Brow Beat

Constance Wu Seems Unhappy That ABC Renewed Fresh Off the Boat

Constance Wu at the 2019 Met Gala, holding out both hands.
“Are you not entertained?”
Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Under most circumstances, actors are happy to learn that their television shows have been picked up for another season—unless those actors have something else they’d like to do with their time and careers. That seems to be what happened with Crazy Rich Asians’ breakout star Constance Wu on Friday, when news broke that ABC had renewed her sitcom Fresh Off the Boat. The news was posted on the show’s official Instagram account:

But as the internet quickly noticed, one commenter was not as thrilled as the other Fresh Off the Boat superfans:

A screenshot of Fresh Off the Boat's Instagram post showing user "constancewu" has commented "dislike."

Wu also expressed unhappiness on Twitter, without specifying its cause:

But in a since-deleted reply, she was pretty clear on the fact that the show’s renewal was at least a contributing factor:

Normally, Constance Wu’s feelings about her employment would be a matter for Constance Wu and her employers, but the internet never passes up the chance to yell at women and minorities for seeming ungrateful, so she’s been getting the full Heigl. Wu has plenty of reasons to want to leave Fresh Off the Boat: As Inkoo Kang observed, over the last few seasons her character has devolved from the show’s “most subversive voice” into “a petulant, off-putting idiot.” Wu’s star turn in Crazy Rich Asians has given her an opportunity to do more work in film after spending five seasons of Fresh Off the Boat, and it’s understandable if she wants to strike while the iron is hot. (The success of Crazy Rich Asians—and Wu’s breakout performance in it—is undoubtedly a big reason ABC wants another season of Fresh Off the Boat to begin with, which must make it doubly frustrating for her.) The drama was heightened further when Wu’s Crazy Rich Asians costar Gemma Chan liked a tweet from journalist Yashar Ali alleging that Wu’s “conduct today comes as no surprise to anyone who has worked with her in recent years,” because of her “reputation for being rude, petty, mean-spirited, and ungrateful.” Ali has since deleted the tweet, writing that it “didn’t offer enough context,” and Chan explained that she faved it by accident:

Meanwhile, Wu has been walking back her comments. On Friday she tweeted that her consternation was not about Fresh Off the Boat and attributed the controversy to poor timing:

On Saturday, Wu tweeted out a formal statement elaborating the situation, saying that her unhappiness was because of Fresh Off the Boat’s renewal, but only insomuch as it meant she wouldn’t be able to do another project she’d wanted:

It’s a complicated statement about something Wu obviously has complicated feelings over, but if you accept the premise that Wu’s fans or the general public should have a say in how gracious she is about her job, it’s hard to see how a statement calling Fresh Off the Boat “fun and easy and pleasant” but not an “artistic challenge” will calm the waters. And ending the statement by equating “believe women’s accounts of sexual harassment and assault” with “believe Constance Wu when she says she loves the ABC sitcom that is preventing her from being in a movie she wants to make, despite social media posts that would seem to imply otherwise” is a bold rhetorical move, but probably not one that will make this all go away. But however you feel about Constance Wu’s attitude toward Fresh Off the Boat, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that this passage is a humblebrag worthy of Jules who Sees Things a Little Differently:

Sometimes even my closest friends are baffled at how I could value artistic challenges/difficulties over success/happiness. But I do. I know it’s weird.

That is delightful. It remains to be seen what the future holds for Wu’s character in the next season of Fresh Off the Boat, but as writer Anna Fitzpatrick notes, the Grey’s Anatomy writers’ room had its revenge on Katherine Heigl after she publicly criticized the show’s writing:

Meanwhile, scientists report that time continued to pass at its usual unhurried rate of one second per second as the scandal unfolded on social media, slowly ferrying everyone involved in this squabble—and you, too, dear reader, gentle reader—closer and closer to the grave. Fresh Off the Boat will return to ABC with all new episodes this fall!

Here is the complete text of Wu’s statement:

I love FOTB. I was temporarily upset yesterday not because I hate the show but bc its renewal meant I had to give up another project that I was really passionate about. So my dismayed social media replies were more about that other project and not about FOTB.

But I understand how that could feel interconnected and could get muddled. So here is me unmuddling it with my truth: FOTB is a great show that I’m proud of and I enjoy. I’ve gotten to fully explore my character and I know her like the back of my hand. So playing Jessica is fun and easy and pleasant. I get to work with a kind and pleasant cast/crew. Which makes it all quite enjoyable—So obviously I don’t dislike doing a show that is fun and easy and pleasant. But in general, I’ve always sought artistic challenge over comfort and ease. I was disappointed in not being able to do that other project—Because that other project would have challenged me as an artist—that other project would have been really hard and not easy or pleasant at all. Sometimes even my closest friends are baffled at how I could value artistic challenge/difficulties over success/happiness. But I do. I know it’s weird.

But my words and ill-timing were insensitive to those who are struggling, especially insensitive considering the fact that I used to be in that struggle too. I do regret that I wasn’t nice and I am sorry for that. I know it’s a huge privilege that I even HAVE options—options that FOTB has afforded me. But if one does have privilege, they ought to use that privilege as best they can. For me—that means pushing myself artistically. Constantly challenging myself by doing what’s unfamiliar and scary. So I am trying my best to use it well.

People ‘assumed’ that that meant I don’t love and enjoy FOTB. But I do love and enjoy it. I hope you believe me.

People can hold conflicting feelings in their hearts—that conflict is part of being human. So I can both love the show/cast/crew but at the same time be disappointed that I lost the other unrelated job. I appreciate those who have given me the space and faith to believe what I say about both parts of my heart. Thank you. It’s meaningful when you make the choice to believe women.