Michelle Yeoh and Ben Wang in 'American Born Chinese' on Disney+

‘American Born Chinese’: Everything We Know About the Disney+ Adaptation

Also, I cannot wait for this Everything Everywhere All At Once reunion

American Born Chinese is finally getting a TV show adaption from Disney+. The high praise the graphic novel received upon its debut in 2006 makes this adaptation feel like it’s been a long time coming. American Born Chinese comes from author and cartoonist Gene Luen Yang, with coloring by cartoonist Lark Pien. The book follows the interconnected lives of three characters and has earned praised for its complex themes. It was awarded the 2007 Michael L. Printz award, as well as an Eisner award.

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One story follows Jin Wang, the son of Chinese immigrants. Jin struggles with his identity when he realizes he is one of the only Chinese American students in his school. The book also follows a modern retelling of the legend of the Monkey King, as well as a boy named Danny, who gets annoyed by his pesky cousin, Chin-Kee, who is depicted as a racial stereotype. While all of the stories seem unrelated, their connection is revealed at the end, with a touching and powerful message about racial stereotypes, immigration, and identity crisis.

Almost 17 years later, American Born Chinese has remained relevant. To further carry on the book’s legacy, Disney+ announced in 2021 that it was developing a TV show adaption of American Born Chinese. Excitement for the project increased when it was subsequently announced that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton had signed on to direct the series, with brothers Kelvin and Charles Yu set to write it.

Here’s everything we know so far about Disney’s American Born Chinese.

American Born Chinese release date

American Born Chinese is set to premiere on Disney+ on May 24, 2023. Meanwhile, the show had its world premiere on March 15 at the SXSW Film & TV Festival.

American Born Chinese trailer

Disney+ dropped the official trailer for American Born Chinese on April 21, 2023, giving viewers an exciting first look at the collision between the real world and the mythological world.

The trailer sees Jin Wang struggling to fit in at high school, as he gets lumped with a new Asian student and has his name mispronounced. However, he learns the new student, Wei-Chen, is actually from another world, and he needs Wang’s help on his quest to stop an uprising and close the opening of a gate between Earth and Heaven, lest both worlds perish. The deity Guanyin offers advice to the boys as they embark on their journey, with Wang being chosen as Wei-Chen’s guide. There is quite a bit of martial arts action and gorgeous visuals as the trailer gives alternating glimpses of both worlds, magical artifacts, and deities. Ultimately, it seems to be holding fairly true to the source material while expanding on the opportunities of world-building and blending reality with mythology.

American Born Chinese cast

Michelle Yeoh as Guanyin in American Born Chinese
(Disney)

The cast of American Born Chinese has further raised anticipation for the series, because the show is basically a big Everything Everywhere All at Once reunion. EEAAO stars Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu—all of whom received Oscar nods for their performances in the film. All three are set to appear in American Born Chinese. Yeoh portrays the deity Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of compassion. Meanwhile, Quan will also be playing a lead role as Freddie Wong, a new iteration of Chin-Kee, who will illustrate the problem with racial stereotypes while hopefully minimizing the chances of the point being missed or taken out of context by viewers. Hsu will be portraying the evil goddess Shiji Niangniang. EEAAO‘s Gong Gong, James Hong, has been cast as the Jade Emperor.

Meanwhile, Ben Wang will be starring as the show’s young protagonist, Jin Wang, in his first starring role. Mortal Kombat star Chin Han and Singapore Dreaming star Yeo Yann Yann will portray Jin’s parents, Christine and Simon Wang, respectively. Into the Badlands star Daniel Wu will be portraying another one of the film’s most significant mystical characters, Sun Wukong. Sun Wukong is the Mandarin Chinese name for the Monkey King, whose legendary tale is retold in American Born Chinese. Rounding out the lead cast are Sydney Taylor and Jim Liu. Liu will portray the son of the Monkey King, Wei-Chen, while Taylor will portray Amelia, Jin’s love interest.

Then there is American Born Chinese‘s extensive list of notable guest/recurring stars. Turning Red star Rosalie Chiang will appear as Suzy Nakamura, the girlfriend of Wei-Chen and the friend of Jin. Chinese actress and poet Poppy Liu (Hacks, Dead Ringers) will appear as the demoness Princess Iron Fan, while Alita: Battle Angel star Leonard Wu will portray her husband, the Bull Demon/Niu Mo Wang. Love Hard‘s Jimmy O. Yang has been cast as the Dragon King. Rounding out the list of recurring/guest stars are Ronny Chieng and Lisa Lu, who will portray a monk and an acupuncturist, respectively.

American Born Chinese plot

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
(First Second)

American Born Chinese‘s plot will largely follow that of the graphic novel: It will be an exploration of Jin’s attempts to fit in at school and come to terms with his identity while learning important lessons from the realm of Chinese mythology. IMDb’s synopsis for the show reads:

The story of Jin Wang, an average teenager juggling his high-school social life with his immigrant home life. When he meets a new foreign student on the first day of the school year, even more worlds collide as Jin is unwittingly entangled in a battle of Chinese mythological gods.

Of course, the adaption changes a few things from the book, such as swapping Chin-Kee’s character with Freddie Wong, a stereotypical character from a 1990s sitcom. The TV series will also add a few extra mythological figures, such as Yeoh’s Guanyin, to expand the mythical side of the story. However, the series is expected to hold onto the book’s most important theme, which is its exploration of race and the struggles and experiences of immigrants and their children.

American Born Chinese author Gene Luen Yang is involved in the show and has explained how it will highlight the book’s themes. He told Entertainment Weekly:

There really are two worlds in the show — at least two. The show is about how they intersect and how that intersection sometimes brings about conflict, the same way that on a more mundane level for immigrant kids, the intersection of our world sometimes brings about conflict.

American Born Chinese teaser

Before the official trailer dropped, Disney offered fans a unique teaser. The teaser captures both the modern-day high school storyline of the show and its mystical aspects, as it sees Wang opening a locker to unveil a magical realm. The teaser then goes on to highlight the show’s extensive list of impressive cast members. The names truly just keep going and going.

(featured image: First Second Books / Disney)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.