Fresh Off The Boat’s Randall Park Talks Cheesy Sitcom Dads and Being on North Korea’s Naughty List

Fresh Off the Boat
Bob D'Amico/ABC
Fresh Off the Boat

SCENE STEALER: Actor Randall Park

HE PLAYS Louis Huang, the chipper patriarch of Fresh Off the Boat, ABC’s new fish-out-of-water hit about a Taiwanese-American clan in 1990s Orlando. “Depictions of immigrant parents–especially fathers–tend to be stoic and serious,” Park says. “I love that Louis is more of a classic sitcom dad who’s cheesy and embarrassing.” On tonight’s episode, Louis buys a billboard to advertise his struggling country-and-Western steak house, only to see the sign vandalized. Still, Park promises that Louis will lasso the culinary zeitgeist eventually: “He is going to jump on the ’90s fajitas craze!”

WHERE YOU’VE SEEN HIM BEFORE Playing Minnesota Governor Danny Chung on HBO’s Veep and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in the controversial comedy film The Interview. (As for potentially being on the Supreme Leader’s naughty list? “Everyone around me says I should be in hiding,” Park says with a laugh. “But I don’t feel like anybody’s after me…. I don’t think.”)

WHY WE LOVE HIM Park infuses Louis with a gung-ho optimism that’s infectious yet never paints him as a fool. According to showrunner Nahnatchka Khan, Park’s ability to endear himself to viewers was the reason he was the first actor hired for the show. “We didn’t even have a script,” says Khan. “Randall makes you want to root for him.”

HE’S NOT A TAIWANESE IMMIGRANT… but he plays one on TV. Park’s ethnicity–he was born and raised in L.A. to Korean parents–made him question his involvement. “After the pilot got picked up, I realized how important it was to have a show about Asian-Americans, and I felt like it should be accurate,” Park says. A chat with celeb chef Eddie Huang, whose memoir is the basis for the series, changed his mind. “He told me I was the only one who could play Louis, and that’s what I needed to hear.”

Fresh Off The Boat, Tuesday, March 3, 8/7c, ABC