A M E R I C A N e s e

Based on the novel by Shawn Wong
Screenplay/director: Eric Byler (charlotte sometimes)
Producer: Lisa Onodera (Picture Bride, The Debut)
Cast: Chris Tashima
Joan Chen
Allison Sie
Kelly Hu
Michael Paul Chan
Sab Shimono
Ben Shenkman
Autumn Reeser

Excerpts from Eric Byler's interview with

In the novel Raymond, an Asian American man, gets married and divorced, tries to do the traditional Chinese American family thing but fails partly because he’s unfaithful. He starts dating his divorce lawyer, and then he starts dating Aurora, a Hapa (half Asian) woman 15 years his junior. When Aurora moves to San Francisco to live with him, it becomes a dual protagonist story.

Their relationship hinges upon Aurora at first wanting to be more Asian. Raymond, a sort of self-proclaimed expert, helps mold her in a Pygmalion sense. That lasts them a good year, but once Aurora feels she’s sufficiently Asian, she’s ready to explore other issues. She becomes a little more independent and becomes her own person. Raymond feels she still needs more training, and so the conflicts begin. A good portion of the novel takes place after they’ve broken up. Each starts new relationships wondering if they have left behind the one person they were meant to be with.

Aurora’s new love interest in the second half is a white man her own age. Raymond’s new love interest is a full-blooded Asian woman his own age named Betty. She is even more Asian than Raymond is, as she’s an immigrant from Vietnam. Now he can’t play the game of "you’re not Asian enough, let daddy help you." So he has to find a whole other way to relate. Raymond’s relationship with Betty is the most compelling and visceral relationship in the novel and the only one that I adapted just as I read it in the book.

Shawn Wong did a marvelous job of touching on the broader issues that an interracial person faces, and this inspired me to go a bit deeper. One of the scenes I drafted depicts Aurora visiting her parents in a rural town in the Midwest. During a dinner party, her younger sister Julia is cleaning up after a friend of her dad who spilled his drink. The friend and his wife are admiring Julia, saying, "How could a guy as ugly as Hank have such a beautiful daughter?" The wife says, "Oh it must be the Chinese blood." And Julia says, "We’re Japanese, actually." And the wife says, "Well you don’t look it at all." Aurora hears this and says, "Is that supposed to be a compliment?"

Other Interviews that discuss Americanese:

Asian Connections

Entertainment Insiders

INFO about Eric Byler's upcoming feature, TRE