Chelsey Crisp is an actor on ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat”. On the show Chelsey plays Honey, the women next door who befriends Jessica Huang. Chelsey is also one of eight female comedians in an improv group called Duchess Riot. Check them out on YouTube here. Chelsey was so great to talk to. She had me laughing the whole time. We also talked Game of Thrones, so this is your spoiler warning. Enjoy!
What originally drew you to the role of Honey?
I liked that even as a supporting character she was a fish out of water, which is kind of the overall theme of the show. I think that’s something that’s really great about the show, that every character has their own version of that. She is someone who is very misunderstood by the neighborhood. People thought that she was this trophy wife and you find out that there is so much more going on with her than just that. It wouldn’t have been fun at all for me to play a trophy wife. (laughs) It would have been too basic and on the nose and not really worth getting that dolled up every day. But doing it for someone who is smart, compassionate, and savvy was worth it! Plus she runs the business with Jessica. She brings out softer sides of Jessica. She’s one of the few people who will call Jessica on things when she’s acting out. (laughs) That’s what I loved about it.
How do you feel about her hair and fashion sense?
(laughs) Well. It’s a lot! It’s a lot of work. As you can imagine I spend a lot of my day with our hair and makeup and costume designers. We’re always trying to outdo the look week to week. I think we constantly surprise ourselves with what we can accomplish. It’s really fun and so different from me. I am a jeans and t-shirts girl, so playing a character like this is surreal. It’s so different from how I am. I’ve learned some tips and some tricks from playing Honey.
One of my favorite things about the show is seeing all the 90’s stuff.
Oh, I know.
Do you enjoy those flashback things as well?
I love it. It basically is a period piece, which is hard to even say out loud that something set in the 90’s is a period piece. (laughs). But it’s so fun because I believe I’m the same age as Eddie Huang. So the age that Eddie is in the show, is how old I was at that time. It is so fun to watch. And to watch our kids on the show growing up now discovering all of this music from the 90’s is really fun. Randall and Constance and I are always telling them about our experiences. We did that episode where they went to a Janet Jackson concert and I was asking the kids on the way to set ‘Do you know who Janet Jackson is? Do you know her music?’ They kinda knew of her but didn’t really know her very closely. And I said, ‘She was Beyonce in the 90’s.’ Their eyes went wide and they kind of all went ‘Ohhhh.’ That was their reference point. So yeah, it’s really fun.
Constance Wu and Randall Park are hilarious.
Yes! They are.
What’s it like on set with them?
It’s really fun. We have our writers on set with us as well, so we do alternate lines to each scene. Sometimes the other characters in the scene haven’t seen the alternatives that someone’s gonna say. Sometimes someone says another line to you and it’s all you can do to hold it together. We have a great time. Constance and Randall are so funny, and just so genuinely talented. Even when we’ve worked really long hours, you’re still finding new things in every scene. Most of my stuff is with Constance and she is just a fiercely connected actor. She brings so much to every scene. It really makes it a joy. Even something kind of light and silly has so much underneath it, it has so much heart to it. She does a lot of work on the scenes. I work in a similar way so I think it’s really fun to work through scenes with her. She’s awesome.
I know you do a lot of improv, and we’ll talk more about that in a second, but do they ever let you do any improv on the show or is it all mostly scripted?
We’re allowed to improvise, but to be honest we don’t really have to. The scripts are very funny. The scripts are funny the first time we read them for the table read. Quite often on a show you’ll go to a table read and you don’t see the script for a few days and they’ll punch it up with more jokes. On our show, almost every table read draft is just hysterical. There are very, very few times when you would ever want to try to improvise because there is so much there. We improvise at the end of scenes to try to keep the scene alive and to give them some options for the final cut. We don’t do very much. If and when it feels right, we do. Plus we have the writers with us so sometimes they’ll throw something new out, or we’ll suggest something. Randall and I have both done improv for a long time, Constance had never done improv in a traditional sense. She is an excellent improviser. So improv is always there when we need it, but we don’t use it that much.
Are there any personality traits you share with Honey?
I think as the show has progressed there starting to be more overlap. Because the writers are getting to know me and they get to write things that are closer to my personality. My sense of humor can be dry and that has definitely worked its way into the show. Especially with Jessica. I think that is reflective of my relationship with Constance. You see moments between the two of them and it feels real because we have a good relationship and have a good time together. I think in that way they do write a little bit to us.
