When comedy Fresh Off the Boat first appeared on TV in 2015, it was unlike any other show that came before it. No other prime-time TV show had ever featured an entire Asian family as the main characters.
It’s safe to say this approach was successful, as the hilarious show is nearing the end of its second season and has already been renewed for a third. While risky to place it in a predominantly white landscape, ratings illustrate that both Asians and non-Asians alike are devouring the show. Its appeal is both groundbreaking and educational — while we laugh along with the Huang family, the mainstream audience is exposed to another way of life (i.e. – not your ubiquitous nuclear white family).
Randall Park, who plays the family’s father Louis Huang, absolutely revels in his role. Global News spoke to the gregarious actor, who couldn’t overstate his love for Fresh Off the Boat. Not-so-strangely, Park sounds like a proud father when he talks about his work.
Global News: Do you have any thoughts on the success of Fresh Off the Boat? Initially there was some trepidation about the show’s reception.
Randall Park: Yeah, for sure. When we first came out there weren’t many shows, at least on network television, like ours. There was a lot of pressure on us to have a great show, especially being the only Asian-American family on network TV. There were responsibilities thrust upon us from the community to be something that they could be proud of. I hope we succeeded in all of those aspects since we’ve come out.
Especially now in the second season, things have really connected. It’s been really great and pretty amazing.
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On Rotten Tomatoes, Fresh Off the Boat has a 91 per cent rating. That’s pretty remarkable.
I know, even in the first season… I remember getting a little trophy from Rotten Tomatoes. We got some pretty great reviews in the first season, and for this second one, they’ve been even better.
So you were cast first for the show, and then they cast around you?
I was the first one cast for sure, and I helped them with the audition process for the remaining family members. I read with them and tried to help them discover the right people.
Since you’ve been there from the beginning and can speak to the show’s growth, is there anything that’s changed from Season 1 to Season 2?
Not too much that I’m aware of, but I know that in the first season, we had narration as a device. That is gone in Season 2. And you see this with a lot of shows that move on through multiple seasons, but you get into a groove. Writers get to know the actors, and the writers themselves become a more solid team. Everything has kind of gelled naturally. I don’t know how much of a conscious change there was, but I’ve felt a real coming-together of all the pieces. It’s become a lot more fun and a great ride.
Louis Huang is a hilarious character. He means well in everything he does.
[Laughs] He is so fun to play. He’s such a positive and loving guy. I feel like playing him has made me a more positive, loving guy. It has been a real joy.
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This show is destroying that sentiment that there are “no funny Asians” on TV.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been in this industry for a while, I’ve always been aware of funny Asians. Some people, like Margaret Cho and Bobby Lee, even going back to Pat Morita, have really broke the mould. There has been a belief in the past that Asians aren’t funny on TV. I feel like our show definitely helps break that misconception. There is a ton of undiscovered talent in the community. Even in my family alone, there are some crazy characters. [Laughs]
What can people look forward to in these last couple of episodes of Season 2?
A lot more of the same in terms of the comedy, the family dynamic, the warmth that our show brings. You also see more of the world around them, a lot of great guests popping in that I don’t want to spoil. One hint: they’re people who were big in the ’90s. Some of the later episodes of Season 2 play with the format. This show has a style that lets us play outside of the box sometimes.
Tell us everything about your breakdancing background.
[Laughs] When I was in elementary school — this is mid-’80s — I was in a break-dancing crew, and there were five of us. At the time, it was really popular, it was everywhere. We’d walk around with a big piece of cardboard we’d just lay on the concrete, a little boom box, and we’d just do our routine. I haven’t done it since, except for on our show. There are dance moments Louis has. He’s a dancer at heart. It’s allowed me to relive those glory days, even though my body isn’t so happy about it. [Laughs]
I’ll do anything for the show. In fact, tomorrow, I’m shooting a scene where I’m pretty much completely naked. Things will be blurred, but I know it’ll be a funny moment.
You can watch Season 2 of ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ on Shomi, streaming now in simulcast.
Fresh Off the Boat — Episodes | PrettyFamous