Friends From College: Jae Suh Park on Marianne's transformation and what fans can expect from Season 2
Season 2 of Netflix's 'Friends From College' has wrapped up filming and is slated to release this month. If you've wondered how vast gelled on set then Jae Suh Park, who plays Marianne, tells Meaww, that "giggles" spread like "wildfire."
In an exclusive conversation, the Korean-American actress shares how difficult it was to have critics brutally slay the "best character she has ever played", but what kept her driven were the fans who loved the show. They "will love the second season", Park assures.
The 43-year-old actress, who's been married to Randall Park since 2008, believes that being a mother to a six-year-old daughter has made her an even better actress, thanks to the main attributes of motherhood; empathy and consideration.
I would say your character Marianne is one of the most grounded characters on the show. A keeper of secrets, if you will. Now that everything is out in the open, how do you think Marianne's character will be impacted in season 2?
Well we finished shooting season 2 so I know exactly how Marianne will be impacted! Let’s just say that there are a lot of changes, but Marianne stays true to herself.
From Keegan-Michael Key to Nat Faxon there are a lot of funny people in the cast, how fun was the sets? Could you tell us about the funniest incident from behind the scenes?
We laugh so much on set! We are constantly making each other laugh, intentionally or not, and when one person gets the giggles, it spreads like wildfire. A lot of those moments are of the “you had to be there” variety so it’s hard to describe one. The best part is when you make Nick Stoller laugh. He’s like a little kid.
Tell us about the audition process for your role and what was your reaction when you secured it?
I just went in and auditioned. It was just me and the casting director on tape. Marianne was described as a Bohemian Free Spirit so I think everyone was coming in with a hippy dippy kind of character. I certainly did. After my read, the casting director asked me to do it as myself, and I think it really grounded the character and made her more of a real person. Sometimes you get stuck in what you think a character sounds like or acts like that you forget to experience the moment. When she gave me that direction it was incredibly freeing, and I was able to have a lot more fun with it.
I thought it went well, but I didn’t hear back for like a month or more so I just figured I was out of the running. The next time I heard anything about it, I was having dinner with my husband and daughter, and my lawyer called to tell me they were negotiating the contract. I was like, “What contract? No one told me I got this job!” It felt like such an easy get in relation to my other series regular auditions. I mean where was the callback with the producers and directors, audition for the studio and network, read with the co-stars, etc? I was just hoping it wasn’t a mistake!
Do you relate to Marianne? Are you as "boho" in real life?
I'm not really boho although I would wear all of her clothes. I do have a Zen-like attitude towards life, but I’m not as unconventional as she is. I believe in marriage and rules such as RSVP-ing to weddings. I do relate to her optimism and undying love for her friends.
How did you get into acting and did being a mom make you a better actress?
I’ve always wanted to be an actress. I don’t remember really wanting to be anything else. I was painfully shy as a kid, so I didn’t really try it until I was in college. I took an Intro to Acting class freshman year and I fell in love with it. It wasn’t until the teacher told me he thought I was good that I thought it might be something I could pursue professionally. That led me to college productions, community theatre, and dinner theatre until I packed up my Toyota Corolla and drove down to LA.
I think becoming a mom was a pivotal point in my career. It has taught me so much about myself, and given me a deeper emotional well to draw from. It makes you so much more empathetic, and I think one of the goals that actors have is to find empathy in all the characters we play and the situations we find ourselves in. Another gift is that your priorities shift so you don’t take yourself so seriously and every audition isn’t so precious. It’s given me a lot more confidence to be myself. I still have terrible auditions and get nervous, but I can let it go easier and move forward.
The first season of 'Friends From College,' received a mixed response. What are your expectations from Season 2? Do you think there will be more of a positive response this time?
Yes, the critics were brutal, but I have people tell me all the time how much they love the show. As long as we have fans, that’s all that matters. You can’t please everyone and that’s ok. I think our fans will love the second season.
What other projects are you working on?
Well I just became involved with the charity organization, Best Buddies. They foster friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They do such wonderful work throughout the world, and I hope to do more work with them.
You've been on so many shows. What has been your personal favorite role?
Marianne! By far, she is my favorite role. She is so much fun to play, and I get to play her with the kindest, funniest actors. Plus I get to wear the most amazing clothes.
What are you looking forward to next?
Professionally, I’m looking forward to what will come next. It will always be a nice surprise, and I’ve been in this business long enough to trust that something good will come along when you are ready for it. Maybe that’s my Marianne optimism talking!
Personally, I’m looking forward to my 6-year-old daughter’s first baby tooth falling out. It’s super loose right now and she has trouble eating. I know she’s looking forward to it since I told her she’ll be getting a present when it falls out!