if they tease me, I’d have basically half the kids in my grade to back me up.
Which was your favorite episode to shoot?
I think my favorite episode was the “Fajita Man” episode. I like the episodes where there’s stuff I can do with food. I got to see them create the cool effects with smoke. It was really interesting.
Do you have a favorite food?
My favorite food is sushi. It hasn’t really changed in so long.
What do you want to do in the future? Do you hope to continue acting, or is there something else that you are aspiring to do?
I want to stay an actor for a while so that I can save up. Then, I want to open up a restaurant once I get older, because I think I have some really good ideas that I’ve been thinking up, like a “daredevils” restaurant, for people who want to try new food, with really weird, but tasty food designs.
How do you feel about being a part of one of the most significant shows featuring an Asian American family to appear on network television?
I feel really proud and happy. It is a great pleasure, but I don’t know how to really explain. It feels really honorable that I get to do this.
Marianne Chan's poetry and fiction have appeared in the Indiana Review, Midwestern Gothic, and the Red Cedar Review. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She currently lives in Chicago.