Home Film & TV American Born Chinese: Exploring the Journey from Graphic Novel to TV Adaptation with Executive Producer Gene Luen Yang and Melvin Mar

American Born Chinese: Exploring the Journey from Graphic Novel to TV Adaptation with Executive Producer Gene Luen Yang and Melvin Mar

by Neil Bui

Greetings, fellow dorks! It’s Neil from Dorkaholics, where we celebrate the beauty of embracing our inner dorkiness. Recently, I had the privilege of chatting with Gene Luen Yang, the brilliant author of American Born Chinese, and Melvin Mar, a producer involved in the adaptation process. Our conversation revolved around the changes and challenges faced in bringing this remarkable graphic novel to life on the small screen. Join me as we delve into the insights shared by Gene and Melvin.

The Ever-Evolving Asian American Experience:

American Born Chinese was originally released as a graphic novel in 2006, and its recent adaptation into a TV series prompted a discussion about the changes in the Asian American experience over the past 16 years. Gene acknowledged that progress has been made, as the existence of the show itself is a testament to the advancements in representation. However, he also pointed out that there have been setbacks, citing recent incidents of anti-Asian violence. The show serves as a plea to see Asian Americans as multidimensional human beings, while addressing the hate and racism that have emerged during the pandemic.

Acknowledging Progress and Sensitivity:

Melvin, who had previously worked on Fresh Off the Boat, highlighted the unique perspectives presented in both series. While Fresh Off the Boat focused on the experiences of their parents’ generation, American Born Chinese delves into the lives of their own generation. He saw the latter as a continuation and evolution of the conversation started by Fresh Off the Boat. Melvin also mentioned that the first episode of American Born Chinese pays homage to Fresh Off the Boat, emphasizing the importance of both shows in the broader dialogue of Asian American experiences.

From Graphic Novel to TV Adaptation:

When discussing the process of adapting American Born Chinese into a TV series, Melvin expressed his personal connection to the story, highlighting how it resonated with his own adolescent and adult experiences. The graphic novel encapsulated his emotions and feelings, making it a project he passionately pursued for several years. Meanwhile, Gene acknowledged the complexity of the adaptation process and the difficult elements involved. He commended Kelvin Yu, the show’s creator, and the talented writing team for successfully translating the story onto the screen.

Favorite Episodes and the Essence of the Adaptation:

My personal favorite episode of the series was episode four, as it expanded upon the celestial narrative from the graphic novel, offering a unique glimpse into the heavens. Melvin echoed the sentiment, praising the way the series captured the essence of the original work and showcased the emotions and experiences he had as an adolescent and adult. The powerful point of view presented in American Born Chinese resonated deeply with both Gene and Melvin, solidifying their belief in its suitability for adaptation.


The journey from a graphic novel to a TV adaptation is no easy feat, but American Born Chinese successfully made the transition, thanks to the efforts of Gene Luen Yang, Melvin Mar, Kelvin Yu, and the entire creative team involved. This groundbreaking series tackles the complexities of the Asian American experience, highlighting the progress made, as well as the challenges that still exist. As fans of the graphic novel and TV series, we eagerly anticipate further conversations and explorations of Asian American stories in the future. Stay tuned for more dorky adventures right here on Dorkaholics!

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