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Randall Park on How To Live a Good Life

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Not everything we do is everything we will ever do, Randall Park reminds us. To kick off the season, Amy and Rebecca are joined by one of their favorite actors who also happens to be one of the kindest, most generous, most delightful friends and raconteurs around. Randall talks about the challenges of being likeable and making art that’s not for everyone. He also answers a burning mash-up question: is it possible to be too into Koreans? Where’s the line?

I do have a deep, intense desire to be liked at all times, and it’s at times crippling, and at times it makes for life to be a little harder sometimes for me. But I do feel like, to be successful, at least in the industry that I’m in, it’s kind of like you have to be okay with being disliked, if anything. And to say something honest and truthful, or to do something honest and truthful, or to create something honest and truthful, there’s going to be people who are going to not like you. That’s just a part of it. And you know what?

That’s okay. I think maybe the thought of that a few years before would’ve been really worrisome to me. Now it’s like, it’s fine. It’s fine.

Randall Park

Make sure to check out Randall’s rules for living well, his fabulous kimchi recipe, and his debut film, Shortcomings.

An Edited Transcript of Our Convo:

Rebecca Lehrer: You’re listening to The Mash-Up Americans.

Amy S. Choi:  Hey, I’m Amy Choi.

Rebecca Lehrer: And I’m Rebecca Lehrer and we are The Mash-Up Americans. And this season which starts today, we are bringing you The Ultimate Guide to a Mash-Up Life. These are the new rules for a delicious laughter-filled bright-ass Technicolor life.

Amy S. Choi:  Oh, yeah. I mean, this is the life that we’re trying to live every single day. And it’s also the culmination of 10 years of The Mash-Up Americans. We’ve been doing this for 10 years now. It’s 10 years of wisdom gained from our conversations with all of you, 10 years of laughter, maybe a few ugly tears. I don’t know. I might be in the habit of doing that.

Rebecca Lehrer: Me? I don’t ever cry. I didn’t cry in a live action Little Mermaid, not me. Or Matilda the musical, not me. So one of the taglines we have and has always been is, we are richly rooted. And we are looking forward and creating the future. And sort of that’s what this is. It’s wisdom from our traditions and wisdom from our lives. 

Amy S. Choi:  It’s basically whatever the opposite is of like an Emily Post, you make sure that your napkins are folded in this direct way. But we do have some rules like, just don’t be stupid and wear your shoes inside the house. Just don’t do that.

Rebecca Lehrer:  Do not. And obviously that’s the baseline. Also have enough food for everyone. Like that—

Amy S. Choi: Should we qualify what “enough food” means because it turns out we learned “enough food” means different things to different people.

Rebecca Lehrer: Enough food is 50% more than will be like, obviously eaten. You just like need to know that you have a cushion, don’t you think?

Amy S. Choi: Oh, that anxiety and horror that grips me when I host and there is not enough leftovers for a whole two to three meals later.

Rebecca Lehrer: That’s precisely too little food. You don’t have enough leftover, then that’s too little. Okay? Correct.

Amy S. Choi: Okay, well, so that’s one of our roles. That’s one of our rules.

Rebecca Lehrer: We do have some etiquette. 

Amy S. Choi: But the big, like the big rules, the rules of our soul, are things like you have to be kind, like we’re building community and we’re sharing the wisdom that we have. Because that’s everything. The ways that we can be with each other and hold each other up and hold each other tight is what makes our lives fantastic.

Rebecca Lehrer: And that’s what this whole season will be. We’re talking to some of the greats, mash-ups, the people that we love. We’ll talk to Rainn Wilson. We’re talking to Pooja Lakshmin, and we’re talking to Jeff Chang, Chani Nicholas, so so so many wonderful people. But today, we need to start off with just the numero uno.

Amy S. Choi: Oh, our dear friend, actor, writer, director and one of the truly most generous people, souls just like walking around this planet, Randall Park.

Rebecca Lehrer:  Wow, we love that guy. You know, we met him because we were huge fans, and we wanted to book him on our show back in 2017. So shout out to Phil Yu another friend, the Angry Asian Man who made the intro and we just all fell in love.

