Hedy Wong never imagined how her story Take Out Girl would get made until fate intervened and chance opportunity to meet with director Hisonni Johnson would help make her passion project become a reality. The film follows a young Asian woman Tera (Wong), who delivers Chinese food for her family. As times get tougher, she turns to a local drug lord and uses her job as a front for his enterprise. I spoke to the writer and star of the film about how she crafted the story, working with Johnson, and seeing the world through her eyes tells an authentic Asian American story. "I was just kind of reflecting on how I got to that," Wong said. "I was going through a lot of unhappy times, and I was away from my family. When you start reflecting on your life, you have to kind of go back to the beginning of the upbringing. It was like therapy for me and just putting all my thoughts down. I may not have the answers to my problems then, but it was a way to just start figuring things out. I started putting it down on paper." Following her first draft, she received invaluable help from actor Lorin Alond Ly, who ended up playing her brother Saren in the film.
"[Hisonni] was the reason why this is the reality," Wong said. "When I finally had the first draft in my script, I've talked to others about it. It's just to get a movie made with somebody you trust, and that's hard to come by, especially when there is not a big budget. When I met Hisonni, he already won awards for micro budgeting. He's been in the field for a long time. It really was his character and his integrity. I already knew he had skills. Lorin introduced Hisonni to me when I actually kind of quit [acting]. His character and his honor really made me decide to partner up with him. He was very honest with me about how this path is not going to be an easy one, but it's definitely doable. That's when all the magic happened." Some of the changes Johnson made to the script were expanding the role of her mother, condensing content and characters for a more cinematic-friendly format, and casting. One decision that took Wong by surprise was his decision to cast her in the lead. "I told him, 'Hey, look with your network, you might find better actors,'" Wong said. "I told them, 'If you can find a better Asian girl to play Tara, go for it. I want to give my baby the best chance if it has to wait. If it means without me and go ahead. I was kind of hoping somebody would audition for my part. Hisonni just felt like I had a more authentic portrayal."
Before Take Out Girl, Wong was already jaded by Hollywood and ready to walk away. Lack of variety in roles when it came to Asian women didn't help, so she decided to show the world the side Hollywood wasn't showing. "I wasn't really in the acting industry," she said. "I just became just an independent artist. I couldn't see that the variety of options available in this golden age of streamers. They always another token Asian girl that they were going to go for with the bangs, and it wasn't going to be me. I didn't fit into the box that they wanted. There's nothing wrong with the roles they are putting out there, but they always want the same type. I'm a little different sometimes compared to some of the Asian girls you see on TV. It's because I never got that job. They did [laughs]. I knew that there were Asian people like me and Lorin. When I started writing the outline, I told Lorin, 'Hey, you're going to my big brother'".
Wong added it's "hard to relate to what's being presented in Hollywood" like the Crazy Rich Asians. "I knew there would be a lot of Asians are going to feel my story," she said. "I also know there's going be a lot of Asians who may not. I was going to do it for the people I know. For me, it was also important to put somebody like the Saren (Ly) character out there on the screen for the Asian male representation. I felt like sometimes Hollywood didn't give us all of our flavors, and as an independent project, we are allowed to do whatever we want. It was really important for me. I have a younger brother, and I wanted him to be a strong Asian male on screen. I'm just happy to add another texture to the narrative of Asian cinema."
Take Out Girl, which also stars Ski Carr, Lynna Yee, J. Teddy Garces, Dijon Talton, Mier Liu, Lizette Hunter, and Joe Rudy Guerrero Jr, comes courtesy of 1091 Pictures and is available on VOD and digital.