Take Out Girl Director Explains How The New Film Is A Truly American Story And Why Nate Is So Important To Him

Take Out Girl director and co-writer, Hisonni Johnson, shares what aspects in the film he connects with and why this is truly an American story.

Take Out Girl is a new film available On Digital and On Demand May 18, 2021. Take Out Girl follows a 20 year old Asian girl, Tera Wong, who uses her skills delivering Chinese food from her family’s restaurant to create a profitable drug side hustle in an attempt to save her family’s business and get them a better life.

The Illuminerdi had the opportunity to speak with the director and co-writer of Take Out Girl, Hisonni Johnson, about what he hopes audiences take from the film, as well as what elements he connects to in Take Out Girl personally. Johnson explained what he hopes different audiences take away from Take Out Girl and some of the effects he hopes the film has.

“I hope that audiences, I almost want to be more specific, I hope that Black viewers watch this film and go that’s our story. Asians are not all crazy rich. They’re like us. They suffer like us. They have to make the same choices as us. America is doing the same thing to them that they do to us and I hope that it eases the awkwardness of approaching one another.

Cause I’m from Milwaukee, it’s the most segregated city in America and we otherize one another pretty harshly. We make them so different than us when in reality we all want the same thing. We all want our families to be healthy, we want to be able to eat, and we want to be safe.

And just from that there’s so many conversations and so many great times to be had if we just connect with one another. And that is what happened on this film behind the scenes. I could have easily made a film about being an African American male and yes, I would have educated people on what that is. But instead I made a film on what it’s like to be American and in the process, I learned a lot about what it’s like to be Asian and I think I’m better for it.

The other things is, I hope that people who relate to Tera and take that journey with her and feel like she got dealt a raw deal in life. I hope they question their perspective on criminality. I hope that they realize that it’s not just black and white that its very, very grey. And I hope that politicians see this and are moved because then we can have meaningful conversation about criminality and whether a person actually need punishment or needs help.”


As Hisonni Johnson said, Take Out Girl is a film about being an American and the importance of that is clear throughout. In Take Out Girl, Tera’s motivation is selfless, to help her family, but her actions of using her family’s restaurant for her side hustle have the potential to put them in danger.


Hisonni Johnson explained why it was so important to show this in Take Out Girl.

“That is the scenario for a lot of poor people in America whether you’re Black, White, Asian, Latino. In America my sisters and my Mom have had to steal baby formula to keep us alive. That’s the world we live in. That’s routinely happening. So, I think it was important to show it because in a lot of ways, to our shame, it’s a much more relatable aspect of life than I think people would like to admit.”


A scene that stands out in Take Out Girl is the tension filled moment when Tera is pulled over by the police. Hisonni Johnson explains how he approached that scene, it’s importance to the film, and why the officer that pulls Tera over is Asian American.


“I wrote that. It just shows how much of a blended film this is. Some people call it an Asian American story. Obviously people could believe it has a lot of the African American experience because I’m a co-writer and I directed it. But Hedy and I like to look at this as an American story. Because no one stops in the middle of that police scene and says, ‘Oh, a black guy wrote this.’ They are just on the edge of their seat whether it’s Tera or a Black person.

This is something that has happened to me regularly. This is what it’s like every day for me because whether I did something wrong or not is irrelevant. They can make it seem like they did. And in the film I took that perspective, it was an opportunity for me to kind of release some of the tension that I’m always under by kind of putting it on the audience and putting it on my main character.

And we kind of made it an extra layer of thematic meaning because she has her speech about her invisibility. And then who does she get pulled over by? An Asian American person who sees her, who knows her, and can tell when something is weird. So, thematically it tickled us to have the one cop who actually does pull her over be from her community and to be hip to her bullshit.”


Although the character Nate is based on Hedy’s real life friend of the same name, he was a character that Hisonni cared a lot about. Hisonni explained the personal importance of the character of Nate for him and the people he represents from his own life.

“Nate is so many people from my neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I grew up in 53206, which is a zip code in Milwaukee where more black men are incarcerated per capita than any other place in the world. And the crazy part about that is I grew up without a father. And I remember in the late 80s there were a lot of black men around so the void I felt from not having a father, it wasn’t that bad because I had so many great men who could step in.

Now, these great men may have been drug dealers. These great men may have been laborers or whatever but in the context of my life they paid for the field trips my Mom couldn’t pay for, they paid to get the air conditioner fixed in the middle of summer because my Mom couldn’t afford it. They gave us gas money. They gave us food money.

They were an important part of our ecosystem, but in the eyes of the American justice system they were super predators. And I watched all of them disappear so I had no male figures in my life. And I also had to deal with the pain of knowing some of the most beautiful spirits I’d ever met would never see freedom again because of what they had to do to survive.”


“Nate is one of those people. He’s one of those people whose spirit is pure but his environment forced him to do impure things. And he’s lucky enough to get a second chance and I use that second chance to just make him the most endearing character in the film. And the most soft-spoken and sweet character in the film. Because those are the guys we’re throwing in jail and we’re casting them aside.

When in reality there were more talented kids in my neighborhood as filmmakers who are now in jail because things got so bad they had to do illegal stuff to take care of their Mom or their little sister. I’m not the smartest. I’m not the most artistic. I’m not even the most driven person from my neighborhood. I am the only boy that got out and that’s kind of what I wanted to pour into Nate.”


To give her family a chance at a better life and save her family’s failing restaurant, Tera Wong, a desperate 20-year-old Asian girl, parlays her Chinese food delivery expertise into a profitable drug hustle.

Take Out Girl is co-written by star Hedy Wong and director Hisonni Johnson. Take Out Girl stars Hedy Wong, Ski Carr, Lynna Yee, J. Teddy Garces, Lorin Ly, Dijon Talton, Mier Chasen, Lizette Hunter, Joe Rudy Guerrero Jr.


Take Out Girl is available On Digital and On Demand May 18, 2021. Are you going to watch Take Out Girl? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or on our social media.

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Caitlin Tyrrell

Caitlin Tyrrell

Features Manager & Producer with The Illuminerdi. Caitlin has a deep love for storytelling of every kind. She is a huge fan of television, animation, and film, but Star Wars, the MCU, and Critical Role hold a special place in her heart.