Constance Wu has written a memoir/essay collection called Making a Scene. It’s about her life, her childhood in Richmond, VA, her career, representation for the Asian-American community, and it’s about how she attempted suicide several years ago after a social media pile-on in 2019. As we covered at the time, when Fresh Off the Boat was renewed for one more season, Wu threw a big tantrum about it on social media. The backlash against her was immediate and very harsh, so harsh that Wu attempted suicide and ended up checking into a mental health facility for treatment. To promote her book, Wu spoke to the New York Times about the entire ordeal and lots of other stuff, including how a senior production member on FOTB sexually harassed her. Some highlights from NYT:
The backlash to her Twitter tantrum: “I was so alone,” said Ms. Wu. She publicly apologized, but it wasn’t enough. Her tweets had become a story that began to feed on itself. She was shamed. People demanded atonement. While some wrote to see if she was OK, the silence from others was deafening. One night, upset and isolated, feeling unsupported by even her closest friends, she attempted to take her own life. Fortunately, a friend was there to save her. She spent the night in a psychiatric hospital, under supervision, until she was released the next day. “I was punished for being ungrateful… I’m glad I got through it. It took a long time. I was in therapy every day for a bit, under observation.”
She had a dramatic five-year falling out with her mother: “I didn’t know how to handle the public scrutiny and I took it out on my mom. Paranoia and anxiety made me say regretful things to her.”
Sexual harassment: In her book, Ms. Wu alleges that during her first year on “Fresh Off the Boat,” she was sexually harassed by a senior member of the production team. Naming him only by an initial, she writes that he controlled her, demanding that she run all her business matters past him and telling her what to wear. Ms. Wu put up with it. In the beginning, she tried to see him as her friend and protector. But she was also afraid of the consequences if she didn’t.
She didn’t understand what was happening: “‘Fresh Off the Boat’ was my first-ever TV show. I was thrown into this world. I don’t have parents in the industry. And because I was 30, people thought I knew what I was doing. It made me paranoid and embarrassed.”
She’s not trying to sound like the hero: “I try not to make myself out to be a hero. I try to make myself out to be a pretty normal person who has flaws like everybody else. I’m not really into the actor memoir where it’s like, ‘I overcame the odds, and I’m this person who was humble and just kept working. I was the victim.’ It’s less black and white than simply victim and perpetrator.”
They couldn’t wait to tear her down: “When I spoke beautifully about representation, everyone loved it. But the second they had a chance to find a crack in my facade… It’s funny. It was almost gleeful. It was almost like they couldn’t wait to tear me down. I think the Asian community in Hollywood is still hyper-focused on positive representation, which to me is an illusion. Whole, human representation is more complex. And I think it’s interesting to me how, at that time, when I most could have used their help, they were the people who shamed me.”
She talks about how she pushed back on her sexual harasser after a year, when she grew more comfortable with her place on a network show. Nothing happened to that guy, it seems, other than Wu telling him off and not speaking to him. That experience and other sh-tty experiences which came along with Fresh Off the Boat obviously influenced her sadness and resentment when the show was renewed for a season which no one expected, thus her Twitter tantrum. I think it’s fair to say: what Wu did was a big mistake, and a mistake which affected her career and her mental health and how people perceive her. We can also say: Jesus, what a huge public overreaction to one woman’s mistake.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.