EXCLUSIVE: Viola Davis and Julius Tennon’s JuVee Production is teaming with HBO to develop the comedy House of Chow from Ken Cheng (Wilfred, Betas), who wrote the pilot and will serve as executive producer alongside Head of TV Development at JuVee Andrew Wang and pilot director Jude Weng. Davis and Tennon also will serve as EPs.
Based on Cheng’s experiences growing up in a restaurant kitchen, House of Chow is a comedy about the reluctant partnership that forms between estranged, thirtysomething siblings Vicky and Charlie Chow. Both realize that the best way to salvage their disappointing and dysfunctional lives is to revive their family’s old Chinese restaurant and turn it into something it’s never been: a success. To do that, all they’ll need to do is exploit the gullible foodies of L.A. into believing they’re something they’ve never been: happy to be there.
The comedy untangles the intertwined quirks of culture, sex, family and food that are part of everyday life for many first-gen, blue-collar, “immigrant Americans” and does it in the sexiest place imaginable: a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with a B-grade on the window.
Weng also grew up within the walls of a Bay Area restaurant. She signed on to the project after she and Cheng shared stories about restaurant stories and Chinese food. The pilot adds to the conversation of inclusive storytelling based on immigrant narratives, a timely topic in today’s cultural climate. We hear that HBO landed the project in a competitive situation.
“I’m so excited to work with HBO, JuVee, and Jude on such a personal passion project,” said Cheng. “We hope our series can highlight the importance of the Chinese restaurant as the uniquely American cultural institution it is, right next to baseball, systemic racism and Coachella. We can’t wait to get started, which we plan to do by eating our way through every Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles in the name of research.”
Weng added: “As an immigrant who grew up in a Chinese American diner, the opportunity to direct stories about cuisine and identity is creatively meaningful. With Ken Cheng’s inimitable voice, JuVee’s guidance, and HBO’s reputation for nurturing iconic characters, it is a formidable partnership I’m proud to be a part of!”
Wang, also a child of Chinese immigrants, connected with the story when it comes to exploring identity and the inter-generational conflicts that can arise around cultural heritage. “Ken and Jude have expertly and deliciously found a way to speak to that experience,” he added.
“We at Team JuVee are continuing our mission to bring voice to the voiceless and provide elevated content for people of color,” Davis and Tennon said in a statement. “House of Chow is a part of that mission. We are beyond excited at its universal appeal and its fierce artistic merit.”
Cheng is developing the music-driven dramedy Electric Road for TBS. He was a consulting producer on Sin City Saints and developed the Netflix coming-of-age comedy Neon Youth. Cheng is repped by manager John Tantillo and attorney Gregg Gellman at Morris Yorn.
Weng has directed episodes of series including Black-ish, The Good Place, iZombie and Crashing as well as multiple episodes of Fresh Off the Boat, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Life in Pieces and Young Sheldon. In 2019, Weng became the first Asian-American woman ever direct a half-hour broadcast network pilot, the Untitled Jessica Gao Project. She made her feature directorial debut Finding Ohana, which will premiere on Netflix later this year. She is repped by CAA.
JuVee is partnering with the Nelson Rodrigues Estate for a stage and film/TV adaptations of Brazilian playwright Nelson Rodrigues’ seminal 1960 play The Asphalt Kiss. They also are developing a TV adaptation of Julia Hart’s sci-fi pic Fast Color. JuVee was also behind gripping documentary Emanuel, about the tragic Charleston church shooting.
JuVee is repped by CAA, the Lasher Group and attorney James M. Feldman of Lichter Grossman Nichols.