Constance Wu has revealed that her early years on Fresh Off the Boat were marred by some unwanted attention from a producer.
“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,” she said Friday at the Atlantic Festival in Washington DC, per The Hollywood Reporter. “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 starred in the hit sitcom as Jessica Huang, the mother in a Taiwanese-American family living in Orlando, Fla., in the late ’90s. She played the character for all six seasons, which aired from Feb. 2015 to Feb. 2020. Experiences she had there and elsewhere are part of her memoir, Making a Scene, which comes out Oct. 4.
She explained that her publisher, Simon & Schuster, encouraged her to be open about what happened. And at first, she wrote about it as an exercise.
“And then I eventually realized it was important to talk about, because I did have a pretty traumatic experience in my first couple years on that show, and nobody knew about it.” Wu said. “Because that show was historic for Asian Americans. And 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.”
ABC did not respond to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for comment.
In a story about the book, also published Friday, the New York Times reported that Wu offers more detail on the situation there. She uses only an initial to identify the “senior member of the production team,” and writes that he “controlled her, demanding that she run all her business matters past him and telling her what to wear” in her first year on the show. She alleged that the man had once put his hand on her thigh and grazed her crotch, but that, by the second season, she felt empowered to say no to the man. Their show was a hit.
“Fresh Off the Boat was my first-ever TV show,” Wu told the newspaper. “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 and her harasser stopped speaking after she refused to go to a film festival with him.
Wu said at the DC appearance that the harassment was part of the reason she was ready for Fresh off the Boat to end.
The actress controversially tweeted in 2019 that she was upset her show had been renewed, a message that was not well received on social media. She stopped tweeting for almost three years.
As she returned to the platform in July, she wrote that she had become convinced that she should end her life over the situation. “3 years ago, when I made careless tweets about the renewal of my TV show, it ignited outrage and internet shaming that got pretty severe. I felt awful about what I’d said,” she wrote, “and when a few DMs from a fellow Asian actress told me l’d become a blight on the Asian American community, I started feeling like I didn’t even deserve to live anymore. Looking back, it’s surreal that a few DMs convinced me to end my own life, but that’s what happened. Luckily, a friend found me and rushed me to the ER. It was a scary moment that made me reassess a lot in my life. “
On Friday, she mentioned how the harassment played into the feelings that she had tweeted.
“I wanted to have a fresh slate where I didn’t have to start a show with all these memories of abuse,” Wu said. “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.”
Wu said she couldn’t have written her book three years ago, because she was still “raw” and “wounded” over the suicide attempt, but she’d taken time to heal.
“I felt ready and capable, and I thought it was important for me to help people,” she said.
She teared up as she noted that she decided to rejoin social media because the people she wants to help are more likely to be there than reading books like hers.