The Working APA Actor: Randall Park
The Working APA Actor is a bi-monthly interview of Asian Pacific Islander American actors in the entertainment world, whether it be theater, film, television, or commercials. It is an inside look at these actors exploring their passion in their craft and how they balance their personal lives with their work. But more importantly, this column is dedicated to knowing these busy actors a little better as individuals.
That uberly funny man you see gracing this hilarious video is none other than Randall Park. I heard about him through a professor of mine back at the College of William & Mary and when I arrived here in Los Angeles, I got a chance to bump into him here and there at various occasions. If there’s something really awesome about Randall, it’s that he is always looking for more work that pushes him out there. He is never content just sitting around and is incredibly humble about his accomplishments. There is something beautiful about that and on top of it, he is extremely talented. He works hard and takes advantage of all visual mediums, whether it be commercials, film, television, or viral.
It was therefore a no-brainer that I wanted to interview him for The Working APA Actor and see what this amazing individual was all about. When he accepted, I became extremely giddy and even more so after reading his responses to the interview questions. I think you will too!
Tell us about yourself! What are you most passionate about in this world?
My name is Randall Park, and I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I went to UCLA where I majored in English, Creative Writing as an undergrad and Asian American Studies in grad school. I’m married to a gorgeous and talented lady named Jae Suh. I’m an actor, writer, and comedian. I’m most passionate about human rights issues, rap music, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Community on NBC.
What is your favorite junk food of all time?
My favorite junk food of all time is chocolate. I’m effeminate.
Besides being an actor, what else do you do that you like to share?
I really like to draw. When I was a kid and even when I was at UCLA, I’d draw cartoons and comics for the school newspapers. I was always drawing well into my college years. (Here’s a sample of a series I did for a publication at UCLA.) My mom is a painter, so I grew up with a lot of art in the house. I haven’t done it in a while, but I believe that one day, I’ll pick up the pencil again. Also, I used to be in a band called Ill Again. We had quite a following back in the day. I just found out that our Myspace page is still up. Fun times…
When did you know for sure you wanted to be an actor? What inspired you to become an actor?
I was always a shy kid. I still am pretty shy, so it’s surprising to some people that I ended up a performer. When I was in college, I wanted to be a writer. My friends and I formed a writing group where we shared our short stories, poems and plays. We wanted to put our plays on stage, so we founded a student theater group called LCC (Lapu, the Coyote that Cares). We needed actors, so we decided to cast ourselves in some of our productions. We had no idea what we were doing, but it was the most fun I’ve ever had.
Then, we graduated and left LCC, and we started working day jobs. But we still loved doing theater, so we started a new group called Proper Gander. One night, a tv executive named Quan Phung saw me in my friend Mike Golamco’s play Achievers. After the show, he pulled me aside and told me I should pursue this professionally. I never thought it was a viable option until hearing it from someone in the industry. I really owe a lot to Quan. And to LCC, which is still going on strong to this day.
What has been your most memorable experience as an actor?
I’ve had so many awesome experiences. But I’d say the most awesome happened on a job that I didn’t book. The year was 2008, and I was at an audition in a casting office on Hollywood Blvd. While sitting in the waiting room, I met the woman who was to become my wife. Definitely the best gig ever.
When it comes to auditions, what has been your most awkward/fail one you have had so far?
When I first started acting, I made a lot of mistakes. This one was probably the worst. I was auditioning for one of the bigger casting directors in town. In my scene, my character had just run up a fight of stairs before delivering his lines. In a spontaneous moment, I thought it would be awesome to have this guy drenched in sweat. So I walked into the casting office with a cup of water from the waiting room. Then I started the scene. I mimed running up a flight of stairs (because I’m the dumbest person alive), and then I splashed the cup of water on to my face.
Two things to point out here: First off, the office was tiny, so I was standing about a foot away from his desk. Secondly, my face just so happens to be perfectly shaped for deflecting a cup full of water onto a casting director’s desk and all over his paperwork. It literally rained on him. I froze, and then I continued the scene. I swear, at one point he dabbed his forehead with the end of his tie. When I finished, I stood there to complete silence. I then awkwardly walked out the door. That was the worst one. So far.
Does your Asian community play any determining factor in your decisions as an actor? (ie. taking on roles that may be deemed “stereotypical”)
Yes and no. Like many in our community, I’m very sensitive to issues of representation. It was one of the reasons why I got into acting and writing in the first place. In the past, I’ve turned down opportunities that I found to be offensive. But I also know that turning down a role won’t change the grand scheme of things. Because for every Talib Kweli, there is a bus full of Flo Ridas just waiting to play the part. (That was a rap reference.) I always keep the community in mind, but ultimately, it’s a personal judgment call. There will always be someone pissed off about something, and I have definitely taken upon roles that some people may have been construed as stereotypical (i.e. characters who speak with an accent, “nerdy” characters, etc..)
I wish the community would aim their condemnation at the creators of the offensive character more so than the actor. When jobs are few and far between, and you have a family to feed, it’s hard not to covet any opportunity presented. My heart goes out to the struggling actors especially, because I’ve been there. For me, the more proactive way to fight stereotypes is to write, produce and act in my own stuff. There is nothing stereotypical about anything I’ve ever made on my own. See for yourself. I just weaved a shameless plug into a rant about fighting stereotypes.
Where do you see yourself in the future in terms of what you would like to accomplish?
I see myself as a very well respected and successful actor, writer, and comedian. I see myself as a good family man. I see myself traveling a lot more.
What advice would you like to give to aspiring actors?
Don’t do porn. From what I hear, it is very difficult to cross over from porn. Other than that, my only advice is to work hard. In times of unemployment, work harder. Find like minded creative people and figure out ways to keep acting.
BONUS QUESTION: What was your most awkward childhood/adolescence memory?
I’d say my most awkward childhood memories have to do with every time I had a crush on a girl, which was often. I was an overweight kid, and I was very shy, so all of my early crushes were unrequited and pathetic. Luckily for me, I blossomed into a very sexy man. According to my wife at least.
BONUS QUESTION #2: If there was a song that defined your life, what would it be?
I wouldn’t say their songs define my life, but I’m obsessed with the Clipse. They’re a rap group from Virginia and their first two albums (Lord Willin’ and Hell Hath No Fury) are my favorite albums ever. I even made a webisode called The Food that features their music. Also, a song that really speaks to me is an obscure one by The Roots called “Glitches.” It is incredible. But if I had to choose one song that defines who I am it would probably be this one.