UCLA alumnus Randall Park said he’d never thought acting would be anything more than a hobby. It wasn’t until later that he would drop everything to pursue acting as a full-time career.
Park will play Louis Huang in ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat,” premiering Wednesday. The show was inspired by a novel of the same name by Eddie Huang. The show focuses on a Taiwanese family in the 1990s moving from Washington, D.C. to Orlando, Fla. to open a steak restaurant while trying to adapt to American culture.
The Daily Bruin’s Sam Bozoukov spoke to Park about the controversy surrounding his show, his personal connection to his character and the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Lapu, the Coyote that Cares Theatre Company.
Daily Bruin: The first time I actually saw you was on YouTube a couple years back. What has it been like to go from underground popularity to “The Interview” and “Fresh Off the Boat?” How has it been different?
Randall Park: I was always doing film and TV even while I was also doing the web stuff. I did little guest stars here and there. I did commercials. It was always the goal to get cast in bigger and better parts. The web series and guest stars gave me the opportunity to play more and learn how to create more layers in a character. It made me keep acting in any way possible.
DB: I read in a recent interview that Eddie Huang said the show is more toned down than the novel. What’s your opinion on that?
RP: The book is more of an inspiration and starting-off point for the show. The show has definitely become more of a network TV show. His book, which I love, is a dark story. They’re elements of his life which don’t fit the network TV mold. In that way, it’s unfortunate that story isn’t being told on TV. With that being said, the show is still groundbreaking. In so many ways, it’s historical. Unfortunately, it’s not the book. Fortunately, it’s still a great show.
DB: There hasn’t been a TV show with an all-Asian American main cast in 20 years. What do you think is important about the timing of this show and its relevance to today?
RP: A show like this is long overdue. It shouldn’t have taken 20 years. It’s undeniable people want to see more diversity on TV. It’s being proven by the ratings. People want to see different voices being represented. My hope is that our show will lead to even more shows that will portray people in more complex ways.
DB: Did you have to be wary tackling this type of a role?
RP: I was definitely conscious of a lot of things. At UCLA, I majored in Asian American studies in the graduate program. It’s a part of who I am. It’s important to me that the show doesn’t make fun of Asians. It can’t be stereotypical. That was important to me and everyone involved. I’m proud of what we were able to do.
DB: Do you relate to your character in any way?
RP: I have a little girl. There is nothing more important to me than that little girl and my wife and my family. Ultimately, my character wants to be successful so that he can provide for his family. That’s something of utmost importance to him and I can definitely identify with that. Also, growing up as a kid, my dad ran a small business, a one-hour photo store. Up until my early adulthood, I’d help him out on weekends and I saw that struggle. That’s something you see in my character.
DB: At UCLA, you got your bachelor’s degree in English. Why did you go to acting?
RP: I did the creative writing specialization at UCLA. We were writing short fiction, and I fell in love with it. I got together with other writing friends on campus and we decided to try writing plays. From that we started LCC. Through those plays, I discovered acting and fell in love with it.
DB: Have you kept in touch with the LCC Theatre Company?
RP: I didn’t for many years. But this year was the 20th year of the club’s existence. Every year they have a retreat where they introduce the new class. Every year they ask alumni to come, and this year I finally went. I came up with the friends that I had started it with and we met the new class. It was really a great time, and I was inspired by the fact that kids were still being creative and taking chances.
Compiled by Sam Bozoukov, A&E; contributor.