Every week, the cast and crew of ABC’s Taiwanese American family comedy, Fresh Off the Boat, is taking EW behind the scenes. For each episode, one member is recapping, sharing thoughts on what went down, and walking us through the ins-and-outs of the show. This week, writer Laura McCreary brings us into the season 3 episode, “Driving Miss Jenny.”
I couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license. For a large part, because my parents told me that, once I was behind the wheel, I could pick my own music. In one fell swoop, there would be freedom both inside and outside the car. And when I finally turned 16, it was as good as I hoped. I wore out my 10,000 Maniacs tape and drove myself through the Dairy Queen drive-thru to get a Blizzard whenever I damned pleased.
As we were coming to the end of this season, the writers knew we wanted to do a story about Louis and his mother this year. I mean, they live together, but they’d never had a full A-story together on the show. So when Grandma got her new wheels in “The Gloves Are Off” we saw an opportunity. We’d play Grandma’s new wheelchair as a metaphor for teenager getting her driver’s license. We knew Randall Park would be hilarious as the doting, worried parent who was, in this case, actually the son. And, as luck would have it, the amazing Lucille Soong, who kills it every week as Grandma, was still getting used to the new motorized chair herself. So she had some delightfully real driving adventures during the shoot. (Behind-the-scenes trivia: we put her chair on the same track as the camera for the long shots of her driving down the sidewalk!) Let’s just say that, luckily, no one forced her to parallel park that thing before tossing her the keys.
The moment when Louis tries to actually ground his mother was one of the first jokes pitched as we started breaking the episode, and we built a lot of story out from that fun dynamic. Ultimately, Louis has to decide which he wants more – his mother’s safety or his mother’s happiness. And of course, in the end, he chooses her happiness. The final joke: when Grandma requests that Louis at least play some good music? That wasn’t mine. And I love it. It immediately took me back to my first days of freedom. Did I pitch that Louis blasts “These Are the Days” from the family minivan as he coasts alongside Grandma for the final shot? Of course I didn’t! This is Fresh Off The Boat, not Gilmore Girls! But if the musical fabric of the show were woven even a little differently, I’d have gone to bat for all 10,000 of those maniacs. And you can bet that song will be playing in my heart every time I watch that scene.
Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.