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The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

“The Brothers Sun” meticulously honors San Gabriel Valley’s Asian America

   Blam blam! Blam!

   After shooting two attackers with ferocity, Charles Sun uses one as a shield to shoot another, whirls around to kick a man in the gut, and flips someone over his back before seamlessly tossing a gun to his father. The scene is chaotic yet elegant, dead bodies are everywhere, and it is all taking place at Golden Soup Restaurant on Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel.

   Most students at Gabrielino High School would not expect San Gabriel, a town of 38,000 people, to be the center of internationally organized crime and John Wick-level violence. But in “The Brothers Sun”, an action-comedy-family drama series released on Netflix on Jan. 4, that is exactly what it is.

   “I had no idea how big the show was going to be back in 2022,” stated Aldo Cervantes, Director of Community Development for San Gabriel City. “Of course, underneath it all, we’re excited about the filming in our city, but when we process an application, we’re really looking at making sure that everyone’s going to be safe.”

   Besides having intricately choreographed fight scenes, characters that make viewers laugh and tear up within the span of  five minutes, and, of course, the Michelle Yeoh, “The Brothers Sun” shines a spotlight on San Gabriel Valley (SGV) restaurants, people, and culture.

   “They’ve made it very clear where they were, [in the] SGV or San Gabriel,” stated Cervantes. “They didn’t try to hide the identity of where they were and I thought that was very unique.”

   If there is one thing the SGV is known for, it is food. From the first moment Charles Sun, the first son of the most powerful triad family in Taiwan, lands in Los Angeles, he is driving past Boiling Crab on Alhambra’s Main Street and pulling into the parking lot of Kee Wah Bakery in Monterey Park. The camera pans on golden, gleaming piles of egg tarts, a treat that can warm the heart of the coldest killer. 

Charles Sun gazes lovingly at the pastries in Kee Wah bakery
Photo courtesy of Netflix

   “Living, working, and having grown up here, I gotta say [my favorite part is] definitely the food,” stated Sergeant Rebecca Gomez of the San Gabriel Police Department (SGPD), who worked with the production company to handle permits and security. “It’s not for nothing that a lot of these really cool scenes depict establishments that are well known to the residents here.”

   “The Brothers Sun” showcases the diversity of SGV’s food haven. Charles Sun becomes obsessed after having his first churro. Newport Seafood, an iconic San Gabriel restaurant known for its mouth-watering lobster platter, hosts a secret mahjong club. Alexis Kong, Charles Sun’s childhood friend and love interest, eats spicy Buldak noodles from 99 Ranch and meets him at Xiao Long Kan, which serves elevated hot pot in Alhambra.

Charles Sun and Alexis Kong have hot pot at Xiao Long Kan
Photo courtesy of Netflix

   “They did everything professionally,” described Jackie Wong, Executive Assistant in the Community Development Department. “It’s nice, a piece of Hollywood came to San Gabriel.”

   Gomez described how the scene at Golden Soup Restaurant was one of the biggest, most memorable sets. She worked to shut down streets, plan filming hours, and notify residents of the explosions and handguns being used.

   “They took over pretty much the whole complex,” she recounted. “Golden Soup isn’t a big restaurant chain, it’s something that’s specific to our city. So to me it’s very identifiable.”

The big fight at Golden Soup Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Netflix

   Yet what takes these nods to the SGV from cameos to true representation is the homage the creators pay to not only the shiny, lamborghini-level Asian America, but the used-Nissan-Sentra life that most 626 residents relate to. 

   From the minute you step into the SGV house of Bruce Sun and Eileen (Mama) Sun, Charles Sun’s innocent younger brother and unassuming mastermind mother, it is chock-full with details of a well-lived Asian American family’s home. Bruce Sun’s best friend, TK, lives in the Kahlua Apartments on Rosemead Boulevard in east San Gabriel. From the shoe racks by the door to the drawer full of sauce packets, every element resonates with Asian SGV audiences.

   “We wanted to try to pack the show with as many of those moments,” explained Kevin Tancharoen, director and executive producer of the series, in a YouTube food tour interview. “I haven’t been to any Asian household that doesn’t have a drawer full of sauce packets. I would’ve died to have a show like this when I was younger.”

Bruce Sun opening the drawer full of sauce packets
Photo courtesy of Netflix

   Sprinkled everywhere in the series are references to San Gabriel that show the series’ dedication to the area. The college that Bruce Sun attends is the fictional California State University San Gabriel. When the police come to arrest TK, it’s the SGPD.

   “I was really surprised because I went on scene and there was a police car parked and it was not parked properly,” Gomez recalled with a laugh. “And I’m frantically trying to get a hold of all my officers, trying to figure out who the heck parked this car here, it’s not supposed to be here, come to find out it’s a prop car. It’s really cool to see our little San Gabriel Valley, our police department, represented on such a big hit show.”

   More than the Newport Seafood and SGPD cameos, the story itself is iconically San Gabriel. Love is shown through meals and hard sacrifices. Relationships are strained by the clash between familial expectations and pursuit of one’s dreams. The Suns represent the millions of immigrants who come to the SGV in hopes of reinventing themselves.

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About the Contributor
Sophia Pu, Editor in Chief
Sophia Pu is the Editor in Chief for the school newspaper, marking her fourth year with the team. Outside of her editorial duties, Sophia is involved in Speech and Debate and enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time in nature. Her commitment to the newspaper grew from a passion for interviewing a diverse range of individuals she might not have interacted with otherwise.
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