Abigail Hing Wen spoke to NextShark about the “Loveboat, Taipei” film adaptation, her forthcoming sequel and the importance of a multiplicity of representation.
Abigail Hing Wen is exceedingly busy. An author, screenwriter, producer and tech leader who graduated from Harvard University and Columbia Law School, she is used to taking on a lot at once. “I haven’t really tested the boundaries of how many [projects] I can take on,” she laughed.
I spoke to Wen during the early morning hours in Taipei, where she was beginning her 15-day quarantine in a hotel after arriving from the U.S. earlier that week. She said that it had taken a while for the excitement of her trip to truly hit her, saying, “When I flew out, on the plane, a lot of the leadup to me flying out was a lot of logistics, like getting our visas processed, figuring out hotel and quarantine stay, and then suddenly I’m on the plane and I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m flying out because of ‘Loveboat, Taipei.’ It was kind of this unbelievable moment.”
The importance of representation
Wen will serve as an executive producer of the movie adaptation, which will begin filming at the end of this year. “Loveboat, Taipei” will star Ross Butler and Ashley Liao and include supporting cast members such as Nico Hiraga and Chelsea Zhang.
Wen said she’s excited to be a part of the movement to expand roles in Hollywood for Asian Americans: “That’s been one of my hopes from the beginning, that we would have talent brought onto the screen. There are newcomers, there are relative newcomers, there’s people like Ross [who is] already very well established. I’m just so excited to launch and build careers that I hope to see play out over the long run in Hollywood.”
Promoting representation was always on Wen’s mind throughout the process of writing “Loveboat, Taipei” and adapting it for the screen. Much like Ever, her protagonist, Wen grew up in Ohio and did not have a large Asian or Asian American community surrounding her. “I just didn’t see any Asian faces on TV or around me,” she explained. What representation she did see for Asians at the time was overwhelmingly negative: “I would see Asian Americans demonized and just not portrayed in a rounded way. Their humanity was missing.” While writing, she said that there was a lot of “self-generated pressure” to create characters who overcame stereotypes and were full, complete people.
However, Wen believes that there are so many more opportunities for representation than what she alone is able to create. She described the Asian American experience as “infinite,” speaking to the multiplicity of stories, voices and experiences encompassed within it. “As long as the characters are authentic, I think the more representation we have, the better. I tried to capture that to some extent within ‘Loveboat, Taipei’ and the 30 characters, but there’s infinite stories within our community. We’re seeing more and more of that infinity coming through the pipeline.”
The stakes for representation have only been heightened over the past year, as anti-Asian sentiment and hate have proliferated. Wen says that what saddens her most is the fact that things haven’t changed much during her lifetime: “I grew up in the shadow of Vincent Chin’s murder, and how there was never justice brought to him, and so I think it’s the same thing. What really saddens me about what’s going on with the anti-Asian hate is that it hasn’t changed… It tells me how much work we still have left to do.”
Adapting “Loveboat, Taipei”
Wen spoke about her excitement to see scenes from the novel come to life. Showcasing Taipei as the backdrop of the film is something she looks forward to, incorporating landmarks of the city. She also spoke about the scenes she’s most eager to see recreated on screen. “I think the biggest element is the dance… There’s a key moment where [Ever] kind of figures out what’s going on with herself, she figures it out dancing. She understands in a wordless way what she needs to do next, and where she needs to go. And that sort of dancing is going to be much more vibrant on the screen.”
The process of adapting the novel into film has already been rewarding, Wen says. She mentioned a moment when she first felt that the movie was really taking shape: “HarperCollins had put together these drawings of the characters that had blank faces. So I kind of pulled them together, and now the faces are populated. And that’s an amazing thing.”
Image via HarperCollins
Even with the huge undertaking as executive producer of the film, Wen hasn’t slowed down with her other endeavors. She is working on 12 projects concurrently, including multiple novels. The sequel to “Loveboat, Taipei” is set to release on Jan. 25, 2022. After that, she says, there are more books in the works as well. Although she couldn’t give any specifics, she mentioned that there will be a book forthcoming in 2023. “I have multiple next novels.” she said. “I’m writing new universes.”
Featured Image via HarperCollins