Actor Randall Park is a far cry from the underperforming video store manager he portrays in “Blockbuster.”
Yet when “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and ‘Superstore’ producer Vanessa Ramos began creating the Netflix series about the country latest Blockbuster video storePark, 48, became her writing role model for analog dreamer Timmy.
It’s not just that the “Just got off the boat” the star can crack a joke; resistance to Park’s self-deprecating charm is futile.
“When you’re keeping a Blockbuster store alive in 2022 and you’ve been shot by life, you have to make an emotional connection,” Ramos says. “And you can’t not root for Randall Park”
As “Blockbuster” unfolded on Thursday — ironically over conquering video streaming giant Netflix — Park spoke to USA TODAY about the romance around VHS (and later, DVD) rentals and his experiences working. too real in video libraries. (Edited and condensed for clarity.)
Randal Park:In ‘Always be my baby’
Question: Blockbuster was a cookie-cutter corporate store chain in American malls, but now we remember it fondly. Why?
Answer: It’s nostalgia for simpler times. I loved going there and getting lost trying to find the perfect movie. I always ended up renting the same one over and over again: “When Harry Met Sally.” I’ve probably seen this 100 times.
Did you rack up late fines growing up?
I have always been very quick with my video feedback. I didn’t want to be hit with a fee because I was broke. I even had one of these machines with the sole function of rewinding the VHS tape.
Are these real Blockbuster uniforms in the show?
It’s quite legit. There are logo specs for this slight angle, it should be 10%. One percent more, and it’s not the Blockbuster logo. It is therefore an authentic replica of the original uniforms.
Timmy expresses an undying love for actress Diane Lane right from the first episode when pushing “Under the Tuscan Sun” in 2003. How real was that?
I hadn’t seen “Tuscan Sun” before filming this scene. I was like, I recommend this, so I should check it out. And I loved it. I totally understand why Timmy would recommend this movie.
You actually worked in a video store growing up in Los Angeles. What was your favorite recommendation?
“Harry meets Sally.” Still. I loved romantic comedies. They were my jam.
What was your experience working there?
It was a family owned, independent video store called New Wave Video right next to my high school. This little video store was just struggling to get by. This was back when Blockbusters was the place to go. We were the underdogs back then.
Local celebrities and drunken Santa Clauses play key roles in “Blockbuster.” Have there been sightings of either in New Wave?
Certainly not celebrities. This store was a small hole in the wall with double doors leading to the adult section. Yeah, we had this adult section, which kept growing because that was the store’s big source of revenue. No glitz and glamor in this store. It was not a place for celebrities.
What did your parents think of work?
They were okay with that; they just wanted me to have a job. They did not know these double doors.
What fiascos have happened in New Wave that would be worthy of your own sitcom?
Oh my goodness, it wasn’t all unsafe stories for the job that happened behind those double doors. People went there and stayed there too long. It was like, ‘Who wants to go over there and check on these guys?’
Have the police ever been called to the store?
No, but there were always flights, and it was always in that adults only section. No one has ever stolen “When Harry Met Sally”. They were behind those double doors stealing a bunch of other stuff.
Speaking of not safe at work, Timmy’s “Independence Day” speech on the Blockbuster counter was inspiring, but also dangerous with those slippery DVD covers. Have there been any mishaps?
There were takes where I almost slipped on a bunch of DVDs, but I found my place. It’s just stunt work. That’s what had to be done. But seriously, standing on that counter giving that speech was epic and ridiculous.
“Blockbuster” refers to the explosion of the internet and the dominance of DVDs once again. Will that day ever come?
I think so and I hope so. I think those were good days. It’s just nice to work for your content, get in a car, and browse some shelves. It’s more satisfying once you sit down (and) insert that DVD to watch.