Constance Wu didn’t plan to get quite so candid in her new book.
The actress alleges sexual harassment by a Fresh Off the Boat producer and writes about being sexually assaulted in her twenties, but making that public wasn’t part of her plan when she started her essay collection, Making a Scene.
“Everybody thinks it’s a book about Fresh Off the Boat, or my tweets about Fresh Off the Boat. But that was the last essay I wrote, and it was one I really did not want to write,” Wu told The Hollywood Reporter. “My editor kept pushing it and finally I was like, ‘Fine, I’ll write it as an exercise but I’m not publishing it. I thought I’d closed that chapter of my life.”
Of the harassment — she alleges that an unidentified Asian American male producer frequently harassed and intimated her, including asking for “sexy selfies,” exhibiting controlling behavior and inappropriately touching her – the Crazy Rich Asians star compartmentalised it.
“I was resistant … because I know there are people who have had way worse stories than what I had to go through,” she said. “Objectively, I don’t quote ‘think it’s that bad,’ but [the experience was] something that I swallowed for a long time in an attempt to preserve something for somebody else. And by doing that, I think I am a contributor to perpetuating a system that is one that I no longer care to uphold. Even though at the time of the show I was like, ‘I dealt with it, it was hard, but I moved on and I prevailed, I don’t need to talk about it anymore,’ I realized I also had a lot of fear of the criticism and judgment I might get from people saying that what I experienced wasn’t so bad. Me talking about it is more important than my fear of talking about it. The whole point is that people shouldn’t have had to go through it at all.”
Writing about it also helped the Hustlers actress release some of the “shame” she carried because she made herself believe she contributed in some way “because I was trying so hard to be part of the Boys’ Club. I realized I didn’t give myself enough space to feel the wound … It makes me forgive myself for all the times where I wasn’t my best [on the set]… Writing it on paper helped me realize all of that.”
At the end of the day, “I pretty much share everything. I didn’t think I was going to.” That includes the Fresh Off the Boat essay as well as her “rape essay.” Wu was in her twenties when she was dated raped. She said no, repeatedly, to a man she was on a second date with, but she gave up. He was twice her size and she was scared he would become violent. She told THR that the most shameful part of the experience was “where I talk about having an orgasm while being raped. I didn’t want to include that… I’m ashamed of it and worried it will open up the possibilities for criticism and questioning It’s the same process that led me to tweet about my suicide attempt, I didn’t want to talk about it but decided it might help someone and that means more than my being afraid.”
Wu also touched on these topics — and delved deeper into her 2019 suicide attempt – on Tuesday’s Good Morning America. It all started with a couple of tweets. Wu thought Fresh Off the Boat was over after Season 5, explaining the network gave her “their blessing” to pursue other projects. So when ABC announced the show was renewed for a sixth season, she lashed out on Twitter. (“So upset right now that I’m literally crying. Ugh. F***,” she wrote, followed by “F***ing hell.”) She quickly apologizes, saying she had been “dramatic.”
“I’d gotten this other job [offers] that I was really excited about and I was ready for a clean slate,” Wu said on GMA. “I was ready to stop working at a place that held so many memories of sexual harassment and shame and fear. So when I found out that I couldn’t move on, I felt — honestly, in that moment, I felt betrayed and I felt song to.”
She continued, “I felt a little reckless and I felt like I had been quiet for so long that I needed to finally make a sound. I didn’t care how it sounded. And it came out sounding pretty bad. My tweets were really graceless. And they were like me being drunk and dramatic at a bar.”
The “backlash was immediate,” she said. “There was a huge pile on. I was essentially ‘canceled’ for coming off as ungrateful.” She was called a diva and selfish for not thinking of the other people who worked on the show as well as the importance of the show’s representation. Cutting deep was the fact that it was “really the Asian American community that … ostracized or avoided me the most.”
At her lowest while navigating the turmoil, she received direct messages from a former college, an Asian actress whom she did not identify, who she said shamed her by calling her a “disgrace” and “blight on [the] Asian American community.” The person said she could never undo “the damage I’d done to the community.”
Wu was so rattled she started “thinking that I needed to end my own life,” she recalled. “It’s crazy that a few DMs could do that.”
She said her attempted suicide, which she first publicly revealed in July, “wasn’t a thoughtful thing. I got the DMs and I thought, ‘OK, I can’t be alive anymore.’ … I pulled myself over the balcony of my apartment building and I was going to jump. Talking about it now makes my palms itch, because I remember holding onto it. help. I was in therapy and under observation for a long time.”
Wu said she was diagnosed with clinical depression “long before” her suicide attempt, but the scare led her to seek professional help immediately. In her book, she reveals she was committed to a mental hospital. “I was in therapy every day for a while, and then I was in therapy three times a week. I’m still in therapy,” she told GMA.
As for whether she’s spoken to the unidentified actress whom she claims sent her the triggering DMs, Wu said hasn’t, but she forgives her.
“Listen, if I’m asking people to think of the context in which I made my mistake of those reckless tweets, I think that I can look at somebody who did something that was hurtful to me and try to imagine maybe she was going through something, too,” Wu said.
Wu also holds no grudges over the movement to “cancel” her because it’s helped her evolve.
“In many ways, it helped me learn a lot about myself. And sure, there are people who aren’t gonna forgive me. That’s about their own journey. I do feel like I’ve had the opportunity to change,” she said . “In the end. I’m, in … a strange way kind of glad for it.”
Wu will continue talking about these topics and more on Wednesday’s Red Table Talk. A preview of her chat at Jada Pinkett Smith’s table shows her getting emotional about those DMs and her suicide attempt.
“I felt like nothing I could ever do would be enough,” she said of her mindset. “I felt like the only thing that would prove to her that I felt as bad as she thought I deserved to feel would be if I died. I felt like even that might not be enough because I felt the world was saying: You will never suffer as much as you deserve to suffer. You deserve to pay for this and be punished for this.”
If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.