Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wendy Lee's "Across a Green Ocean"

Wendy Lee is the author of the novels Across a Green Ocean (Kensington) and Happy Family (Black Cat/Grove Atlantic). Happy Family was named one of the top ten debut novels of 2008 by Booklist and awarded an honorable mention from the Association of Asian American Studies.

Here Lee dreamcasts an adaptation of Across a Green Ocean:
In Across a Green Ocean, there are three main characters in the Tang family: the mother, Ling; the daughter, Emily; and the son, Michael.

There are a number of Asian American actresses that could play Emily, but I really like Constance Wu, who plays Eddie Huang’s mother in the new ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat. Constance puts on an accent in the TV show, but in reality she was born in the U.S. She doesn’t look quite like the way Emily is described in the book, as having inherited “her father’s dusky complexion, his wide-set eyes and generous mouth,” but she displays a distinct inner strength.

I’m picturing a younger Wang Leehom, who was in Ang Lee’s film Lust, Caution and more recently in Michael Mann’s Blackhat, as the character of Michael. While Wang rose to stardom as a pop singer in Taiwan, he actually grew up in the U.S. He’s now in his late thirties, but he still looks young enough to play Michael, who’s twenty-six in the book and is described as being “tall and thin and pale, with delicate features.”

Ling is the hardest character for me to cast, because I’m having a hard time picturing Asian or Asian American actresses who are in their late fifties. Joan Chen is in her early fifties, but she will forever remain the glamorous empress from The Last Emperor and the mysterious Josie Packard from Twin Peaks. She did, however, play the mother of a grown-up daughter in the 2004 romantic comedy Saving Face, so maybe she’d work after all.

For the supporting characters, I’m envisioning Jason Segel as Emily’s ineffectual husband Julian, Chris Messina as her coworker/crush Rick, and Dan Stevens as Michael’s boyfriend David. Okay, maybe Dan Stevens is a bit of a stretch, but he has to do something after Downton Abbey.
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--Marshal Zeringue