Asian-American actress Constance Wu was born in Richmond, Va. to two Taiwanese immigrant parents, and she quickly began acting at the age of 12. In 2015, Wu became a Hollywood star after landing the breakout part of Jessica Huang on the ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat.
In 2018, Wu’s fame skyrocketed after the release of the romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, in which she played the leading role of a young woman who meets her rich boyfriend’s family for the first time. The movie, which marked the first major studio film starring a cast of primarily Asian-Americans since The Joy Luck Club, became a cultural phenomenon, and Wu became one of Hollywood’s "It" girls. Ever since, the actress has showed no signs of slowing down.
While Wu is at the top of her career, the outspoken star has also faced a bit of controversy for making her voice heard in Hollywood. This is the untold truth of Constance Wu.
She literally cried after Fresh off the Boat’s renewal
In the world of television, a show can be cancelled at the drop of a hat. So, when ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat was renewed for a sixth season in May 2019, fans of the show were elated by the news. However, show star Constance Wu was apparently less than thrilled about her job security.
After the renewal was reported, Wu went on a Twitter rant expressing just how distraught she was by the announcement, as reported by Digital Spy. On May 10, 2019, Wu tweeted, "So upset right now that I’m literally crying. Ugh. F***," and, when a fan congratulated her on the great news, Wu wrote in a now-deleted tweet, "No it’s not."
It seemed as though the comedic actress was joking, but she soon released a statement apologizing for her tweets. In a tweet on May 11, 2019, Wu explained that she was upset about the renewal of Fresh Off the Boat because it meant she could no longer pursue another project she was "passionate about." In the same statement, she reaffirmed that she loves working on the show. ABC responded via a press briefing, explaining that they are "thrilled" to keep Wu on the series.
Meet her house bunny
Most people are either a cat person or a dog person. Constance Wu, however, is a bunny person. The actress loves her pet rabbit, Lida Rose, so much that she takes her everywhere — including work. In a December 2018 interview with Bon Appetit, Wu stated, "She hops around my trailer all day. It feels like self care to take a moment to care for an animal and spend time with an animal. It’s doing something that doesn’t have to do with a screen or with your job; it’s really just about downtime."
Along with gushing about her beloved pet in interviews, Wu doesn’t skimp on sharing cute moments of her bunny on social media. Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her rabbit. While her bunny is absolutely adorable, anonymous sources alleged to Page Six that the actress let her bunny roam freely in her $6.5 million rented penthouse, reportedly destroying the place by defecating everywhere. At the time of this writing, Wu hasn’t confirmed or denied the allegations.
She will not be silent
Constance Wu has a giant platform as a celebrity, and she’s not afraid to use it. Never one to remain silent, Wu has been outspoken about issues close to her heart, including The Big Hundred, a social media campaign that promoted doing 100 good deeds after the 2017 presidential inauguration. For her part, Wu opted to work with Miry’s List, an organization that provides aid to immigrant and refugee families new to Southern California.
Wu talked about the initiative in a February 2017 interview with Teen Vogue. "I chose this action because I admire people with the courage to make [an] immigrant journey in search of peace, safety and well-being for their families," she said. "I want them to find that and I wanted to be active in my care."
The actress went on to express that although today’s political environment can be overwhelming, doing good deeds is a way to overcome that. "Engaging in small and meaningful acts of empathy and compassion is a way to combat that overwhelming feeling and transform it into approachable activism," she shared.
She doesn’t care what film execs think
Along with partaking in life-changing social initiatives, Constance Wu continues to spark conversations about the lack of diversity and gender bias in Hollywood. While the industry has slowly been making strides toward inclusion, Wu doesn’t think diversity involves people of color "supporting this white person’s story," which is something she finds herself explaining to film executives regularly.
The actress, who has been careful about choosing projects, told Marie Claire in a March 2019 interview, "If you want to talk about whether or not an Asian person, or a person of color, or a trans person can open a studio movie, you can’t argue, ‘That’s not going to sell!’ because you’ve never done it before!"
While Wu has landed some history-changing roles alongside an all-Asian cast, the actress hasn’t stopped pushing for more Asian representation in Hollywood. She explained, "The only way things get better is to demand that instead of us changing for the sake of how the culture has always been, let’s change the culture." She continued, "And the fact that I have this tremendous luck and privilege? I intend to make good use of it."
