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'Fresh Off the Boat': Hudson, Jeff Yang talk playing Eddie Huang

"Fresh Off the Boat" is a new sitcom adaptation of chef Eddie Huang's autobiography. Hudson Yang, center, stars an 11-year-old Eddie in his first role ever.
Bob D'Amico/ABC

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Hudson Yang, 11, had never acted professionally before.

"We were watching TV together and I was like, 'Dad, I want to act,' and he's like, 'What? Really?'" he said.

But within a few months, Hudson Yang went from a virtual unknown to scoring a leading role in "Fresh Off the Boat," ABC's new sitcom debuting Wednesday night. The show is set in the 1990s and focuses on the Huangs, an Asian American family who move into a very white-bread neighborhood in Orlando, Florida.

The twist is that Hudson Yang's dad, Jeff, knew some history was in the making.

Jeff Yang writes the Tao Jones column for the Wall Street Journal where he often covers issues of diversity and race. He's also appeared on KPCC to talk about how Asian-Americans are stereotyped in Hollywood and how they are rarely cast, too. The last time an Asian headlined a major network television show was Margaret Cho in the 1994 sitcom "All-American Girl."

"When that didn't work out, we had 20 years of wandering in the wilderness," Jeff Yang said.

It was a big deal, then, when celebrity chef Eddie Huang's biography "Fresh Off the Boat" was developed into its own show.

Hudson Yang was set to star as an 11-year-old Eddie. Despite growing up decades apart, and experiencing different levels of racial tolerance, it was a role the young actor knew he was suited for. 

"I hung out with Eddie, he told me about his life, I read the book. He was the big guy on campus all the time. He was tough," he said. "Nowadays,  kids don't tease each other as much. Nobody has to go through what Eddie had to go through. All the kids now have embraced the Chinese culture."

There has been controversy ahead of the show's premiere because of its title. Both Yangs agree that audiences need to give the sitcom a shot.

"They're judging a book by it's cover, and that's inappropriate," Hudson Yang said.