We live in extraordinary times. When I was growing up, I could not have dreamed of seeing two Asian American sitcom families, let alone an entire squad of kids of color on a single network, with shows like Fresh Off The Boat, Black-ish, Modern Family and Dr. Ken -- all on ABC.
What's it like being a child actor on television today? Vulture gathered seven stars from ABC's comedy lineup -- all aged 12 and under -- for an hourlong conversation at the network's headquarters in Burbank.
Let's call them The Alphabet Squad: Hudson Yang, Forrest Wheeler, and Ian Chen (Fresh Off the Boat); Miles Brown and Marsai Martin (Black-ish); Aubrey Anderson-Emmons (Modern Family); and Albert Tsai (Dr. Ken) talked about their experiences in front of the camera, and out in the world, as a result of their newfound fame.
Not only is it really cute, but the kids drop some pretty interesting insight. There's a lot of talk about working on set, getting recognized in public, and how long it takes for them to get to work -- that is so L.A. -- but I particularly loved their responses to the question about diversity on TV:
All of your shows have had a lot of acclaim for their diversity, for portraying different cultures that make up American life. What does that mean to you?
Ian: I think it's great that other Asian-Americans see Asian-Americans on TV so [they] know that they can make it in the show business.
Hudson: I've had messages on Instagram, and probably you, too, about how to get into acting. I feel like our show — the ethnicity part of it — is important because there are people out there who have been trying to pursue acting but they've said stuff like, Oh, we're not looking for anybody with your race. And then they don't get that chance. But now we're all here to show the truth.
Miles: People actually want people like that now.
Hudson: They want people like us because our shows are doing well. And eventually, I hope, in the future there will be more of us, more of the shows like this. Just like a lot more.
Miles: We don't want it to be rare.
Hudson: We want it to be common. Right now, it's mostly ABC. Which is great! I love it. I want it to spread.
Forrest: Hopefully, we can inspire other networks as well to have more ethnicity shows.
Albert: It means a lot to me. I am really happy and grateful that I can represent Asian-American families on TV. I think it's really cool that Dr. Ken is a normalized American family with no stereotypes. That's awesome.
Marsai: And Black-ish, man, when that first came on --
Miles: People didn't even like the title!
Marsai: Yeah, nobody liked the title. We were like, Black-ish, what? Really?
Hudson: Our show's name is a slang, too. At first it was Far East Orlando. They chose Far East Orlando because they didn't think anybody was gonna get upset about it. But the thing is, if we had that name, nobody would know that it's different from any other shows. Fresh Off the Boat makes us unique and stand out. Same thing with Black-ish and Dr. Ken. A lot of people know Ken Jeong and Eddie Huang.
These kids are wise beyond their years! Makes me excited for the future. Like I said, extraordinary times.
Read the full roundtable interview here: Growing Up on TV