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Friends From College’ Actress Jae Suh Park’s Passion for Theater Began with a Dinosaur Role

Jae Suh Park plays "Marianne" in Netflix's original series, "Friends From College"

Jae Suh Park plays "Marianne" in Netflix's original series, "Friends From College." David Lee/Netflix

For actress Jae Suh Park, her passion for the theater began at an early age thanks to her role as a dinosaur in a school play at the age of 8. At that point, she and her family had been in the United States for two years, and Park said she loved the feeling of being onstage despite her shy personality.

“For a second, I really believed I was a dinosaur,” Park told NBC News. “I thought, ‘Wow, what is this?’ and I wanted that feeling again, but I didn’t know how to get it.”

It wasn't until the end of an acting course in college when her teacher pulled her aside and asked if she considered pursuing it as a career that she began to seriously consider it. But Park, who was a design major, said it was something that she said she never talked about or expressed before to her parents, who thought acting was only a "great hobby," she said, and became the source of many arguments between them.

Eventually, she packed up her Corolla and moved to San Francisco, and then to Los Angeles.

Park's credits range from network shows ("ER," "How I Met Your Mother," to name a few) to both short and feature films ("The Big Short"), and with Friday's release of "Friends From College," the Korean-American actress can now add Netflix to that list.

In "Friends From College," an original Netflix series about a group of college friends who reconnect two decades after graduating from Harvard, Park stars alongside Keegan-Michael Key and Cobie Smulders as "Marianne," a free-spirited actress who doesn't believe in marriage and monogamy.

“She’s the bohemian of the group," Park said. "In the ‘Friends’ universe, she would be the Phoebe. She lived in the same apartment she did in college, she’s very creative, and she definitely has her own rules.”

With the first season of "Friends From College" out, Park said that her parents are still on the fence about her career choice, though she added that both were very excited about the show.

Jae Suh Park as "Marianne" in the Netflix original series "Friends From College"
"She's the bohemian of the group," actress Jae Suh Park says of her "Friends From College" character, Marianne. David Lee/Netflix

“They don’t fully understand Netflix, so my mom keeps asking me what time and what channel and if it’s on the same channel as ‘Fresh Off the Boat,’” Park joked, referring to the ABC sitcom that stars her husband, Randall Park.

But even though the two share an industry (and, occasionally, screen time), Jae Suh Park said she doesn't think it impacts their family in a negative way. “I know a lot of actors who would say they would never marry an actor, or anyone in the business,” Park said. “But I feel for us, it’s definitely one of the strengths: just understanding what we go through emotionally, the travel we have to do, and what we have to do to maintain our relationship.”

Along with praising that support system at home, Park added that being a mother (the couple have a 5-year-old daughter) has also made her a better actress — one who bring more experience and emotional depth to the table — and said that her roles have gotten more fulfilling as she’s gotten older.

“I think when a woman is younger, we’re kind of reacting to the men around us, and that’s kind of what’s expected of us,” Park said. “As we get older, I feel that we can do funny things — things that men react to, or other women react to."

In the future, Park said she hopes to be involved with projects that have quality roles for women, and wants to make sure others — particularly young women who are facing challenges growing up — can see viable paths toward pursuing their dreams.

“Things change, they always change, and what might be horrific one day, might not be the next day,” Park said. “You have to surround yourself with people who are supportive, where you can feel where your passion, and acceptance of your passion, can be put together and fostered.”

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