We caught up with actress Debbie Fan who costars in the new comedy Joy Ride opposite Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All at Once) and Ashley Park (Emily in Paris). Released in theaters on July 7th, the film follows a group of four friends who travel to China in hopes of finding one of their birth mothers and experience some hilarious adventures along the way. Directed by Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians, Raya and the Last Dragon), the film also stars Sherry Cola (Good Trouble, Claws), Sabrina Wu (Doogie Kamealoha, M.D), Ronny Chieng (M3GAN, Crazy Rich Asians), Desmond Chiam (With Love, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier), Alexander Hodge (Wellmania, Insecure), and Chris Pang (Palm Springs, As We See It).
Debbie tells us about her role in Joy Ride, working with the cast, and the importance of on-screen Asian American representation.
Check out our conversation below.
What were some elements that initially drew you towards Joy Ride?
Debbie Fan (DF): When I read the script, written by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao, it was so funny, wild and raunchy that I honestly couldn’t believe it was being made with four Asian American women in the lead roles. It’s just never happened before that I can remember and it’s really exciting to be a part of. As someone born in America and not “seeing myself” on-screen, I know how much representation matters. Getting to work with Adele Lim for her directorial debut was also a no-brainer for me.
What can you tell us about your character in the film? Would you say it’s a different character than ones you’ve previously played?
DF: I play Jenny Chen, the mother of Lolo, played by Sherry Cola. Jenny loves Lolo but isn’t exactly thrilled with her choices in life. While I’ve been cast as “moms” before, for some reason I’m often grieving, so it was nice to be able to have some lightness and fun with this role. I like to think that Lolo got some of her sense of humor from Jenny.
What was it like working on set with the cast?
DF: I got to work with Sherry and Ashley. They are both so incredibly talented and have amazing chemistry. I could watch them riff off each other all day. Honestly, I wished I had role models like them when I was growing up and am really excited for a new generation to be able to look up to strong, confident, bad-ass Asian American women.
Joy Ride is a comedy but there seems to be a deep story behind it with a lot of important messages. Did you notice that when going through the script?
DF: Absolutely! While the movie is extremely funny, you’re right, there is depth and heart to it. Not belonging, wanting to fit in…these are themes that I definitely related to when reading the script, and I believe all of us humans can relate to on some level whatever age we are. I think it’s one of the reasons we watch movies – to know we’re not alone.
As an actor, what were some learning experiences gained from making this film?
DF: This was the first comedic feature film I’ve had the opportunity to work on and the first time shooting in Canada so I learned a lot, like in Canada they say “the circus” rather than “base camp” which just sounds so much more fun. Also, we would be given “alt lines” to shoot after we did each scene as written on the page. They were alternative lines, jokes and direction – there was no time to really think so it was a great experience in just letting go and being in the moment. And I learned that apparently I can be pretty funny, LOL. I can’t wait for everyone to go see Joy Ride!
Joy Ride is playing in theaters.