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“We’re making history because we’ve never seen Asian faces in this way,” says Joy Ride star Sherry Cola. Directed by Adele Lim, the acclaimed film is, unquestionably, an instant comedy classic for its rare depiction of Asian people – in Cola’s words – ‘doing drugs’ whilst having ‘fun, sex and a K-Pop music video fantasy!’

From the co-screenwriter of Crazy Rich Asians, Joy Ride stars Cola, Ashley Park, Shephanie Hsu and Sabrina Wu as four mismatched chums on a bonkers and debauchery-filled adventure to China. Cola, best known for her role as Alice Kwan on Good Trouble, plays Lolo, a sex-positive artist who makes, well, sex-positive art.

“This is the most liberated version of myself that I’ve ever portrayed because, stereotypically, society has put us in the box of ‘timid’ or ‘submissive’ or not wanting to rock the boat,” Cola tells GAY TIMES, “and Lolo shatters that completely.”

Wu, a screenwriter and comedian, makes their on-screen debut as Deadeye, Lolo’s eccentric, androgynous and socially-awkward cousin with a K-pop obsession. “There are parts of Deadeye that feel very pulled from my life,” the newcomer reveals. “Hopefully that reads to their authenticity and genuineness.”

Here, Sherry Cola and Sabrina Wu discuss the “universal” themes of Joy Ride, the refreshing portrayal of their characters’ queerness and whether we can expect to see the new Fantastic Four of comedy in a future sequel/prequel/spin-off. (Joy Ride 2: Kat’s Vageen coming soon.)

Sabrina! Sherry! How are you?

Sherry: Thanks for having me! We are blessed and I’m so thrilled to talk the good talk about this film because everyone is edging for it to be released.

Sabrina: I’m actually really excited to talk to you. Anyone that’s talking to me from GAY TIMES, I’m like, awesome, cool.

Congratulations to you both on Joy Ride, this film is insanely hilarious. Sabrina, this is your first major acting role, right?

Sabrina: Totally. The secret is that it’s my first audition that I’ve ever done in the industry, so… crazy first experience!

Joy Ride is quite historic, because we’ve never had a mainstream R-rated comedy with all Asian leads. So, how does it feel to be part of something so groundbreaking?

Sherry: There’s two feelings. One of them is, ‘Oh, we’re making history because we’ve never seen Asian faces in this way, making fun of ourselves, having sex, doing drugs, having a K-Pop music video fantasy!’ It’s so magical. There’s also the version of me that’s thinking, ‘This is just a funny movie.’ It’s so universal. It’s so relatable. It’s about friendship and discovering who you are. It’s about chosen family and that could not be more relatable. This film is for everyone. It’s for the culture. It’s major for the community. Also, everyone in the audience is gonna walk away feeling inspired to tell their story, and that’s the kind of impact we wanna make.

Sabrina: Not terrifying at all. Really chill. Totally easy to wrap my head around. I feel very honoured. I love all the people that made this and I’m really grateful to them and their careers, they helped me feel like I could have a career in comedy and in the arts. So, I hope it goes really well. I have a lot of wanting this to go well and anxiety and excitement.

Lolo is unapologetically herself. She’s reckless and raunchy, and for those reasons, I’m absolutely obsessed with her and I think Asian and queer audiences will too. Sherry, how do you want her to be perceived by those communities?

Sherry: I am queer, I am an immigrant, I’m Chinese-American and I’m a woman. These are things that society never rooted for. but I’m embracing them as superpowers. Especially through Lolo, this is the most liberated version of myself that I’ve ever portrayed because, stereotypically, society has put us in the box of ‘timid’ or ‘submissive’ or not wanting to rock the boat. And Lolo shatters that completely. She’s unapologetic. She’s a loose cannon. She says what people are thinking, and I think that’s so refreshing to see one of those characters in this film. We all have that sense of liberation, all four leads are definitely on their own journey and we have full arcs, which is so special and so rare. But, I definitely think people are gonna relate to Lolo and feel, ‘That’s me. That’s the beast I’m dying to unleash.’

She’s also openly queer…

Sherry: There’s a line in the film that confirms Lolo is queer when we’re at the airport and I’m live-streaming saying, ‘We’re going to the motherland, so if you have a juicy peen or a vageen…’ Listen, the real ones will notice that there’s definitely sexual tension between Lolo and Kat, for sure.

I’m so happy you said this because I was gagging for them to become a thing. The sexual tension!

Sherry: Oh listen, I’m ready to read some fan-fiction about Lolo and Kat. Stephanie and I are both queer in real life and we were just joking about possibly kissing in a scene. She’ll say that I’m all talk and no action, all flirt no squirt, but I just didn’t think it made sense for the story for us to kiss. But, there were moments… There’s actually a fun deleted scene in the DVD bonus extras for the fans, so please buy that because you’ll fall in love with it.

The scene where they’re slapping each other is queer, full stop.

Sherry: That was foreplay. That was an aphrodisiac. That could be its own little spin-off.

Sabrina, you play Deadeye, a socially-awkward, androgynous BTS stan. Did you relate to the character at all?

