Though she’s built a career in comedy, Chelsey Crisp doesn’t take things lightly.
“Acting, as a whole, I took very seriously,” she says, “probably too seriously.”
It’s not surprising, given that she’s a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and studied Shakespeare in England. But her work in improv? Once she started studying that, she took it seriously, too.
“Within the first year, I ended up on probably five improv teams, performing around Los Angeles five to six nights a week,” says Crisp, who still works with her all-female comedy troupe, Duchess Riot. “That was when I really started to book consistent television work.”
The actress snagged small parts on The Office, NCIS and New Girl before landing a regular role on ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat as Honey, the sunny next-door-neighbor to the show’s central characters, the Huangs, a Taiwanese family. At first glance, Honey could be considered one-note: a trophy wife to her much older husband — a carefully crafted image that comes at the cost of nearly three hours in the hair and makeup chair for Crisp.
“Nahnatchka Khan, our showrunner, had a plan to start with that aesthetic, then you find out that there is so much more to her,” Crisp explains. “That’s really the heart of the show. It’s about not judging a book by its cover. Honey was a different way of serving that same narrative.”
Born in Phoenix, the actress got her start in 2004 on an episode of Fear Factor, which she and her teammate won. Her appearance on the reality show landed her a gig hosting a live version of the series at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, which then led to her hosting and directing shows at the theme park’s location in Singapore.
“It was very educational, learning what was funny over there versus what might play here,” she says, adding, “I’m the only series regular on Fresh Off the Boat who’s actually lived in Asia!”
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 5, 2017