Randall Park’s infectious smile and individual charm have pushed him to become one of the most recognizable Asian faces in the industry.
Born in Los Angeles, California, and raised by parents who immigrated from Korea, Park decided to take a chance on acting, not knowing if it would ever really become a career. After developing a passion for theatre throughout University, it was evident to Park that he had the heart and drive to give his all to acting.
Since his entry into the spotlight, there really isn’t anything Park hasn’t been able to take on. He starred in the groundbreaking TV series Fresh Off the Boat alongside Constance Wu, rose to fame as Steve in The Office, played Kim Jong-un in the comedy flick The Interview, and landed recurring roles in several Marvel Universe projects, including the hit series WandaVision.
Park’s latest endeavour is the Netflix series Blockbuster, where he plays Timmy, the manager of the last Blockbuster video store in America. The highly anticipated series follows an eclectic cast of characters who help keep the video rental business afloat and is written by the same creators of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Superstore.
The RepresentASIAN Project spoke with Randall Park to discuss Blockbuster and what it means for him to be an inspiration to aspiring Asian actors dreaming of breaking into Hollywood.
Blockbuster is such a nostalgic series for many who grew up in the 90s. What kind of memories do you have with Blockbuster growing up?
I had my neighbourhood Blockbuster in LA. and it was a big part of my life. I think video rental stores in general were a big part of my life because I worked at one when I was in high school. Not a Blockbuster, but I worked in a small independent video rental store, and I definitely used a lot of those experiences and memories … or at least they came flooding back into my mind when I set foot on to the set of Blockbuster. The production design of our set was so accurate, it looked just like my neighbourhood Blockbuster in LA. It was everything to a T; the shelving, the signage, the snacks on the counter — it felt like a time warp.
While watching the series, I found myself feeling very comforted, and I felt like I belonged to this group of Blockbuster employees. What in particular about the series do you think evokes these types of emotions?
It comes down to the writing, the actors, the cast. The cast are all such talents, but on top of that, they’re all very warm people. When we all first met, before we even started shooting, the chemistry between us was very palpable, and we just clicked with each other. We all just fell in love with each other. I think that some of that warmth comes off when you watch the show, because this workplace family really was a workplace family in real life. We felt like a family and a team, and we all hung out outside of work, and we got along so well. I’m so happy to hear that you felt that warmth, and I hope many people do when they see it. Vanessa Ramos and the writing staff created these really human moments out of this workplace comedy format. They really leaned into the humanity of it all.
“I want the show to bring real joy to people. Ultimately, I think the message of the show really is about the importance of human connection, community, and family.”
Your co-star, Melissa Femaro, plays your coworker and love interest in the series. Was there a particular process that you all went through to get to know each other?
I was the first one cast, and then I was told that they were thinking of Melissa Femaro as Eliza, and they came to me and asked me what I thought. I was such a huge fan of hers in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Immediately I was like, “Yes, please! Let’s make this work! I hope she does it, because I’m a huge fan.” But I didn’t know her, and I had never met her before that. Then she got cast, and we had a table read over Zoom, and she seemed very nice. I also didn’t really get to know her because it was on Zoom, and it wasn’t until we all got to Vancouver that I actually met Melissa in-person. Part of me was a little trepidatious, but she turned out to be the nicest person. We marvelled at how similar we were to each other, and really are basically the same person in so many ways, it was such a blessing to be able to work with her, and we had the best time.
What do you think is the message of the show? And what do you want people who watch the show to get from it?
I want people to feel uplifted and happy. I want the show to bring real joy to people. Ultimately, I think the message of the show really is about the importance of human connection, community, and family. Whether it be your family or your workplace family, it really is about those human connections and being a unit, and in this case, a team. They’re trying to keep the store alive, but no one can do it by themselves. They have to do it together. Even though they’re all different and they all come from different backgrounds, they really are this family. I hope that the people that watch the show feel inspired, and appreciate and acknowledge the people in their lives. This show is like a warm hug.
“I hope that the people that watch the show feel inspired, and appreciate and acknowledge the people in their lives. This show is like a warm hug.”
Being a Korean male lead in an American sitcom is monumental, and there are many aspiring Asian actors who want to walk the path that you’re walking. How does it feel to be a figurehead for Asians to look to in the industry?
It’s mind-blowing and incredible because I started pursuing this pretty late. I was in my late 20s, and it took me a very long time to get any footing in this industry. I was resigned to just getting by, and I thought if I could barely a living doing this, I’d be happy. The fact that I’m in this position where I could even say that on a show like Blockbuster trips me out. Also, as a Korean-American, to represent and have the opportunity to represent … I feel very lucky, and hopefully, I’ll inspire folks. I know many people have inspired me, so I get how important that is. I’m super thankful.
And your parents must be so proud.
Yeah, they are. They really are, and that makes me very happy because that’s all I wanted was for them to be proud. It’s just wonderful.