It was my Asian American dorm mate who invited me to the private Facebook group “Subtle Asian Traits”—an online gathering space formed by some high school students in Melbourne late last year. They were mostly first-generation children of Chinese immigrant parents, and they use the group to relate and laugh about the complexities of being part of diasporic families, sharing memes and airing sentiments about growing up with Asian parents but socially formed by a Western country.
It was no surprise then that the romantic comedy Always Be My Maybe had such a strong presence in the group. The story of Sasha and Marcus — both Asian Americans, childhood sweethearts who grew apart during their teens, reunite in their adulthood, and find they’re in totally disparate social situations — was heavily promoted, shared, and reposted on the page days leading up to its release on Netflix.
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And understandably so: the film’s leads shared the same upbringing as many in this little online community. The hilarious Ali Wong and the charming Randall Park both wrote the screenplay for the film and starred as its leads. But the third writer credited, though hardly seen, is Michael Golamco, who is actually Filipino-Chinese-American.
Born in Manila, Michael and his family migrated to Canada when he was five and moved to the US five years later.
After the film’s release, Michael took to his personal Twitter account to defend the characters of Sasha’s (Wong) extremely hardworking folks: “Why I think Sasha's parents are preoccupied with money: They're immigrants who came here w/ nothing and had to work long hours to give their child a better life; as a result, every penny mattered and money was a constant anxiety.” He added, “As a child of such immigrants, I know that this fact was hard to swallow as a kid — it seemed like your mom & dad were never there for you — but as an adult, you accept it & understand.”
Michael is part of the writing team for NBC’s show Grimm, and has sold pilots to NBC/Universal Cable Productions, FreeForm, and Warner Brothers Television. He also wrote the feature film Please Stand By (2017) starring Dakota Fanning, Toni Collette, and Alice Eve. He worked with Park for a short film he wrote entitled Dragon of Love (2003), as well as a feature film called The Achievers (2006). Michael confesses to a love for American movies and TV shows of the 80s and 90s, “as well as hard-boiled Hong Kong action movies of the 90s."
But the guy’s early work was in the stage. He was a playwright (and a Neil Simon fan) while pursuing his studies at UCLA.
Here, he also met Randall Park and Ali Wong. “Randall Park and I—along with a few others—started an Asian American theater company at UCLA,” he tells ANCX via email. “That’s where we first met and started working together. From then on we went on our own directions in our careers before coming back together for Always Be My Maybe.”
He shares that he was roped in to help with the movie by Ali and Randall, who brought him in when there was already an outline for the movie. “I came in to help them tell their story and write the first draft,” says Michael, adding the writing process involved getting together every week to pitch jokes. “It was really fun! It’s a treat to be working with your friends, especially when they’re some of the funniest people you know.”
For the film, Michael drew from many of his personal experiences of growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. “There are lots of familiar sights in the movie for people that grew up in the Bay. Growing up in California was wonderful, and in each stage of my life I found my 'tribe' — people who I connected with and taught me a lot about myself and my place in this country."
The Asian-centric storyline has become a central theme in many of his work, especially his early efforts as a playwright. “I think more Asian-American stories need to be told in theater,” he says, “and theater is something I’ve always been interested in—and looking forward to returning to someday soon.”
What’s next for Michael? For now, we can look forward to the Japanese-American science fiction film Akira which he co-wrote with Taika Waititi for Warner Brothers. But there’s definitely more projects in the future. Asked what the main challenge is of his job, he says, “Time management, since I’m juggling a lot of different projects at once.” And what’s the best thing about what he does? “Meeting and working with incredible people.”