Every week, the cast and crew of ABC’s Taiwanese American family comedy, Fresh Off the Boat, is taking EW behind the scenes. For each episode, one member is recapping, sharing thoughts on what went down, and walking us through the ins-and-outs of the show. This week, episode writer (and co-executive producer) Matt Kuhn brings us into the season 3 episode, “This Isn’t Us.”
Producing a season finale is a difficult exercise. There’s enormous pressure to create a funny and poignant story, and you’re doing it after 40 weeks of continuous brainstorming when the writing staff is running solely on Chex Mix fumes and the hope of one day seeing their families again. Okay, it’s not that bleak — there are a wide variety of snacks in the Fresh Off the Boat writers’ room — but we did set out to accomplish a few lofty goals with our season finale:
1. Explore the meaning of “home” that we initiated in the season premiere when the Huangs visited Taiwan
2. Establish some new dynamics for our characters to face going forward
3. Put Ray Wise in leopard print briefs
We also wanted to mix in some guest stars and were fortunate to welcome singer-songwriter Michael Bolton and comedy legends Howard Hesseman, Ian Gomez, and Chris Elliot. Between them and our amazing main cast and series regulars, director Bill Purple and I wished we had more than 21 minutes and 30 seconds of airtime.
Of course, it still takes a week to produce those 21 minutes and 30 seconds, and this episode was extra challenging since we were “on location” for four of the five days. As always, our production team rose to the occasion. From completely re-dressing a mansion to rigging a riding lawnmower with a camera to creating Michael Bolton souvenir hats complete with period-correct hair extensions, there’s nothing they can’t do.
Some random observations from the episode:
• It takes far more work than you think to achieve the right level of see-through-ness when it comes to pants and wet underwear. We had two or three meetings with our crackerjack wardrobe department to discuss fabric choices, wetness levels, and visibility, prompting a few “Yes, this is really our job” comments.
• Whenever we move the cameras, our “second team” actors step-in so the “first team” actors can refresh make-up, review lines, and take a break. But while shooting the hot tub scene, Randall Park and Ray Wise selflessly offered to stay seated in the hot tub between camera moves.
• The 20-foot billboard truck featuring an enormous advertisement for “Michael Bolton’s Cattleman Ranch” drove all the way across town to our shooting location. I truly hope Los Angeles drivers stuck in traffic saw the truck and were able to enjoy a brief moment of levity before returning to slam their heads against the steering wheel.
Fresh Off the Boat has been renewed for a fourth season.