Chelsey Crisp is a lot smarter and cooler than you know. You probably recognize Crisp from her role as Honey on ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, the Huangs' loveable, beauty-queen-like neighbor. Honey is Jessica’s best friend, Nicole’s stepmom, and a fan favorite character (because Eddie is cool and all, but anyone that can consistently wear that much neon Spandex deserves recognition). Far from the stereotypical "Hollywood type," Crisp is calm and casual, joking about how much more glamorous Honey is than she herself and self-consciously laughing at her on-set reputation for always celebrating the end of the work week with noodles (lasagna, cold sesame noodles or noodle soup, as long as there are tons of carbs, it's tons of good). I was lucky enough to interrupt her afternoon watching the cold rain of Vancouver to talk to her about feminism, friends, and Fresh Off the Boat’s magic.
Crisp is goal-oriented, explaining her approach to feminism as a “day-to-day, steady action of helping women achieve their goals, love themselves, and become more confident in what area of life it is they’re trying to grow in.” She says it's similar to the way Jessica (Constance Wu) and Honey interact as friends. Crisp tells BUST about her and Wu's shared excitement of working on a feminist set and with a feminist writing staff, especially when getting a new script.
"I remember early on in the first season, we’d get these great scenes and we’d look at each other and go, 'We’re not talking about Luis, and we’re not taking about Marvin in these scenes,'" she says. "And it’s really common, when two female characters are together, for the bulk of their conversation to be about their significant others. We were very aware of that early on, this was a relationship that was built on these two women, and how they feel about each other, how they view the world, how they share that with each other…"
The friendship between Jessica and Honey is all the #squadgoals, especially when you remember the actors behind the characters and how long it took for them to get here. It’s no accident Fresh Off the Boat is feminist AF, since Nahnnatchka Khan is the showrunner. Crisp says, “I respect the hell out of her; it would be a laundry list of things for me to tell you everything I respect about her, but she is genuinely very, very inspirational.” It’s that inspiration and keeps Crisp going.
She attributes part of her success to her friends, explaining, “I can't imagine going through this industry without the support of those women. There’s something really, genuinely special about female friendships. I love portraying that on the show, obviously, but in my real life, my girlfriends are a support network I cannot imagine not having. It is so hugely important to have a close group of friends, that you can go through it together that you can really trust and really support, and have each other’s back through anything.” (Shout out to my BFF, because Chelsey Crisp is getting me right in the feels.) But it’s more than just making and supporting friendships; it is important to build a “family of friends,” the way Jessica and Honey do in Fresh Off the Boat: “It’s not just that Honey accepts Jessica, but that Jessica accepts her,” says Crisp.
The culture clash that Fresh Off the Boat deals with is nothing new to any immigrant or multi-racial family, and as Crisp says, “Every American family should be able to turn on the television and see themselves.” Which Constance Wu would agree with, as she previously told BUST she was “mercifully blind to the systematic limitations" until she was already in the biz. While you’re laughing at Eddie’s deep feelings about Biggie’s death or Emery’s love of The Baby-Sitters Club, you may miss out on the lessons: “I think we get away with telling a story that has a great deal of significance in a way where it’s not so heavy-handed. You can be sitting there laughing at the '90s references or just laughing at a great joke and not even realize there’s a huge moral underneath the story,” says Crisp. Like in the episode in which Nicole, Honey’s daughter, comes out to Eddie — we all may have laughed at his facial expression, and how wrong he was about why Nicole wanted to hang out, but when you boil it down, it is controversial, inclusive and feminist AF to show a teenage girl explore her queerness and come out to her friends.
Through giggles, introspection and sincere generosity, Chelsey Crisp reminds us to be good friends, good feminists, and only watch good TV. Keep a close eye on Honey and all the characters of Fresh Off the Boat, because, as Crisp warned me, “something is coming this season.” So, snuggle up, grab some popcorn and Tang and get ready to laugh and learn with Fresh Off the Boat on ABC, Tuesdays at 8:30 ETS.
Photos via ABC Fresh Off the Boat
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big haired nerd who likes to talk about books, politics, coffee and anything else you can think of. Be warned of shennanigans: follow me on twitter @BRIawesome