Fresh off the release of Netflix’s “Emily of Paris,” actor Ashley Park has a hot-take on the show’s creator, Darren Star (“Sex and the City,” “Younger”), that theater fans might appreciate: “I call him the Sondheim of TV writing,” she said.
Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:
Park, a Tony nominee (“Mean Girls”) who is a series regular on Star’s “Emily in Paris,” explained her thinking on the latest episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. “What I find so prolific about Sondheim’s work, especially when it comes to writing for women, is just the nuance, the complexity and the flaws he gives women in order to be able to shape these amazing characters,” she said. “I think that Darren does that for his female characters [too]. … He allows for these characters to find growth in discovering the kind of woman they want to be, or what they could be.”
In addition to “Emily in Paris,” Park is also attached to another high-profile TV gig: “Girls5eva,” the new series being developed by “Mean Girls” creator Tina Fey. But theater is still on her dance card, thanks to a anticipated Encores! production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” in which Park will star. The show was postponed due to the pandemic, but Park remains confident it’ll hit the stage sometime after theaters get back up and running.
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Park will play the title role in a retooled version of the 2002 Tony-winning musical, which has, in the years since its premiere, been called out for story elements that could be construed as problematic, particularly in its representation of characters of Asian descent. For Encores!, the show’s creators Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan (alongside playwright Lauren Yee) aim to rework the show with an eye toward inclusivity. “Things were being brought to my attention that I didn’t even realize I had become numbed to, or a little complicit in, just in terms of the ways that they were handling certain racist and sexist things in the show,” Park said of the new production’s development. “They are so willing to make this a show that everybody can do right now.”
It’ll be a big deal to see Park, a Korean-American, in the lead role — not as an example of color-blind casting, but instead with a focus on color-consciousness. “As Millie, I’m going to be a Korean American woman in the 1920s trying to move to Manhattan, and we’re not going to be blind to how that shapes Millie’s experience,” she explained.
Also on the new episode of Stagecraft, Park revealed why she always thinks she’s being punked, and nominated herself to step into the Sandra Bullock role in a hypothetical musical version of “Miss Congeniality.”
To hear the full episode, listen at the link above, or download and subscribe to Stagecraft on podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and the Broadway Podcast Network. New episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every other week.