Just a day after the Oscar snub for her Golden Globe winning performance in Lulu Wang’s critically acclaimed film The Farewell, Awkwafina couldn’t escape the topic even though she was at TCA to discuss the new Comedy Central series Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens.
Awkwafina said that after the Academy Award nominations were revealed, The Farewell family had a couple of text exchanges, but that overall she’s just grateful for the journey. “We appreciated the run of the film since it came out last January at Sundance and all the attention it’s gotten,” Awkwafina said. She points out that all the Oscar nominations were warranted, with incredible films this year — specifically, ones helmed by women (including The Farewell). Nonetheless, Awkwafina said, “I feel very grateful where we’ve come from.”
Awkwafina is now embarking on a new TV journey with her show Nora From Queens, which was renewed for a second season ahead of its January 22 debut. Inspired by her own life (her real name is Nora Lum) growing up in Queens, NY, the series features BD Wong as her supportive dad, Lori Tan Chinn as her spunky grandma and Bown Yang her overachieving cousin. As the titular Nora, Awkwafina leans on her family as she navigates life and young adulthood in the Outer Borough. The actors joined Awkwafina on stage at TCA along with executive producers Lucia Aniello, Karey Dornetto and Teresa Hsiao.
The series echoes that of Broad City and Aniello, who was a producer of that show as well, said that both shows handle twentysomethings in New York trying to figure things out. The new show will deal with a lot of universal themes that were depicted in the cult comedy fronted by Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson.
“What’s great about the show is that it takes existential questions and explores them in different ways through Nora’s lens,” said Aniello. “People who love Broad City will love this as well.”
There has been an uptick in Asian American representation on TV and film since Crazy Rich Asians, which also starred Awkwafina, but the actress says she hopes such narratives become less niche. The cast is very mindful about representation and when asked by a TCA member about how the show navigates stereotypes – specifically with a lead Asian American character who is a partying stoner – Wong made sure to set the record straight.
“A stereotype is a deeply ingrained image of a type of person that shouldn’t be embraced as true as opposed to negative images,” said Wong. “I have never heard of an Asian American character like [Nora]. She is fresh and out of the box.”
Awkwafina chimes in saying that she plays a version of herself as real as she can. “Maybe my life was buffoonish — I don’t know,” she said. “I didn’t feel the need to do something that was overdone. I just hope it inspires young kids to be themselves.”
The series has an impressive list of guest stars for its first season: Celia Au, Matthew Broussard, Michelle Buteau, Jamie Chung, Laverne Cox, Deborah S. Craig, Makeda Declet, Jennifer Esposito, Chrissie Fit, Chris Gethard, Bella Heathcote, Carmen M. Herlihy, Stephanie Hsu, David Krumholtz, Simu Liu, Natasha Lyonne, John ‘Dumbfoundead’ Park, Matt Rogers, Harry Shum Jr., Melissa Villaseñor, Ming-Na Wen and Jaboukie Young-White.
Speaking to inclusion, Awkwafina is Nora From Queens also has a slate of predominantly female and diverse directors for the 10-episode series: actress/director Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll), Lucia Aniello (Broad City), Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader), The Daniels (Swiss Army Man), Steven Tsuchida (Younger) and Anu Valia (The Other Two).