Fresh Off the Boat: Writer David Smithyman shares his favorite moment from 'Clean Slate'
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, writer David Smithyman brings us into the season three episode, “Clean Slate.”
Hi! My name is David Smithyman, and I wrote this week’s Chinese New Year episode. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Smithyman? That doesn’t sound like the last name of somebody who knows a lot about Chinese New Year.” And you’re right. Before working on this show, the only thing I knew about the Lunar New Year was that people gave each other red envelopes, and that was only because I once found a bunch of red envelopes filled with cash on the street in New York. (Don’t worry, I gave them to a security guard, who definitely stole the money.) Luckily for me, though, as an Australian living in America who’s married to a Jew, I’m used to frantically learning about other people’s holidays right before I experience them, so it didn’t feel that different to when I had to bring a dish to my first Thanksgiving (extremely heavy brownies — why did they turn out so heavy?) or eat horseradish off a plate at my first Passover. I’m always learning!
Since last season’s Chinese New Year episode covered the many traditions of Chinese New Year, this year we wanted to try a different approach: take one element of the Lunar New Year and try to tell a story about how it affects each of the Huangs differently. We settled on the tradition of cleaning one’s slate in time for the New Year (sort of like a sped-up version of New Year’s resolutions) and decided to tell three different mini stories about that. We paired Evan and Louis on a story about Jonathan Taylor Thomas and haircuts (also a Lunar New Year tradition!) inspired by my own futile attempts to Single White Female Jonathan Taylor Thomas when I was 12. We paired Emery and Jessica on a story about dry cleaners and polaroids which allowed Emery to act like Jessica and Jessica to act like Emery (which is always fun), and finally we paired Eddie with his cousin Simon (played excellently by real-life rapper and all-around nice guy, Jonathan Chang) on a story about rap battles and babysitting your foreign relatives that allowed us to finally see Eddie rap!
This was a really fun episode to write, and as a bonus, I learned a ton of cool stuff about a very cool holiday. It would be too hard to pick a favorite moment in the episode, so I’ll just say all the moments were my favorite!*
*This is a lie. It’s Louis singing his version of Pat Benatar’s classic “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.” I challenge you to not get it stuck in your head.
Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.
Fresh Off the Boat
Eddie Huang’s memoir adaptation tells the comical adjustments of a Taiwanese-American family settling into the wild ways of ’90s Orlando, Florida.