Type keyword(s) to search

Features

Thanks to Awkwafina is Nora From Queens, We Have Everything Everywhere All at Once

Oscar nominees the Daniels and Stephanie Hsu first collaborated on television.
  • Jamie Chung and Stephanie Hsu in Awkwafina is Nora From Queens
    Jamie Chung and Stephanie Hsu in Awkwafina is Nora From Queens

    Everything, Everywhere, All At Once has taken movie award season by storm — as of Tuesday morning, the fantastical dramedy leads the Oscar race with 11 nominations. We’ve seen many of those nominated from this film on the small screen before: Michelle Yeoh (Best Actress) in Star Trek: Discovery and The Witcher: Blood Origin, Jamie Lee Curtis (Best Supporting Actress) in Operation Petticoat and Scream Queens, and Ke Huy Quan (Best Supporting Actor) in Head of the Class. But it’s the television collaboration between nominees the Daniels (Best Director) and Stephanie Hsu (Best Supporting Actress) that gave us a glimpse at the feature-length phenomenon to come.

    In January 2020, the same month that Everything, Everywhere, All At Once began principal photography, Awkwafina is Nora From Queens debuted on Comedy Central. The series is based on comedian and actress Awkwafina’s real life growing up in Flushing, New York with her dad (played by B.D. Wong) and grandma (played by Lori Tan Chinn). It’s a spiritual successor to Broad City in tone and style, unafraid to be equal parts grotesque, heartfelt, and downright weird — in other words, the perfect sandbox for the Daniels to play in.

    “Grandma & Chill” (Season 1, Episode 8) tells the story of how Nora’s grandma met her grandpa in a loving parody of a classic K-drama. At its core, it’s a story about family legacy, bucking tradition, and divergent life paths. Sound familiar? Young Grandma (Jamie Chung) seeks the advice of her best friend Shu Shu (Hsu) to decide between Garbage Boy (a pre-Marvel Simu Liu) and Doc Hottie (fellow Everything, Everywhere, All At Once star Harry Shum Jr.). One is a lower-income worker from China who her parents don’t approve of, the other a well-regarded surgeon in America who ends up getting amnesia.

     
     

    In just 20 minutes of television, the Daniels tell that story by blending genres and mediums — at one point Hsu gives a monologue acted out by puppets — proving their ability to direct moments of comedy, emotional depth, and complete fantasy. Hsu arrives in the episode as a bolt of energy then turns on dime into a heartfelt monologue. She dominates every scene she’s in, so much so that the show had her back in a later season to play the present day version of Shu Shu.

    Looking back on the Daniels’ direction and Hsu’s performance combined, this episode feels like a proof of concept for the film to come. There are unexpected twists throughout the story, moments of cinematic beauty, and even an oddly explicit hand holding scene reminiscent of the sensuality of hot dog fingers. And it was because of working together on this episode that the Daniels asked Hsu to audition for her now Oscar-nominated role, one that they’ve said changed because of Hsu. If any of these nominees take home the big prize, don’t be surprised if the phrase “Grandma & Chill” comes up in the acceptance speech, a welcome first at an Academy Awards ceremony.

    Awkwafina is Nora From Queens is streaming on HBO Max. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, Comedy Central, HBO Max, Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens, The Daniels, Stephanie Hsu, Oscars