The Art of Living
It’s late in the afternoon on President’s Day, and I’m at the tail end of my interview with actors Jae Suh and Randall Park, but I can’t hang up just yet—Jae Suh is giving me home improvement advice, courtesy of the couple’s recent move.
“One of my best friends also just moved and she was telling me how she was overwhelmed with cleaning and just keeping things tidy,” she says. “And one of the things I was telling her was once it gets overwhelming, it’s very difficult to complete any tasks. Even with cleaning, you can’t think of it as, ‘I’m going to do this on this day.’ So I always say, ‘If you’re just going to tidy up a corner, that’s enough.’ If you want to clean all the floors on Saturday, you’re not going to do all the floors on Saturday, but if you just say, ‘I’m going to do this one bathroom,’ you’re going to do it.”
Jae Suh isn’t talking about acting (we’ve already covered that portion of the interview), but the story is a good metaphor for the Hollywood journey. “You come here and you think you’re going to be a star and you just kind of feel you can’t be picky,” says the actress, who came to Los Angeles via her Corolla and a dream after being bitten by the acting bug in college. “I did a lot of comedy and a lot of plays when I first came here to get as involved as I could to just keep doing it—it wasn’t so much that I wanted to do TV or movies or anything, it was ‘I want to do this because I don’t know if I want to do anything else.’ After awhile, I realized I’m not qualified to do anything else, so I better keep doing it,” she adds with a laugh.
That tenacity led to guest-starring roles in hit shows such as ER, Community, and How I Met Your Mother, as well as roles in feature films like The Big Short and, most recently, the Netflix series Friends from College—Jae Suh’s first series regular job that she calls out for being a memorable and important experience. “On set, there was so much freedom creatively and improv and just kind of that trust of bringing a lot of my thoughts to the character,” she explains. “And, of course, learning from all the other wonderful actors on the show.”
It was while Jae Suh was working in Los Angeles that she met Randall, a Culver City native, during a non-profit theater fundraiser in 2007. With the Asian American acting community being so small, the two continued to run into each other at auditions and events, until it seemed that fate was destined to bring them together. They married in 2008, and today they are two of Hollywood’s most prolific actors, amassing a range of impressive credits between them—Randall’s credits include films such as The Interview, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Aquaman, although he’s best known for his portrayal of Louis Huang in ABC’s hit series Fresh Off the Boat. But perhaps the credit that Jae Suh and Randall are most proud of is maintaining a stable relationship in what tends to be an industry that breeds demanding circumstances.
“I think for us—I don’t know if we even really agreed upon it, we just kind of came to it naturally—is that we don’t really put too much of an emphasis on our careers at home,” says Randall. “We don’t really talk about it too much. If something comes up, we’ll talk about it, but for the most part we kind of leave it outside of the home. And when we’re home, we live our regular lives, so it’s kind of a separate thing.” That kind of mindset is the same one they bring to the table when parenting their six-year-old daughter, Ruby.
“She doesn’t know anything else,” Jae Suh explains of Ruby having two prominent actors as parents. “She’s only known that her whole life. She’s seen us on TV since she was a baby, she’s come and visited us on set…I think she probably just thinks everybody’s parents are on TV. She honestly doesn’t think it’s special and I think she couldn’t care less what we do. That’s just her normal.”
If Jae Suh and Randall are redefining what parenting and successful relationships look like, one might be able to say the same about Randall’s most prominent roles to date. When Fresh Off the Boat premiered in 2015, it was ABC’s first Asian American-led sitcom in 20 years—despite television’s growing diversity with programs like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, the network hadn’t had one since Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl in 1995. In addition to its snappy dialogue and heartwarming characters, the show has redefined what a picture of family, immigration, and acceptance looks like in modern America. “I always feel like I have a responsibility representing a community, and it’s something I embrace despite the fact it may, at times, bring about pressure,” says Randall. “Right now, it almost feels like a celebration because the show has lasted so long and the people watching are pretty much the fans of the show and new fans. And also, we’ve been inhabiting these characters for the past five seasons, and they feel very much a part of us.”
Fresh Off the Boat, inspired by the autobiography of celebrity chef Eddie Huang, centers on a Taiwanese-American family who move to Orlando. As the show has grown over time, cultivating dedicated fans and earning reviews, Randall has seen himself grow as well. “Playing a father to these three boys in this family has, in a way, mirrored my own real-life fatherhood, being a father to our daughter,” he explains. “We’re in our fifth season right now and our daughter’s only six years old, so a majority of my life as a father, I’ve been on this show. It’s been great playing a loving, positive, giving father on TV and bringing that home into my real life. It’s really given me a lot of perspective on what it means to be a good father and to cherish the time that I do have with my daughter, because that’s exactly what the father on the TV show does.”
What does the future hold for Jae Suh and Randall?
For Jae Suh, hopefully more diverse projects. “I aspire to have projects brought to me and for me to make a decision…to have a choice about what to do,” she says carefully. “I’m grateful for whatever comes my way and obviously I feel like we’re both in a position where a lot of people aren’t, but just to have more of a choice of what I do and don’t do. To do quality things I’m proud of. And to work with wonderful people.”
For Randall, who later this year will star in the comedy Always Be My Maybe alongside Keanu Reeves and Daniel Dae Kim, it’s a similar feeling, but one that comes with a slightly different viewpoint. “I just want to keep having fun,” he says. “And for me, I don’t know what that looks like, because I don’t know what’s in the future. I’m always surprised at different opportunities. Sometimes I may be a little apprehensive about something and sometimes I dive in and say ‘oh that’s a really great experience’ career wise and home as well.”
But for now, the Parks are happy focusing on their family and their personal life—their recent move means many trips to HomeGoods, lots of organizing, and an emphasis on family time. In the words of Randall, “We’ve been spending a lot of time just getting our place right.”
Photographer TJ Manou
Features Editor Andrea Towers
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