Amy S. Choi: Yes, shout out to Phil because he’s another great example of all of us kind of buoying each other and making sure that the people that we love succeed and shine and thrive and just connecting all the dots together. But I mean since 2017 and that fateful conversation, Randall has starred in a rom com that we made, he’s advised us on how to run a writers room for said rom com, we’ve had endless conversations about why we cry so hard when we listen to BTS. It’s just like tons of supportive texts and emails with, as Rebecca feels very seen by, many, many exclamation points.

Rebecca Lehrer: Oh, boy. I’m the queen! Of! Exclamation! Points! So you know, one of the things is we feel like when you find your people and you keep that generosity of spirit, and you keep to your mission and keep building together, magical things happen. We’ve learned so much from Randall, and we thought he would be the perfect person to share really how to live a good mash-up life to start this series off.

Amy S. Choi: And as he has said before:

Randall Park: I’m a Korean guy with Korean immigrant parents. I have a Korean wife and a Korean kid.

Amy S. Choi: He’s also an Angeleno. And let’s see, you’ll know his work from Fresh Off the Boat, Ant Man, Wanda Vision, Aquaman, Always Be My Maybe among many, many others, and his directorial debut Shortcomings came out in theaters this past summer and is now available to stream. 

Rebecca Lehrer: Let’s get to it. So Randall.

Randall Park: Yeah.

Rebecca Lehrer: We have a lot to cover today. We’ve been in many places with you and you take up a huge corner of our hearts. And we haven’t had a conversation like this on our podcast since 2017.

Randall Park: Oh my God, was it 2017?

Rebecca Lehrer: Yeah, so a lot has happened. 

Amy S. Choi: Twelve lifetimes ago.

Rebecca Lehrer: Twelve. So many fascist regimes, so many pandemics. I had a whole nother child. So we really the lot has happened. And so we’re not gonna, like try to catch up on the last six years. But we are really excited about thinking with you today about what actually makes a good life.

Amy S. Choi: But first of all, we do want to say, fucking congratulations, because you just put out your directorial debut of a major film. 

Randall Park: Thank you. 

Amy S. Choi: And we want to talk about it. Because as you know, because I emailed you my screaming thoughts about it, I saw it on opening afternoon. For me, the whole movie felt like it was about coming home to yourself. And just like, whatever that means, like being able to be in yourself and be who you are, which is I think so much of the mash-up project, and also realizing that maybe when you are honest about yourself that you’re like, oh, shit, there’s stuff I gotta work on.

Randall Park: Yeah, that’s exactly what the movie is about. It’s a movie about personal growth, and change and whether or not we have to change, you know, especially if the world around us is changing. Do we have to change with the world? And for Ben? I mean, it’s probably a yes. You know, by the end there, he’s just left with himself, like you said, and he has to face a lot of uncomfortable things and consider maybe growing a little.

Amy S. Choi: Rebecca and I talk about this all the time, which leads into this larger conversation about what it means to like have a good life or have a successful life that you determine for yourself, is that most of the, Ben and Alice, I guess, the two main characters, and maybe Miko, they’re just like constantly having ongoing reckonings with themselves. And just being like, Oh, wait, is this right, is that right? And I think that’s something about in the past decade, everything has been about being authentic. Right? To the point of, we’re always like, why are you sharing that? Why does anybody need to know this thing? Why are you even talking about this right now? This is for you and your therapists, what’s happening?

Rebecca Lehrer: What do they call it, the younguns? Main character syndrome? 

Randall Park: Oh, never heard of that.

Amy S. Choi: That’s the thing, though, is that we’re so invested in creating a story about ourselves, especially now and being really true to ourselves. That then I think it feels easier to get stuck in the version of yourself that you’ve projected out into the world. 

Randall Park: Yes.

Amy S. Choi: It’s easier to be like, Oh, no, this is the real me. And it’s super important to be really me. But somehow that makes it, I think, harder to change. Because then you’re like, if I change, then am I still me?

Randall Park: Totally, totally. You’re almost cementing your identity and this idea of who you are in this world, when really we’re all so insecure ultimately, and constantly changing—or we should constantly be changing and growing and opinions should be changing every now and then. And as long as we’re alive, and we’re talking to other people and interacting with the world than we should be kind of malleable.

