With The Interview of a lifetime behind him, Randall Park is ready for a Fresh start on TV.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Park says of the international crisis ignited last December by the Kim Jong-un assassination comedy, in which he starred as the Katy Perry-loving North Korean dictator. Signing on to the film, “I knew it was a provocative subject, but I didn’t expect it to be world news. I didn’t expect to see myself on the news every day.”
Now, he moves from CNN news reports to ABC sitcom Fresh Off The Boat, (airs every Sunday at 9.55pm on Fox HD, Astro Ch 724) based on restaurateur Eddie Huang’s memoir about growing up in a Taiwanese-American family in Orlando, Florida.
In the 1990s-set comedy, Park plays Louis Huang, 11-year-old Eddie’s (Hudson Yang) father, who moves his family from Washington, DC, and opens a cowboy-themed steakhouse.
Although Park mainly landed small roles in TV shows and big-screen comedies for more than a decade, his profile got a major boost last year with movies Neighbors and Sex Tape and a recurring spot on HBO’s Veep. This summer, he will be seen in Amy Schumer’s comedy, Trainwreck and the Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp.
Still, starring in the first Asian-American sitcom since Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl in the mid-1990s is particularly thrilling for Park, 40, who sees it as a potential opportunity to be part of TV history.
“(I knew) it came from somewhere that was such a good place, that we’d be seeing the world from the family’s perspective, as opposed to from the outside world looking at the family,” Park says, praising other new series such as Black-ish and Jane The Virgin that have taken similar approaches with minority families this season.
“It was a chance to be part of a show where the Asian characters weren’t the butt of the joke, and where the characters could be more layered.”
Park was approached for the role by executive producer Melvin Mar, who met him while shooting Sex Tape and gave him Huang’s book.
“Randall, to me, was the first real tangible sign that this could be bigger than a development project,” says Mar, who brought Park to ABC before there was a script.
“He’s one of the best reactionary comic actors I’ve ever seen. Even when it’s somebody else’s scene, just having him there — his face, everything, it’s brilliant. He’s one of the most grounded, funny people I’ve ever met.”
It’s a story Park can relate to, as the son of Korean immigrants. While he says his school in Los Angeles was more diverse than the one depicted in Fresh, he remembers watching his dad struggle to get his one-hour photo shop in Santa Monica off the ground. And like Eddie, Park was an avid hip-hop fan.
“There were times when I definitely felt like an outsider, and I identify with the show,” Park says.
“Like when (Eddie) comes to school and brings the lunch his mum made and feels embarrassed by it, because all the other kids are eating Lunchables or what’s considered more ‘normal.’ (I remember) bringing Korean food to school and wanting to have lunch that looked more like other kids’.”
Starring in the only Asian-American family show on TV, he understands concerns that Fresh will play into cultural stereotypes. It’s a topic Huang has been vocal about, complaining the writers’ room is led by Persian-American Nahnatchka Khan and blasting the show’s Twitter account for tweeting a promo that identified various cultures by their hats.
“I know there is a lot of trepidation about this show because we haven’t had something this like this in so long,” Park says. “’Is it going to be stereotypical? Is it going to be offensive?’
“I know those conversations are already happening, and there’s going to be a lot of pressure on the show to represent properly.
“But I hope the conversation is to a positive end,” he says. “I hope it helps bring us to a place that we can have more shows that look like this and leads that look like this on different shows.” – USA Today/Tribune News Service