American Born Chinese is an American action comedy television series created by Kelvin Yu for Disney+. It follows tenth-grader Jin Wang (Ben Wang), who is struggling to fit in with his peers. When he is tasked with showing new exchange student Wei-Chen (Jimmy Liu) around, he is unexpectedly thrust into a battle between mythical Chinese gods, including Sun Wukong (Daniel Wu) and Guanyin (Michelle Yeoh). The series is based on the 2006 graphic novel American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, who drew inspiration from his own adolescent years in the 1990s, incorporating elements from Chinese folk tales and mysticism found in the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West.
The series consists of eight episodes and premiered on Disney+ on May 24, 2023. It received generally positive reviews from critics. Commentators referred to it as one of the best offerings on Disney+ and praised the way it moved across cultural boundaries.
- Ben Wang as Jin Wang, an American born Chinese 10th grader at Sierra Mona High School
- Yeo Yann Yann as Christine Wang, Jin’s mother
- Chin Han as Simon Wang, Jin’s father
- Ke Huy Quan as Jamie Yao, a former actor known for playing the accident prone Freddy Wong in the sitcom Beyond Repair
- Jimmy Liu as Wei-Chen, the son of Sun Wukong
- Sydney Taylor as Amelia, Jin’s love interest
- Daniel Wu as Sun Wukong, a Chinese legendary figure commonly known as Monkey King
- Michelle Yeoh as Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy
- Mahi Alam as Anuj, Jin’s best friend outside of soccer who is a part of the Cosplay Club at Sierra Mona High School
- Stony Blyden as Andy, one of Jin’s soccer friends
- David Bloom as Josh, another one of Jin’s soccer friends
- Justin Jarzombek as Travis
- Brian Huskey as Mr. Larkins, Jin and Amelia’s Biology 2 teacher at Sierra Mona High School
- Larry Bates as Coach Garrett, the boys’ soccer coach at Sierra Mona High School
- Sophie Reynolds as Ruby, Amelia’s friend
- Josh Duvendeck as Danny / Marty K. Morris
- Leonard Wu as Niu Mowang
- Ronny Chieng as Ji Gong, commonly known as the Mad Monk
Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel entitled American Born Chinese was an adaptation of the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West, and according to series creator Kelvin Yu, the characters belong in the same category as other famous Disney legends such as the characters from the Marvel universe and Disney’s own princesses. Yang was influenced by his own experiences as a Chinese American teenager growing up in the 1990s’ middle America between two cultures. The graphic novel became landmark literature for Asian American millennials when it was published in 2006, and Yang was approached by Hollywood for the first time in 2007. It turned out that the reason for the initial interest was a search for properties that would promote “the word China or Chinese” leading up to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, said Yang. Throughout the years, there would be inquiries but Yang observed that “the world needed to change in order for there to be an appetite for a story about an Asian American protagonist.” Then Yang met Fresh Off the Boat producer Melvin Mar who introduced him to Kelvin Yu (Bob’s Burgers). Yu was aware of the difficulties of bringing the graphic novel to life onscreen but presented suggestions and ideas about how to expand the story and work with the complex plot line in a way that would speak to a new generation.
On October 4, 2021, it was reported that Disney+ had greenlit the adaptation of Yang’s graphic novel and ordered it straight to series with Destin Daniel Cretton attached to direct. Yu and his brother Charles Yu were announced as writers of the series. Asian-American fashion designers Prabal Gurung and Phillip Lim joined the production in April 2022 to work alongside costume designer Joy Cretton, and in May 2022, Lucy Liu revealed on social media that she had been added as a director. Melvin Mar, Kelvin Yu, and Gene Luen Yang would go on to serve as executive producers on the series.
May 24, 2023
- E01 – “What Guy Are You”
- E02 – “A Monkey on a Quest”
- E03 – “Rockstar Status”
- E04 – “Make a Splash”
- E05 – “Abracadabra”
- E06 – “Hot Stuff”
- E07 – “Beyond Repair”
- E08 – “The Fourth Scroll”
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