'Off the Cuff' Podcast: Constance Wu Warns, "Will Smith Better Watch Out!"

Constance Wu - H 2015

Constance Wu - H 2015

The 'Fresh Off the Boat' star sets her sights on Hollywood while explaining why the first Asian-American-centric series in decades can't possibly please everyone — and why she doesn't want it to.

Before Constance Wu was starring on ABC's cultural lightning rod sitcom Fresh Off the Boat, she was hustling to pay off her student loans just like every other fresh-out-of-theater-school actor.

"I wasn't doing nudity or things like that," she tells Off the Cuff about her earliest acting gigs. "But I was happy to play the best friend and fill somebody's ethnic slot in their casting. … Working on Fresh Off the Boat has been really enlightening to me, because it's made me actually think about the roles that Asians and Asian-American women have played in media."

"Not because I didn't think it was important before," she adds, "but because before I was really focused on just paying my rent."

Wu tells us about other ways she got by after college, like waitressing at restaurants with famous clientele, including Oprah ("I accidentally spilled water on her table. She was very chill about it"). Even with a season of network comedy under her belt, she still fights the old paranoia that she may "never work again."

As Fresh Off the Boat wraps up its first season on Tuesday, Wu reflects on handling the pressure of starring in the first network series in 20 years to center on an Asian-American family and defends the show against expectations of viewers who want to see their own experiences reflected perfectly back to them. "You're never going to please everyone, and if you do there's something wrong," she says. "I'd rather have polarizing input." 

As for her own hopes, she's optimistic about avoiding being typecast as "a screaming mother for the rest of my life."

"Will Smith said after Fresh Prince, 'I don't want to take any part that a white person couldn't take,'" says Wu, citing a desire of minority actors to eventually seek out roles that are not defined by ethnicity. "I feel like I could carry a movie or a show, and I'll mess up here and there and I'll learn from those things. So I do have bigger sights in mind."

She quickly adds that she's afraid of sounding "pompous," but instead she comes off as refreshingly aware of her own limitless possibilities — something women are not always encouraged to be in this business.

"Will Smith better watch out!" she laughs. "Any part that he's up for, I'm calling my agent."

Listen to Wu's full interview in this episode of Off the Cuff, and be sure to subscribe to #THRpodcasts on iTunes for all the latest episodes.