Interior Chinatown, a National Book Award-winning novel by Charles Yu, is being adapted into a TV series. Lainey referenced it when Daniel Dae Kim toplined his first television series only after over thirty years in the business. That’s the basic gist of the book. Written in screenplay form, Interior Chinatown follows Willis Wu, an Asian-American actor knocking around various background roles but with dreams of graduating to starring as “Kung Fu Guy”, itself a stereotypical role. It’s a very good book, entertaining and an insightful look at how ambitions can be stunted by a lack of opportunities and stereotyping. It’s a sharp satire of both Hollywood and the American dream at large. I rarely read contemporary books right when they’re published, but EVERYONE said, “You have to read it!” with such frightening intensity I gave in and read it and, yeah. They weren’t kidding. You HAVE to read it.
Jimmy O. Yang is going to headline Interior Chinatown for Hulu, with Taika Waititi on board to direct the pilot. Yu, who has written for shows like Lodge 49, Westworld, and Legion, is adapting his own novel and will serve as showrunner. Given how he chose to format the novel, I am super curious to see how Yu adapts his story for the screen. The screenplay format is an interesting style for a novel—screenplays are typically very dry and lacking description and detail, and if you’re not used to reading them, they can be narratively disorienting. Interior Chinatown, though, isn’t dry at all, and the script style becomes a sly delivery system for how Willis is coping with his limited opportunities and view on Hollywood. The satire is built into the style. How that translates to the screen, then, will be an interesting compromise between the two narrative forms. I can’t wait to see how Yu, Yang, and Taika bring Interior Chinatown to life.