Constance Wu has been preparing to play a struggling heroin addict in an emotional dramatic movie, and that passion project may well be the reason she was frustrated about her TV show, “Fresh Off the Boat,” being renewed for another season.
Last week, the 37-year-old actress found herself at the center of a social-media storm following her expletive-ridden Twitter rant about the ABC series’ return for a sixth season. “So upset right now that I’m literally crying. Ugh. F- -k,” she wrote in one tweet. “F- -king hell,” said another.
When she apologized the next day, Wu explained that she was “temporarily upset . . . not because I hate the show but [because] its renewal meant I had to give up another project that I was really passionate about.”
The Post has learned that Wu has been working on the movie “You and Me Both” for years with the producers. It was slated to go into production after “Hustlers,” which Wu just finished filming with Jennifer Lopez and Cardi B.
“You and Me Both” was first announced in 2016 and would be the debut feature for Brooklyn-based writer-director Jennifer Cho Suhr. Wu was slated to play an addict who embarks with her estranged sister on a road trip from Iowa to Alaska in search of their mother.
A source close to the project told The Post that producers are still hoping to make the movie with Wu but now they don’t know when they will be able to move forward.
Wu has also been in talks to star in a romantic comedy, co-produced by actress Elizabeth Banks, about a woman who becomes pregnant with two babies by two different men.
These roles would have given Yu exactly the opportunities she craves: one that redefines how Asian American actors are seen in Hollywood.
“[Wu can] show that there are multiple faces to being an Asian American,” said William Yu, a creative strategist and screenwriter. “And for so long, this has not been reflected on camera, with Asian Americans being relegated to either the sidekick or emasculated buddy who doesn’t contribute to the narrative in any real way.”
Yu garnered mainstream attention in 2016 with his #StarringJohnCho social-media campaign, in which he modified posters of movies led by white men — including “The Martian” and “London Has Fallen” — to show what Korean American actor John Cho would look like as the star.
He followed this up with #SeeAsAmStar, for which he superimposed Wu’s face over Scarlett Johannson’s in a trailer for “Ghost in the Shell.”
Having read the script for “You and Me Both, which he calls “heartwarming, with a lot of emotional moments,” Yu said, “It’s interesting because Constance has [been pursuing] four projects with a very different tone.”
Wu has already helped change the face of Hollywood, by co-starring in “FOTB” — the first Asian American sitcom since Margaret Cho’s short-lived “All-American Girl” in 1994 — and 2018’s massive hit “Crazy Rich Asians.” That movie, which has raked in worldwide box-office receipts of $238 million, elevated Wu to big-screen leading lady.
In 2017, the actress was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People, and Lena Dunham wrote in the magazine about how Wu has used her developing influence: campaigning around the country for Hillary Clinton and speaking out against Casey Affleck — who has been accused of sexual harassment — being nominated for an Oscar.
“She’s outspoken about the causes she cares about and will hopefully encourage more Asian American actors, producers and directors that they have a right to express that voice — even when some people may say it’s not the most advantageous thing to do — on camera,” said Yu.
Just before Wu found fame on “FOTB,” she was a struggling actress and so poor that she had racked up tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
The ABC sitcom, based on chef Eddie Huang’s memoir about growing up in ’90s Orlando, Fla., gave her a starring role as the stern Jessica, mom to three boys, and showed her star power. She is able to at once charm and shut down any funny business with an icy stare.
She has been supportive of the show, which first aired in February 2015, even as Huang has trashed it, calling it “pasteurized” and saying the characters had been “neutered” and “exoticized.”
Wu was born and raised in Richmond, Va., by Taiwanese immigrants. Her father is a biology and genetics professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, and her mother is a computer programmer.
The second-youngest of four sisters, Wu quickly found a way to stand out by doing community theater. Her first role was in “The Wind in the Willows.”
She graduated with a degree in fine arts from SUNY Purchase in 2005 and was accepted to the speech-pathology graduate program at Columbia but decided to pursue acting.
She spent the next decade landing small parts on shows like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Torchwood” and the soap opera “One Life to Live.”
One source who has worked with Wu described her as “driven and ambitious,” adding, “She really wants fame . . . but she’s very insecure. She has a real need to be adored.”
And sometimes, apparently, that ambition can chafe. Sources who have worked with her wish the actress, who takes herself and her dream so seriously, could sometimes lighten up and have fun.
As Page Six revealed last week, Wu’s behavior has led to tension on the sets of “FOTB,” “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Hustlers,” with insiders calling the actress short-tempered, cold and rude.
They also say that, while filming “Crazy Rich Asians” in Singapore and Malaysia, she barely socialized with the rest of the cast, including Henry Golding, Awkwafina and Ken Jeong, who would go out drinking and singing karaoke every night.
A source who was on set told The Post: “Everyone was staying in the same hotel, and one night I saw this woman with rollers in her hair and wearing pajamas and a scowl on her face, carrying a bag of oranges, walking through the hotel.
“I realized it was Constance. Then the rest of the cast came bowling into the lobby, talking about where they were going out, and it was completely clear she wasn’t part of this.”
Back in Los Angeles, where she lives with her pet rabbit, Lida Rose, Wu hasn’t had a public romance since reportedly breaking up with Ben Hethcoat — a TV director she started seeing around 2011 — in 2016. But she did refer to a boyfriend as recently as last September.
Wu, who declined to comment on her behavior to The Post, told The Guardian in 2018 that she’s very “impulsive and reactive.”
“I don’t think anything through . . . I have always been a person who is kind of outspoken, but nobody knew who I was before,” she said. “Now I have this weird thing called fame . . . but if you have it, you might as well use it for something good. And the best thing I think I can do is help amplify the voices of people who don’t feel heard.”
Ironically, Wu almost had to turn down “Crazy Rich Asians” because it conflicted with her “FOTB” schedule.
But she lobbied director Jon M. Chu and got him to move filming dates to accommodate her.
“Before [‘Crazy Rich Asians’], I hadn’t even done a tiny part in a studio film,” Wu has tweeted. “I never dreamed I would get to star in one . . . because I had never seen that happen to someone who looked like me . . . The reason we are doing this is for the representation, for the quality of the story. When you stick to that, you can’t lose.”
She is slated to star in the film’s two sequels — “China Rich Girlfriend” and “Rich People Problems” — which are supposed to film back-to-back. However, insiders told The Post that there is potential trouble as producers as have yet to find a production partner in Asia.
In fact, “Crazy Rich Asians” actually bombed in China upon its December release, taking in just $1.2 million, according to Variety. For comparison, Sony’s “Venom” made $111 million in China.
Wall Street Journal film reporter Ben Fritz told NPR that this was in part because, “it’s really an Asian American story. It is very much not an Asian story — certainly not a Chinese story.”
All this makes things difficult, The Post is told, for filming the sequel in Hong Kong, where much of the second sequel is set.
Still, Asian Americans — indeed, American movie fans, period — are clamoring for the series’ return.
Last week, Wu’s blue Marchesa gown from the first film was donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington. Director Chu told the Los Angeles Times that he has seen moms make replicas of it for little girls, and that “it became a Cinderella dress for people.”
Yu hopes Wu’s own Cinderella tale turns into more of a “Rocky” story.
“The more roles that can show the different kind of experience that people of Asian descent can play,” he said, “the more it shows that you can take the bull by the horns of your own career — like Constance.”
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