An Asian American Sitcom — “The Chin Chens” — Is In Production

Is an Asian-American "Cosby Show" hitting the air? Hanh Hoa, who plays the Chen matriarch, gets direction from the show's creator, Will Hollins.

Financed by the local Chinese- and Vietnamese-American community, “The Chin Chens” is a sitcom being filmed by a local Atlanta-based producer, Will Hollins. Hollins describes “The Chin Chens” as focusing on a family (mother, father, grandmother and three children) who owns a successful chain of Vietnamese nail salons and Chinese restaurants. 

“I felt the Asian community didn’t have a proper voice on broadcast television,” said Hollins, a Mississippi-born African American who once ran a local recording studio and has been working in TV and film the past decade.

Vickie Eng, an Atlanta actress who plays the mom, thinks the show could be “like ‘The Cosby Show’ was for African Americans. The family is wealthy and educated. It brings core family values, Asian values. We hope to be funny while doing it.”

Tom Nguyen, who plays the eldest son, is apparently working with the writers to “ensure [the episodes] have a proper Asian-American feel”, which on the one hand suggests there is some attention to cultural authenticity, but also make me worry that the primary writers for the show are not folks who are rooted in the Asian American community.

Another worry, I have, is the title of the sitcom. The family’s last name is “Chen”, but where did the “Chin” part come in? The sitcom seems to play off of the “ching-chong”, nonsensical perception that non-Asians have of Asian languages. In addition, what few details are available about the sitcom’s first few episodes suggest that the show may reinforce some Asian stereotypes, including the type of businesses owned by the family (restaurant, nail salon), and the inter-generational tension between the overbearing Asian parent and the eager-to-please child.

Channel APA has the full casting notice, which includes some details about the first episode:

THE CHIN CHENS, “House Rules” (Actors Access) Pilot
1/2 Hour Sitcom

Executive Producer: William A Hollins
Producer: Kenneth D Burns
Director: William A Hollins
Writer: Crystal Garrett
Casting Director: Peter Wise / Wise & Associates Casting
Start Date: July 15, 2010
Auditions Start: ASAP
Location: Atlanta GA


No phone calls to Peter Wise & Associates.

Male, Chinese-American, affluent, in his early 50s, he’s the Chen family patriarch, a self-made man who came to the U.S. speaking no English and working as a busboy. Now he owns and runs the Eat and Treat Emporium (a successful, combination high-end nail salon and restaurant) with his wife HOA and their kids Luu, Linh and Le. He loves his family and tolerates his meddling, live-in mother-in-law — sort of…SERIES REGULAR (1)

Female, Vietnamese-American, affluent, in her early 50s, she’s the Chen family matriarch who ran away from Vietnam to be with the man she loves. Now she helps run the Eat and Treat Emporium (a successful, combination high-end nail salon and restaurant) with her husband Hu and their kids Luu, Linh and Le. Hoa is driven crazy by her mother, Hoang, who moved in two weeks ago and has taken over the Chens’ lives. Guilt ridden about being an “ungrateful daughter,” Hoa is torn between trying to appease her traditional, demanding mother and hoping to get back control of her life…SERIES REGULAR (1)

70 years old, Vietnamese, she is Hoa’s traditional, demanding, and opinionated mother who moved to the States two weeks ago. She dislikes her daughter’s Americanized lifestyle and decides it’s time to make some big changes. She redecorates the house with silk lanterns and a fish pond, bangs a gong at 5:30 am to wake everyone up, insists on serving traditional meals and takes over the family business, Eat and Treat Emporium. When Hu and Hoa consider moving her to a retirement community, she sabotages the interview with the retirement director. After a heart-to-heart chat with Hoa, Hoang agrees to accept the fact that she can’t go about changing everyone’s lives…SERIES REGULAR (1)

Male, 21 years old, Chinese-American, a bit spoiled and a slacker, he is in his third year of college but still just a sophomore. Luu doesn’t want to take over the family business, so he’s deliberately dragging out his college career and constantly switching majors, basing his decision on the classes his latest crush is taking…SERIES REGULAR (1)

Female, 17, a bit of a tomboy in a baseball cap and Chuck Taylors, she loves hip-hop music and dance and is resistant to her grandmother Hoang’s opinions on this matter…SERIES REGULAR (1)

Female, 12, Chinese-American, she’s the youngest member of the Chen family. She studies martial arts and thinks her grandmother’s decorations are cool. She’s in cahoots with Hoang to sabotage the retirement community interview…SERIES REGULAR (1)

45 years old, she is the Chen family’s Mexican maid who is getting a PhD in family counseling. She’s perplexed when Hoang takes the clean dishes out of the dishwasher and puts them back in the sink to be re-washed by hand…SERIES REGULAR OR RECURRING (6)

In her 60s, British, stuffy and sarcastic, she is the director of the Sterling Retirement Home who comes to the Chens’ house to interview Hoang. Mrs. Tuttle falls hook, line and sinker for Hoang’s act and can’t believe that Hoa is trying to pawn off her sickly mother on strangers…GUEST STAR (24)

In his 60s, Caucasian, unshaven but well dressed, he is the Chens’ neighbor and the President of the Housing Association. He tells the Chens they can’t have a fish pond in their yard…1 speech and 3 lines, 1 scene (31)

In her 20s, African American, she’s a disgruntled customer at the Eat and Treat Emporium…1 line, 1 scene (13)

In her 50s, Caucasian and uptight, she is another disgruntled customer at the Eat and Treat Emporium…1 line, 1 scene (13)

In her 30s, African American, she’s another disgruntled customer at the Eat and Treat Emporium…No lines, 1 scene (13)

STORY LINE: HU and HOA CHEN and their kids LUU, LINH and LE, an affluent Chinese-Vietnamese family living the American dream, don’t know how to cope when Hoa’s mother HOANG CHIN comes to live with them and insists on taking over every aspect of their lives, both at work and at home…

Personally, I’m a little surprised to find that this is the second television project I’ve heard about in the last few months that involves an African-American producer attempting to put Asian-Americans into the spotlight, the first being Tyrese’s “K-Town” reality television project. I don’t know what, yet, to make of this apparent trend, but I think it may speak to a need for our community to keep independently funding media projects that attempt to promote Asian Americans in a more varied and diverse light.

“The Chin Chens” has been purchased by Colours TV, a small Dish Network based channel, in a year-long commitment.

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