The Ho family of Houston: (from left) Lesley Ho, Washington Ho, Binh Ho, Hue Ho, Judy Ho, Tina Ho and Sammy Finch
Stephanie Bloch Chambers
When it comes to family secrets, tangled relationships and drama, Katy Wallin and Stephanie Bloch Chambers knew that HBO Max's House of Ho would be a tale worth watching.
Partners in Wallin Chambers Entertainment, they're also executive producers of this reality series, which follows an ultrawealthy Vietnamese-American family living in Houston. The concept was inspired by the success of Crazy Rich Asians, the hit film based on Kevin Kwan's best-selling novel about an über-rich Chinese-Singaporean family.
Wallin says the two producers, who specialize in "inspirational, aspirational storytelling," met the Ho family through Rob Lee, their agent at UTA, and Jennifer O'Connell, HBO Max's vice-president of non-fiction and live-action family. They were soon hooked on the story of the Hos, who came to the U.S. as refugees in 1975 with nothing and built a banking and real estate-development enterprise.
"Binh Ho loved America so much, he named his two sons after Washington and Reagan," Wallin says. "His daughter Judy was named after the woman who sponsored them to America and taught them how to speak English."
While reality TV often features the lives of the rich and famous, Chambers says it's not the wealth that makes such shows popular, but the accessibility and relatability of the families.
"You can strip away the cars and houses, and audiences want to see how relatable they are," Chambers says. "Maybe there's some wish fulfillment involved. But we're all far more similar than we're different."
House of Ho explores aspects of Vietnamese culture through the eyes of an Asian family whose members all try to please the traditional patriarch and his highly critical wife, including a son who loves to drink and party, a daughter who's going through a divorce and a daughter-in-law who's struggling to hide a family secret.
"They gave us an authentic backstage pass to their lives," Wallin says. "They allowed us to tell honest, meaningful stories, including things that were very painful. You couldn't write a better script."
With the country's growing awareness of social-justice issues, the producers say the time is right to create shows around authentic stories with multicultural talent.
Wallin Chambers Entertainment also produced Amazon and Pantaya's docu-comedy series De Viaje con los Derbez (aka Derbez Family Vacation), featuring Eugenio Derbez and his star-studded family, and Awesomeness TV's Going Garcia, starring Karina Garcia — the "Slime Queen" of YouTube — and her multigenerational family.
Chambers says the company is committed to breaking stereotypes by telling universal stories with characters you might not otherwise meet. In House of Ho , for example, Judy Ho chooses to file for divorce, over her parents' objections.
"Young girls watching this don't have to be Asian to realize they can stand up for themselves, too," Chambers says. "I hope viewers understand that there's more love than hate, more good than bad in the world, and that we're all part of a bigger picture."
More articles celebrating Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 3, 2021