Jo Koy’s ‘Easter Sunday’ puts Filipinos front and center

  • 4 min read
  • Aug 04, 2022

Jo Koy’s ‘Easter Sunday’ puts Filipinos front and center

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Tia Carr, left, and Lydia Gaston. "Easter Sunday." (Ed Oracle/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Tia Carr, left, and Lydia Gaston in “Easter Sunday.” (Ed Oracle/Universal Pictures via AP)

AP

For a comedy, Joe Coe’s new movie “Easter Sunday” was pretty watered down.

This film was not an ordinary work for the comedian and the rest of the actors. Coy said the enormity of being in a predominantly Filipino ensemble led to joyous celebrations. When her co-star Tia Carrera said that this is the first time in her 40-year career that she is playing a Filipino character, the emotions really hit home.

“To be able to be in a scene with five other Filipino actors and do just one scene about one family … she’s never seen anything like that before,” Coy, 51, told The Associated Press. “We all kind of wanted to tear up and just celebrate together because it’s like, ‘Okay, this is going to be one of many moments here.’

Coy, who is half-Filipino and half-white, makes his feature film debut in a film largely inspired by his Netflix stand-up special. DreamWorks/Universal is promoting “Easter Sunday,” which opens in theaters Friday, as the first major studio film with an all-Filipino cast. Coy plays Joe Valencia, an aspiring comedian who moves to the San Francisco Bay Area to act. She tries to bond with her teenage son while dealing with well-meaning but stubborn relatives. The production comes at a time when food, history and support for Filipino Americans are increasingly emerging.

“Ultimately our stories, our faces are front and center on the big screen,” said Carrer, 55, who is known for films like “Wayne’s World,” “True Lies” and “Lilo and Stitch.” “I have to push myself that I’m still here, I’m still at work and I’m invited to the party.”

Jimmy O. Young (“Crazy Rich Asians,” “Tough Love”), who has a cameo in “Easter Sunday,” also served as producer. This meant watching the audition tapes of many actors of Filipino or Asian descent. Young made it much more difficult for this talent to choose 10 roles. He thinks Hollywood’s claims that capable Asian actors are hard to come by are just lazy excuses.

“As an actor, I think all these guys are so good. How did I ever get a job?” “Some of them I wanted to call and be like, ‘Hey, man!'” Young said. Please continue ok? We just couldn’t hire you for this job, but please go ahead.”

Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, Easter Sunday is set in the Filipino suburbs of Dali, where screenwriter Ken Cheng immigrated as a child. He envisioned a mash-up of Ice Cube’s “Friday” and the holiday film “It’s a Wonderful Life.” A producer also wrote it in 2020 during quarantine. He then turned to Steven Spielberg, who is co-produced by Amblin Partners. According to Cheng, within hours, the legendary director read it and gave his approval.

“From that day to the first day we started filming, it was about five and a half months. “And that’s pretty fast,” Cheng said.

Hollywood is full of prominent half-Filipina actors like Vanessa Hudgens and Darren Criss. But Coy is someone who has leaned into his legacy in his work. For example, he wanted to have a scene on “Easter Sunday” that showed the family packing traditional balkbayan boxes. Filipinos, usually first-generation immigrants, often send boxes of American goods to their relatives in the Philippines. Sending bulkbayan funds is practically its own industry.

“It’s a responsibility they take upon themselves when they come into this country,” Coy said. I see this with so many Filipino families and I wanted to show the world how important this is to us.”

Today, Filipinos make up more than 4 million of the country’s 23 million Asian population, according to the United States Census. Only Chinese and Indians are more. Filipino culture and history in recent years is seen mostly due to the activities of Filipinos for several decades.

This year, a 30-foot (9 m) high archway in Los Angeles’ historic Filipinotown and a street in Queens, New York City were named Little Manila Street. A newly built park in the Bay Area was named after striking Filipino American farm workers. For years, Filipino cuisine has been hailed as the next culinary trend. It seems to be having a moment again in the world of fine dining. Casama Chicago became the only Filipino restaurant with a Michelin star in the country.

“Easter Sunday” comes at “this really amazing moment in Asian American history and Filipino American history,” where political, social and economic capitals are all coming together, said Eric Peido, a professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University. Are. Filipino Background/o American Studies. He predicts that the younger generations will increase the popularity of Filipinos in the next few years.

“I think Filipino Americans are no longer shying away from playing a representative role in American politics, which brings up all these interesting things about Filipino American culture that a lot of people don’t think about,” Piedo said.

Last month, Kui and Cheng participated in the “Easter Sunday” show in Daly City. In the crowd was Demi Shea, the director of Pixar’s Blushing. “Blush,” about a Chinese-Canadian teenage girl and her family, was a hit after it was released in March on Disney Plus. But a white film critic called this animation boring and only for Shi’s Chinese family and friends. The review was later canceled due to accusations of racism.

The idea that stories that focus on Asian ethnicities and cultures are too specific to be compelling is outdated, Koi said.

“The relationship between a mother and a son is the same regardless of ethnicity,” Koi said. “I hate ignorant people who don’t step up. … There are a lot of people in this country who need to be heard and it’s time to be heard.”

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Terry Tong is a member of the Associated Press Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ttangAP

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