A lot has happened to Crazy Rich Asians star Constance Wu since the social media storm in 2019 which saw her vilified for expressing disappointment on Twitter over the renewal of the hit show Fresh Off The Boat, which had launched her career.
At the time, Wu’s career was flourishing. The hit movie Crazy Rich Asians, in which she starred, had become a box office smash and a ground-breaking moment for Asian American representation in Hollywood. She’d just finished filming the movie Hustlers with Jennifer Lopez.
Wu, who played FOTB matriarch Jessica Huang for five years, posted her disappointment when the sixth series (which turned out to be the last) was commissioned by US TV network ABC. She had thought it was going to be cancelled and wanted to pursue other acting projects.
She posted that she was “so upset right now I’m literally crying. Ugh”.
The backlash was immediate, she recalls in her memoir, Making A Scene, as accusations flew of her being ungrateful, privileged and insensitive to struggling and out-of-work actors, and to Asian people who enjoyed the show.
— Live Talks LA (@LiveTalksLA) September 11, 2022
A former colleague direct messaged her “telling me that nothing I could ever do would make up for my atrocious behaviour and disgusting ingratitude. How I had sullied the one shining beacon of hope for Asian Americans,” she writes.
She apologised publicly but the damage was done. The vitriol did not abate. The shaming continued, on social media and beyond. Rumours spread that she was a diva and difficult to work with.
One night, feeling isolated, helpless and desperate, alone in her temporary apartment in New York, where she’d just finished filming Hustlers, Wu attempted suicide. Luckily a friend came by to check up on her and saved her. She was taken to a psychiatric hospital, where she remained overnight. Subsequently, Wu had a lot of therapy and still sees a therapist once a week.
“When all that stuff happened three years ago, I had to go [to the therapist] every day. Then it was three times a week. It’s like a touchstone for me to work through feelings and conflicts and to find a way I can best respond that is both authentic to me and helpful to others.”
As a result of the tweetstorm, Wu came off social media for almost three years. It gave her time to clear her head. She had a baby during the pandemic and finished her book, a collection of essays on her life.
In the book, Wu makes allegations about how she was treated while Fresh Off The Boat was being filmed and she says today that she “suppressed” herself from speaking about what happened – and this was among the factors which led to those later fateful, impulsive tweets.
“I had moment of heat,” she agrees.
And she says she has learned that “trauma doesn’t go away just because you will it to, just because you want to avoid it” and it is better to talk openly.
She adds: “It’s inevitably going to come out somewhere, whether it’s some heated tweets or an argument with your boyfriend about the toothpaste cap.
“We need to talk about these things as they happen, not to blame people but to start an open dialogue.”
So, how did those tweets affect her career?
“It’s hard to say because I went back to Fresh Off The Boat, then in the last month of shooting I got pregnant, so then I was having a baby and then the pandemic happened in the middle of my pregnancy.”
More than three years after the Twitter furore, work and motherhood is keeping her busy. She’s starring in new movie Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, and is starting rehearsals for a play to be staged in Los Angeles this autumn. She’ll also be producing eight different TV projects.
She had started writing Making A Scene in 2016 and thought it was going to be politically motivated, but with everything that happened in 2019 it took a different turn, culminating in a collection of essays about her life.
It features childhood memories growing up as one of four sisters to Taiwanese parents in Richmond, Virginia, pursuing her love of acting through community theatre and college, recalling love affairs, her years as a struggling actress and even essays on bread-baking and her pet rabbit, Lida Rose.
“Even though in my years in Hollywood I’ve gone through some difficult times, for the most part the book is about my time before that. It’s meant to be a look at a pretty ordinary life and the things that shape us.”
Now 40, Wu seems in a much clearer space. Her two-year-old daughter, who she had with her partner, musician Ryan Kattner, fills her with happiness.
“Having a daughter has made my life 200 million times better than I even thought it could be,” she enthuses.
“Even just watching her eat spaghetti brings me so much joy. It’s definitely changed my career choices a bit. It’s a lot more about what’s going to afford me more time with her. What jobs can I take which won’t make me uproot my family? It’s changed my choices and values for the better.”
She would love more children: “I would have 20 if I could. As another career, maybe I could be a pre-school teacher. I love it all – the poops, the farts and the tantrums!”
She tentatively returned to social media in July.
— Constance Wu (@ConstanceWu) July 14, 2022
“I was really resistant. I refused for several months. My publishers would encourage me and I would start crying on Zoom and say, ‘Stop pressurising me, I almost lost my life because of this!’ Luckily I had a team who were very protective of me and said I didn’t have to do it if I didn’t want to.
“But I realised that with my story, the people I’m trying to reach aren’t really reading books, so how am I going to reach them? I’m going to reach them with a tweet saying, ‘This is my story’.”
And she is mindful about what she posts.
“It’s important not to just show our most gleaming sides but to show that we are human and that we can make errors and that we can be forgiven and forgive. It’s important that I am my authentic self in public or on social media.”
Making A Scene by Constance Wu is published by Scribner. Available now.