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Jimmy O. Yang’s Crab Club Feasts on Asian American Stories | Celebrity news

One of Hollywood’s hottest “clubs” is run by “Crazy Rich Asians” actor Jimmy O. Yang and his production partners. There is no DJ or bottle service. If you win the entry, you better know how to eat a Dungeness Crab.

Yang, whose Netflix vacation romantic comedy “Love Hard” hits Friday, has transformed Crab Club, the production company he operates alongside Jessica Gao and Ken Cheng, into a true Hollywood force.

Why the crab club? The nickname comes from their regular crab dinners with other Asian American friends working in entertainment. The goal was not only to eat, but also to support each other. Meals rotate between their homes in the Los Angeles area. For Yang, it was a “cool dinner club”.

“I just felt very normal, kind of like when I was shooting ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ where we didn’t have to explain ourselves,” Yang told The Associated Press.

Being in Hollywood, the rallies have finally passed the stage of a support group and are now an incubator of television and film projects told on their terms. In 2019, Yang, Gao, and Cheng formed Crab Club, Inc., and it didn’t take long for the company to prove they had legs.

Comedian Jo Koy showed up at one of the dinners and there was a spark of “synergy,” Yang said. The fact that they all work together led to the Crab Club’s first project: “Easter Sunday,” a comedy about a Filipino American family starring Koy. The film, which will be released in April, has found a partner in Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment.

“We all broke history together. But Ken is the lead writer, “Yang said.” He wrote such an incredible screenplay that it was legendary enlightened by Steven Spielberg on the first draft. “

They are now co-writing “The Great Chinese Art Heist” with former Yang “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu attached. Crab Club is also producing an Amazon Studios comedy series, which will be co-written and produced by management. by Cheng, on Los Angeles Outcasts.

“If someone sends us a project, we have two rules,” Cheng said. “The first is that the project must somehow shine a light on a marginalized voice or community. We are three Americans of Chinese descent. Obviously, we will lean towards American projects of Asian origin or projects of the Asian diaspora … The second mandate is that we must all three like it and want to do it.

The Crab Club dinners – which were temporarily suspended during the pandemic – were not intended to be an exclusive Asian Algonquin roundtable. Initially, it was about eating crab. Gao, showrunner of the highly anticipated Marvel / Disney + series “She-Hulk,” said they and two other friends created a thread in 2017 to alert each other if they saw any cheaply-priced Dungeness Crab.

“When prices fell to single digits per pound, we all got together – like the Avengers – for crab dinner,” Gao said. “We would all take turns staying with each other. And we are all very good cooks.

It is by invitation only due to the difficulty of accommodating beyond 10 to 15 people and because the host has to purchase the crabs. Their little supper club has started to generate a buzz, with producers and actors asking how they can join.

The band members have spent so many years being “in isolation” still being the only Asian on sets, Cheng said. Here they can concoct ideas or complain about the doors being closed by people in the industry because of their race or ethnicity.

They also support each other outside of Crab Club productions. When the plot of “Love Hard” and the cast of Yang were revealed, there were immediate criticisms that the story would be based on the trope of the nerdy Asian guy not being a believable romantic option.

In the Sweet But Not Sappy Christmas movie, a New York man (Yang) uses a photo of his childhood friend in the form of an online dating profile picture. He forms a bond via text and phone with a writer from Los Angeles (Nina Dobrev). When she breaks her cat fishing after having surprised him at home, Cyrano embezzlement ensues.

“I knew there would be tweets like that watching the trailer because of course you sum up that story… It’s like, ‘Oh, what are you trying to say? Oh, that kind of Asian guy with glasses isn’t hot and this other guy is hot? ‘ Yang said.

He ensures that the film is more nuanced. Originally, her character was not written as Asian American. Yang took on the role after getting the producers to agree to someone of Asian descent play the “hot guy” (Darren Barnet of “Never Have I Ever” has the part). Yang also knew that playing this role meant viewers would see an Asian Family onscreen.

This level of consideration is one of the reasons Cheng and Gao protect Yang when it comes to criticism.

“It’s a situation that I think really illustrates the kind of unfair position actors of color are placed in,” Gao said. “Jimmy genuinely cares about his community and wants to protect his community.”

Like Yang, Gao and Cheng are extremely busy with projects outside of the Crab Club. Gao has his hands full with “She-Hulk,” where people of color make up more than half of the editorial staff. Cheng has many engagements, including an HBO comedy pilot about the siblings who run a Chinese restaurant.

It would be easy for the trio to focus solely on their own careers at such a fierce company. But, they also want to help emerging writers and actors add to what could be a “golden age of Asian-American art,” Cheng said.

A golden age seems long overdue. In May, a USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative report found that only 5.9% of the 51,159 speaking roles in 1,300 top-grossing films between 2007 and 2019 were performed by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. . Only 3.4%, or 44, of those films had Asians or Pacific Islanders leading or co-directing.

The permanent lack of representation is the reason the trio will send projects to other writers if they are not suitable. Gao says they have to get over Hollywood’s history of making people of color compete for scraps of opportunity.

“The circle is getting bigger,” Gao said. “A rising tide lifts all boats. That’s the philosophy we believe in.”

——— Terry Tang is a member of the Race and Ethnicity Team at The Associated Press. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ttangAP

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