Constance Wu has revealed that her early years on Hot off the press were marred by some unwanted attention from a producer.
“I kept my mouth shut for a long time about a lot of sexual harassment and intimidation that I received the first two seasons of the show,” she said Friday at the Atlantic Festival in Washington DC, per The Hollywood Reporter. “Because once after the first two seasons it was a success, when I was no longer afraid of losing my job, then I could start saying ‘no’ to the bullying, ‘no’ to the harassment, from this point on, producer. And so I thought, “You know what? I handled it, no one needs to know, I don’t need to stain this Asian-American producer’s reputation, I don’t need to stain the show’s reputation.”
Wu starred in the hit sitcom as Jessica Huang, the mother in a Taiwanese-American family living in Orlando, Florida in the late 1990s. She played the character through all six seasons, which aired from February 2015 to February 2020. Experiences she had there and elsewhere are part of her memoir, Create a scenewhich will be released on October 4.
She explained that her publisher, Simon & Schuster, encouraged her to be open about what happened. And first she wrote about it as an exercise.
“And then I finally realized it was important to talk about, because in my first few years on that show I had a pretty traumatic experience, and nobody knew about it.” said Wu. “Because that show was historic for Asian Americans. And it was the only show on network television in over 20 years starring Asian Americans, and I didn’t want to tarnish the reputation of the only show we had that represented us.”
TNZT did not respond to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for comment.
In a story about the book, which also appeared on Friday, New York Times reported that Wu is giving more details about the situation there. She uses only an initial to identify the “senior member of the production team” and writes that he “monitored her, demanded that she pass all her business affairs to him and tell her what to wear” in her first year at the show. She claimed the man once put his hand on her thigh and scraped her crotch, but by the second season, she felt empowered to say no to the man. Their show was a hit.
“Hot off the press was my very first TV show,” Wu told the paper. “I was thrown into this world. I have no parents in the industry. And because I was 30, people thought I knew what I was doing. It made me paranoid and embarrassed.”
She and her bully stopped talking after she refused to go to a film festival with him.
Wu said during the DC gig that the harassment was part of why she was ready Hot off the press to end.
The actress controversially tweeted in 2019 that she was angry that her show had been revamped, a post that was not well received on social media. She stopped tweeting for almost three years.
Returning to the platform in July, she wrote that she had become convinced that the situation had forced her to end her life. “3 years ago, when I was posting careless tweets about my TV show revamp, it caused outrage and internet shaming that got pretty serious. I felt awful about what I had said,” she wrote, “and then a few DMs from a fellow asian actress told me i was going to be a plague to the asian american community, made me feel like i didn’t even deserve to live anymore, that i was a disgrace to AsAms, and they would be better off without me. Looking back, it’s unreal that a few DMs convinced me to end my own life, but that’s what happened. Luckily, a friend found me and rushed me to the emergency room. It was a scary moment that made I had to reassess a lot in my life.”
On Friday, she shared how the harassment played into the feelings she had tweeted.
“I wanted to have a new slate where I didn’t have to start a show with all these memories of abuse,” Wu said. “A Few People Knew It” [the harassment] happened, and to go to work every day and see those people who knew he was sexually harassing me felt like a betrayal every time. I loved everyone on that crew, and I loved working on that show, but it had that history of abuse that started it, and even though I dealt with it after two years, I was looking forward to a clean slate.”
Wu said she couldn’t write her book three years ago because she was still “raw” and “injured” from the suicide attempt, but she had taken the time to heal.
“I felt ready and capable, and I thought it was important to me to help people,” she said.
She burst into tears when she noted that she decided to join social media again because the people she wants to help are there rather than reading books like hers.