We’ve been watching Jo Koy’s hit comedy specials for years, but the comedian is finally releasing his highly anticipated feature film Easter Sunday (in theaters August 5), touted as a love letter to his Filipino-American community.
Koy plays actor Joe Valencia, who, after really only earning one notable beer commercial under his belt, gets an opportunity to test for a pilot for a television series. Just as he’s trying to land that potential new job while co-parenting his son Junior (Brandon Wardell) with his ex-wife, played by Carly Pope, Joe’s mother Susan (Lydia Gaston) calls him and his son Daly home City in Northern California to celebrate Easter Sunday with his family.
Joe returns to his mother’s house, where a feud ensues between his mother and his aunt Theresa (Tia Carrere). Joe also finds out that his cousin Eugene (Eugene Cordero) used the money Joe invested in his taco truck to start what he now calls a “hype truck.” who Eugene now owes $40,000 and he needs to pay fast.
“It’s ignorant, it’s lazy now, we don’t want to hear that anymore”
Jo Koy has been an outspoken critic of stories about Asian families being deemed “too specific” to be worth investing in, but the comic pushes back on that “lazy” and “ignorant” argument.
Even if that movie never got made, I would always get on stage and tell my story, and the proof was in the pudding. I sell out arenas, which means people want to hear those stories, and it’s not Filipinos that come into those arenas, you can’t fill an arena twice, only Filipinos, every single ethnicity is in that space and they want hear this story because they relate to this story.Jo Koy, comedian
“They’re in love with this mother figure I’m doing on stage because it reminds them of their mother, and that’s why that old saying ‘Oh, it’s too specific, they won’t understand’ is so ignorant. now it’s rotten, we don’t want to hear that anymore.”
“They kicked down the doors for us”
When it came to casting Easter Sundayit would certainly be representative of Filipino Americans and Asian Americans, but there were a few people that Jo Koy knew he wanted to be in the film from the start.
“Tia Carrere pushed the door open for us, especially for a Filipino kid who didn’t have an identity,” Koy said. “I wanted to be in Hollywood, but what motivated me? I didn’t see myself anywhere on TV, anywhere on the big screen, and when I saw Tia come out on the big screen, even though she spoke an accent, just a generic accent, I knew what she looked like, she looked like one of mine Cousins, and I thought that’s a Filipino.
“I waited until the end credits to see Tia Carrere and I was like, ‘Because of her, I can be an actor.'”
Koy found he felt similarly about having Lou Diamond Phillips there Easter Sunday.
“I knew it, when I saw his last name, Lou Diamond Phillips, I thought he must be half Filipino like me, and I was right,” Koy said.
“They kicked down doors for us when Hollywood was really, really hard to reach.”
Fans of Koy’s standup will know that his impersonation of his mother is one of the comedian’s most iconic moments when it comes to casting for his mother Easter SundayKoy knew there was an expectation.
“The only conversation I’ve had with [Lydia Gaston] When we cast her it was how important my mother’s character is and how much my fans are in love with that character and if we do anything different than what they saw on stage, they won’t be happy.” said koy. “But I also said to Lydia I still want you to make whatever it is you’re feeling in your heart … but let’s try to get as close to home as possible and she has that and more.” did.”
“She’s the backbone of this film, she carried this film so well.”
for Koy, Easter Sunday is an example of how all family stories are relatable, and we need to continue to make more films and television shows that showcase cultures that have historically been underrepresented in film and television.
“People will look at it and fall in love with this family because it will remind them of their family,” Koy said. “You also learn about someone else’s culture.”
“We need to make more films like this about other people’s cultures, and then we’ll all realize that family is fun and family is relatable, no matter who you are.”