She once considered giving up acting
Before Constance Wu landed her life-changing role on Fresh Off the Boat, she almost had to give up on her acting career. The actress, who had relocated from New York to Los Angeles, had grown tired of the auditioning process — and had become very broke. In an August/September 2018 interview with Bust, Wu explained that she was in $40,000 worth of credit card debt. Additionally, Wu was also paying off student loans while waiting tables in between auditions.
Despite the struggle, Wu knew that it was worth it. She told Vulture in June 2016, "I was really alone and lonely. I was new in the city, and I didn’t have a community of friends in L.A. I was like, ‘Are you okay if your life stays like this, where you’re waiting tables, struggling to make ends meet? Are you still okay doing this when you’re 45?’ I decided that I was."
Thankfully, the struggle would end when Wu found Fresh Off the Boat, a show she felt chose her, rather than the other way around.
She’s not okay with Hollywood whitewashing
In 2016, Scarlett Johansson was cast as the heroine Major Motoko Kusanagi in the film adaptation of the Japanese manga Ghost in the Shell. The casting decision was a controversial one, especially because the filmmakers reportedly used CGI to make the actress appear more Asian. This did not sit well with Constance Wu, who compared the move to doing "blackface."
According to The Hollywood Reporter in April 2016, the actress stated at a luncheon, "It was particularly heinous because they ran CGI tests to make her look more Asian." Wu added, "Some people call it ‘yellowface,’ but I say ‘the practice of blackface employed on Asians’ because that’s more evocative."
Wu went on to explain that the Asian race and culture is "much deeper" than their looks and that she wasn’t placing blame on anyone. Instead, she was trying to raise awareness about the issue. She stated, "It’s good for artists to think outside the box and stretch their imagination."
She’s reclaiming the color yellow
In 2018, Constance Wu wowed critics with her portrayal of the smart, funny, and bold Rachel Chu in the romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, and she stunned them again in 2019 when she showed up to the 91st Annual Academy Awards in a beautiful yellow dress. While gorgeous, the custom Versace gown held a much deeper meaning to the actress that involved more than just being fashionable.
Wu explained the inspiration via an Instagram post on Feb. 25, 2019, sharing a note from her Crazy Rich Asians director, John M. Chu, who aimed to reclaim the word yellow by including Coldplay’s song "Yellow" in their film.
In the note, Chu explained that he struggled with the color yellow all his life, due its the derogatory use against Asian people. However, Coldplay’s song made him rethink everything. "For the first time in my life, it described the color in the most beautiful, magical ways I had ever heard: the color of the stars, her skin, the love," he said. "It was an incredible image of attraction and aspiration that it made me rethink my own self image."
She almost wasn’t in Crazy Rich Asians
Constance Wu played the part of Rachel Chu in Crazy Rich Asians with so much heart, vulnerability, and fierceness that it’s hard to imagine any other actress in the role. Surprisingly, Wu nearly missed out on the part that would ultimately change her life.
In October 2018, Wu appeared on Good Morning America to promote her hit ABC series, Fresh Off the Boat, where she discussed the TV show, as well as the huge success of Crazy Rich Asians — and how she almost missed the chance to star in the movie.
She explained, "Yeah, they wanted me for it, and I met, you know, the producers and the director for it, but then my schedule didn’t work because of my TV show, Fresh Off the Boat, which I love being on, so I was like, ‘Alright. I’ll have to let this job go.’" She continued, "And so I did, but then like a couple months later I was like, ‘It wouldn’t hurt to just, like, write a little email saying how much I wanted it … so I did, and I guess it was a really good email."
A break-up sent her to Hollywood
Synchronicity is a funny thing in Hollywood, and there has been a lot of it in Constance Wu’s life. When the actress was 25, she had just finished college and was living in New York when her boyfriend at the time broke up with her. Wu had given up on acting back then and was prepared to enter grad school at Columbia, but the break-up changed everything.
She told Time in 2017, "I’m on TV now because I got my heart broken." She explained, "I just had to, like, leave New York. So I impulsively moved to L.A." While the actress would rather live her life "in the moment" rather than plan everything ahead, her impulsiveness ended up paying off. Eventually, Wu landed Fresh Off the Boat, and the rest is history. As it turns out, breaking up with a guy was one of the best things that ever happened for her career.
