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Showtime picks up script for “Chew”

March 25, 2011

Chew is the story of Tony Chu, a Chinese American “cibopathic” detective who gets psychic impressions from things he eats (from food to the macabre.) The comics feature a very diverse cast of characters that is only growing as the series heads towards its 20th issue. We’ve previously featured the comic book Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory in several articles including a Media Monday and our 2010 Holiday Shopping List.

The ongoing comic book series from Image Comics swept industry awards like the Harvey and the Eisner for Best New Series in 2010. As far as we’re aware, Chew is the first work centering around an Asian American charaacter to win the Harvey Award and the Eisner Award in this category. (An astute commenter rightly points out that prior to Chew‘s wins, Derek Kirk Kim won Harvey and Eisner awards in artist categories for Same Difference and Other Stories.)

“Tony Chu is an Asian dude, Chinese specifically, I would hope if CHEW ever got translated into another media, he’d remain Asian.”Chew Issue #3 Q&A


According to writer John Layman, Tony Chu’s physical appearance in the comic series is inspired by Asian American actor Ken Leung (LOST). “Tony Chu is modeled after Ken Leung, who plays Miles on ‘Lost’ and was great on ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘X3’ and everything else I’ve seen him in,” Layman told Comic Book Resources back in April 2009. “If there is ever a TV or movie version of ‘Chew,’ he’s got exactly the right intensity for the part and is this great mix of engaging and appealing and likable, while being a little unlikable at the same time—just like Tony Chu, who’s a guy a lot of other characters in the book regard as kind of a dick. At least, that’s what his own brother thinks. And his partner.”


Ken Leung plays Miles Straume in Season 6 of LOST. Image Credit: LostPodcastMedia.com

In an August 2010 interview with Comic Book Resources, Layman shared that the creators of CHEW sent Leung copies of the book and that they’ve since exchanged emails with the actor:

“As for Ken Leung, a friend of mine got the contact information of his manager and we sent them a couple runs of the book, along with a nice note saying how much we liked him in general, and for Tony Chu. I thought since his name had been thrown around in so many interviews and message board postings, he should just be aware of the book. I didn’t know what to expect, but we heard back from the manager and then from Leung. We’ve had a few back and forth emails since, but the bottom line is that Ken Leung is not only aware of “Chew,” but he’s read it and seems to like it. That’s a start, right?” – CHEW writer John Layman

In August 2010, production house Circle of Confusion and director Stephen Hopkins began developing CHEW into a television series.

On March 25th, premium cable television channel SHOWTIME bought the script for CHEW, written by Supernatural and Eureka writers Terri Hughes Burton and Ron Milbauer, bringing a television series one step closer to realization.

Whether or not Ken Leung assumes the lead role, we hope that Tony Chu will be cast with an Asian American actor, making CHEW the first series on SHOWTIME to ever star an Asian American leading man.

Categories: blog, Current Diversity Highlights, Featured
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About the Author

Marissa Lee is one of the co-founders of Racebending.com

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  • Brandon

    so…wait, how do you know the show won’t be terrible, WRITING-wise?

    hell, if ‘pretty little liars’ taught us anything, its that they will lake anything (no matter how badly-written) and turn it into a tv show just for a quick buck.

    so I’d hate to see this site throw praise on this for OMG ASIAN PROTAG ON SHOTIME SERIES despite how terrible evreything else might be.

    • We don’t know if the show will be terrible, but we feel it’s worth celebrating that Showtime is considering adapting a show with an Asian American protagonist at all.

      For example, in contrast, HBO almost produced “All Signs of Death,” which would have featured an Asian American family, for this season, but chickened out at the last minute.

    • Anonymous

      But…the Walking Dead is pretty good.

  • You’re correct, Derek Kirk Kim DID win an Eisner and Harvey award for “Same Difference and Other Stories”! The awards were “Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition” (amen!) and “Best New Talent!” Wikipedia tells me that these awards are in the “authors” awards category though and not “works” awards category, so I guess we’re both right. I will go back and clarify this in the article.

  • Thaw

    Walking Dead and Chew, The only show that is made by devoted fans! They don’t whitewash like Hollywood

  • What’s fairly significant about this is that as the Chew world is expanding, a huge chunk of the cast is Chinese (because Chew’s relatives come into play). Along with African Americans in the comic books, Chew has one of the most, if not the most diverse cast in a medium that doesn’t center it’s story on race. This would be an amazing opportunity for people of color if reflected in the television show.

    I was able to meet Layman at last year’s Comic Con and told him that I thought it was really great that Chew was Chinese, seeing as how that rarely ever happens. He said that his wife is Asian (I don’t remember if he specifically said Chinese) and that he wanted his two children to be able to see characters that are more representative of them. Great guy!

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  • Dare I get excited for this? I’ve become so cynical lately, but I want to be excited for this!
    I love Chew, I picked it up around Christmas because 1) it made me laugh and intrigued me from the first couple of pages and 2) it had an Asian-American lead … and that wasn’t the point of his character, there’s WAY more going on for him other than “he’s Asian-American. Stereotypes. The end.” I wanted to support a series like that, and I’m glad I am, the comics are fantastic!