Yeah, sure! That’s the beautiful thing
about travel - seeing all these quirks and idiosyncrasies. Learning how other
people can be and how you can be as well.
us about the main characters. I know the clueless laowai are Larry and Melvin.
Larry is a little bit stupider than Melvin.
He’s a bit of a womaniser. Melvin is the lovable loser character who doesn’t
have confidence with women. Mr Li [their Chinese landlord] is bad tempered.
Lingling [Mr Li’s daughter] is slightly materialistic and willing to use people
for her cause.
kind of jokes can we expect to see?
It’s mostly about taking the piss out of
two foreigners. I’m aware of the whole mianzi
thing with the Chinese so I won’t be making any digs at them and their culture.
There’s a lot of toilet humour as well because I think that’s something we all
wrestle with here what with the squat toilets. It’s not meant to be
sophisticated but I do want to imbue the show with an emotional content. I’d like to find that balance between humour
you feel much pressure to explicate China’s 5,000 years of history and culture?
No, not at all. It’s not supposed to be
informative at all. It’s supposed to be entertaining.
why make the show bilingual?
At the beginning we wanted it to be all in
Chinese. But after showing it to some Chinese friends they didn’t like it that
way. In order to enhance the stupidity of the foreigners they had to be
speaking in English. I just think it’s more representational of how life is in
Beijing anyway: bilingual.
were your influences and inspirations?
I wanted to come in with the Hollywood
sitcom format because basically it works. It’s been tried and tested ever since
I Love Lucy in the 50s. I also tried
watching the American shows that are popular here because everyone knows Friends.
you think the China expat lifestyle is fertile ground for comedy?
Sure. I think we all have some great
stories to tell - that’s why I like being here. I feel you live life a little
bit more. You’re thrown into the melting pot because there’s so much going on.
Just by going outside you’ll see something worth relaying to a family member
what about all those tired expat clichés? Is there a danger of trotting those
I think the clichés are there. Whenever
somebody writes something the first idea that pops into their head is a cliché.
You have to keep working and find the less obvious ideas that exist. I do think
about cliché and I’m hoping I’ve been able to avoid it for the most part.
what’s the audience you are aiming at and how will they see the finished show?
We met up with [online video platform]
Youku on Friday. They liked the concept but worry it might be a bit long. We
always thought it would be for a Chinese audience but we kept flipping back and
forth. We met an executive from NBC, who scours the globe looking for foreign content, who liked it a lot. We’ve sent him a trailer. But we’ve now gone back
to thinking it’s for the Chinese audience. Though whenever I show it to foreign
friends they always find it funnier than Chinese people so…
me about the production side with your director and co-producer Victor Muh
Victor has been working as a director since
seven or eight years ago and has awesome guanxi.
He works as a DJ as well so he’s often playing at different events and knows
loads of venues. We checked out that whole Gulou area trying to find an ideal
location. I’m an actor for the most part so this is my first foray into
producing. Without Victor there’s no way I could’ve done anything really.
there any big problems with the filming?
We had problems with continuity. At the end
of act two [of the pilot episode] Melvin’s been holding in this giant dump for
two days and [spoilers removed]. We should have shot them on the first day when
Melvin was wearing his apartment clothing. But we shot it on the second day and
forgot to change his frigging shirt. So we had to reshoot that afterwards. The
funny thing is I didn’t realise till a month in.
finally, do you have any advice for would-be filmmakers in China?
Just do it man. I don’t know much about
filmmaking, I’m learning as I go. Just get a camera and do it. Even if it’s
crap at least you’re doing it and learning about it. For me buying a camera was
super important. Just to have a camera in your house and not have to worry
about renting one or borrowing it.
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