Rebecca Lehrer: That does feel like we get so entrenched in identity. I mean, one of the ways we’re trying to grow is, if something isn’t for somebody else that you like, how do I not then feel bad—either angry at them for not wanting to like the thing that I like, or feeling bad and insecure about liking the thing that I like? And I mean, your movie, it’s such a good, very focused version of that, which is around movies, but it can be around music as well, like something where it’s like about taste, but it spreads out into everything, like the schools you go to, or what neighborhood you live in, or what city you live in. And this feeling, right—we’ve gotten stuck in everything representing something about us. I’m wrestling a lot with that.

Randall Park: Yeah, me too, because I think some of this stuff is okay, too. It’s okay to be passionate about what you like, it’s okay to embrace it, and identity and choose to connect with other people based off of that identity. But I think it becomes a problem when it’s making you miserable. And I think for someone like Ben and for a lot of people in the world we live in now it’s making people very miserable.

Rebecca Lehrer: Yeah, because you feel like you’re betraying something if you try something different.

Amy S. Choi: Yeah. Also, you’re maybe admitting that your past self was wrong. Or needed to grow. I know that that’s something that I struggle with a lot is that I actually do believe, intellectually, that I should be a little bit embarrassed of past mes, because it means now I know better. And now I’ve grown. But also I’m like, well, that sucks. It sucks to be like, Oh, she should have known better, you know? 

Randall Park: Right, right. But that’s a sign of growth, right? I mean, we should all look at our photos in high school and kind of shake our heads a little bit.

Rebecca Lehrer: But thank god we don’t have digitized photos. You each have kids who are a little older than mine. But how do I just be like, you can’t put a single thing on the internet. Do not ever. I am terrified.

Amy S. Choi: So if we’re talking about ingredients for a great life, and being able to grow is clearly one of them, what, Randall, has been a recent, uncomfortable growth moment that’s happened? Has there been something where like, oh, shit, tI gotta adapt this thing.

Randall Park: Gosh, well, you know, I think my experience with the movie has been a real opportunity for growth for me and has been both great and also challenging. And there’s that part of me, it’s my directorial debut, I want the world to see this, I want to get all the accolades, you know. And then, you read that first bad review and you’re like, Oh my god. You know, it seems like everything’s gonna crumble. But I think over the course of this process, I’ve really come to kind of enjoy it all. Even the tough stuff, and to really feel so certain that all of this is supposed to happen the way it’s happening. And I’m proud of the movie, I love the movie, the movie is not my only artistic statement. It’s one of many statements that I will make throughout my life. It’s reflective of a part of me, but it’s not me. It’s a part of me. And it’s a story that I wanted to tell. And there are other stories I want to tell. And each of those stories are going to have their own stories when they come out. And so I don’t know, I’ve come to this really nice kind of place with it. And I’m definitely not as anxious or insecure about things than when it first came out where I was just kind of very anxious about it all.

Amy S. Choi: That’s so lovely. And I think that’s actually a huge question that in our work, and especially I think in the past two or three years, Rebecca and I have really been asking ourselves this really diligently is just, when you talk about accolades, who do we need to validate us? Are there people that you’re seeking that from, and the rest of the world can kind of go to hell? We don’t necessarily care about everybody’s opinion. But there’s some people where we’re like, oh, we just want them to think that we’re cool, or that we’re smart, or that this is a story that resonates with them. 

Rebecca Lehrer: Like, we know Drake knows who you are, we saw you talking about that on…

Randall Park: Drake is an old friend. Yeah, the fact that he expressed to me that he was a fan was crazy. Yeah, it was crazy. And then it’s little things like that where it’s like, take that and enjoy that. And don’t worry too much about when it’s coming, where it’s coming. For me, it’s just like, just do the work. Have as much fun as possible. Those things will come from who knows where and when. But those things will come. And if they don’t, that’s fine too, just immerse yourself in the work and have fun.

Rebecca Lehrer: Yeah, I think for us, we talk also about, how do you not compare yourself all the time, right? You know that idea of, don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. You have no idea, and again, what does success look like? Like, what does it mean? Success for us is having a business after 10 years that we like, can pay our bills, and we get to talk to people that we adore. I can’t ask for more than that. 

Randall Park: Yeah. What you two do for a living is you get to be yourselves for a living. And that’s, to me, the ultimate success in any field, in any artistic form of expression, and if you can be yourself and somehow make a living off of that, to me that’s crazy. 

