Hollywood legend may have saved ‘Easter Sunday’

Usually getting a Hollywood project greenlight requires perseverance, an iron stomach and a willingness to go through a lot of rewriting.

But the process was an unusual windfall for stand-up comedian Joe Coe and Daily City-born screenwriter Ken Cheng when it came to their drama “Easter Sunday,” which came out this Friday.

The mostly Daly City-set film stars Coe as a Los Angeles father/comedian who takes his less-spirited teenage son on a road trip to visit his eccentric but lovable Daly City Filipino American relatives . Mystery, xenophobia and delicious food lead to comedic contradictions enhanced by show-stopping cameos, which also feature Tiffany Haddish (A Scream).

Coe can’t believe a movie based on his life actually happened, and making “Easter Sunday” was such an easy experience, except when COVID-19 emerged.

“It wasn’t even a real process,” he said during an interview with Cheng at the Daly City movie theater. “It was legit: get it. Got it. Boom!”

It is July 21, after the film’s world premiere, directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, where the community, including city officials, flocked to watch it, posing for selfies with the coy and friendly comedian, while the latter served up a variety of mouthwatering lumpias .

And Koy and Cheng are still surfing at such a high altitude.

But it’s also a jam-packed schedule with the city presenting Coy a key to Daily City and then a barrage of press interviews. The two hardly have time to eat pieces of vegetarian pizza. (Ko hasn’t eaten red meat in two and a half years, fueling a diet switchup after seeing a cheesy Instagram video post starring a farmer, a hungry pig and a dead mouse. We’ll leave the bloody details to you.)

But let’s get back to the point.

How did a PG-13 comedy proceed with a mostly Filipino American cast while other projects stalled or got off the ground in a purge of the dreaded “in development” stage?

It was primarily the endorsement of a cinematic icon: Steven Spielberg.

The influential filmmaker took an immediate glow in Coe’s style after seeing his 2019 Neftlix comedy show “Joey Coy: Comin’ in Hot” shot in Seattle. He felt like he was watching someone special, a comedian who created laughs from personal stories and didn’t resort to easy put-downs to trigger abuse.

Spielberg, Coe recalls, sent an email to his Amblin studio team, and in return he contacted them to take a meeting.

The Oscar-winning director of classics like “Jaws,” “Schindler’s List” and many others attracting the event’s interest, Coy has suffered to this day.

“First of all, I’ve never got an Amblin call before,” he says, looking like he’s still pinching himself today.

Accompanied by his agent, Coe visits Amblin, where he expects a short initial rendezvous.

“So here I am walking to Amblin and legitimate every single person who is inside Amblin is walking up to me and saying ‘Steven loves you,’ ‘Oh my god, Steven can’t stop talking about you. .’ Every other person is saying this, up to the point where my manager and I looked at each other, “Is he talking about Steven in accounting?”

The Amblin team, including Holly Barrio, didn’t keep their word on what they wanted.

“Okay off the cuff, she was like you have an idea for a movie? And I pitched ‘Easter Sunday’… and right at the end of the pitch they said we’ll take it.”

Koy and Cheng, who attended Stanford University, ran from there to the last field.

“Easter Sunday” is the latest venture to elevate Coy’s growing stature, fueled by countless appearances in comedy specials and on late night TV with sold-out comedy tours, podcasts, and more. His fourth Netflix comedy show is due out on September 13.

He began his career in Las Vegas and was soon making the circuit. His star soared after appearing on BET’s Comic View and then became even brighter when he alongside comedian Chelsea Handler became a regular guest on their popular E! TV show “Chelsea Lately”. (The two dated for a year and recently called off their relationship).

The 51-year-old now lives in Los Angeles and has filled a typical season at the center of laughter over family ties, particularly the tight bond with his mother, Joyce Harrison, a Washington state native who was born in the Philippines. His 19-year-old son Joseph Herbert Jr. inspired the role of the son in “Easter Sunday”.

Coy speaks with animated passion about Filipino-American representation and gives his mother the opportunity to see a more accurate reflection of her community than Hollywood has previously presented. He was the main motivator in creating “Easter Sunday,” he said.

“The whole goal of this is the blueprint,” he said. “A: You’re not only going to see that we’re unique. We’re also very relatable…We’re not kidding. We’re having fun. We’re not laughing. We’re laughing… Even if you’re not Filipino, you’re going to walk into (the movie) and relate – ‘oh my mom acts like that mom’ or ‘oh my god, she reminds me of my coworker and i love her’ am.”

Koy and Cheng hope to shake off Hollywood’s old-school ways that have historically been pigeonholed, ignoring ethnicity or turning them into caricatures.

While filming “Easter Sunday”—shot in Daly City and Southern California—the two learned a great deal about how Hollywood treated the community unfairly, including Carré, who starred in “When’s World”, and Diamond Phillips who won raves and also received criticism. Within Community for playing singer Richie Vallance in 1987’s “La Bamba” among other roles.

On set, Koe and Cheng said that Diamond Phillips shared the catch-22 they experienced earlier in their careers at a time when representation was not as prevalent. The reaction to being cast in “La Bamba” left the actor depressed, Koy relates.

“It’s like indirect racism,” Ko said. “The character of Richie Vallance is being portrayed by a Filipino and very much portrayed by a Filipino. But unfortunately the story he told us was: I was not being received by the Latino community and rightly so. Then my Filipino side was not happy with me because I was playing Lion, and they were upset. The two groups I wanted to celebrate were upset. One group that was very happy for me, that’s why they’re upset because they Doing something which is not right.

“They’re just casting people with no sensitivity to even what this character means to a community,” Coe says.

Carrera’s reaction for her part—she plays an aunt who’s feuding with her sister—had an impact on Coy.

He remembers her saying: “‘I want you to know Joe in my 30 years in Hollywood, this is the first movie I ever got to go to where the description was a Filipino-American aunt. Back when I was in Hollywood So some characters described me as Asian woman, coarse accent but can sing.’ The description is also offensive. We just want to bring all Asians together and give any sort of Asian accent? Like taht – what??!”

Hearing such stories, enthusiasm is infused in them.

“Man the door is open and we ain’t gonna close it,” Coe said. “It doesn’t stop. It won’t stop. I’m going to get my foot in there. Ken’s going to put his foot in there. We’ll keep that door open and we want the support of our community to help keep it open.”

“Sometimes it is our community that brings us back. We don’t want that. Just keep going. We want the floods to happen.”

Contact Randy Myers at soitsgrand@gmail.com.

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