6 Fresh Off the Boat Photos to Ring in Chinese New Year

Ingela Ratledge

Ron Tom/ABC

Year of the Monkey

At his season on Fresh Off the Boat—ABC’s sitcom about an Asian-American family living in 1990s Orlando—we’ve already seen the Huang clan do Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. But that was  just the warm-up for the biggest celebration of all. “We always wanted to do a Chinese New Year episode,” says executive producer Nahnatchka Khan of the installment, airing February 2. “It means so much to so many people, and it’s never really been on American TV before!”

Fresh Off the Boat

Eric McCandless/ABC

Lucky Red

In honor of the occasion, East will meet West—literally—at Cattleman’s Ranch, the steakhouse owned by patriarch Louis (Randall Park). The set was transformed with vibrant decorations, including scores of red paper lanterns (“We used 88, a very auspicious number,” jokes production designer Liz Kay), and a traditional Chinese dance troupe was brought in to perform a routine with an oversize lion puppet. Still, the true pièce de résistance, at least for the cast and crew, was the elaborate dinner banquet, which featured real food. “The dumplings were really delicious,” raves Hudson Yang, who plays eldest brother Eddie. “I probably had, like, 20 of them!”

Fresh Off the Boat

Eric McCandless/ABC

The Lion King

In between takes, Ian Chen—who plays Evan, the youngest Huang sibling—hopped inside the dancers' lion puppet, which has life-like eyelids that can blink and required two professionals to operate. "The kids got to play with everything. They were so excited," says Kay. "They're used to the Cattleman's Ranch set by now, so it was cool to watch them running around with their eyes lighting up."

Fresh Off the Boat

Eric McCandless/ABC

Bear With It

“We love that bear! We’ve dressed him up a lot!” Kay says of decking out the restaurant’s 8-foot-tall unofficial mascot. (Among his previous getups? A cowboy hat and a pirate costume.) “He has a life of his own. We’ve tossed around potential names for him. I think the last one was Gertrude, so maybe he’s a she!”

Fresh Off the Boat

Eric McCandless/ABC

Monkeying Around

During a little downtime, Forrest Wheeler (middle son Emery) engaged in some present-day Year-of-the-Monkey business with “A” Camera 1st Assistant Ray Dier. “The scope of this episode is big for us. There were more rehearsals and production elements than usual,” Khan says. The extra effort was worth it, she adds: “We’re really proud that we get to expose people to this holiday beyond what they’ve seen on the place mat at a Chinese restaurant.”

Fresh Off the Boat

Eric McCandless/ABC

Family Matters

Yang (left, with Park, Lucille Soong, Wheeler, Chen and Constance Wu) says the episode sparked conversations about the cast’s own customs. “There were some differences in our celebrations—but mostly, our experiences were similar,” he says. “It’s special that we’re doing this, because Chinese New Year is a big deal for Asian people.”

< >