How Working at His Dad’s Photo Store Helped Randall Park Relate to His “Blockbuster” Character
We all know how the story of Blockbuster ends. The movie rental chain, which once had 9,000 stores across the US, filed for bankruptcy in 2010, and its empire crumbled quickly after that. However, there’s a lesser-known footnote to that story: America’s very last Blockbuster is actually still open. The store – located in Bend, Oregon – was the subject of the 2020 documentary “The Last Blockbuster” and now Netflix’s fictionalized “Blockbuster” series.
The show stars Randall Park as store manager Timmy Yoon, who is desperately trying to keep his location afloat as the business crashes down around him. And just like Netflix’s “Blockbuster” has its roots in real life, Park also shares a special connection to the story. “A lot of what Timmy goes through, it was very resonant to me,” Park tells POPSUGAR. “My dad owned a one-hour photo store, which is another industry that kind of saw its demise due to the digital age. I would go there and help him out at the store, and I’d just see over time how much of a struggle it was to keep that store afloat. It feels very real to me, this desire and struggle to keep something alive, even though you know it’s going to end. There is beauty in just the effort to keep it going.”
Park – who is best known for his performance as Louis Huang in “Fresh Off the Boat” – also feels a personal connection to Timmy because he’s something of a Luddite. “The official description is he’s this analog dreamer in a 5G world, and I feel like that very much suits me personally,” Park says. “I’m kind of naturally averse to technology, although I’ve embraced it. It takes me a while. I just started using Apple Pay.”
There’s a certain irony in the fact that a show about Blockbuster is now airing on Netflix, one of the companies that was responsible for its demise. For his part, Park still appreciates a good old-fashioned TV experience. He was a fan of Blockbuster as a kid, and he recalls renting “When Harry Met Sally,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “The Godfather” and the like. “I just loved the classics,” he notes.
However, Park admits he still has mixed feelings about streaming. “I love the convenience of streaming,” he says. “I will say there is something really special about having to work for your content a little bit and making an event out of the actual choice.” But he also shares a love for the human experience of going out and picking up a movie from an actual store. “I do long for the simplicity of those times, and as Timmy says, the human interaction that comes with that,” he explains. “Talking to the clerk at the store, getting recommendations, giving recommendations, all of those things, in real time. I think it’s fun. And it’s something that we don’t have anymore, unfortunately.”
In the era of streaming, Instacart, remote work, and artificial intelligence-led checkout lines, it’s easier than ever to avoid human contact. And in our profit-dictated world, pivots to the fastest, most convenient options sometimes feel inevitable. “Blockbuster” finds its characters dealing with those facts and slowly realizing that their jobs and their lives all seem to be stuck in the past. From Madeleine Arthur’s sweet, spacey cheapskate Hannah to Olga Merediz’s Connie, whose job at Blockbuster seems to be the only thing getting her out of her pajamas, the cast’s struggle to find their way – and the community they form while doing it – is the heart and soul of the show.
“I do feel like, ultimately, this show is about people growing, maturing, getting better, and becoming better versions of themselves while still holding on to this thing from their past that is meaningful to them,” Park says. “I think we can relate to all of them.”
The first season of “Blockbuster” premieres on Netflix on Nov. 3, and the show has not yet been picked up for a second season.