“Fresh Off the Boat” was a breakthrough moment for Constance Wu, but the actor says the ABC sitcom left her with “memories of abuse.”
Months after returning to social media after nearly three years, the “Crazy Rich Asians” star said Friday that an unnamed producer had sexually harassed her on the set of “Fresh Off the Boat.” Wu addressed that at the Atlantic Festival and spoke about her upcoming memoir, “Making a Scene,” which includes details about her time on the TV series.
“I did have a pretty traumatic experience my first couple years on that show, and nobody knew about it because that show is historic for Asian Americans,” she said at the event. “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.
“So therefore, I kept my mouth shut for a really long time about a lot of the sexual harassment and intimidation that I received the first two seasons of the show,” she added.
The “Hustlers” star said on Friday that after the series’ first two seasons, she was “no longer scared of losing my job” and built up the confidence to start “saying ‘no’ to the harassment, ‘no’ to the intimidation from this particular producer.”
“I thought, ‘You know what? I handled it. Nobody has to know,’” she said. “‘I don’t have to stain this Asian American producer’s reputation. I don’t have to stain the reputation of the show.’”
From 2015 to 2020, Wu portrayed the matriarch of the central Huang family on “Fresh Off the Boat.” During Wu’s first year on the show, the producer allegedly touched Wu inappropriately while they were at a sporting event, she wrote in the book, according to the New York Times.
The New York Times also reported that in her memoir, Wu said the producer — whom she refers to by only an initial — “controlled her, demanding that she run all her business matters past him and telling her what to wear.”
Representatives for ABC declined to comment when reached by The Times.
Wu said Friday that few people knew about the unnamed producer’s abuse, but that “it felt like a betrayal every time” she saw those people “being buddy buddy” with him.
Not speaking up about the alleged harassment took its toll, she said.
“Bad feelings don’t go away just because you will them to. They’re inevitably going to come out somewhere,” she said during the Atlantic Festival. “When the show was renewed after they had just told me it likely wouldn’t be, I made some very profane, reckless tweets that sort of ignited this whole pile-on of hatred towards me.”
Tearing up during the Friday panel, Wu said she “wanted to have a fresh slate where I didn’t have to start a show with all these memories of abuse.”
When ABC announced in 2019 that “Fresh Off the Boat” was renewed for a sixth season, Wu reacted on Twitter with an explicit post that was widely criticized. She said Friday that the controversial tweet came from “the emotions I suppressed.”
“It negatively affected my career, but in many ways it positively affected me personally because it made me take a break from my career, it made me go to therapy and understand it, and ultimately come out better,” she said at the Atlantic Festival.
In July, Wu said the social media backlash, and a subsequent suicide attempt, “made me reassess a lot in my life.” In a statement posted to Twitter, she said her memoir is meant to help people process difficult moments and heal from them.
“If we want to be seen, really seen… we need to let all of ourselves be seen, including the parts we’re scared of or ashamed of — parts that, however imperfect, require care and attention,” she said in the July statement.