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How Ke Huy Quan was convinced to do Disney+'s American Born Chinese, according to Gene Luen Yang

Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan was originally hesitant to take on the project

Ke Huy Quan in American Born Chinese
Disney plus

It was a long journey to get American Born Chinese onto the small screen. Years, in fact. Gene Luen Yang’s award winning graphic novel was originally published in 2006, and it isn't until this month (17 years later) that the story will get its live action debut. During his spotlight panel at this year's Wondercon, Yang chatted with the audience about the upcoming Disney+ adaptation of his comic.

“The show is very, very different from the book,” Yang said about the upcoming show. And just a peek at the trailer released by Disney+ (which you can watch below) confirms that statement. One other surprising aspect of the adaptation is the recent awards success of two of the actors: Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, who both won Oscars this past season. “We were not expecting two of our cast members to become Oscar winners—but they are!” Yang shared. But Quan almost didn't join the cast, Yang shared.

It took an extra Zoom meeting to get Quan to sign on to the project. “The reason why Ke [Huy Quan] didn’t want to do it was because we wanted him to play the show equivalent of the cousin character,” Yang shared. In the graphic novel, one of the storylines follows a character named Danny while his cousin Chin-Kee (who portrays a many traditional racist characterizations of East Asian people) visits. But luckily, Yang shared, during the Zoom meeting show creator Kelvin Yu explained his plan for the character, and Quan responded, "If I do this and I can never get a job again, you guys have to promise me that you have to hire me." And the rest was history (or at least coming to a TV near you soon).

American Born Chinese debuts on Disney+ May 24. You can read the graphic novel now.

About the Author
Tiffany Babb avatar

Tiffany Babb

Deputy Editor

Tiffany Babb is Popverse's deputy editor and resident Sondheim enthusiast. Tiffany likes stories that understand genre conventions (whether they play into them or against them), and she cries very easily at the movies— but rarely at the moments that are meant to be tearjerkers.

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