Rebecca Lehrer: It’s really crazy. 

Amy S. Choi: Oh my god, Randall, I’m gonna cry.

Rebecca Lehrer: Amy’s having a lot of moments we can talk about, about what it means to make your life’s work. And we’ve thought a lot about ancestral grief and trauma and stuff we’re working through as humans. And so what were you gonna say, Amy?

Amy S. Choi: Oh, I was just gonna say, I am lucky enough to have so many artists and just beautiful, creative, interesting people in my life, many of them people who, without any sort of pretension, can say something or that you could say, my life’s work is this, the body of my life’s work, or this is what I’m building is my life’s work. And I’m sitting there, and I’m like, that is truly the most beautiful thing ever. And for me, my life’s work is breaking kind of a fucked up cycle of trauma that has happened for generations in our family. And Ithat’s always number one priority. And so we’re so lucky to get to do this kind of work, Rebecca and I and try to, as you said, just get to be ourselves. But if I think about what a successful life looks like, it’s that shit that has happened for eight generations in my family ends with me. And that probably is tied into a lot of me just being able to be happy. And then my kids see me being happy. And then we’re like, oh, turns out that being happy in yourself can actually heal almost anything.

Randall Park: Yeah, for sure. And for you to do it in a medium that’s accessible for so many people who are versions of that themselves. It’s so fulfilling and inspiring, for people to see someone work through that. And that’s good work, you know.

Rebecca Lehrer: Oh, it really is.

Amy S. Choi: But I think one thing that Rebecca and I think about a lot, and it’s actually super, would love your take on it, because you’ve built your career really like piece by piece. And your life too. You didn’t get married when you were like 25. Right? You met your life partner a little bit later. Like our kids are the exact same age.

Rebecca Lehrer: You’re so old, you’re so old. You look great, though.

Randall Park: I’m old. Hey. I feel old.

Amy S. Choi: You are not. That all said, how do you keep from like moving the goalposts on yourself? Yeah. Because you keep on achieving more, but sometimes I feel like, when you’re really hungry, you’re really ambitious, you really want to do big things that sometimes you’re just like, oh, but I’m never..I haven’t ever gotten there.

Rebecca Lehrer: Or you don’t take it in. Not you — we’ve found that we don’t take it in when we’ve achieved it.

Randall Park: I don’t either. And I don’t know if it’s a bad thing, but it probably is not the best thing to celebrate every now and then. I’m definitely like not one to celebrate too often. If I achieve something great or achieve a goal that I’ve had for a long time, it feels great, but I’m already kind of thinking of the next thing. Yeah, and I don’t know if that’s healthy. But that’s just kind of how I’m wired, I guess.

Amy S. Choi: Who do you talk to? Like about your ambitions? Or is it that clear like that, oh, I want this, this is what’s coming next.

Randall Park: I talk to my wife and friends, but I would say that a lot of it is internal and kind of just there. It just kind of shows up like this is what I want to do next. And I know that doing that one thing that I want to do is, you know, the likelihood of that happening is probably pretty unlikely. But if I move in that direction, there’s going to be something cool around there. And I’ll get to do something cool. And it’ll feel great. And then a new thing will pop up and I’ll go in that direction. And I won’t necessarily get to where I want to go, but I’ll be somewhere cool. And then I’ll have like big general goals, you know, that I’ll just think about and ruminate on and, you know, 10 years later, I’ll be somewhere near there. 

Rebecca Lehrer: Yeah, yeah, totally. 

Amy S. Choi: One thing that I think we wrestle with, and I don’t know, I know it’s not just a woman thing, even though it does feel especially important as women, and particularly as mash-up women, is this idea of how important it is to be liked. And just likeability in general. And I remember, this has always been a pressing question of mine, because I think I’ve been lucky enough to make friends easily and generally be liked by people. But then it became something that was so important to me that, oh, in order to be successful, or have a good life, I have to be liked by everybody. And a mentor of mine, John Mehta, I asked him this question, and it was at a moment when there was some inflection point going on with work, and I was like, how do I get over this? How do I get over this desire to be liked? And he was like, of course you want to be liked, everybody wants to be liked. But you can do everything you want in your life if you’re respected. And I was like, wow. It kind of blew my mind. And I know that that is something that you have mentioned in interviews, a desire to just be liked. And I think that that has gotta be…

Randall Park: Yeah, crippling.

