Comedian and actor Jo Koy is tired of hearing the word ‘no’. He’s heard it one too many times in Hollywood after every pitch he made to tell his specific story – a Filipino family getting together for a vacation, and just being a family. So in response to Hollywood’s favorite word, Koy asked two: why not?
It’s a question that legendary Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg, who so desperately wanted to make a movie with Koy, wasn’t even, well, hesitant about. But before we get into that story, let’s go back to the beginning.
Koy has credited his Filipino mother for his comedic and acting talents, and has often talked about her in his comedic acts, so it’s no surprise that she was a huge inspiration behind this film. When Koy’s mom came to the US, she couldn’t find anyone like her on TV or on the big screen. While it’s not surprising for the late ’60s, it certainly wouldn’t be the case in the year 2022, right? wrong. This became a major driving force behind Koy’s desire to tell not just any story, but this one.
“It’s a good reason why,” Koy tells Yahoo Entertainment, “this has been part of my Hollywood life journey since I’ve been here. It’s like, how often am I going to hear ‘No’ that my story is too specific or do they get didn’t it? It didn’t make sense.”
Koy adds: “It’s such a ridiculous answer. It’s not even fair because it didn’t match the songs I sold along the way. Why am I selling out all these theaters? Yet you say it’s too specific and I’m selling in markets where there are no Filipinos So why do they get it but for some reason Hollywood doesn’t And why did my mom move here in 1968 and it’s 2022 and this is the first time she’s ever seen a Filipino family the screen will see? It’s not fair. So that’s my motivation, plus it’s just fun.” And fun it is.
In Easter SundayInspired by Koy’s current life experiences and stand-up comedy, Koy returns home to celebrate Easter with his family with his vibrantly riotous, deeply loving family. The film, directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, stars Jimmy O. Yang, Tia Carrere, Brandon Wardell, Eva Noblezada, Tiffany Haddish and Lou Diamond Phillips. In reality, Easter Sunday makes history as the first-ever major Hollywood studio-backed film to revolve around a Filipino family.
“It’s a family. That’s what I try to drive home the most. That’s what I said in the room when I threw it, it’s like, let’s just make a movie about a family that happens to be filipino and us not we’re going to laugh at them, we’re going to laugh with them. And we’re not going to laugh at them, we’re going to have fun with them,” says Koy.
Koy, who is about to release his fourth Netflix special, titled Live from the Los Angeles Forumannounces on September 13 that it was his second Netflix special Comes In Hotthat caught the eye of one of the biggest directors/producers in the game, and finally got him the “yes” he’d been waiting for.
In 2018, Koy walked into Amblin Entertainment, a film production company founded by Spielberg. Koy explains: “I see Indiana Jones. I see, you know, all these big Jurassic World, I see all those posters and memorabilia that Steven has made. And they all walk up to me and say, ‘Hey, Steven is your biggest fan. Oh my god, Steven, I can’t stop talking about your special.’ Me and my manager say, ‘What? Like Steven from the accounting department?’ We were like, ‘There was no way it could be Mr. Spielberg!’ We thought there was a fan in the building who liked us. We go into the field and we go into the meeting and they say, ‘Steven wants to make a movie with you.’ And it was Steven who put his hand on this thing. He blessed the whole thing. It’s like he was part of the casting, part of screenwriting, part of choosing directors, like everything.”
Despite this moment taking place in 2018, before the COVID-19 pandemic, which halted production on the film and also played a large part in the significant increase in Asian hate crimes, the project was kept alive because of Spielberg’s dedication to it.
“This movie was supposed to be made before the rise of the AAPI movement. That’s why what Steven did was so far ahead of everyone else. It was like this man literally fell in love with this family’s story. He watched, he loved the mother character. He loved the relationship between my son and me on stage. He just fell in love with that. And that’s why he didn’t understand that people always said they wouldn’t get it,” he says. koi.
The comedian adds: “It’s like, yes, they will. If you listen closely, you will. And you will realize that funny is funny. And we are all recognizable. It doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are , what religion you are . Family is a family.”
Easter Sunday opens in cinemas on Friday, August 5.
Watch the trailer:
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