The Pham fam has a whole lot of love to give and they want to share it with the world around them. Created by comedian, writer and actor Andrew Phung (Kim’s Convenience) and his best friend and collaborator, filmmaker Scott Townend (The Secret Marathon), Run the Burbs premieres Wednesday, January 5 at 8:30 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem. The new sitcom follows the Phams, a young, bold Vietnamese-South Asian-Canadian family looking to change the way we think about contemporary family values and life in the burbs.
“The core of the show is this family and how they go on their own journey. I wanted a loving family at the core, but then a huge neighborhood that was reflective of the suburbs we see, so inclusive of people, and have that really explored,” Phung recently told The TV Junkies. He not only stars as stay-at-home dad Andrew in Run the Burbs, but he also executive produces and writes for the series.
Phung recently previewed for us what to expect when we meet the rest of his TV family, including Andrew’s wife Camille (Rakhee Morzaria) and children Khia (Zoriah Wong) and Leo (Roman Pesino). Joining the Phams in the suburbs is a large cast of friends, families and neighbours including Ali Hassan (Laugh Out Loud), YouTube sensation Julie Nolke (Explaining the Pandemic to my Past Self), Jonathan Langdon (Utopia Falls), Simone Miller (Detention Adventure), Samantha Wan (Second Jen), Candy Palmater (The Candy Show), Chris Locke (Workin’ Moms, Mr. D), and Baroness von Sketch Show’s Aurora Browne.
The TV Junkies: I know so many Kim’s Convenience fans are going to be glad to have you back. Why was this the perfect next project for you?
Andrew Phung: The wild thing was that this show was ordered with the sixth season of Kim’s on my schedule. When it was ordered, there was a very honest discussion about how I was going to shoot both shows. They were going to run together, or in the same cycle, and I was on board to do it. Out of Kim’s, I went right into this show and wrote and shot it.
I’m obviously really sad about Kim’s ending, but for me, I was also really happy about this show. My emotions were wild and all over. As the news was happening, I was in the writers’ room for Run the Burbs. The thing about Kim’s that inspired me to get here, and what I loved about the show, is that it’s a story about Appa (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) and Umma (Jean Yoon), these immigrant parents. I always wondered what would happen when the kids went out in the world? What happens when Kimchee becomes a man?
I took that mentality and brought it to new characters in a completely different setup. It was really fun because for me, what’s been missing from television is the next generation of immigrant kids as parents. That’s who I am as a person, and I wanted to see that reflected on television. The way we parent is a bit different from the previous generation, and so, it was a really easy transition to go from Kim’s to this show.
TTVJ: I hear the passion you have for the show. It really comes through how involved and how many hats you’re wearing on the show – co-creator, writer, star, etc. What was it like getting to step behind the camera and be so involved in all the aspects of the show?
AP: It’s so much work and so intense! On Kim’s I was a hawk and would just watch what everyone was doing. I brought that with me to this show, but behind the scenes there’s so many little things you have to handle. There’s managing the room, which thankfully I had Scott and our showrunner Shebli (Zarghami) with me, and there’s also working with directors. Thankfully, I was able to bring Aleysa Young along and I have loved my experience with her on Kim’s. Working with her as a director and discovering the look of the show was very collaborative. Thankfully, I had such a wonderful team, but there were some tough days on production. I was always working, and then I’d try to put in some time with the cast to hang out and bring up the camaraderie. It was intense and is a lot of work, but I’m just so thankful for the people around me.
TTVJ: The camaraderie amongst the cast definitely translates right from Episode 1. Viewers really see the love that exists within this family right from the start. Am I correct in thinking that existed offscreen as well?
AP: I’m really glad you say that comes across because the casting was something we put a lot of thought into. It’s really hard to cast over Zoom and hard trying to get a sense of people. We were so lucky and found my son Roman (Pesino), who plays Leo, so early. That kid is a pro and we vibed right away. Zoriah Wong plays my daughter and she was so quick to just make dad jokes on me. The cool thing was that Rakhee Morzaria was a writer in our development room and then the writing room, and when we finished our first round of writing she auditioned. Rakhee and I have been friends for six or seven years so there’s definitely a relationship and chemistry there. It was more just finding the romantic chemistry of a couple that’s in love, but she’s such a pro that we found it so quickly. It really helped that we are so comfortable with each other because as I have learned, in a marriage, the person that will make fun of you the most is your partner. Behind the scenes we just gave each other jokes and roasted each other and that really bonded us.
As you see the marriage more throughout the season, you’ll see that at its core is so much love. I wanted a show about a family that loved each other.
TTVJ: As someone who lives in the suburbs with two kids, from what I can see the stories seem very relatable. What was the writers’ room process like for coming up with storylines? Were a lot taken from actual experiences?
AP: Our writers’ room was full of people who had lived in the suburbs and a majority of the room were parents. We wanted the show to be a celebration of parents because we’ve seen before where we knock parenting, but it’s been filled. So we wanted a celebration of parenting and that was our approach. From there, it was all about brainstorming what was relatable. The cold open we do in the pilot is something I wrote very early on that set the tone for this family. They go hard, go big, or go home.
TTVJ: Anything else you’re really looking forward to viewers seeing with this show?
AP: I think you’re going to fall in love with the pilot. It’s got big energy and there are some conscious choices we made about breaking up the norms you’d see with a mother and father. My wife is street racing. The assumption is that Andrew would be doing the street-racing, but the fact my wife is doing it actually explains her character a lot. You’re going to see a modern family and a family we’ve never seen on television before, but that we know exists in the community around us.
I’m really excited for you to meet our kids and for you to see my daughter Khia’s romantic journey come along throughout the season. There’s a really nice story for her about exploring the early stages of her romantic life. We didn’t want to rush it and we also didn’t want it to be the only thing defining her. The slower storytelling feels very honest and I think will give the audience a great payoff.
Run the Burbs premieres Wednesday, January 5 at 8:30 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.