As we celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Month, I have to express how grateful I am to have such an amazing platform to tell stories that represent voices and perspectives that are now embraced in mainstream media.
When I first set out to create this show, I was inspired to tell the story of an undocumented immigrant from the lens of a Southeast Asian character. I had no idea how this would be received, but the truth is, I wasn’t attached to the outcome. I wasn’t asking what story people might want to hear. I wasn’t questioning who my audience might be. I simply decided that this is the story I wanted to tell.
It wasn’t until the show was greenlit to series that it finally hit me what a huge responsibility it is to tell these stories in a way that is authentic and respectful to the people and communities we’re representing. Because the show is finally giving a voice to those who are normally pushed into the shadows — it has more significance. And when that became real — I was greatly humbled.
But at the same time, I was incredibly excited.
I think the ultimate goal for most storytellers is to enlighten and inspire and tell stories that matter. And this is a story that represents so many people. It’s the story of a parent who will do anything to save their child. It’s the story of an underdog who keeps getting up, no matter how many times they’re knocked down. And it’s the story of so many immigrants who took massive risks to be here, sacrificing everything for their families, yet they remain resilient and fearless.
They are universal stories that resonate with so many people, and by shining a light on their triumphs and struggles, we can see their humanity, their strength and their love, and recognize that at the core, we are more similar than we are different. We’re all driven to protect those we love, to strive for a better life for our families, and to simply demand the same dignity and respect that everyone deserves. By putting these characters and perspectives at the forefront of a show — especially a broadcast show — these are the voices we can now celebrate.
“The Cleaning Lady” became Fox’s highest-rated drama premiere in two years as well as Hulu’s most-streamed Fox debut in the network’s history. And while there is a Filipino/Cambodian family at the heart of the show, Nielsen statistics show that 90% of our audience is non-Asian, which means we have succeeded in bringing a mainstream audience to hear these voices and watch their stories.
And that is everything.
Over the past few years, our community has faced — and continues to face — many challenging issues. But we’re strong and resilient and continue to rise above, making amazing strides together. One of the most rewarding aspects about putting a show like this on the air is not only how well it’s being received, but when random people reach out to tell me “thank you” — it is overwhelmingly heartwarming. “Thank you for creating this show because I finally feel seen.” Or “I can’t believe my culture is being embraced.” Or “This is just like what happened to me…but I felt so alone.” This is why representation matters. To let people know that their stories matter. That they matter. And that they are not alone.
“The Cleaning Lady” is a story about many people from many different cultures and backgrounds, and it puts those who are normally marginalized or silenced and told they’re not worthy or significant and puts them at the forefront of the show. And if there’s one thing I hope to achieve is to create more empathy and compassion for each other, because no matter who we are or where we’re from, we all deserve dignity, respect, hope and love.
Miranda Kwok is a screenwriter, actor, and television producer. Kwok’s credits include “The Cleaning Lady” and “Sanctuary.”
Throughout the month of May, Variety will publish essays and stories from prominent AAPI artists, artisans and entertainment figures celebrating the impact of AAPI entertainment and entertainers on the world at large.