EAST ROCKS WEST. Asian-American actors are making serious waves in Hollywood, and riding this surf ahead of the pack is Randall Park. Recounting his latest adventures to DAMAN is the actor, director, comedian and writer himself
There’s never a shortage of Asian-American stereotypes making the rounds in Hollywood—some funny, some not. Randall Park, however, has a penchant for taking on whatever clichés he can get his hands on, rolling with them and making them utterly hilarious. And that’s just him in the stand-up comedy circuits. In the realm of high-rating TV shows and blockbuster movies, Park is a force to be reckoned with. Even his earlier appearances in short films (“Dragon of Love,” for instance) are still fondly remembered by fans, while his more recent works (“The Interview,” as an example) have been nothing short of phenomenal. And it would seem that demand for his talent has been at an all-time high, as this year has been extremely busy for the father of one. Of course, this also means that we have a lot to look forward to from this comedic genius.
DA MAN: Hi, Randall. How are you doing and where are you now?
Randall Park: I’m doing very well. At the moment I’m in New York City celebrating the second season pick-up of our show “Fresh Off The Boat.” Very exciting times!
DA: So, let’s talk about “Fresh Off The Boat.” It’s one of the highest-rated comedy premieres this year, reviews are overwhelmingly positive and fans are already enthusiastic for another season. What would you say is the secret behind the show’s continued success?
RP: There are so many things about our show that makes it special. Aside from the fact that we are the first Asian-American family on a network sitcom in over 20 years, we are lucky enough to have a genius creator and show runner in Nahnatchka Khan. We also have an amazing cast and a fantastic group of writers who strive to create something that is, above all, hilarious and heartwarming. Also, our source material comes from such a unique and dynamic voice in Eddie Huang. All the ingredients just came together to make something really cool.
DA: Do you think that viewers from outside the U.S. can fully appreciate the whole culture clash theme faced by Asian-American families?
RP: For sure. Everyone has felt like an outsider at some point in their lives. But our show is also about a family that really loves each other even though we may have strange ways of showing it. I think a lot of people all over the world can relate to that.
“I also cherish the times when things slow down, so I can focus on my life”
DA: Were there any moments during filming when you saw something in the script that made you think, “Hey, this happened to me once”?
RP: In the pilot episode, there is a scene when young Eddie comes to school with a lunch that his mom prepared. When he opens it, all the other white kids are freaked out by the sight of Taiwanese food in his lunchbox. This exact same thing happened to me when I was in elementary school, except my mom had packed me Korean food for lunch. I remember being so embarrassed at the fact that my food seemed so weird and foreign to all the other kids. It’s ironic though, because now, I absolutely love Korean food, and to me there’s nothing weirder than a bologna sandwich.
DA: We’re also stoked to see your latest film, “Trainwreck.” What can we expect from this movie?
RP: I was lucky enough to play a small role in this one. It stars and was written by Amy Schumer, who in my opinion is emerging as one of the great comedic minds of our time. Also, it was directed by the legendary Judd Apatow. That’s really all you need to know. It’s going to be incredible.
DA: Based on early reviews, this movie is anything but a train wreck. What do you think sets “Trainwreck” apart from other comedies coming out this year?
RP: I think Amy Schumer’s voice and perspective will really make this stand apart from all the others. She’s really an incredible talent. Also, the great Tilda Swinton is in it, which is really enough reason for me to buy a ticket.
DA: And then we also have “The Hollars,” “Everything Before Us” and “Amigo Undead” to look ahead for, as well as your new TV series “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp” plus your recurring roles in “Veep” and “Newsreaders.” Are you always this busy?
RP: It’s not always so crazy busy. Like with most actors, work for me tends to ebb and flow. So I try my best to enjoy working as much as possible on great projects with great people, but I also cherish the times when things slow down, so I can focus on my life outside business.
DA: With so many projects ongoing or just wrapping up, how do you manage to keep up?
RP: I do a lot of hard drugs. Kidding! [laugh]. I actually lead a really simple life. I’ve been lucky enough to work a lot in Los Angeles lately, so after a day of shooting, I’ve been able to go home and spend the rest of my time with my family. It’s not as unmanageable as it seems.
DA: Stepping back a bit, one of your most memorable roles is, of course, in “The Interview.” What was it like being part of such a prominent but also controversial movie?
RP: That entire experience was insane. While we were in production, I was having the time of my life. It was so fun working with Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and James Franco. They are amazing guys, and we had an absolute blast. I had no idea that our crazy little comedy movie would cause an international incident. None of us did. I never received any death threats or anything like that, but it was very surreal seeing myself on the news every day for a couple weeks. But all the controversy aside, I am so proud to have been a part of that movie. I think it’s truly hilarious.
DA: Your portrayal of the North Korean leader in “The Interview” was widely praised as you really managed to portray an evil but also quite sympathetic character. What’s your secret?
RP: It was really important to me that he wasn’t just a one-note character. I wanted him to be a human being with his own legitimate reasons for being the way he is. It’s more fun to play, and it’s better for the movie. Seth and Evan saw it the same way. So, I did a lot of research, and I tried to find as much information as possible for me to relate to the guy on a human level. And then I ate a ton of donuts and got that ridiculous haircut.
DA: Looking back at the start of your career, what is it that drew you to acting?
RP: I discovered acting in college at UCLA. I was writing plays with some writer friends, and one day we decided that we wanted to see our pieces performed on stage, so we started a theater group on campus. From there, I started acting in small parts, and I just fell in love with it. I was always a shy, introverted kid. But on stage, I felt like I could really be anybody or do anything. It was very liberating.
DA: As an actor, what do you think is your most defining quality?
RP: That’s a tough question for me to answer. I don’t know. But others have told me that I have a knack for playing vulnerable characters. An acting teacher once told me that everything I did on stage was a little heartbreaking. I don’t know what this says about me, but it sounds kind of pathetic as far as I’m concerned.
“Everyone has felt like an outsider at some point in their lives”
DA: On a related note, are there any actors or maybe directors that have had a marked influence on your own career?
RP: Gosh, there are so many. An actor that immediately comes to mind is Steve Carell. I thought everything he did on “The Office” was just so brilliant and heartbreaking. He’s so funny, but he’s also a really great actor, and that’s what I always aspire to do with my work. I’m also very obsessed with John C. Reilly.
DA: If somebody comes up to you and say, “I want to be an actor,” what would you tell him/her?
RP: First off, I would say, “Who are you, and why are you talking to me?” And then I would tell him or her to just go for it. If that’s your dream, and you’re truly passionate about it, then don’t listen to the doubters or the naysayers, and just go out there and do it.
Watch: DA MAN TV – Interview Randall Park
Photography Mitchell Nguyen Mccormack
Styling Alexa Rangroummith Green
Styling Assistant Shyan Ranje
Grooming Jhizet Panosian for Bumble and Bumble.
Videography Pedro Correa
Video Editing Fickar Hajar