Sherry Cola Hopes Good Trouble's Lunar New Year Episode Helps Fans Embrace Their Identities

Image Source: Freeform

Good Trouble never shies away from tackling tough subject matters. Over the course of its three seasons, the show has continuously tapped into social issues like racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, and gender equality in an authentic, meaningful way. Alice’s (Sherry Cola) storyline is just one example of that. The first part of season three begins with Alice leaning into harmful stereotypes in order to succeed in her comedy improv class, even though it makes her uncomfortable. Eventually, Alice finds her voice and takes a stand against those cheap stereotypes, and now she’s hosting a Lunar New Year party to teach her roommates about the holiday and her Chinese culture.

For Cola, it’s been such a real experience to watch her character grow from being a people-pleaser to finally coming into her own this season. “It honestly gives me goosebumps,” Cola told POPSUGAR. “Seeing her just completely break out of her shell and finally start to stand up for herself and be comfortable in her own skin, in all of her identities, queerness, Asianness, womanness, it means so much because it’s showing that Alice is breaking stereotypes.” Being Asian, LGBTQ+, and a stand-up comedian herself, Cola understands the pigeonholing that takes place in the entertainment industry. “The Asian female queer experience is so complex and it’s such a balance. You want to be unapologetically yourself, but everyone wants to put you in a box,” Cola noted. “When I do stand-up, I can tell that they have me on the lineup because they’re trying to check off that box.”

The forthcoming episode also hit home for Cola due to the recent surge of anti-Asian hate crimes across the nation. “We started this episode at the end of March 2021 in the midst of the anti-Asian hate crimes, so it was very real,” she said. “There was so much going on in my head and in my body really. It meant so much to be able to tell this story at a time where representation and equality was such a big topic in the real world. And Joanna Johnson, our creator, producer, and showrunner along with our director Erica Buxton, they allowed me to write my own speech when Alice gives a speech after the line dance. They allowed me to make it my own and I really spoke from my heart . . . it was a very emotional experience.”

Ahead of the “Lunar New Year” episode, Cola and Kara Wang, who plays Sumi, had a meeting with the show’s writers to discuss cultural specifics, including superstitions surrounding the holiday and the importance of including props like the whole fish and red envelopes. “They were very open to keeping it as authentic as possible and I think we really nailed it,” Cola stated. “I’m so happy with the episode. I’m beyond cloud nine about it because it matters — telling these stories authentically, showing these cultural specifics, but at the same time, portraying scenes that are very real.”

The episode also does a great job of showing the intersectionality of being LGBTQ+ and APIA through Alice’s complicated relationship with Sumi and Alice finally coming out to her brother. “The fact that Alice and Sumi share this beautiful kiss under these red lanterns at the end of the episode, I really just took a second to appreciate this level of representation. I’ve never in my life seen this. Can you name another TV show that portrays love between two Asian women to this extent?” Cola asked. “These two women have history. They have depth. They have layers in this push-pool [relationship] for three seasons, and they finally realized how much they mean to each other. I’ve never ever seen this, especially not right now in modern TV. And we add Ruby (Shannon Chan-Kent), who is this other Asian woman that Alice is seeing, that’s a freaking Asian woman love triangle! Where else can you find this? But it’s a real story, it’s an authentic experience that I have experienced.”

Cola continued, “I’m so proud of this work. I can’t believe I get to tell these stories with intention, with specificity, and I’m so grateful for Good Trouble. The name ‘Good Trouble’ comes from the words of the late great John Lewis and it really is that. We talk about Black Lives Matter, trans rights, equal pay, and now this very specific queer Asian female experience, and we do it in a way that’s natural and real. It’s unapologetic and it’s imperfect, but all of these characters have flaws and they’re learning as they go, but they’re fighting for something. I think that’s why Good Trouble is just the perfect TV show.”

Image Source: Freeform

In 2019, NBC News did a study that found that only 19 percent of APIA LGBTQ+ youth felt like they could be their true, authentic selves at home, and Cola is understandably sick of these communities having to settle for less than what they deserve. “I’ve never felt so proud of the intersections of my identities. I’m an immigrant, I’m Chinese American, I’m bisexual, and I’m a woman. All these things that society never rooted for, I’m fully embracing now and celebrating,” Cola said. “I can’t speak for everyone, but as an immigrant, as an Asian person, dating wasn’t even talked about at the dinner table, let alone sexuality . . . so that’s why I’m so grateful to Good Trouble because it actually helped me come out to my mom in real life.”

Cola explained that taking on the role of Alice helped her spread her wings and gave her the courage to have that oftentimes difficult conversation with her mom. “It’s still an ongoing conversation, but she’s so proud of me,” Cola said. “Now, we’ve completely exceeded the expectations because I’m on TV and I’m on a billboard. My mom is shook. But my point is that it’s such an interesting experience and it will take a lifetime to truly unpack the queer Asian experience, but stories like this on TV will hopefully increase that percentage and have queer Asians feel comfortable to be themselves in front of their family, to come out, and just be unapologetically themselves and live for themselves.”

Good Trouble‘s “Lunar New Year” episode airs on Freeform on Aug. 11. Through Alice’s storyline, Cola hopes fans are able to celebrate and embrace every single one of their identities. “Always remember where you came from. Don’t diminish your identity, your family, and who you are in order to fit into this American box,” Cola emphasized. “As an immigrant, I really struggled with that for years . . . And as I get older, as I evolve and grow in my own skin, I’m realizing how much I deserve to be here, how much I need to make room for myself, and how much I will not rest until my community feels seen. So just being unapologetic in who you are and where you come from will help you get to where you want to be.”

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