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She Was a Star Before ‘Emily in Paris’


Name: Ashley Park

Age: 29

Hometown: Born in Glendale, Calif., and raised in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Now Lives: An alcove studio on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Claim to Fame: Ms. Park is a Tony- and Grammy-nominated actress and singer, for her roles in the 2015 Broadway revival of “The King and I” and the 2018 musical adaptation of “Mean Girls.” But she’s the first to tell you that the Netflix-bingeing world now knows her as Mindy Chen, the bestie sidekick from “Emily in Paris,” the comedy created by Darren Star that some love and many love to hate.

New fans often ask her: “Wait, you were in ‘The King and I’?” She is far from offended. “The best compliment is people thinking about the character and not the person,” she said. “Being unrecognizable means I did my job.”

Big Break: Ever since she was “out of the womb,” she said, Ms. Park has been something of a song-and-dance wunderkind. She joined a pint-size dance academy at 3 and studied classical piano using the Suzuki Method at 5. At Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, she starred in plays directed by visiting drama students from the nearby University of Michigan, where she majored in musical theater.

Six months after she graduated, she debuted on Broadway in the 2014 stage adaptation of “Mamma Mia!” “The first time I really was able to throw myself into a character was wild,” she said. “I knew I wanted to keep doing that.”

Latest Project: Quelle surprise! Two months after the October premiere of “Emily in Paris” (and the subsequent brouhaha from French and American critics alike), Netflix announced a second season. Ms. Park said the show’s success has made her “feel so connected to everybody in the world from all walks of life who are watching this, even though we’re all quarantining by ourselves alone in our homes.”

Next Thing: Although the pandemic has closed Broadway, Ms. Park has two projects on the horizon: “Girls5eva,” a comedy series produced by Tina Fey about a one-hit-wonder girl group from the ’90s that dusts off their hot pants for a second act, and “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” a modern update of the 1967 musical romantic comedy, in which she’ll play the titular role.

Art Therapy: When she was 15, Ms. Park was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. “I didn’t realize at the time how insane it was for a teenager — who was bald from chemo, couldn’t really walk and had scars from all of the different tubes inside of her — to still manage to put on a show,” she said. “Theater was absolutely my therapy.”



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