Easter Sunday, Veteran comedian Jo Koy’s new film, due out this weekend, is a fun, if familiar, family comedy – occasional tense situations punctuated by laughs, people troubled bodies and characters who put blood above all else. But what’s special about this description is that it’s the first time a Filipino actor has told this story in a nationally released theatrical comedy.
The film was greenlit and produced by Steven Spielberg after he watched Koy’s Netflix special, Comin ‘In Hot, is an intimate love letter to Filipino-American culture. Everything from the food to Lou Diamond Phillips is critically acclaimed, all brought to life by a cast that includes Jay Chandrasekhar (also director), Tia Carrere, Lydia Gaston, Brandon Wardell, Tiffany Haddish, Elena Juatco, Jimmy O. Yang, Eva Noblezada, and a magnetic Eugene Cordero. At the center of the orchestra is Jo Koy, playing a version of himself who, like in his specials, is constantly on the move, constantly hustling.
The journey for Koy to get to this point is more than a decade, fraught with the stops and paths of most resistance. He worked for over fifteen years as a stand-up before landing his first special network, in 2009. Don’t make him angry. He lived a comfortable life working as a servant for The Mirage, and then turned down an opportunity to become Chelsea Handler’s teammate. Chelsea recently (whom he then dated for almost a year). Instead, he worked to get places at clubs, performing in landmark showcases like Showtime at Apolloand brought opportunities for moral change but in return career-changing opportunities on his way to success.
In 2017, despite two Comedy Central specials and a wildly successful career around the country, Netflix initially turned the opportunity to work with him. However, after filming his third special video himself, Koy was able to impress the streamers enough to land himself a special multiple contract. Koy’s specific perspective was able to reach Steven Spielberg and put him in a position to showcase Philippine excellence on the big screen.
GQ talked to Koy about breaking down barriers, Asian discrimination in the industry, his acceptance of black culture, and what he wanted to say to him. Easter Sunday.
Easter Sunday did a great job of creating your own vibe in such a way that you’re really just embracing and celebrating the Filipino/Asian excellence and letting the audience know that the movie is here for them if they can click enter. How did you nurture that feeling?
Full score of Easter Sunday is, how do I tell my story, talk about my culture, tell people about my people, and then make it relatable? As an immigrant, the product of immigrant parents… my mother came to this country in 1968, ’69,. I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and I struggled with my identity. Like, no one knows what my mother is. I always have to explain who she is. There’s nothing for her to see on TV that looks like her, sounds like her, or even a great description of what Asians are like. It was insulting, and seeing my mother deal with that kind of racism and then I started watching Black movies and Black comedies because for some reason, it had something to do with me. If I heard the struggle of a Black family, I would associate it with, like, yes, “the strong Black woman in this movie is my mother, this strong Filipino woman. .” So I identify with that. That’s why my previous works have always opened for Black comedians and made BET’s. Watch comicsand Showtime at Apollo and, you know, being inspired by the entertainment show of Black People, I feel that’s the closest thing to my mother. That’s why Friday is a big movie in my life. When I watch Friday, I said, “I know all these characters.” And that’s why Easter Sunday about. I said, “I’m going to do the same design. I’m going to get all these characters involved and I’ll explain to you who they are. And we will do it in a day. And at the end of the movie, I want you all to relate to them,” like, “Oh, okay, that’s a Filipino mom. It’s just like my mother.”
https://www.gq.com/story/jo-koy-easter-sunday-interview With ‘Easter Sunday,’ Jo Koy Is Bringing Filipino Culture to the Forefront