Sabrina: This is something the writers have said, so I’m not being a jerk to them, but this is a character that wasn’t totally figured out when we first got the script. They were like, ‘Yeah, we all have that weird cousin…’ This was actually a mean-spirited or pretty random and chaotic person. But growing up, I knew that I was being read sometimes as a total weirdo who didn’t make sense. But obviously, in my life, I was a person who had reasons for doing the things that I did and I had so many weird special interests. I learned how to beatbox for no apparent reason and I can do the robot in a way where I could make money off the street. It’s really not good for any professional reason but it’s too good for a regular person to be doing. We collaborated on this character and started to make sense of them, so there are parts of Deadeye that feel very pulled from my life. Hopefully that reads to their authenticity and genuineness. There was a really weird sincere version of me when I was in middle school, and I kind of imagined Deadeye as what I might’ve been like had I not eventually found friends later in life.

You put the beatboxing to use, though…

Sabrina: I can’t believe that that is in the film.

Deadeye is referred to with ‘she/her’ pronouns throughout the film and ‘they/them’ after a time jump. Is this confirmation that they went on a journey of self-discovery with their non-binary identity? Was this intentional?

Sabrina: It was intentional and it is canon. Deadeye is, for sure, non-binary. When I played them, I thought of them as non-binary. In my head, and in the creator’s head, this is someone who hasn’t been around enough people. You saw the way that Nai Nai talked to them. They slapped them in the head and were like, ‘Can’t you just be more girly?’ There isn’t space for Deadeye to be like, ‘Oh, I might be…’ In my head, they didn’t have that space for them. They’re very online but the self-esteem and confidence and new community they find, even what we don’t even see in the movie, helps them realise. So, that’s what we were trying to show and they take ‘they/them’ at the end.

The lack of hoo-hah over that moment was incredibly refreshing.

Sabrina: That is the reality. Usually, when you know someone who is gender non-conforming, they take ‘she/her’ and then one day they don’t. They don’t have to have nine million discussions on screen being like, ‘I think that I might be trans’ and their whole journey is just about being gender non-conforming. Know what I mean? I thought it was really cool that there wasn’t this scene where everyone stops talking and is like, ‘And you take ‘they/them’ now? And how did that happen? And what did your parents think?’ That was the idea.

The same goes for Lolo, the film didn’t make her queerness an issue.

Sherry: At the end of the day, we just want to be viewed as human beings with a worthy story to tell, no matter what you identify as. I love that Joy Ride has queerness in-between the lines. We’re really normalising the fact that we’re just existing and we can be ourselves, and not have to say sorry about it or point it out. We’re just being, which is really cool about Joy Ride. Lolo just has this power-top, mamacita energy that will hopefully be inspiring for a lot of young Asian girls.

Joy Ride has so many ludicrous, side-splitting scenes, from the coke-fuelled train sequence to all four leads destroying men with their horniness. What was your favourite scene to film?

Sabrina: I loved doing the train drug scene, partially because I’m a huge fan of Meredith Hagner. Search Party is like my favourite show, so being in a group scene with her was so fun. But also, that was the last scene that we had filmed over the course of the shoot so I feel like we got the group comedy down. It was very controlled chaos. So many of the funniest lines to me were in that scene, which were totally improvised. It was electric to film.

Sherry: There’s so many scenes that I loved filming, but Baron Davis was so game. He was such a good sport – pun intended. He was just catching everything I was throwing at him. We had an intimacy coordinator on set, of course, mainly for his benefit because at one point I licked his forehead. And just making those sex noises with him… It was a full 12-hour day just me and him. I had bruises on my shins because I was hopping on the couch. Anything goes! I blacked out. I have to give him a shout out because he truly shines in the film.

Sherry, those sex noises… They got me.

Sherry: It went on for minutes. They had to cut it in the final version. I had to catch my breath and drink a gatorade after that scene.

How on earth did you film Joy Ride without cracking up every few seconds?

Sherry: You know what a joy it is to just laugh out loud in general? I think laughter is a remedy, and to do it on set, off-set, with these incredible people… There was so much trust between us and Adele [Lim], Cherry [Chevapravatdumrong] and Teresa [Hsiao] and Lionsgate and Point Grey to find magic in the heat of the moment, to improvise and riff off of each other’s energies. The four of us, that chemistry is authentic. What you see on the screen, that’s what you see when the four of us are just chilling in a hotel room, reflecting on the journey. We were cracking up so much. Truly, we broke each other multiple times throughout the journey and it will be obvious. You will wonder, ‘How did you keep it together?’ and that’s what we wondered when we were watching Bridesmaids, Girls Trip, The Hangover, Superbad, whatever it may be. Those films where we’re just in awe that they kept it together because we’re busting up. I can’t wait for people to watch this film and feel that way as well.

I need to see these characters again. Have there been talks of a sequel, prequel, requel, spin-off – whatever it is?

Sherry: I think Joy Ride definitely has potential in the movie itself and how it ends. I think there’s potential for more, and we’re all so obsessed with each other that I don’t see why not. People gotta go see this film for it to get that buzz and for people to crave more. So, please go support it and tell all your friends and hopefully we’ll get sequels and threequels and we can be the next Fast & Furious. Joy Ride 10!

Sabrina: It’s definitely been talked about by the journalists but I’ve yet to hear word from my agents… I don’t know, people are really going to have to throw their money at this project. But, don’t worry, if you need it, I will Zoom with you privately and just enact the original Joy Ride for you and play every character. And, I will put coke up my ass for real.

Sabrina, it’s a date. Also, I need to see Lolo get “vageen” in the sequel, whether it’s Kat’s or not. Wait, can I say vageen?

Sherry: You can. Kat’s vageen. That’s also a spoiler. That’s the name of the sequel, really. Straight to DVD.

This interview features in the August 2023 edition of GAY TIMES Magazine. To read the full issue, click here

Joy Ride will be released in UK cinemas on 4 August.