American Born Chinese Press conference | Agents of Fandom

Gene Luen Yang and Melvin Mar Discuss Adapting American Born Chinese Show From Graphic Novel

The process of adapting American Born Chinese is even more fascinating than you can imagine!

Ahead of the release of the American Born Chinese show, author Gene Luen Yang and executive producer Melvin Mar discussed the developments of bringing this beautiful Asian-American story to life from the graphic novel.

Based off Yang’s graphic novel of the same name, the series follows Jin Wang (Ben Wang), an Asian-American teenager who explores with the complexities of his world. While going through his sophomore year of high school, he befriends a new student. From there, the duo discovers a world leading them into a Kung-Fu battle with Chinese mythological gods.

Alongside Wang, American Born Chinese stars, Jimmy Liu, Chin Han, Sydney Taylor, Yeo Yann Yann, Daniel Wu, Ke Huy Quan, and Michelle Yeoh.

Marvin Mar on the 10-year process to making the series

Ben Wang and Jimmy Liu eating lunch in American Born Chinese show | Agents of Fandom
Ben Wang and Jin Wang and Jimmy Liu as Wei-Chen in American Born Chinese. Image Credit: Disney+.

Adapting a comic book/graphic novel into a feature film or television series is a process. For Disney, they’ve been accustomed to this for years with Marvel Studios. Yet for Marvin Mar, it took him 10 years to get approval from Gene Luen Yang and his publishing team to adapt American Born Chinese to the series that it is today.

“I read it in 2006. I loved it the moment I read it. At the time, I went to Gene Luen Yang’s publisher, and he said he wasn’t interested… I waited 10 years.”

—executive producer Melvin Mar, American Born Chinese press conference

Mar also shared that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton was the first to sign on to do the series. Cretton then later brought on Oscar-winning actress Michelle Yeoh.

“Destin [Daniel Cretton] signed on the first episode and said he’ll call Michelle… I remember getting the email and stared at my computer because it was the Michelle Yeoh emailing me…This was pre EEAAO, now she’s a global award-winning icon.”

—executive producer Melvin Mar on Destin Daniel Cretton and Michelle Yeoh, American Born Chinese press conference

Gene Luen Yang on adapting graphic novels

Ben Wang standing on a table during school lunch in American Born Chinese show | Agents of Fandom
Ben Wang as Jin Wang in American Born Chinese. Image Credit: Disney+.

As the author of American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang explains how adapting to different mediums like comics to film is unique:

“Different media has different strengths. The person doing the adaptation has to know the different mediums of the film and television because it’s easy to do it in comics than on film.”

—Gene Luen Yang on adapting different mediums, American Born Chinese press conference

Chin Han on the relatability of the series

Yeo Yann Yann, Chin Han, and Ben Wang having dinner together in American Born Chinese show | Agents of Fandom
Yeo Yann Yann, Chin Han, and Ben Wang in American Born Chinese. Image Credit: Disney+.

Chin Han, who plays Simon Wang, Jin Wang’s father, discussed the realness of bringing a story like American Born Chinese to life because it can relate to different people. Especially those who come to the United States for a better future:

“I think the job of acting led us to this concept of being an outsider in a foreign place because we filmed in different places… we moved from a different place to America for a better future. I think we tapped into that a bit in the show.”

—Chin Han on the relatability of American Born Chinese, American Born Chinese press conference

Where to watch American Born Chinese?

The demand for Asian-led content is so important. Telling stories of different backgrounds helps emphasize the diverse world that we live in. With the likes of Crazy Rich Asians, Shang-Chi, Everything Everywhere All At Once, and now American Born Chinese, the rise for representation in Hollywood has been vital, and it can only go further from here.

All eight episodes of the American Born Chinese show are now streaming on Disney+. Follow the Agents of Fandom socials for all the latest streaming news and reviews!

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