"We really have to depict an accurate portrayal of what America looks like"

Long time fans of Star Trek will know Linda Park primarily as Lieutenant Hoshi Sato. From 2001-2005, Park championed the role as the ship’s communications officer, helping in alien language translation services. Since her five year span on board the Enterprise, Park secured a variety of different roles, developing a multifaceted acting career.

From producing and starring in My Prince, My Angel, to her intriguing role as Sally Lace in Raines, to her on-stage success in becoming the first Asian-American actress to be cast in Tennessee Williams play as Maggie the Cat in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Linda Park is a name that the global Asian community should certainly be proud of.

Sitting down with Resonate, Park shared her thoughts about Asian representation, Hollywood and her new role as Jun Park in Amazon’s TV series Bosch.

Throughout her extensive career in front of the camera, Park has fought for the appropriate representation of Asians on screen. For Park, the issue facing casting directors isn’t the lack of good Asian actors, it’s more the bankability that comes with their name.

“I think that often times there’s this excuse that there aren’t enough good Asian American actors when they say ‘oh we went with a white person’ – I don’t think that’s true,” Park tells us.

“To clarify there’s not enough Asian Americans with bankability. There are enough good actors but not big names.”

Her solution is for filmmakers to allow these actors to establish a name for themselves in their own right. “The only way you’re going to make a big name is to give them the work to establish that name,” she says. “To give them the work that Rooney Mara gets or that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone get. The kind of roles to let them have a chance to sink their teeth into roles that will really let them catapult into bankability.”

“Maybe that’s what the Asian American community needs. It needs a Korean American filmmaker like a Barry Jenkins.”

Park states that directors who themselves have household names need to take the leap of faith in order for Asians to be represented accurately on screen. “[They need to be cast in] the movies that are higher tier, such as the Richard Linklaters or the Spielbergs or the Jane Campions, or whoever the well respected top tier directors are, then we’ll start to see more and more of the Asian American community being represented in higher quality projects, leads and better parts.”

Whitewashing in films only serves to reinforce the suggestion that Asian American actors are not good enough or bankable enough, Park says. However, she tells us that social media is a useful tool in galvanising people in the fight against it.

“What’s happening now with social media, which I think is the best thing about social media, is when the voice of the public has an uprising, it goes viral,” Park says. “Whether it be against Trump or against Yellowface, you can’t escape it. It gets shared a gazillion times on Twitter or Facebook. It becomes a movement. That’s been the great thing about this.”

Referencing Barry Jenkin’s 2016 Oscar winning film Moonlight, Park says that bankability isn’t the sole ingredient in the success of a film.

“Who in Moonlight was really bankable besides Mahershala Ali?” Park asks. “Everybody else were unknowns but Barry Jenkins is a genius, he’s an artist. And now he’s Hollywood’s darling. That’s how these indie movies that have so much heart that go out and find the unknowns who have the f-ing talent, who bring it.

“Maybe that’s what the Asian American community needs. It needs a Korean American filmmaker like a Barry Jenkins.”

Reflecting on the inspirations that influenced her career, Park speaks highly of Joan Chen, Sandra Oh and Tamlyn Tomita. With regards to influencing new generations of Asian actors, Park says,”if I can do for them what Joan Chen or Sandra Oh or Tamlyn Tomita did for me, that is a huge gift of being an actor because that’s what we do as actors.”

She adds that throughout her career, she’s understood the importance of inspiring others. Admitting to not wanting the responsibility to represent Asian American actors at age 21, she now realises that she must. “I have people who email me who say ‘thank you so much, you’ve been such an inspiration. I felt so many parts were distant and out of my range, but now I think it’s possible that I can do it,'” she says.

“We’re getting to that place now where I think in film and television, we really have to depict an accurate portrayal of what America looks like.”

Recalling her first role after Star Trek, Park praises NBC’s Raines for casting her in a role that was not originally written for an Asian. “The part initially in the pilot was written as a white surfer,” Park explains. “I got that part. I’m not white, I’m not a surfer and I’m not a man.”

“They wanted to expand that character to find more interesting dynamics but they kept my last name the same – Lance. They gave my character what you would think is a Caucasian last name but they never felt like they needed to explain it. Even though it was written for a white surfer named Lance, I loved that they didn’t change my last name to Kim or Park or Lee.”

Looking forward, Park hopes to see a world on television where Asians can identify as Americans. “My husband could say ‘I’m Irish English Italian American’, but he doesn’t,” Park says. “He just says he’s American. We’re getting to that place now where I think in film and television, we really have to depict an accurate portrayal of what America looks like.”

Park’s latest TV show is Bosch, Amazon’s American police drama web series in which she plays Jun Park. The Korean American character works with the crisis response team after her Korean family suffers the loss of a child.

“It’s cool because it was the first time I got to ever speak Korean on a TV show,” Park says. “That’s something that I love after recently watching K dramas and seeing what’s going on in Korea in terms of entertainment.”

Park praises the writers for focusing more on the character’s development as opposed to her ethnicity. “We get to know her more as a human being and she has a relationship. What I love about Bosch is that is another situation where I get to show what America looks like.”

As an LA resident herself, Park appreciates the accurate depiction of the city by representing its diverse communities. “Koreatown is a huge part of Los Angeles. Koreans are a huge part of the fabric of the LA community just like Mexicans. If you’re going to make a show about Los Angeles, I so appreciate that you make a show that also has a character who is Korean and doesn’t speak in a Korean accent, who doesn’t work in a Korean sauna but who is American.”

“There’s one line in a scene where she says, ‘why would I leave? I grew up here, this is my country.’ What I love about what Bosch has done with her character is that very little is to do with the fact that she’s Korean. You meet her that way in her introduction but it’s just her as a woman.”