Ashley Park, best known for her role as Mindy Chen in “Emily in Paris,” recently shared candid insights into her career and the experiences she’s had as an actress of Asian descent in the entertainment industry. The actress, now starring in the gleefully raunchy buddy comedy “Joy Ride,” spoke about her journey of code-switching in various spaces and how her latest project allowed her to be herself.
“Joy Ride” marks a significant milestone for Ashley Park, as it is not only her first leading role but also the first movie she has been part of that is both written and directed by Asian women and features rising Asian talents in prominent roles. In a recent interview with PEOPLE, she discussed how this unique experience differed from her previous work.
Park explained, “First of all, Sabrina and Stephanie and Sherry, all of us are so happy and conditioned to be supporting characters. It really did feel like family right off the bat. And there’s a certain level of comfort, especially with [writer] Teresa [Hsiao] and [director] Adele [Lim] and [writer] Cherry [Chevapravatdumrong] at the helm.”
In “Joy Ride,” Ashley Park portrays the character Audrey, a high-achieving lawyer who strives to assimilate with her mostly white male colleagues to advance in her career. This role resonated with her on a personal level.
“That’s actually why I understand Audrey so well,” Park explained. “I want to acknowledge that I’m complicit and completely figuring out a way to be a part of that world. I am Audrey in that way.”
Growing up as the daughter of Korean immigrants in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Park navigated her career by occasionally modifying her behavior to fit into certain spaces.
“It’s an accommodating thing,” she shared. “It’s what people do on a basic level, and I did it times a thousand to be everybody’s safe place. Because I always had a chip on my shoulder of ‘Oh well, if that role wasn’t supposed to be Asian, I probably would never have gotten it because I wasn’t good enough.”
Park also discussed the concept of code-switching and how it played a role in her life and career. She noted that code-switching is an adaptive behavior aimed at becoming indispensable to others, whether as a friend or confidant. She admitted that while it made her feel good to fulfill these roles, it also took a toll on her authenticity as a person.
“We code-switch because we’re trying to find a way to be indispensable to people, whether as their buddy or confidant,” she said. “The reason code-switching really helped me as an actor is because I’m really good at immediately observing what somebody needs and what somebody feels safe with. Not changing myself for that, but because it makes me feel good to be that for them. But that compromised me as a person a lot.”
In “Joy Ride,” Ashley Park found an environment where she felt comfortable and confident to be herself. She expressed that she didn’t have to code-switch for anyone on the set of the film.
“We talked about it a lot, me and Adele and Cherry and Teresa. I didn’t have to code-switch for anyone, and I could just be there as myself. I can be me,” she said, highlighting the importance of authenticity and representation in the entertainment industry.