Amy S. Choi: Can you talk about that more?

Randall Park: Well, first off, yeah, I do have a deep, intense desire to be liked at all times. And it’s at times crippling, and at times, it makes for life to be a little harder sometimes for me, but I do feel like, and this goes back to the movie, to be successful, at least in the industry that I’m in, it’s kind of like you have to be okay with being disliked if anything. Like, and to say something honest and truthful, or to do something honest and truthful, or to create something honest and truthful, there’s gonna be people who are going to not like you, and that’s just a part of it. And I think for me, another great kind of revelation of this experience is that, oh, people are gonna hate me because of this movie. And you know what? That’s okay. Yeah, no, that’s okay. But I think, maybe the thought of that a few years before would have been really worrisome to me, but now it’s like, it’s fine.

Amy S. Choi: This is where we do the thing again.

Rebecca Lehrer: Growth. Do you think you’ve ever convinced anybody to like you? Who wasn’t onboard?

Randall Park: No. I don’t think it’s possible.

Rebecca Lehrer: That’s what I’m realizing. I’m like, what? Why am I trying so hard? That person’s never gonna like me.

Randall Park: Never. I mean, unless they need a kidney and you got the kidney. Then they could like you suddenly. But outside of that, you cannot convince someone to like you. Yeah.

Rebecca Lehrer: If you’re just not, and I again, similarly, I don’t think it’s not been my general issue, I’m lucky to make friends. But anyone who’s not and then I feel that urge, like, you zoom in on the person who’s not feeling you? Maybe I’m gonna do a lot of energy there, like why? Why am I doing that? All the other people here aren’t so nice and do like me. 

Randall Park: Yeah. Yeah, it’s okay. It’s okay.

Rebecca Lehrer: I know.

Amy S. Choi: I don’t know, you guys. I don’t know if it’s okay. You gotta be, I need those people. Rebecca actually has a specific question about liking a community, or a type of person. 

Rebecca Lehrer: Okay, hold on. Let me start here, let me start. It’s related to the movie. Remind me, the white dude who is the boyfriend who’s a very, with a Japanophile? Leon? Yeah. Okay.

Amy S. Choi: Oh, God, I really cried laughing on the sidewalk scene.

Rebecca Lehrer: I mean, we’ve talked about it before on the show, but Amy would like walk into someone’s house that she was like, had been on a date with and there’s just like, Chinese scrolls on the wall.

Amy S. Choi: Just like there’s a Chinese scrolls or there’s like sometimes, like, literally some sort of cosplay sword. Or, like, too much anime situation like, I gotta go. Yeah.

Rebecca Lehrer: But you do it in an anime accent. You’re like, make your eyes really. So okay, nside voices trusted friends, right? I realized I was like, I’m really around a lot of Korean people and I love Korean people. And I know I’m an Angeleno, too so it’s like, Amy like met her first cool West Coast Korean well into college and she’s like, this is a different being and I thought everybody was like that. Anyways, so I was like, where’s the line where you’re a creep? Do you know what I mean? Where’s the line where you’re like I’m a Koreaphile or something where everyone’s like eeww, as opposed to just like, I’m just a person who happens to have lot of Korean friends. And I’m not, I’m not an army wife, I’m not army. I’m not only watching K dramas and practicing Korean. Okay.

Randall Park: You are wearing a hanbok right now. Which I didn’t want to say anything.

Rebecca Lehrer: I got it made. It’s a special silk from Daegu. It’s in my colors, you know? After I had my kid do his dohl, anyway, no, but I’m like, Where’s, where’s the like, where? So that guy was obviously, or not obviously, but seems kind of like a creep. Right? 

Randall Park: I don’t know. Yeah, you know, I mean, but the thing about that character was it was very important to me that, you know, the character is the character and does like certain things…

Rebecca Lehrer: Like probably did have a samurai sword in his house.

Randall Park: Actually, if you look closely, there is one in the house but it was really important to me that he be a good guy. Yeah, that was really important to me, that that character wasn’t you know, just cartoony, you know, like he has a good heart. You know? And those things are, you know, could be problematic for some. But ultimately, he is, he means well. Yeah.

