Interview with Grace Park

AE: You have some really terrific scenes with Mia Kirshner on The Cleaner. Can you talk about working with her and the connection your two characters have?

GP:  It was so wonderful working with Mia and the episode was a lot of fun. As an actor, it’s always fun to be able to play a character that you love and then also really get down and dirty with someone else…emotionally, I mean.

Especially with The Cleaner, we have Mia Kirshner’s character, who is a strung out rock star and having to get her clean against her will so that’s a big obstacle there. It all went pretty great.

I think Mia is originally from Canada and she’s been in LA for a little bit and we have a great connection. It was really fun to butt heads with each other. As we were working, it was interesting because when she’d show up, we were shooting backwards. We shot the very last piece first so we talked about how she should play that and the character’s recovery process of that episode. And then we shot the detox stuff and the stuff you see in the episode first when she’s in her pad and she’s not giving a s–t about stuff.

Mia was a little apprehensive about making this rock star a cliché and I reminded her where we’d already gone with her when we saw her vulnerable so then just take it further so we could create a dramatic arc for her.

As soon as we had those discussion, the next day she just had a full-on tantrum take after take after take. It was so much fun to do with her. She kept bringing more and more to it. 

AE: Akani is such a great character but we’ve only gotten bits and pieces of who she really is.  Do you know her full back story?

GP:  It’s not all been revealed to us, the actors. We haven’t gotten a series bible for this show. It seems that the way this show is run we don’t necessarily have a lot of pow-wows about where our character is going. We usually grab the writer on his way to lunch and grill them on what’s happening. Of course, things can always change so we really have to come up with a back story on our own and I think the more we get to do with that the more comfortable that we are.

Park as Akani on The Cleaner

My back story is that Akani was kind of from Texas and she came to LA, that kind of thing. I kind of go through different cycles. When we went to pilot, I wrote a lot of stuff for her.

Then, the first season, I had some other ideas that I kind of worked on with a coach two or three times and he was going really deep with Akani. I tried to play it in the next episode and I fell flat on my face. It might have worked well for a heavy drama but these characters don’t always wear their heart on their sleeve, especially Akani. 

AE:  You played a teenage lesbian in the Canadian series Edgemont from 2001 to 2005.  At the time your character was dealing with homosexuality and Christianity, what kind of reaction did you get from family and friends?

GP:  I don’t know if I got that much of a reaction. I didn’t necessarily go around yelling and telling everyone, “Hey, I’m playing a Christian lesbian, what do you guys think?” I was sort of feeling out what was going on because the lesbian thing was not presented at the beginning. It was just written in. It was never part of her character description and then she had this quick flashback with Kristin Kreuk when at the time I was like, ‘What was that?’

Park with the cast of Edgemont, left, and with Kristin Kreuk

And it was kind of perfect because that’s what Shannon would have been going through. She would probably have just had that thought at that moment and then thought later, ‘What does that mean?’ or ‘Why did I just do that?’

So I think it was quite apropos in many ways and testing the waters and walking out into this new area both as an actor and figuring out my way with the character.   

AE:  What did you learn from the experience playing the role of Shannon?

GP:  It laid the ground work for doing a series. I knew the general process of the day of being a part of a rather large production as well as the priority of work. You don’t necessarily say “Oh, I was going to get my teeth cleaned.” And I learned how to mess with them.

There was one time they let me go off on the weekend and I called them and my call time was at 10am and I called them at quarter till 10 and I totally apologized because I was still at LAX and I missed my flight and there was nothing I could do about it. But I was actually outside the production office door in Vancouver and I stood outside the door and heard the producer totally go off and say ‘I knew I shouldn’t have let her go down!’ That’s when I tapped her on the shoulder. [laughs]

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