For the Asian American community, "American Born Chinese" is the all-star equivalent of "Ocean's Eleven."
The eight-part series, which starts streaming Wednesday on Disney Plus, features Oscar winners Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan from "Everything Everywhere All at Once," 94-year-old legend James Hong and "Daily Show" correspondent Ronny Chieng. And "Charlie Angels" star Lucy Liu directed one of the episodes.
But center stage belongs to a relative newcomer from Northfield.
Ben Wang admits that sharing the screen with the likes of Yeoh and Quan was never anything less than intimidating.
"I didn't deal with it," the 23-year-old actor said earlier this month during a Zoom interview. "I just let myself be nervous and awkward."
That sense of being overwhelmed served his character well. He plays Jin Wang, a 10th-grader leading two separate lives.
At home, he's constantly reminded of his Chinese heritage, dining on noodle soup rather than meatloaf. At school, he desperately wants to fit in with his mostly white classmates, putting up with subtle racial taunts and crushing on a girl who looks like she just stepped out of a John Hughes movie.
His two worlds collide when he's recruited for a pivotal role in a battle between the gods of Chinese mythology.
His co-stars, who also include Stephanie Hsu (who earned an Oscar nomination for "Everything"), were impressed.
"Ben is a talented, bright and confident actor. He's the future for Asian American actors," said Malaysian actor Yeo Yann Yann, who portrays his mother. "I learned so much from him."
Yeoh told TV critics at their winter press tour in January that it was "just a joy" to work with Wang.
Wang's background may have been instrumental in snagging the highly coveted role after just two auditions.
He moved to Minnesota from China when he was 6, not knowing any English. His white grandfather, Richard Bodman, was a language expert who taught Asian studies at St. Olaf College, while his grandmother, Hongyuan Lang, started a farm, similar to the one she grew up on in rural China.
They played a significant role in raising him when his mom, Jiao Zhang, went to Missouri to get a college degree. She is back in China, where she has started a Montessori school.
Because of his upbringing, Wang was well versed in his native country's traditions and stories, including the legend of the Monkey King, which factors into "American Born Chinese," based on a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang.
"When Jin goes home, he feels like he's in a completely different world. And for me, it was like that on steroids," said Wang. "I wasn't the only Asian kid at Northfield High. If you walked the hallways all day, you'd probably catch one of the other ones. But I was probably the only one that wasn't adopted, so I had a Chinese culture at home. There were times I took pride in that and there were times I was made fun of for taking pride in that."
Wang said he often forgot about his background at school, where most of his friends were white. Then someone would repeat a racist joke to him they had heard on "Family Guy" the night before and wait for his reaction.
"It wasn't out of pure maliciousness. It was just kids being teenagers," said Wang. "But they didn't realize how hurtful it can be. That can be a hard thing to navigate."
He found solace in community theater and high school productions.
"Being an immigrant and thrust into a different culture, I had to learn how to make friends quickly, and fit in," said Wang. "If I made people laugh, if I entertained them, I could be let into their circles."
Bob Gregory-Bjorklund, who has directed Northfield High productions since 1999, said he suspected that Wang could make a living at acting after watching him shine as Barnaby Tucker in Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker" during his junior year. He was even more confident in Wang's abilities after watching him play Leading Player in "Pippin," the role that helped make Ben Vereen a Broadway star.
"He's a smart kid and a very sensitive actor, but if a student is interested in performing for a living, they also need to be grounded and centered. That's Ben," said Gregory-Bjorklund, who is also arts coordinator at Arcadia Charter School in Northfield. "And yet, he's also always been quite a humble, down-to-earth guy."
After graduating from Northfield High, Wang went to New York University to study musical theater. At first, he wondered if a professional acting career was even viable.
"There weren't a lot of seats for Asian Americans, especially not in leading roles," said Wang, whose only experience in professional theater before college was serving as an understudy for a 2015 production of "Akeelah and the Bee" at the Children's Theatre. "The whole time I was training, doing all this grueling dancing and singing, I'm thinking, 'How am I going to use this? Am I just going to cross my fingers and hope the Alabama Shakespeare Festival is doing a color-blind version of 'Hamlet'?"
Then, during his junior year at NYU, "Crazy Rich Asians" came out.
"That felt like the tidal shift in the industry," said Wang, whose other credits include supporting roles in the TV movie "Chang Can Dunk" and the Boston production of the "Sing Street" musical. "Roles for Asian American actors started coming in. I got my agent and started seeing roles that fit me."
If "American Born Chinese" enjoys even half the kind of success that "Crazy" or "Everything" did, it should lead to even more opportunities for Wang and other Asian American talent.
"It feels like the next step up," said Wang. "And the next step forward."