By Mandy Day
AsAmNews Staff Writer
Before there was Fresh Off the Boat or Veep, actor Randall Park’s career consisted of small roles on television and a series of short films. San Diego’s Pacific Arts Movement, the organization behind one of the largest Asian Film Festivals in the United States, brought Park down from Los Angeles to host a retrospective of short films from throughout his career. Besides filming his hit television show Fresh Off the Boat, Park has become an outspoken advocate for voter participation. As today is election day, AsAmNews had the opportunity to talk to Randall Park and discuss his work in voting outreach.
“You hardly ever hear about our community and the importance of our vote. You hear about a lot of other groups, but I think the Asian American community is a strong group of people. It’s a significant amount of people to make a difference. It was great to be able to use the show to encourage people in our community and people outside our community, you know fans of the show, to get out and vote.”
The event itself was full of laughs and gave viewers the opportunity to see Randall Park evolve into the actor that now portrays Louis Huang. From his college days at UCLA in the 1990’s to a professionally produced short film shot in New York City in 2011, Park has written, acted, and directed dozens of projects since he became serious about a career in entertainment in 2003.
“Watching it, I’m cringing because it’s hard to watch”, said Park of one of his earlier works, Dragon of Love. The short film screened at various film festivals and tackles one of the major issues Asian Americans face in Hollywood, being fetishized. Dragon of Love begins with Park, a lonely man longing for an African American woman to take interest in him. When Joel (Park) meets Sally (Angela Wiggins), it appears all his dreams come true, until her love for all things Asian becomes known to Joel. Their relationship twists into a bizarre series of degrading stereotypes creating a unique dilemma for Joel. He’s conflicted between satisfying his own fetish and feeling dehumanized by Sally’s. It is a witty and honest portrayal of how many Asians feel when searching for potential partners.
Later in his career, Park starred in a hilarious guerilla soap opera set in Ikea. Ikea Heights, was shot in Los Angeles Ikea stores, while shoppers were present and without the corporation’s permission. The group would film scenes using the Ikea room designs as sets and all ended up being banned from the Burbank Ikea after numerous encounters with store staff. He considers experiences like these, great training for him as an actor.
Park also acted in more professionally produced short films like Baby Mentalist, which is one of his more famous series. The most recent he filmed, Love, New York was shot in 2011 and featured Park as a bartender in New York who shows a Korean tourist (played by Park’s wife Jae Suh Park) around New York City on her last day in the city. The communication barrier provides a few of the comical moments between the two as their relationship grows over the course of one night. Unlike Park’s earlier short films, it displays a more subtle humor compared to earlier works. Love, New York is sweet and calm, expressing a more mature mood not seen in his other short films. With bigger budgets and more experienced actors and crew, the film is less frantic and more fluid. Hopefully, Park will be able to explore this dimension of acting in the future because he is well suited for it.
Like many of the directors and producers AsAmNews has encountered at the San Diego Asian Film Festival, Park had his own words of wisdom for aspiring filmmakers. He told us, “It’s the best time to just do it. No matter where you’re at in your career, the technology is at a place where there’s really no excuse to not make something.”
Also shown: Blood Rush, The Food, Siamese Dad, and Dr. Miracles.
Randall Park’s short films can be seen at his website http://www.randallparkplace.com/
The San Diego Asian Film Festival continues through November 12th. Information can be found here.
AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We are an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. You can show your support by liking our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/asamnews, following us on Twitter, sharing our stories, interning or joining our staff.