Constance Wu Talks About Importance Of “Making A Scene” In New Memoir

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide or in crisis, call or text 988 to reach Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. This story also includes descriptions of rape and sexual assault.

In a new memoir, actress Constance Wu shows a side of herself that audiences haven’t seen, unlike her breakthrough roles in romantic drama ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ or sitcom ‘Fresh Off The Boat’ .

His book ‘Making a Scene’ comes out on Tuesday and in it Wu talks about being the target of sexual violence and an extreme internet backlash that led to a suicide attempt. Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, Wu often tried to act ladylike and not stand out.

The cover of “Making a Scene” by Constance Wu. (Courtesy)

“I was never shy, I was never quiet. I was always emotional,” she recalls. “And a lot of this book is about how I found an outlet in the community theatre.”

The title of the book comes from an essay Wu wrote about being raped and not fighting back because she didn’t want to make a scene. This is one of the many moments of sexual harassment that Wu talks about.

When she started writing her memoir in the middle of the 2016 election, she needed an outlet for her feelings. Originally, Wu thought his book would take on a political tone, but eventually realized that wasn’t working. In the political essays, Wu began to notice that his personal stories were the best part, such as those about baking bread or falling in love and being heartbroken. These are the moments that will transform the book over time.

“I’m very grateful for that because it was kind of a healing for me to look back on mistakes and events in my life with curiosity and empathy rather than my old patterns of judgment and shame,” Wu says, “which is a lot of what the internet does to public figures.

Wu faced her own online judgment in 2019 when “Fresh Off the Boat” was renewed for another season. Wu expressed his disappointment on Twitter but was soon met with backlash. Looking back, Wu admits she acted recklessly and realized she looked ungrateful.

On the surface, netizens have found it easy to frame Wu as an actress who “thinks she’s too big for her pants” or abandons those who gave her a career. Writing her book allowed her to arrive at the reason for her unusual response, Wu says.

What people didn’t realize, Wu says, was the sexual harassment and abuse she suffered from an Asian American producer on the show.

Initially, Wu kept quiet about the abuses and suppressed them; she didn’t want to ruin the show’s reputation. But once she finally got job security and no longer had to fear the producer, Wu thought the problem was over. But that was not the case.

“Traumas and feelings don’t go away just because you’ll have them,” she says. “They will inevitably come out in other ways.”

Although “Fresh Off the Boat” has been acclaimed throughout its six seasons, it has also drawn accusations of stereotyping. Wu disagrees. Stereotypes are harmful when they are reductive, she says, but they exist. By refusing to play up these stereotypes, Wu says she fears it will reinforce the idea that some of these attributes, like having an Asian accent, are inherently shameful. The Asian-American community, especially in Hollywood, has focused too much on positive portrayal, she says.

Wu dedicated her book to her daughter and despite the traumatic times in her life, she still wants her daughter to know.

“I could be someone who was sexually assaulted, had messy tweets and still deserves life and to have their voice and to have their story,” she says. “So as difficult as these topics are to talk about, I especially think it’s important in the Asian-American community to finally shine a light on the whole of our experience and not just the positive aspects of it.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide or is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800 -799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.

Emiko Tamagawa produced and edited this broadcast interview with Todd Mundt. Jeannette Muhammad adapted it for the web.

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