Randall Park on his evolution in Hollywood from "the Asian friend" to leading man

With his new Netflix film "Always Be My Maybe," Randall Park has become a full-fledged rom-com leading man. But when he was starting out, the industry didn't see him that way.

"I came from an Asian-American studies background. I wanted to be an actor because of that," he recalled to SalonTV's Mary Elizabeth Williams on "Salon Talks." "I wanted to go out there and represent. I didn't realize how little power I'd have in that at the beginning. The first pilot I ever did, it was as a neighbor character who was the only person of color in the show. He was the nemesis on the show, a flamboyant, stereotypically gay character. I was broke, I was just starting out. I saw ways to humanize this character and convinced myself I could do this with some dignity. But after we did the pilot, I thought, if this gets picked up and is successful, this character will mark my career."

Even five years ago, his sitcom "Fresh Off the Boat" was considered an industry risk and Park admits he didn't think it would make it past the pilot.

"I thought it'd be fun and an amazing experience, because how groundbreaking, just doing a pilot about an Asian-American family. Then it got picked up and I thought, great, one season of this show is amazing. Then it got another season, and then a hundred episodes. It did so much for so many people, including myself. I owe so much to the show. Now I'm at a place where I can do those things I've always to in terms of representing and telling stories from places you hardly hear."

Watch the episode above to hear more about how "Always Be My Maybe," the passion project Park and Wong have been talking about making since college and what it was like for Park to write a hilarious cameo for Keanu Reeves.

About "Salon Talks"

Hosted by Salon journalists, "Salon Talks" episodes offer a fresh take on the long-form interview format, and a much-needed break from the partisan political talking heads that have come to dominate the genre. "Salon Talks" is a destination for information through conversation. Viewers can expect discussions with A-list actors, artists, authors, thinkers, and newsmakers as we explore the full range of the human condition. The show streams live on Facebook and Twitter and each episode is published in full on Salon.com.

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