Driving Mr. Sturgess
Before Constance Wu was a bonafide star, she had to work her way up through the ranks of Hollywood. Actor Jim Sturgess, who’s starred in the likes of Across the Universe and 21, knew Wu before she was a big name, and, in August 2018, he shared a sweet message about Wu on Instagram, reminiscing about Wu driving him to the set of his small independent film in 2013.
In the post, he wrote, "My first day at work I was picked up in a car by a lovely girl who was working in the production office and who was to be my driver for the duration of the shoot. We got along great…" He continued, "We also talked about how she was an actress struggling to make ends meet in the Hollywood scene and whether I had any advice on how to get a foot into the industry…to which I had none."
Sturgess recalled seeing Wu’s face splashed across a magazine years later and reading an interview in which she discussed the misrepresentation of Asian actors. Sturgess concluded the post by recommending that his followers see Crazy Rich Asians, which was opening that weekend.
This is her dream role
Constance Wu still has big aspirations, including to sing in a film project. When The Cut spoke with her in July 2016 and asked her what her dream role was, Wu had a surprising answer: "The one dream I have is to do a musical. I love singing, but most people don’t know because I don’t sell myself as a musical person."
Wu went on to explain that she would love to star in an updated version of a certain ’80s classic. "My dream is to play Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors — it would be so interesting to have an Asian Audrey because it’s all about achieving the American dream in a sinister, success-driven way," she shared.
She also added, "I don’t think they think I’m famous enough for that yet — or white enough yet for that part." The interview took place pre-Crazy Rich Asians and Wu’s star has risen greatly since then, so it’s hard to imagine film executives saying she’s not famous enough for a role like that these days!
She’s nothing like her TV persona
Constance Wu rose to fame playing a strict, no-nonsense mother of three on Fresh Off the Boat, but the actress is nothing like her onscreen persona. Wu is much more light-hearted than the stern Jessica Huang, and she also doesn’t speak with an accent.
In a September 2015 interview with Refinery29, Wu explained how she learned her character’s accent: "I listened to video footage of the real Jessica Huang — she’s a real person in Orlando — reading every single one of my lines. And then I break it down phonetically. From a vocal standpoint, you break it down in terms of the placement of the voice, the rhythms, and the cadences."
And while viewers may argue her faux heavy accent is stereotyping, Wu doesn’t see it that way, saying, "It’s a beautiful part of the story of immigration, so I wanted to make sure that I didn’t water it down to quell the fears — the fears that are based on the s***heads who used an accent as a humor tool."
She considered going into this field
Even after Constance Wu had a full-time acting gig on a major network sitcom, she still questioned whether or not acting on a TV show was her thing. In a September 2015 interview with GQ, Wu explained that television is much different than the theater acting she grew up accustomed to and that she was still navigating her way through the world of television in hopes of finding a supportive "tribe."
When asked if there was another career she considered pursuing outside of acting, Wu stated, "I went through a period where I wanted to study linguistics. So I actually did three semesters of post-bachelor studies in psycholinguistics in New York. After that, I applied for a graduate program in speech language pathology at Columbia and was accepted but I never went."
Wu went on to move to Los Angeles after a bad break-up, and ended up getting a role on Fresh Off the Boat. The actress explained to Vulture in June 2016 that, although linguistics would have been a "more practical career," it "didn’t feel right" for the natural artist.
Becoming a comedic actress
Although it may seem like Constance Wu was born to play comedic roles after starring in Fresh Off the Boat, comedy wasn’t always something that Wu excelled at. Prior to her breakout roles, Wu barely had any experience in comedy.
In a September 2015 interview with GQ, Wu explained, "I never did comedy before because I also sucked at it. The problem was I was trying to be funny." Eventually, Wu learned the trick of comedy was to make it feel real and not allow people on set to laugh at her: "Sometimes they’re watching in the next room on the monitor and they’ll laugh and it’ll make me break character and giggle and I’ll remember I’m in a comedy. But if I don’t hear them laugh, I can stay focused and won’t break character."
With Fresh Off the Boat still on the air and already in syndication, it’s safe to say that Wu has this comedy thing all figured out.