In the new action, coming-of-age series American Born Chinese, premiering Wednesday on Disney+, Ben Wang stars as Jin Wang, a high school sophomore hoping to start the new school year by playing some soccer and asking out his crush. But his whole world is thrown upside down when a new exchange student shows up, and things start getting weird.
It’s based on a graphic novel by Gene Yang, and Wang tells ABC Audio it’s as if Yang was hiding in the bushes watching him grow up.
“It was like literally, every single panel felt like it was just painted from my life,” he explains. “That terrible haircut that Jin has, that was my haircut … the sad expression on his face and the dumb t-shirts … I’m like, ‘Wow, How did somebody, how was somebody able to so specifically capture what I thought was a very specific and unique experience?"”
Even though the story felt very specific to how Wang grew up, he’s learned that it’s surprisingly universal, sharing that, “At the very center, it’s a story about growing up.”
He adds, “It’s a story about being a teenager, feeling like you don’t fit in, feeling sort of like an underdog, maybe. And that, I think, is a really, really universal message.”
Ultimately, Wang hopes it will feel that way for others who feel alone.
“I was one of the only Asian kids in my town, in my county, in my congressional district and I know for a fact that having this show would have made me feel less lonely about my experiences,” Wang expresses. “So for the kids out there who did have a specific experience like I did, I hope this is useful for them, this show, because I know it would have been for me.”
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