What was it like filming in Changchun, Lulu's grandma's hometown, and interacting with her actual family?
Awkwafina: Yeah, that was really out of body. That was weird in the sense that you never experience something like that. It really came to life all around you. The [movie] wedding was the same place as the real wedding. There's always a very personal journey that occurs when you're Asian that I felt even when I went to Singapore and Malaysia [to film Crazy Rich Asians]. When you go back to that part of the world as an Asian-American, you feel a sense of your own history. When we went back to Changchun it was that, but then also knowing that the subject at hand is very real and it's not in a way that is in a performance sense. It's in a human sense. I now want to protect Lulu's grandma. It's now, like, this is my family and then my co-stars and the empathy and everything. It just played very real, realer than you'd expect.
You're acting with Lulu's actual great aunt, playing her Little Nai Nai in the film.
Awkwafina: Who really went through that.
And Ellen, her dog, who I'm obsessed with.
Awkwafina: Love Ellen. Great dog. You hear her sing and then you're like, "OK, stop singing."
What were your rituals when you were filming?
Awkwafina: When you first get to a place, the instinct is to find a mall. Find just where it is, the familiarity of it. Find where that is, and know that it's there so that if worst comes worst, you can go. We found the mall. Lit malls. Great malls everywhere. The one thing that they do awesome there is karaoke. Their karaoke is like a castle of karaoke. The room is the size of an entire penthouse apartment. It's huge. So we would do karaoke. We did that. I would try to cook.
OK, what's your karaoke song to decompress?
Awkwafina: "Dreams," Fleetwood Mac. I mean, "Faith." If they have it in the catalog, "Hey Ma." Love that song. We did that a lot. Lulu -- fun fact -- did karaoke with us and knew every verse to the Bloodhound Gang song, like even the back verses. Like, Lulu, how do you know the back verse?
You've talked a lot about how one of the reasons you were attracted to the script is your own relationship with your grandma. What was the emotional process for you of sitting down with her to watch it? I know in the A24 podcast, you said she got up in the middle to start cooking.
Awkwafina: Dude, it was super emotional. I have been waiting for an opportunity to just communicate with my grandma in Chinese. And even when I learned Chinese, it still didn't happen. So there are smaller, little things that I liked about that experience. Yeah, she got up. That's her. I'm not going to be able to change that about her. But she did say that my Chinese was good. And it was really cool to watch a movie that I was in where she didn't have to strain to understand. We had to all watch subtitles, but when there was a funny joke she'd be like, "Do you know what she just said?" Like, grandma, we know, we're literally reading it. But then she laughed. She saw the humor in it which I thought was incredible. She's not the "I love you" type. But she saw the humor and I thought that was incredible that she was able to see the little subtleties there.
It's also a movie that makes viewers sob. Was there that feeling in sharing it with her?
Awkwafina: There was and it's never one that's met mutually. But I think that just being able at this point in my life to have done a movie like that where she actually complimented my Chinese and was like, "It's not that bad." That was really, really awesome. And I think she knows how much that's always meant to me. I always wanted to have that connection with her.