Sherry Cola on How  Randall Park’s Directorial Debut ‘Shortcomings’ Puts ‘the Glasses-Wearing, Chubby, Asian Queer Girl on the Map’

SPOILER ALERT: This contains spoilers from “Shortcomings,” now in theaters.

Sherry Cola calls working with Randall Park in his directorial debut, “Shortcomings,” a full circle moment.

Not only has she been watching the actor-director’s work for years, encountering him at parties, and having mutual acquaintances, but she had always wanted to be on MTV’s “Wild ‘N Out,’ a show Park was a regular on. “I was so impressed seeing an Asian dude representing with the rhymes and comedy,” she says that she auditioned to be a cast member. She didn’t get the part.

A few years later, she was asked to be on the team and the first person she called was Park, who told her he had been thinking about her for a role in his upcoming film. “Alice, my character in the film, is me. Also, I play Alice on ‘Good Trouble.’ And so it was magical how it all happened,” says Cola. She adds, “Every week I hit him up to play my dad in something.”

The film follows Min, a man in his ’30s who doesn’t quite have his life together. Things worsen when his girlfriend Miko (Ally Maki) leaves him for an internship in New York. Cola plays his complicated best friend with relationship issues of her own.

Cola talked about playing a different type of queer ending and how her final message to Justin H. Min’s character Ben in the film came about.

What was it about Alice that struck you when you got the part?

“Shortcomings” was so refreshing for me to express range. It was so different from “Joy Ride” because it’s sitting, talking, standing and fighting. It could not be more human when we explore these relationships of very flawed people, but we root for them. With Alice, on top of the queerness because I identify as bisexual, the fact she was queer was so liberating. She wears glasses. She’s not a size 2. I’m not a size 2. We’re really putting the glasses-wearing, chubby Asian queer girl on the map.

I love the fact that these characters are flawed and imperfect, and just figuring it out with no real answers. It doesn’t need to be a happy ending. Alice is in grad school, messy, and causing trouble left and right. That was me, I was at Cal State Fullerton for seven years, partying, and I didn’t have my shit together. I see myself in Alice in the sense of just wanting to evolve and wanting better for yourself but not knowing how.

How refreshing was it to see that Alice wasn’t just the token queer best friend?

There is something weirdly refreshing about not showing the coming out of it all. Ben suggests that she just be honest with her parents, and she laughs in his face. It’s very interesting and it’s a different take. I think this film will start conversations within the community and also bridge the gap between the cultural and generational divides. I think a lot of people are like Ben who have these non-conforming opinions which can be bold. Whereas Alice is just bold. She’s in your face.

The ending is this voicemail where Alice tells Ben to do whatever makes him happy and make a fresh start, what did you take from that?

It is a beautiful message. I think it can be very inspiring because there is no happy ending for our protagonist Ben. It’s a sign of hope. It seems like he’s at rock bottom, but really it’s a fresh start. It’s a new beginning for him.

Alice will always be there for him. It’s okay to make mistakes, to start over, to evolve and to let things go and be a different version of yourself. It’s so universal and relatable. There’s always a way out. It’s like mental health-adjacent because these people are really trying their best despite being so pedestrian.

It was me in my closet, recording voice memos to send to Randall. They came up with Alice leaving him a voicemail after the fact, so it was just me in my closet recording voice memos and sending them to Randall.

You’ve said Randall was on your vision board, now that you’ve starred in a film directed by him, what would you like to put out here?

Every time I see Destin Daniel Cretton. I always say I’m coming for that sequel of “Shang-Chi.” Marvel is always on the vision board. I want to do something that’s completely out of my natural comfort zone. I know I’m capable of anything and can discover any skill that needs to be thrown at me. I always say I’m an athlete and dancer. But I’d like to do action. Maybe some spy shit. I could play a villain. I grew up loving slapstick comedy. I can do it all.

This interview was conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike began.

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