That has to make your job easier.
It’s great. (laughs). The job is pretty easy. We get great material and I work with great people. It’s pretty nice.
Let’s talk about Duchess Riot. I love the idea and all of the ladies are so funny. I’ve actually spent the last couple hours watching your videos.
Oh really? Thank you!
I’m fascinated by improv. I wish I could do that.
Yeah? Have you ever tried?
No! I would be terrible.
No. I don’t believe that. Nobody is bad at improv. It’s just getting in and doing it. Truly. I think everyone should take improv classes. My sister is an accountant and I think she should take improv classes. (laughs) They are so great at opening you up and making you feel comfortable with yourself. You’re free to make mistakes. Duchess Riot has been together for about five and a half years now. We’re all from the different schools; Groundlings, UCB, Second City, iO. We all came in with different backgrounds but created something unique to the eight of us. A style of improv that’s really fun and character driven. It’s big and energetic and so much fun.
I’m also a huge fan of @midnight, so, of course, I saw you on a few weeks ago. How was that?
That was so fun. It’s intense. It’s very fast paced. At first, I was nervous going in. It was great to have Randell there as well. He had done it a couple of times and we know each other so well. It was nice to have a friend standing right there going through it with me. Once we got started it was so much fun. The crowd was great. Everybody at the show is really nice. They make you feel comfortable. They make you feel safe to take some risks and try stuff out. It was a blast.
That’s great to hear because that is one of my favorite things on television.
Really? I had a great experience on it. It was really fun.
I also read that travel is one of your passions, as it is one of mine, so I’d like to ask where is your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
I certainly haven’t been everywhere, but I have been to quite a few countries, and my favorite place is actually in the U.S. It’s actually Kauai, Hawaii. It’s such a beautiful island. It’s so peaceful and green and lush and quiet. This job is so much fun, it does have it’s fair share of stress and intense schedule. Hawaii is like the polar opposite of Los Angeles to me. (laughs). Where you can sort of disconnect and relax and have a mai tai and sit on the beach and get some sun. It’s like the Hollywood antidote. I love this work, and I am someone who will forget to take a vacation, so I have to make sure I do it. I have to make sure I step out of L.A. sometimes, and that’s one of my favorite places to go. It’s not that long of a flight, and it’s serene and so beautiful.
I can’t help but think about how Brittany (Ishibashi) said the same thing about Hawaii.
Yes! Brittany was married in Hawaii. We’ve been saying for years that we’ve got to take a trip with our other girlfriend, Lyndon Smith, who also needs to get out of L.A. sometimes. Leave our menfolk behind and go take a girls trip.
That sounds like a blast!
Maybe after her next movie comes out. I know she’s in the middle of all the press for it right now.
And finally, what makes you nerdy?
What makes me nerdy? Probably my fiance fills that gap the most. He would probably call himself a professional nerd. He’s a writer, he wrote Deadpool and he wrote Zombieland. He loves all things game culture and fantasy. He just wrote a pilot that is kind of a fantasy sitcom and it’s so funny. So he keeps me keyed into that. The nerdiest thing I do is pretty theater-centric.
It’s like Broadway plays and getting really sucked into BBC dramas. That’s the part that’s my side. (laughs) I don’t think this even counts as nerdy because everybody loves it, but I am addicted to Game of Thrones. It’s ridiculous. I don’t think that even counts anymore because it is so mainstream. In fact, I saw your last tweet that you put up. The moment with Sansa and Jon Snow and I was like ‘Yes!’ How fulfilling was that!
I almost hit my husband while watching it going ‘The Starks are reuniting!’
I know! It was just like five years of waiting for that moment. I got to talk to George R. R. Martin a couple of years ago.
Oh my gosh.
We met at a party here in Los Angeles and it was his birthday. I just went up and introduced myself, my fiance had met him before, and the three of us just sat and talked for probably 45 minutes. This was maybe a year and a half ago, so it was right at the point where the show was going to pass where the books were. It was really fascinating to sit and talk with him about it. He’s so brilliant and so passionate about his characters. He has such a reverence for the writers of the show. It was really cool to hear directly from the creators mouth how he felt about things moving forward.
Tune in tonight for the season 2 finale of Fresh Off the Boat!