Jo Koy Opens Up About How Growing Up Mixed Race Impacted His Life And Movie Easter Sunday

Being the child of immigrants is a complicated way to grow up, and as Hollywood has continued to diversify the stories being told, audiences, whether you can relate or not, can grapple and normalize with this topic. After hit movies like Everything Everywhere All At Once and Turning Red started these discussions this year, comedian Jo Koy is getting in on this with his new movie, Easter Sunday

The comedy, which is in theaters this weekend, is the first movie from a Hollywood studio that features an all-Filipino cast. Amidst the movie breaking ground in representation, Jo Koy spoke to CinemaBlend about how growing up half-Filipino in particular has affected his life: 

It was an identity crisis. It was like, here's my mom dealing with racism and here's my mom and dad divorcing because things just didn't feel right in the family. Then, just struggling with what am I? Am I white? Am I Filipino? White people look at me weird, Filipinos look at me weird. And it's like, what do I do? So, that was a struggle, dealing with identity and figuring out what I was and gravitating towards my mom's side, because they were the ones that raised me.

Growing up in an interracial family is not easy on its children, because as Jo Koy told CinemaBlend’s Law Sharma during their Easter Sunday interviews, you’re often stuck between two different cultures. Jo Koy’s father was a white American man who was in the United States Air Force and stationed in the Philippines when he met and married Koy’s mother. Koy grew up in Washington and Las Vegas before pursuing stand-up comedy, which has led to a number of his own specials over the years. Koy continued: 

That's why I hold this flag up so high and this is why it's so important for something like this to come out because there are kids like me, or there are kids still to this day just trying to find their identity or hear their voice. They feel invisible, and this movie's gonna give them that sense of identity.

With Easter Sunday, Jo Koy is given a platform to really talk through the “identity crisis” that comes with growing up from two different cultures. And as the comedian shared, he often didn’t feel like he belonged to either because both communities would reject him for not being completely one way or the other. 

Easter Sunday, which also stars Jimmy O. Yang, Lilo & Stitch voice actress Tia Carrere, Eva Maria Noblezada, Lydia Gaston, and Eugene Cordero, among others, is set around a family gathering to celebrate Easter Sunday. It also has storylines based on Jo Koy’s life experiences in comedy. 

The new comedy movie opens in theaters this weekend alongside Bullet Train, which is expected to win the weekend with a $32 million debut, per Box Office Pro. Easter Sunday is projected to open at around $4.8 million behind a number of projects like last weekend’s No. 1 DC League of Super-Pets, along with 2022 movie releases like Nope, Thor: Love and Thunder, Minions: Rise of Gru and Top Gun: Maverick still making money in theaters. 

A movie like Easter Sunday that discusses Jo Koy’s mixed race experience is rare. So no matter what it makes, seeing it hit the big screen and perhaps reach the right people is a great step in the right direction for Hollywood representation. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.