‘Blockbuster’ Star Randall Park on Timmy and Eliza, Season 2

Photo: Araya Doheny/Getty Images

With nostalgia ripe for the TV adaptation, it was only a matter of time before we had a Netflix show based on Blockbuster (ironically one of the cultural institutions the streaming giant helped bring down) . With blockbuster, Randall Park returns to sitcoms as Timmy, the reluctant manager of America’s latest video rental franchise location. When the company pulls the plug, Timmy and his gang of misfit colleagues and friends — including Melissa Fumero’s Eliza, a supposed Harvard graduate who returns to her Blockbuster job after a split from her husband; Carlos by Tyler Alvarez, a teenager who dreams of being the next Tarantino; and JB Smoove’s Percy, who is also the owner of Blockbuster and Timmy’s best friend, vow to save the store any way they can. Their plans include throwing a small business-themed block party that ends in disaster and inviting a depressed former child star to host a Christmas get-together.

Park brings his goofy good guy persona from Fresh off the boat at blockbuster, evolving Timmy from a pathetic pushover to a confident leader over the course of ten episodes. The quest to save the store infuses him with new confidence, prompting him to stand up to his overbearing parents, call Percy for taking advantage of him, and even flirt with the new employee at the hardware store across the square. . The only thing he can’t find the courage for is to confess his love to Eliza. “Even reading the scripts initially, I was so invested in this relationship,” Park says. “Hopefully we get closer to seeing something come to fruition there.”

What is your best Blockbuster memory?
I don’t have a specific memory but I have a feeling, and it’s one of excitement and anticipation but also of chronic indecision. I remember being in the store surrounded by so many options and not being able to choose a movie because it was such a high stakes decision. Whatever you choose, you were stuck with this weekend! I vividly remember always coming back to When Harry Met Sally Where Notting Hill or other movies that I had seen 100 times but knew were winners no matter what.

Your character Timmy is a bit reminiscent of Louis on Fresh off the boat — you are both small business owners and care deeply about your employees. What attracts you to these characters?
I grew up with it. My dad had a one-hour stock photo store, and like Blockbuster, it was the type of store that the digital age slowly took away from us. His store became increasingly difficult to keep alive over time as people bought digital cameras and stopped developing film.

Both characters have similar sensibilities and are slightly socially awkward. What part of you do you bring to your characters?
A lot! Awkwardness is something that comes naturally to me, so there’s definitely that fine line between these characters. Timmy is the closest thing to me I’ve ever played – this analog guy in a 5G world. I’m the type of guy who loves old things, who loves tangible things, feeling them in my hand.

Timmy starts out as a pushover, then grows a backbone, setting boundaries with his overbearing parents and friend Percy. How do you describe the character?
He is initially resistant to change, resistant to growth, and genuinely loves his community and colleagues. He really wants to be liked, but he takes it upon himself to be more of a leader than the boss everyone loves.

Did you and your fellow cast members discuss why and how these people ended up working at Blockbuster?
My character has worked there since high school, so it’s a bit of arrested development for him; Cut to several years later and he’s still working there. Tyler Alvarez’s Carlos feels like working in a video store is essential because that’s what Tarantino did. The guideline for a lot of the characters is that love of movies and the desire to just be around them. Then there are others who don’t care about movies but just needed a job.

This show brought you together with James Saito and JB Smoove. What was it like playing with them again?
I told the producers that I wanted James to play my dad again because I love that guy so much. JB had worked on Fresh off the boat for a few episodes and we got on so well and stayed in touch over the years. When I found out he was in talks to play Percy, the first thing I did was text him: Dude, please, please do this. No pressure, but you gotta do it.

This is your second time directing a multi-camera sitcom. How does that feel, especially in a Hollywood landscape where Asian leads are still in the minority?
It’s important to me that people like me see reflections of themselves on TV and in movies. It’s also a lot of fun directing a series and playing complex and developed characters, who have a history, a love life, problems. You don’t necessarily get that when you come for a day as a guest. When you’re a series regular, you become fully human.

Do you have a dream guest star for the show?
We’re a video store, so we could get anyone in and rent a video. I would like Shaq to come in. I would like Diane Keaton to come into our store and rent a video. Shaq and Diane Keaton, together!

If the series is renewed, what do you hope for Timmy?
I really encourage Timmy and Eliza. I hope to see them together one day. Really, I just want what Timmy wants: for Blockbuster to thrive. Maybe Blockbuster could become a big hit again – at least in our world of TV shows.

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