Wet Hot American Summer: Randall Park

Fresh Off the Boat Star Signs on as Camp Firewood’s Librarian

Jul 29, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Until recently, actor/writer/comedian Randall Park was best known for appearing in many humorous web shorts, various small film and television roles, and a great recurring part as Minnesota Governor Danny Chung on HBO’s Veep. Last year, however, Park’s career blew up following two high-profile acting gigs: he starred as the patriarch of the Huang family in ABC’s latest hit sitcom, Fresh Off the Boat, and played the megalomaniacal Kim Jong-Un in the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy The Interview.

Park is a newcomer to the Wet Hot world, having not been a part of the original 2001 film. In the new, eight-part Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, Park plays Camp Firewood’s librarian, Jeff.

We recently chatted with Park about First Day of Camp, Fresh Off the Boat, and the dead-on Eminem impression he did on Scheer-RL. (All this week we are posting interviews with diifferent members of the Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp cast. All the interviews will be linked to here. Also pick up our next print issue for a separate in-depth article on the show.)

Austin Trunick (Under the Radar): Before we get started, I have to bring up your hilarious Eminem impression. How’d you prep for that? Did you watch a lot of Eminem, or was it just that one vintage TRL clip?

Randall Park: I’ve always been a fan of Eminem, particularly early on, around the time he first came on the scene. Around the time of that original TRL clip, actually. So I was definitely familiar with him, but I really just kind of watched that clip a lot. And the wig also helped.

In one of your Fresh Off The Boat interviews, you mentioned that you had been a hip hop fan in the '90s, like the kid on the show, Eddie.

Yeah! I grew up in L.A., and that was around in my era. 

Who were some of your favorites?

Well, I was on the west coast, but some of my favorite artists were east coast artists. You know, it was really the standards, like Jay Z and Biggie. But I went pretty deep. I really loved it all, even the most obscure ones. They were all pretty important to me growing up.

Moving ahead to Wet Hot American Summer, I have to ask the obvious question first. Were you a fan of the original movie?

Oh, yeah. When I found out they were going to make the Netflix series, I was so excited because I was such a fan of the movie. I didn’t catch on to the movie, though, until way later—after it came out. Once it had already kind of garnered a cult following, that’s when I checked it out and fell in love with it.

How did you get involved? Everybody seems to have worked with David Wain somewhere prior to this.

Yeah. I had worked with all the guys—David and Michael Showalter—on their movie, They Came Together. I had a part in that. And then they had a show on Adult Swim that was a spinoff of Childrens Hospital, which was called Newsreaders, and I was one of the correspondents on that show. So I’ve been working with them for a while, and we have a relationship. But when they asked me to be part of this? I still can’t believe it. It was so much fun to be a part of that story and that history.

You’re part of a younger wave of comedians than the group that made the movie, and came from The State and Upright Citizens Brigade. Were any of those groups an influence on your comedy? 

I’m not that young. [Laughs] I’m around their age. I just came on the scene later. I actually started way late.

Well, let me rephrase that. Let’s say you’re part of a newer wave of comedians.

Sure, sure. I was a fan of The State and I was very familiar with all of those guys. I was obsessed with comedy and the whole alternative movement. I was really a fan of all that before I even decided to pursue it professionally. So, it has been surreal to find myself working with these people who were kind of my heroes for a very long time, well before I even got into this stuff.

We know very little about the role you’re playing in the new Wet Hot series, other than his name is Jeff. Can you tell us anything about Jeff? Who is he, what are his passions?

I really can’t say too much, because I was sworn to secrecy. [Laughs] But, I’ll tell you this much: he looks a lot like me.

Being part of the new cast joining the show, was there any hazing or initiation process from the original cast?

No, no there wasn’t. It was really fast-moving. They shot a lot of stuff and they had so many pieces to juggle, because so many of the old cast members from the original film are extremely busy. So I didn’t even get to work with everybody or see everybody. There were only a few I actually got to regularly work with while I was out there.

Did you go to a summer camp when you were young?

I did. When I was in elementary school, I went to a one-week overnight camp. All I remember was it was very traumatizing for me. I just wanted to go home. I faked being sick and I spent half that time in the nurse’s office trying to go home. I was a real baby.

And then in college I was a camp counselor, just like the gang at Camp Firewood. I went to UCLA, and there they have a charity called UniCamp. I worked there as a staff member for a lot of summers, so I know that life!

Did that experience compare at all to the one at Camp Firewood?

Oh yeah. There was a lot of hooking up, and trauma. But there was no dumping dead bodies out of a car. None of that stuff, but all of the other typical camp experiences I was definitely a part of for three or four summers. 

This is a little late now, but congratulations on Fresh Off The Boat doing so well.

Thank you so much! We’ve got a second season coming, which we’re really excited about.

Obviously, you had confidence in the show, because you signed on to do it in the first place. But, were you surprised at all that it was as big a hit as it was?

Yes, completely. I did have confidence in the show and I knew that it was great. I knew that Nahnatchka Khan, our showrunner and series creator, was a genius, and I knew that the riding was so good, the cast was strong, and there was a great camaraderie on set. Everything felt good, but we had no idea how we’d be received. And that was in part because, yeah, this was a show about an Asian family, and that hadn’t been done on network TV in over 20 years. So all of those questions as to whether people were ready for that—all of those kinds of questions were lingering in my head. I had no idea that we’d connect the way we did with not just the Asian American community, but everybody. It’s been pretty mind-blowing and wonderful.

You’ll be appearing in John Krasinski’s next directorial feature, The Hollars. It has a great castCharlie Day, Anna Kendrick, Richard Jenkins—which I imagine that had to be a fun group. What can you tell me about working on that movie?

That was incredible. I mean, that cast… John Krasinski, Anna Kendrick. Richard Jenkins and Margo Martindale are in it! Richard Jenkins is one of my favorite actors of all time, so just to be able to spend some time with him was really amazing, and picking his brain about things. He’s just the nicest guy. That was really fun. I’m not sure when it’s coming out, but it’s coming out soon. I’m really excited about it. It’s another small, indie movie, but it’s really great.

One last Wet Hot question for you. What’s your favorite scene from the original movie?

Oh, gosh, that’s so hard. [Laughs] There are just so many characters that I love in the movie, but one character that really stuck with me was H. Jon Benjamin as the can of vegetables. The fact that they even went there shows those guys just don’t care—they’re going to be silly. I suspect that the can of vegetables will be back, but I don’t want to spoil anything. That character really spoke to me.

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Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp premieres on Netflix on July 31st, 2015.

To read our other Wet Hot American Summer cast Q&As, click here.



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