Constance Wu is providing crucial context to her controversial career with her new book Making A Scene and its accompanying press tour. Years after being labeled as “ungrateful” and a “diva” for her unhappy tweets about Fresh Off The Boat’s sixth season renewal, Wu revealed that she had been sexually harassed by a producer on the series early in the show’s run. In more recent interviews, she’s opened up about why she kept that fact quiet for so long.
During an appearance on Red Table Talk, the actor explains, “This producer, he was an Asian American, and the thing that was most painful was he was so derogatory and harassing towards me, but because this show was sort of a beacon of representation for Asian Americans, and I sort of became a symbol of representation, I didn’t want to sully the one show with sexual harassment claims against the one Asian American man who is doing all this better work for the community.”
Wu also harbored guilt for “playing into it” when the producer made derogatory comments about other women: “I’ve got to pretend I’m part of the boys’ club,” she remembers thinking. When she did disclose his behavior to others, she wasn’t met with much support: “I spoke up to a couple of people who I thought were friends or allies and nobody encouraged me to go to HR though because they didn’t want the show to get canceled.” (The producer also seemed to only target harassment towards Asian American women, complicating the matter further.) Much later, a female colleague did encourage her to report to HR, but by then Wu thought “nobody is going to believe me, I don’t have evidence.”
The Hustlers star gave yet further context on Late Night With Seth Meyers. “[All] of the sexual harrassment, the inappropriate touching, the, like, telling me to wear short skirts and like, intimidation, that all only happened in the first two years of the show, when I was still very scared that I–you know, I had never done anything big before. I had just graduated from being a waitress, and I was scared of being fired,” she shares. “Once I sort of felt a little bit of job security, then I started saying no to this producer, which infuriated him, but it was okay. So I thought, you know what, I handled it. I don’t need to stain the reputation of this show, or of this producer. I could just keep it inside.”
But doing so had its own consequences. “As a result, I feel like I was never able to really be myself on set, because I’d see my abuser being buddy-buddy with everyone else, knowing what he had done to me,” she admits. “And you know, the thing I learned is that bad feelings and abuse don’t just go away because you will it to. It’s gonna come out somewhere.”
Ultimately, she decided to disclose the harassment in her book to put those controversial tweets—the backlash to which sparked a suicide attempt—into context. “I think it’s important that we engage in curiosity and empathy before we go straight to judgment. Because if somebody does something out of character for them, usually it means something’s going on in their life.”