Last summer, I brought Kevin Kwan's paperback Crazy Rich Asians on vacation, and finished the novel in two whirlwind days. My next move was obvious, inevitable: In a tizzy, I downloaded the next two novels in Kwan's trilogy – China Rich Girlfriend (2015) and Rich People Problems (2017) — and brought my Kindle Fire to the beach, fighting past glare to discover what happened next to the dramatic, over-the-top characters who had become my friends.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the movie adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians, out August 15, we can't immediately queue up the next installment, even if we desperately want to (and we do). We'll have to wait years for a sequel to Crazy Rich Asians — that's if we even get a sequel. When I asked Henry Golding and Awkwafina, two of the movie's stars, if there would be another film, they couldn't give an answer. "We really don't know," said Awkwafina. Golding backed her up. “We really don’t,” he said.
Should Warner Brothers invest in a sequel, the source material is readily available. "It's a trilogy of three amazing books," Golding told Refinery29. But ultimately, the case for a sequel will require something more tangible than sheer narrative bliss. It'll need numbers. If people want another Crazy Rich Asians movie, they'll have to see the first one.
“If people show up that opening weekend, we would love to tell more stories," director John M. Chu told E! News. "We’d love to have other people tell their stories as well. We’ll see, but it’s up to the people who show up.”
Kwan's trilogy naturally lends itself to movie adaptation. Crazy Rich Asians sets up the world; the next two books explore that world with ever-escalating plot pyrotechnics. China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems highlight various characters who are only briefly seen in Crazy Rich Asians, like the social climber actress Kitty Pong and the wild child Bernard Tai. Many of Kwan’s idiosyncratic supporting characters get the hero treatment at some point. In fact, Kwan initially conceived of Crazy Rich Asians as a pastiche of many different one-off characters, before eventually narrowing in on Nicholas Young and Astrid Leung’s stories. Clearly, Kwan's impulse is to create a multitude of stories, not just an extended run of the Nick and Rachel Show.
If Crazy Rich Asians does, indeed, get a sequel, it will likely be based on Kwan's 2015 novel China Rich Girlfriend, which shifts away from Singapore’s old guard elite and toward China’s nouveau riche billionaires. You can let Eleanor Young, Nick’s traditional and intimidating mother, explain the difference. “These people aren’t just everyday rich with a few hundred million. They are China rich,” she exclaims in Kwan’s novel.
Much to Eleanor’s surprise, Rachel Chu — normal, American, not-rich economics professor Rachel Chu — ends up having a profoundly important connection to that world. China Rich Girlfriend delves into Rachel’s family history, which is briefly hinted at in Crazy Rich Asians. There’s a whole lot that Rachel’s single mother, Kerry, never told her daughter about her parentage. Chu family secrets will spill out in lavish, exciting ways. The novel also focuses on the state of Astrid's love life and Kitty Pong's ascent to power.
But if you want to see what “China rich” looks like on screen, meet Rachel’s dad, and encounter a swath of characters who make the Youngs in Crazy Rich Asians look middle class — then you’ll have to show up to Crazy Rich Asians this weekend. As of today, Crazy Rich Asians is projected to earn upwards of $26 million. The movie's commercial success will send a powerful message to Warner Brothers about the viability of a sequel — and about the importance of making quality movies that feature significant representation.
Of course, there's another option for finding out what comes next for Rachel and Nick: You could read Kwan's novels. But if you, like me, have exhausted every Crazy Rich installment, there's hope. Kwan is developing a TV show with Amazon that is poised to satisfy our cravings. The untitled project will follow Hong Kong's most powerful media family during their globe-trotting dalliances. Think Succession, but sparkly. What more could we want in a TV show?