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Sunnyside's Joel Kim Booster & Poppy Liu Are Queering Up Comedy

'Sunnyside's Joel Kim Booster & Poppy Liu Are Queering Up Comedy

'Sunnyside's Joel Kim Booster & Poppy Liu Are Queering Up Comedy

PRIDE sat down with two of Sunnyside's stars, Joel Kim Booster and Poppy Liu, to talk about the show's refreshing (and hilarious) take on the immigrant experience.

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Joel Kim Booster and Poppy Liu are more than just queer, Brooklyn babies with newly-minted matching tattoos—they're the hilarious breakout stars of NBC's newest sitcom, Sunnyside

The premise of the series feels groundbreaking on its own. Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle star Kal Penn co-created the show and plays Garrett Modi, a disgraced New York City ex-councilman who spends his newfound free time doing meet and greets. His life turns around when a group of immigrants call him in to help them gain American citizenship. 

Liu and Booster play Mei Lin and Jun Ho, the mega-rich twins of a Chinese billionaire (different mothers, but birthed at the exact same time).

In episode 3, "Dr. Potato", the group clamors to save their friend from a detention center, but Mei Lin and Jun Ho are more concerned with their looks. 

"Can we at least go home and change first?" asks Jun Ho. "We can't wear the same outfit to a third location."

Mei Lin chimes in, "Yeah like, what's the vibe at ICE? Is it like, '90s boho?"

"Kickball casual?" says Jun Ho.

"White girls at brunch?"

"Glenn Close but far away?'

"Slutty hello kitty?"

"Harry Potter, but he's dead?"

"Synchronized swimmers in outer space?"

"K-Pop serial killer?"

"Mandy Moore but Chinese?"

The room sits in stunned silence for a second before Jun Ho concludes, "We'll bring options."

Yes, that was improv, PRIDE learned from the stars. "Most of that was made up, they just let us go for a while," Liu chuckles.

They're only two of Sunnyside's hilarious cast, all of whom offer a refreshing new take on the immigrant experience and put real (albeit comedic) faces to some of the people affected by America's immigration policies.  

"Poppy doesn't like when I say this but I think our characters are the villains," says Booster at a press roundtable.

"We kind of are," Liu jumps in. "But that's great! We deserve that story and have it not be jeopardized that if we're not a perfect human, we don't deserve to be in this country, we don't deserve to have human rights. We will always deserve to have human rights, but also, we're people and we're messed up. I think that's special. It's also really alienating to see narratives where it's like the 'Perfect Immigrant.'" 

She continued:

"When immigrant narratives or marginalized stories are tokenized in general, they really focus on the trauma porn aspect. But that's ultimately through a colonizer and white lens. Because of the trust that's in this room and in this show, it feels like we can be imperfect as immigrant people of color. We can be messy, we can be greedy and selfish sometimes, we can be kind and friendly."

A comedy sitcom about a loveable group of immigrants is not an easy story to tell, especially on a traditional network like NBC. 

"When you see us on screen, we're politicized bodies," says Booster. "People are going to project that onto us, even if we weren't a show about immigration. Just the makeup of our cast makes it a political show, and I know they don't love it when we say that, but we're not fooling anybody. People are going to politicize the show." 

Liu adds, "Being alive in our bodies, day to day, is a political act."

Sunnyside struggled to find viewers on NBC, who's average viewer is in their mid-50s and lives in Middle America, according to Penn. After airing only four episodes, NBC pulled the series from TV and the rest of the season's episodes will be Hulu exclusives. Stats show that the series is popular with college-educated people in their 30s, so Penn is optimistic about the move to Hulu and their younger-leaning audience. 

On top of the fresh premise and hilarious storytelling, we just hope the show sticks around so we get more of Booster and Liu. 

With the show's future dangling in the horizon, it's unclear if Mei Lin or Jun Ho are going to get any queer love interests or storylines on the show, but both brought their own queer sensibilities to the show. "The way that we are, how we move through the world, and seeing us, I think clocks as queer," says Liu. 

Booster adds, "Every drug that I reference on the show are very gay drugs. They gave me a poppers joke and if it makes it to air, oh my god."

"Ketamine was already on air," Liu points out. 

"I'm really representing my community," deadpanned Booster. 

Kal Penn backed up that claim later that day on set when he gleefully showed PRIDE a moment from an upcoming episode where Mei Lin and Jun Ho fear Garrett abandoning them and, in order to convince him to stay, they both begin to perform tricks and fall into splits while begging, "Daddy don't go," and "Look what I can do, Daddy."

Penn isn't their Daddy on the show or IRL, but in that moment, he smiled like a proud father.

New Sunnyside episodes air Thursdays on Hulu! Watch the trailer below!

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Taylor Henderson

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one! 

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one!