Rebecca Lehrer: What if that’s what, Randall’s like, and that’s how I feel about you.

Randall Park: Rebecca, you mean well.

Amy S. Choi: Thank you for the kimbap you brought to the studio this morning.

Rebecca Lehrer: Literally, I was literally watching this woman, this beautiful woman, Korean woman playing like violin at the Hollywood Bowl yesterday, and I had this thought, I’m gonna talk to Randall tomorrow. What’s wrong? Is there something wrong with me? I gotta bring this up. Anyways…

Randall Park: I don’t know. You know, I think it’s, look. It’s different for everybody. And some people are more put off by things than others. And you know, some people can go overboard with certain things. Which I don’t think you go overboard with any of this stuff.

Rebecca Lehrer: I mean my handbook, it is beautiful.

Randall Park: It is beautiful. 

Rebecca Lehrer: I’m starting an Etsy line.

Randall Park: But I mean, for me, I don’t know. For me, personally, things don’t bug me that much. You know. And I feel like, I just don’t have the energy anymore to think about, Why is this person this way? What’s their ulterior motive? I just think, Oh, are they nice? Are they nice to me? Do they like me? Because that’s it, it just takes too much energy. For me.

Rebecca Lehrer: I actually think that’s a really important note, as we’re making our guide to a good life, where energy goes, and I know, sorry, Amy, two Angelenos over here talking about vibes and energy. But for me, that’s so critical. Like, yeah, why am I using my energy for that? It’s just not a good use of it.

Randall Park: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Maybe some folks have more energy, and they can throw around that energy and that’s good for them.

Rebecca Lehrer: They don’t have children. Their whole world isn’t on strike. You know, they can put energy out.

Amy S. Choi: I do think that there’s actually something too, about being able to, we always think about culture as being malleable. Like, that’s what we get to do, right. We’re like floating in and out of a couple of different things, we’re rooted in certain places. But part of where I think that I have realized that I’m actually the most comfortable is not necessarily squarely in Korean culture. Right? And that’s something, it’s not squarely in American culture, but it’s also just in the in-betweens. Like I love arriving into any city. That feeling of, I feel so alive when like, I remember because it had been, I don’t know maybe like six months or something — LOL six months being a long time between international trips —and this was clearly before I had children. But landing in Nairobi, the smell and the cabbies and just being like how am I gonna get to this place and I gotta find the hotel and I need to get the guy on the street to give me a new chip for my phone and being like I’m alive and feeling completely at home in being in a place that was completely foreign. It was my first time in Kenya. And that feeling of cultural, kind of, amorphousness or of being at home in lots of different places feels really important and key to me of what it means to explore and build a good life and then also not be like, coming home in a fucking African headdress or something. 

Randall Park: You are wearing an African headdress right now. I was gonna say something. 

Rebecca Lehrer: Like he came in and it was like, these gals, what is happening in the pandemic.

Randall Park: This podcast has changed.

Rebecca Lehrer: They’re doing a bit, I guess.

Amy S. Choi: Oh, my God. I love that though. And I think that’s the thing about being in New York or in LA is that you do get the opportunity to navigate and see and experience and really befriend and get to be close with people that are so different from you. And then, you know, there’s the balance of being like, how do I not be a fucking creep?

Randall Park: Yeah, it’s just just about being a nice person, you know, and being sensitive to other people.

Amy S. Choi: What is it when you think about the life that you’ve built, the kind of priorities you have in a good life, and a successful life, what do you want Ruby to take? What are you hoping for her? Are there specific values or just things that you hope she carries on among these kinds of ideas? She’s 10 now, right? 

Randall Park: She’s 11. I don’t know, I want her to be herself, and all those things that that entails. And I just, and I want her to be happy, and to be nice. To be a considerate person. And then outside of that, it’s just like, whatever it be, that’s great. But be happy. Be nice to people. That doesn’t sound right, saying it like, be nice. 

Rebecca Lehrer: But kindness, a sense of kindness. What’s something you’ve learned in parenting her?

