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From the stage to Disney: The origin story of Randall Park

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FBI agent Jimmy Woo of Marvel’s “WandaVision” series has captured the hearts of many watching the Disney+ original show. 

Played by comedian, writer, director and actor Randall Park, both he and his character have seen a surge in popularity over the past few weeks.

Park is one of those actors that can be recognized from a variety of projects. With over 100 credits on IMDb, Park has cemented an image for himself over the years. The actor has covered genres like comedies and rom-coms, and in recent years has dipped his toes into comic book movies. 

Park was born and raised in Los Angeles, California to South Korean parents before graduating from Hamilton High School’s Humanities Magnet Program. He then went on to attend college at UCLA, where he received an undergraduate degree in English and creative writing as well as a master’s degree in Asian American studies. While attending, he founded Lapu the Coyote that Cares, a theatre group that continued past his graduation. 

The actor started taking small roles on several notable television shows. He appeared as a school teacher on the popular Nickelodeon kids program, “iCarly,” and then as a store employee named Will in the hit FOX show “New Girl.” 

He became an internet icon playing “Asian Jim Halpert” in a hilarious cold open for an episode of “The Office,” leading to the online joke of people associating Park with Jim Halpert’s real actor John Krasinski. 

He continued to work his way up the ladder, taking on more significant supporting roles on the big screen. He starred alongside actors Seth Rogen and James Franco in a stand-out performance as North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un in the 2014 comedy “The Interview.” Park went on to be a frequent collaborator with Rogen in films like “The Night Before,” “The Disaster Artist” and “Long Shot.”

The time came for Park to take on the lead role as an immigrant father in the ABC comedy “Fresh off the Boat.” The show ran for six seasons and focused on a Taiwanese family trying to make it in America in the 1990s. The program garnered praise for being a show that featured an all-Asian main cast, a rarity at the time. 

During its run, Park was able to talk about Asian representation in the media. 

“We went six seasons—it’s very hard for a show to go six seasons,” Park said in a talk at USC. “To have an Asian family on TV on a show that lasts that long. It shows the industry that there’s good business in telling these stories.”

The show faced criticism that it fed into Asian American stereotypes, while Park contended that the showrunners wrote the characters in a well-rounded way.

“Personally, I don’t look at a show like ‘Fresh Off The Boat’ as being stereotypical; and I know that there are aspects, you can argue that there are aspects that are stereotypical but we show so much more than that,” Park said. “So, I think what’s most important is that whatever projects we continue to create, we just show people as human beings, like the whole scope of it, and not think too much of ‘oh is this going to be seen as stereotypical’—if it’s truthful, put it in.”

Park has since risen in prominence after the series, having starred in the Netflix rom-com “Always Be My Maybe” with comedian Ali Wong. He then moved up to big-budget blockbusters like “Aquaman” and debuted as the lovable and wholesome Jimmy Woo in Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”

Park’s character didn’t gain traction until he returned in the Disney+ show, “WandaVision,” Since his reintroduction, Woo has exploded into the pop culture zeitgeist, having launched a stream of endearing memes on the social media app TikTok

cbskbf@mail.umkc.edu

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