Chinese-Canadian Samantha Wan and Filipino-Canadian Amanda Joy are two twenty-somethings who have co-created, written and co-star in Second Jen, a coming-of-age comedy series based on their experiences as second generation Asian-Canadian millennials. Caught between cultures and generations they are two best friends who are out to prove that they can make it on their own.
Produced by Don Ferguson Productions (Air Farce), the new series was all shot in Toronto (airs Thursdays on City TV as well as online at citytv.com) and features a diverse cast. It’s the first Chinese-Filipino-Canadian comedy to hit mainstream television and we’re lovin’ it!
We had a chance to check in with Samantha Wan about the show…
Not one but two asian female leads! When you were pitching the show what went through your minds about that?
It’s funny, it never occurred to me what a huge deal it would be to have two asian leads. We new the show was important for representing diversity, however the question ” what do we think about both girls being Asain?” never came up. Because the show was based off Amanda and I, two asians was just part of the parcel. I’m glad that it is starting a discussion though, and we’re hoping to expand into other ethnicities if we get a second season.
There’s been more attention to Asian talent in the entertainment industry in North America recently (Fresh of the Boat, Huang’s World, Kim’s Convenience) with more doors are opening. Your thoughts on the timing of the launch of Second Jen?
We are so excited to be launching surrounded by these other amazing shows. Tokenism is something you experience a lot in this industry. The only way to end that is through greater representation. The more diverse voices you have telling their stories, the less people can use the blanket term ” oh that it’s the Asian show” and start actually seeing our individual perspectives. We’re also really good friends with the people on Kim’s, so that’s an extra bonus to see our friends succeed. The community is united here, acknowledging we’re all different and we all need to exist. I couldn’t be happier to be apart of this amazing time in television.
Second Jen is not just about second-generation Asians here in Canada but toss in being millennials to the mix. You and Amanda have incorporated your own experiences into the script and we can’t wait to see them unfold in this premiere series. Anything you think would surprise us so far OR happy to have it play out on screen?
I’m excited about a lot of things. A big thing I’m proud of is the second episode where we meet Jen’s lesbian cousin who give the girls some real perspective. I have a lot of friends in the LGBTQ Asian community. They’re stories break my heart and also inspire me. I’m really glad we were able to hopefully address some of the complexity LGBTQ situations in the Asian families.
It’s also the small things I get a kick out of too. I really love all the people who have messaged me to say “I have wall squirrels in my apartment too!” people didn’t believe us when we first wrote it, but IT’S SO TRUE.
What’s been the reaction so far from your family and friends?
They are really proud. My friends have been taking pictures on the subway with our posters and sending them to me. My little collection will be something I’ll cherish my whole life.
If you weren’t acting what career path would you have taken?
I used to want to be a psycologist. In some ways I think acting has similarities, in that I’m always analyzing what the character is thinking or feeling.
What did your family hope your career would be in? I know how our parents can be lol
Doctor. Lawyer. Business women. I guess I’m a little bit of the third and I can pretend to be the rest on TV. Look mom, dad, you go all your wishes!
Piano or violin?
Haha, the stereo type lives on! Piano. I did the Royal Conservatory ( RCM) exams all the way up to level 8 including the harmony and history till I was 13. Studying Mozart’s ” The Marriage of Figaro” on my summer vacations was crappy, but the worst part? Getting my butt kicked by the 8 year old prodigies surrounding me. I hated it when I was young, but appreciate the discipline I have because of it now.
Favourite comfort foods?
Savoury over sweet anytime. I’m a sucker for a good bag of chips or warm homemade bread. I also eat a lot of dumplings.
Mmmm dumplings! Okay, favourite Chinese restaurants in Toronto?
Mothers Dumplings ( hand made dumpling) , Taste of China ( good late night takeout) , Rol San ( all day dim sum)
Who’s your favourite Asian celebrity?
Steven Chow. After watching Kung Fu hustle I fell in love. His style is so out there, but also everyday fallible characters really hit home. Also Jackie Chan, because I’m a martial artist myself and really looked up to him. I also think Michelle Yao is under appreciated, that women kicks butt!
Who was the first asian actor you saw on the big screen?
Jackie Chan in Rush Hour.
Any Chinese superstitions that you believe in?
The number 4 being bad luck. 13 doesn’t bother me at all, but I won’t live in house with the number 4. I love this questions because I didn’t think I had any Chinese superstitions, but I totally do!
What’s on your life bucket list?
I want to have a house near the ocean. I grew up in Vancouver so I miss it a lot. On the sillier side, I want to be the hero in a Marvel movie and to work with Jackie Chan ( maybe those wishes could be related…)
BIG thanks to Samantha for taking the time for this interview! Make sure you tune in to her show!