Randall Park: Well, for me and Jae, so our daughter, Ruby, is on the autism spectrum so there is a lot of kind of inherent challenges in that. And I think this has been kind of ongoing, but I’ve been kind of a little more thoughtful about it, or I’ve been thinking about it more, is that her verbal communication is very limited. So it’s tough to know exactly what she’s thinking because she can’t say it verbally. And, her immediate needs and desires, she could express, but to get a very kind of deep nuanced understanding of what she’s experiencing, or how she feels, we’ve never been able to do that. But I think over the last few years, not that I’m okay with it, but I feel like it goes back to we’re doing our best, and we love her so much. And that’s all that matters, and as long as she feels that, and she knows that, then we know that at the very least she feels safe with us, and she feels love. And whatever she’s thinking, or certain specific thoughts, it’s okay that we don’t know exactly what’s going on as long as she’s loved. That’s it. And I think I’ve kind of been less like, oh, gosh, we have to figure this out. We have to find the answer to this problem. You know, it’s okay. It’s okay. It’s a process. And, and we’re doing our best.

Amy S. Choi: That’s so beautiful.

Rebecca Lehrer: For me, like my source of divinity and spirituality is the energy that’s created between two people. So I could feel when you’re describing Ruby and your interaction, that the love is the sort of the big spirit, it’s like, you know what’s happening and without having her say it.

Randall Park: Totally, totally, yeah. And to have faith in that. And to trust that. Yeah, yeah.

Amy S. Choi: Oh, that’s so lovely. Thank you for sharing that.

Rebecca Lehrer: And you’re, I assume Jae is also kind, but I don’t know her. She might be an asshole. It’d be really surprising, would be very surprising. But there’s that idea of being loved well and feeling that in your, it’s part of what we’re talking about in the flip, in the reverse of undoing stuff that has generationally been there. Being loved well, or loving well, feels like it gets in your bones. I don’t know, it’s like if you’re loved well, you just are, I don’t know, I was loved well, so I have a bunch of shit. But yeah, it’s in me, you know?

Randall Park: Yeah, I think about that a lot. You know, my folks are getting older and I’ve been spending more time with them. And I grew up with so many issues with how I was raised and the whole immigrant thing and just wishing I was, you know, I’d see my white friends and their families and how they do certain things, and everything was so, I don’t seem so fun and rich and, we had our kind of little lives and I was just so like, I don’t know, I always felt like I was missing out as a kid, you know? And then you get older. And now today, I realize, oh my gosh, my parents were such good people, they were good people, and they were trying their best. And they were making mistakes, just like I make mistakes right now. And my wife and I, we’re not doing everything right. But we’re trying our best and to come to that realization it’s like, oh, that’s all I needed. So you know, in that regard, I feel like we’re doing our best. We’re doing good. We’re doing it with Ruby.

Rebecca Lehrer: I definitely scream at my children. And definitely like, well, they’re gonna go therapy for this one. Sorry to them.

Randall Park: But I mean, you’re gonna screw up your kids a little bit. That’s just what’s supposed to happen, I think.

Rebecca Lehrer: Well you’re a human. And then they’re separate humans. That’s very confusing, right? They’re like, not just people, you can just like, hey, I need to give you all my wisdom. And then you just make it better. That’s apparently not the thing. 

Randall Park: No, that’s not how it works.

Amy S. Choi: I think that’s almost, the way, Randall, you were describing what it meant to create Shortcomings, and then put it out into the world. And be like, Okay, well, now, this is the story. And the story has its own life, and it has its own, it’ll have its own journey, and it’ll have its own, like fans and detractors and who knows, how you will feel about it in 10 years, and how audiences you know, the whole thing. And I feel like when you were saying all that, it felt almost exactly like how I feel about my kids. You’re just like, oh, wow, you can do whatever you can do. And I think loving them is probably the best thing, like that’s so, so resonant, what you’re saying, just being able to love them well. And then they’re just themselves. Like that.

Rebecca Lehrer: You guys, now I’m gonna start crying. You know, I’m very sappy. It’s very intense. Yeah, anyways.

Amy S. Choi: Does a good life mean that we all cry while talking to Randall Park? 

Rebecca Lehrer: Yeah, we also laughed so hard, like this is the range, we really covered it all. Well, we’re getting to the end of our time with you and we want to be respectful. Because you’re need to be liked I feel may cause you to never say I gotta go, bitches. 

