Spending an afternoon with Korean-American actors Randall Park and Jae Suh Park in their San Fernando Valley home means falling in love with the new ruler of their household: 21-month-old Ruby. Dressed in a pastel pink-and-white striped jumpsuit, she quietly leads the pair from the family room (where she flips through her picture books), to her playroom (where she rocks the keyboard while using her drum as a stool), and finally to the master bedroom, where, snuggled in between two pillows twice the size of her body, she entertains herself by clicking through YouTube videos on Jae's tablet. (“She once flagged a kid's video for adult content,” Jae says.)
Ruby recently starred as a crime-fighting baby alongside her parents in the comedy web series Baby Mentalist, written by her dad as the Parks were first emerging from the daze of new parenthood. Produced for Channel 101, a monthly shorts festival at the Downtown Independent where a live audience votes for popular pilots to continue, Baby Mentalist was voted forward for six months straight, capturing Ruby's progression from smiley baby to walking toddler.
Randall and Jae are both professional working actors – a Culver City native, he's known as Julia Louis-Dreyfus' political nemesis on Veep, while his Korean-born, Lodi-raised wife has won guest spots on everything from NCIS: Los Angeles to How I Met Your Mother. They also create their own material, both as regulars at Channel 101 and as members of various Asian-American theater groups.
The Asian-American acting community in Los Angeles is so small that they were aware of one another long before they ever met. They first saw each other in 2007 at a nonprofit theater fundraiser, where Randall had contributed a hand-drawn cartoon about a squirrel with no arms. He noticed Jae from across the room, but didn't have the nerve to introduce himself.
A couple days later, they saw one another again at an audition. “My opening line was, 'How much did you get for that painting?'?” Jae remembers. Randall admitted that his friend bought it for $20 because no one was bidding.
They were stuck in that waiting room for an hour, which gave them plenty of time to hit it off. But just as Randall was about to ask for her number, Jae was called in. Hoping she'd come back, he was disappointed to hear her walking away after she finished.
Several days later, they saw each other at another audition. It seemed to be fate.
This time, they were actually auditioning for the same role in a commercial. (“They had one Asian slot,” Randall jokes. “They just needed somebody to stand behind the white guy while he sold detergent.”) Randall invited her to his upcoming birthday party, a casual, all-day affair where friends would be coming in and out of his Mar Vista apartment.
But when Jae showed up, it was just Randall and two of his guy friends, playing Atari.
“I thought she was going to leave,” Randall recalls. “And here I was thinking, 'I'm single, I'm a year older, and I need to be more proactive in my personal life.' But it was awkward because all my friends were there.”
Turns out Jae was thinking the same thing: She figured she'd hang out until the two of them were able to have a private moment together. But more people showed up, they were never alone, and suddenly it was 3 a.m. Randall, exhausted, asked Jae to call to let him know she got home safely. She did, and before he even said hello, he blurted out, “Do you want to go out on a date with me?”
After two weeks of dating, they confessed that they were in love. A year later, he proposed at Billingsley's Steak House in West L.A.; five months later, they wed. Since then, they've never coincidentally been at the same audition again.
“You always hear, 'Actors should never date actors,' but for me, it's been nothing but a blessing,” Randall says. “It's a tough business, and it helps to have somebody's shoulder to lean on, especially if they understand what you're going through.”
In Jae, Randall also gained a dependable onscreen leading lady.
“He would just always put me in stuff that he wrote,” Jae says. “At the last minute, he'd say, “Are you free tomorrow? Oh good, because you're playing this character.'?”
In most of Randall's projects, he writes Jae as his character's recently departed lover, whom he's desperately fighting to win back. It's as if he knows that as a writer, he needs to create conflict, but he can't bear the idea of ending up with anyone but her.
Other creatives have begun casting the two of them together. The Parks recur as a married couple on The Mindy Project, and they co-starred in a short film called Love, NY, the poster for which is displayed proudly by their kitchen table.
“It's so cool, because all of these random projects have become a type of documentation of our family,” Randall says. “And I can't wait to show Ruby all of these things one day.”
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