Constance Wu Misses the Days of Plastic Bra Straps
Constance Wu’s ascension to household name status hardly happened overnight. Though the past year or so has seen the Fresh Off the Boat star at the top of her game with roles in Crazy Rich Asians and Hustlers opposite Jennifer Lopez, Wu’s own hustle began more than a decade prior.
Hustlers opens in 2007, when Wu’s character, Destiny, is working a stripper in N.Y.C. Wu, too, was working in N.Y.C. in 2007, long before she became a familiar face in the world of network TV. “I was a struggling actress in New York City, trying to become a theater actress, and I was waiting tables to pay the rent, and I was doing my own type of hustle,” she told InStyle. “I was auditioning and going to open casting calls every day, and then I'd get to the restaurant and I'd waitress all night. And then go to sleep and do the same thing the next day.”
While those days are firmly behind her, Wu was “delighted” to revisit some of the trends of the time, like those see-through bra straps we thought were oh-so sneaky peeking out beneath a tank top — though, admittedly, she’s not rooting for their comeback. “It was just really fun to wear that, because it's just so of that era, [but] I don't know if I want it to come back,” she said.
But a fleeting affinity for clear bra straps isn’t the only thing she and Destiny share. One of Hustlers's strengths is in its reservation of judgment of its characters — a privilege rarely afforded to both strippers or people in the public eye.
“I could relate to people judging you by your career before getting to know you as a person,” Wu says of her character. And in Wu’s case, the judgment in question has been overpowering.
In May, a series of Tweets bemoaning the renewal of FOTB saddled Wu with a new label from the public: diva. But however black and white the situation may seem, she says it was “misunderstood.”
“I'm really excited to be on my show,” Wu told me. “A lot of people think that I'm not, but I love it. I had that whole tweet storm earlier, and it doesn't feel good to be misunderstood, especially when it's something that you care about so much. And people just misunderstood it."
She went on, "They didn't realize how much I love the show and how glad I am for it to be back. I had been really looking forward to a play that I really wanted to do. And for a moment, it made me realize that I couldn't do the play, and I was bummed out about the play. But that in no way has anything to do with how much I love being on the show.”
Despite reports to the contrary, Wu says the environment on the Hustlers set was “peaceful” and devoid of competition. “It's not like when you're in a boardroom, where the women are fighting over the one seat that the patriarchy has allowed them to have. Instead of that, it was like we are creating our own table and celebrating each other, so you don't have to be anybody other than yourself,” she explained.
“Between takes, we just had the most fun. Keke [Palmer] would always crack everybody up,” Wu said. “Me and Jen loved to talk about our past love lives. It was really a family matter in many ways, because I met Jen's kids, and Alex [Rodriguez]'s kids, and [Lopez’s] mom, and her sister. And it was just really nice to just feel so comfortable with the person immediately. She's just really caring. She was always just really caring and kind.”
Playing an empathetic stripper in Hustlers and serving as the lead in a groundbreaking all-Asian romantic comedy, Wu’s roles of late tend to push back against both social and racial stereotypes. But for Constance, that was never the intention.
“I think the problem with stereotypes is when they're used to reduce the person. And the thing that I look for in a role is somebody who is complex and fully formed. And by extension of that, they are not a reduction. So, therefore, it naturally follows that lot of the roles that I might get, one would think that I'm attempting to break stereotypes," she said.
"But I'm just looking for fully complex roles, which haven't been given to people who are like me, historically, that much in Hollywood, so that's why it seems that way. But that's more of a commentary on the history of Hollywood, not on my choices. My choices are really just based in the humanity of the character. And just because other stories before didn't give Asian-American characters full humanity, or even strippers full humanity, it doesn't mean that we didn't, because we did, and we really wanted to explore that in the movie.”
Hustlers opens nationwide Sept. 13.