One of last summer’s surprise blockbusters was Crazy Rich Asians, a hilarious rom-com full of breakout big-screen performances. Harry Shum Jr., familiar to fans of Glee and Freeform’s Shadowhunters, made an appearance in the summer hit, but only during an end-credit scene when he meets eyes with Gemma Chan’s Astrid. Since a sequel is coming for Crazy Rich Asians, will Shum's presence expand past a cameo? Here’s what the actor says:
Yeah, we’ve had small conversations on the idea of it. We had conversations, even before I did the movie. That character was designed to be a cameo, in the first film, because he didn’t want to muddy the waters with so much to explore. It was important to see Rachel and Nick’s story, and let that be the center of it. It was a gamble. He said, ‘Look, there’s a cameo. I can’t promise anything. If it does well, the idea is that we’ll explore that.’ So, from me being friends with him for a long time, I was like, ‘Yeah, of course.’ It’s such an incredible thing that the movie has done so well and has made a cultural stamp, even with just romantic comedy status. It’s a really meaningful film, and I know that they are looking to tell that story, as well, but there’s still some time before that happens.
This is great news! As Harry Shum Jr. recently told Collider, there were always plans for his character to get more than a cameo in a sequel, but Crazy Rich Asians had to first focus on Constance Wu and Henry Golding’ Nick and Rachel first and do well with audiences on top of that.
Crazy Rich Asians is adapted from the first of three novels written by Kevin Kwan, so when the filmmakers were tasked with bringing it to screen, they had a lot more content to work with than what ended up on screen. This includes Harry Shum Jr’s character Charlie Wu, who actually has quite a significant role in the novels, so it’s exciting to hear that he will be explored more in the sequel.
In my interview with the editor of Crazy Rich Asians, Myron Kerstein, months ago, he said one of the big scenes they ended up cutting involved Charlie and Astrid in a big dance number. Charlie also had lines somewhere in the film to the effect of “You're better than your husband, you should leave him,” though the directors ultimately decided to have Astrid decide this for herself.
In the Crazy Rich Asians book, Charlie Wu is revealed to be a past lover to Astrid who broke off the relationship due to pressure from the Young family for him to be wealthy. She reconnects with amidst her husband Michael’s affair, however, it’s much more complicated in the novel. It’s revealed that Michael didn’t really cheat on Astrid, just appeared to for an easy way out of their relationship. Charlie also ends up buying Michael’s startup, becoming a peer to Astrid’s wealth and opening the potential for their relationship to bloom once more.
In the movie, Harry Shum Jr’s Charlie appears as perhaps only a symbol of Astrid moving on from Michael, though some of these storylines could certainly be explored in the sequels, China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems.
After director Jon M. Chu films his next film, the Broadway musical adaptation In the Heights, there are plans to film the sequels back to back in 2020. While it’s going to take some time before we see another Crazy Rich Asians movie, we can’t wait to see more from Astrid and Charlie’s relationship, in addition to the other many character introduced in the rom-com.