Amy S. Choi: Also, he’s like a major director and movie star who somehow we have duped into being our friend.

Rebecca Lehrer: Yeah no, for real. Love you so much. Also, Randall uses so many exclamation points and emails, and I feel very seen.

Randall Park: So that was pointed out to me recently that I do, it might have been you, somebody did, and, yeah, I felt very self-conscious about that. But then I just, I don’t know, I just do it.

Rebecca Lehrer: Wait, I also do and so we shouldn’t be self-conscious. Because guess what, we’re delightful.

Amy S. Choi: Well, we had one other question for you. What are you reading these days?

Randall Park: I’m always listening to a bunch of audiobooks. At the same time.

Rebecca Lehrer: Do you ever as an actor with a terrific voice, hear these audio books and be like, Why?

Amy S. Choi: Jesus fucking christ.

Rebecca Lehrer: I tried to listen to one the other day. I heard 40 seconds and I was like, No, absolutely not. This man is too boring. 

Randall Park: Sometimes. The book that I’m, again, I’m listening to like, three or four of them at a time, but the one that I listened to last, there’s this book called Burn It Down. It’s about like Hollywood. And Hollywood culture and just kind of the stories of bullying and… 

Rebecca Lehrer: Vanity Fair writers. 

Randall Park: Yes, yes.

Rebecca Lehrer: Was it resonant?

Randall Park: For me, a touch, a touch, but it definitely, you know, I haven’t experienced anything as bad as the stories in this book. It’s pretty awful. But that stuff is still going on, you know? 

Amy S. Choi: Yeah. Well, you’re gonna burn it down with kindness. You’re just going to continue to just be nice to everybody. 

Rebecca Lehrer: I feel like part of what I’ve heard today, too, from you, and thank you for the generosity of spirit that you always show us and for just being here, so present with us. But it’s like that, actually, you kind of will burn it down with kindness, that actually the more we can let go of, why am I using my energy for that, or I can’t change that, or, how do you accept each of these are steps to something. I love the way you describe, you think of some big goal and you’re like, I may never get there, but when I move myself in that direction, something cool does happen over in that quadrant, over in that area and maybe it’s a year and maybe it’s five years, but it does lead somewhere cool. And all of this, it’s like doing you, you’re doing it well, being kind, and trying to cut out some of the other noise.

Randall Park: Yeah, and I think for me, a lot of it is that I just have no energy, you know, I’m old. I’m getting old so I don’t have the energy for negativity or anger. I mean, negativity, anger, sadness, all that stuff happens and it’s gonna happen. But if I have the choice, then you know, just, I just don’t have the time or energy to hold on to that.

Rebecca Lehrer: Should I bring back cut it out? Remember that? Yeah, you know? Oh, my God.

Randall Park: She’s eating kimchi right now by the way.

Rebecca Lehrer: On my white outfit. I brought my own chopsticks.

Amy S. Choi: It was in one of the petticoats of her hanbok.

Rebecca Lehrer: Right? It’s lined with them.

Amy S. Choi: Wow, love this. This was the best. Thank you so much.

Randall Park: Of course. Talk to you guys soon.

Amy S. Choi: Okay, that’s it for us. Where are you putting your energy today? How can you channel Randall and just be a little bit kinder and a little bit more generous?

Rebecca Lehrer: Thank you so much to Randall Park, our dear friend and one of the greatest all around. We love you. Go stream Shortcomings now.

Amy S. Choi: And next week, we have the internet’s best and favorite astrologer the one and only Chani Nicholas. Do you know where your sun and moon are? You don’t want to miss it.

Rebecca Lehrer: Make sure to catch the rest of The Ultimate Guide to a Mash-Up Life where we’ll have episodes every week, all fall. And like and follow The Mash-Up Americans wherever you get your pods and tell your friends. Love you.


This podcast is a production of The Mash-Up Americans. It is executive produced by Amy S Choi and Rebecca Lehrer. Senior editor and producer is Sara Pellegrini. Production Manager is Shelby Sandlin. Thanks to DJ Rob Swift for our theme song Salsa Scratch. Additional engineering support by Pedro Rafael Rosado. Please make sure to follow and share the show with your friends.

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