“Literally I walked into Amblin and everyone was like, ‘Steven loves you’ and I’m like ‘Steven from accounting? Who are you talking about? There’s no way it’s Steven Spielberg,’” recalled Jo Koy at the Tuesday night Los Angeles premiere of his new film Easter Sunday. Spielberg had been a big fan of Koy’s 2019 Netflix special Comin’ in Hot, and had called the comedian in for a meeting with his Amblin Entertainment production company.
Koy quickly found out “Steven” was in fact the iconic filmmaker, who “wanted to know what kind of movie idea I had and I pitched this one. From the minute he said, ‘We’ll buy it’ to this day right here, he’s had his hand in every step of the way,” Koy said of their partnership. “I love you Steven.”
After multiple Netflix specials and a successful touring career, Easter Sunday marks Koy’s move to the big screen, telling a story based on his life about a man returning home to celebrate Easter with his loud and loving Filipino family.
The film is produced both by Spielberg’s company and Dan Lin’s Rideback after Lin ran into Koy when they were both lunching in Beverly Hills and pitched a collaboration. Lin said Spielberg served as the film’s “Godfather, approving every creative decision we had, watching dailies — I was really impressed at how involved Steven was,” while also letting Koy and director Jay Chandrasekhar “do their thing.”
Chandrasekhar, who shared a bond with Koy as stand-up comics, signed on after he was told Spielberg was a big fan and he responded, “Well, I’m a bigger fan of Jo Koy.” He had a close collaboration with the filmmaker, recognizing that Spielberg “wants to show that he’s right that this guy deserves to be on movie screens.”
Indeed, Chandrasekhar said that despite Koy never having acted before, “he has such great charisma and an ability to memorize lines that he was a natural for it.”
And though the film is highly personal for Koy, it also represents something much larger for the Filipino American community.
“My mom came into this country 1969 — it took 51 years for my mom to finally see something like this on the big screen, just for her alone. So imagine all the other immigrants out here that came to this country that just feel invisible,” Koy told The Hollywood Reporter. “Now we’re opening up that door, and I don’t want it to just be Filipino stories; I want everybody’s story to be heard, because the more you see families like this being displayed on the big screen and you laugh and cry like this, you’re going to realize that we’re all relatable.”
“No matter what ethnicity you are, we all share the same thing when it comes to family,” he continued. Lin added that it “means so much that this is a theatrical film for all audiences,” with a full-scale premiere at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
“You’ve never seen a Filipino American comedy before, ever in Hollywood,” Lin said, and wanting the Asian community to see their stories told, and “to see that they’re not different than everyone else. Their stories are specific but also universal at the same time.”
“There’s been a lot of movies where Filipinos have been the deli guy or the cab driver. In this they are the stars of the movie, so instead of one joke they get 25 jokes,” said Chandrasekhar. “I wanted this movie to be a funny movie, entertaining for everybody, and then I wanted to make the people be Filipino American. This is an American movie and I’m proud of it.”
Easter Sunday hits theaters on Friday.