Sherry Cola on Her Scene-Stealing Turn in Randall Park’s Shortcomings

Feb 2, 2023

Sherry Cola and I were able to squeeze a phone call for our interview just moments before she had to get ready for the Sundance Film Festival premiere of her latest movie Shortcomings. Naturally, it was an exciting day for Cola, whose film was selected as part of the festival’s U.S. Dramatic Competition program. “I’m absolutely over the moon because this film is so special. These characters are imperfect and flawed, you know, changing, growing apart, figuring it out — and they happen to be Asian,” she said. “What’s really beautiful about this film is it shows us as human beings who are messy as hell, and I’m looking forward to [seeing] how people will respond because I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

Effectively marking Randall Park’s directorial debut, Shortcomings follows Los Angeles-based Ben (Justin H. Min), a struggling filmmaker and art house movie theater manager, whose relationship with his girlfriend Miko (Ally Maki) has been less-than-optimal for a while now. When Miko receives the opportunity of a short-term internship in New York, she seizes it, and they both agree to take a break from each other to re-evaluate their individual wants and needs. The film is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Adrian Tomine, who serves, here, as screenwriter and executive producer.

“Alice, in the book, is very similar to [the movie] in that there’s a lot of overlap in the monocled, queer, Asian woman, who’s very loud, very unapologetic, very reckless,” Cola said of her character. Alice is essentially Ben’s best friend, and, like him, is still finding her way, personally, romantically, and professionally. “There’s an evolution with her arc in the movie, which I think will be very inspiring because she wants better. She’s struggling as a grad student, hiding her identity as a queer woman from her parents; she’s this version with her booty calls, this version with Ben — she’s so layered, which I really love.”

Randall Park’s First Choice to Play Alice

Marvel Studios

Depending on how old you are, you’ll likely remember Park from either the MCU (in Ant-Man and WandaVision, for example), ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, HBO’s Veep, or, if you’re like Cola, MTV’s Wild ‘n Out. The sketch/improv/game show was, in fact, influential for Cola for many reasons, one of which was precisely because of seeing Park on-screen (“He’s such a trailblazer for our AAPI community in this industry,” she said). As Cola later came up in the comedy scene, she eventually crossed paths with Park, and the two became friends. In 2017, Cola auditioned to be part of the Wild ‘n Out cast, but ultimately didn’t land a spot. “I was devastated,” she said. “It was an eight-hour audition with games, improv, and rapping.”

Of course, being rejected worked out in the end. That same year, Cola appeared in two shows from Amazon Studios, I Love Dick and Transparent, which led to TNT’s Claws and the film Endings, Beginnings in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Then, 2022 came with two major opportunities: Turning Red and a celebrity guest judge spot on Wild ‘n Out. A full-circle moment, she sent an email Park, to firstly congratulate him on securing his directing spot on Shortcomings, which was already in development by that point, and to secondly ask for advice on her upcoming appearance on Wild ‘n Out.

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Park replied to that email, and, little did she know, he had, in fact, had her in mind as one of his first choices to play Alice. “I literally had no idea. I was all types of flattered because it’s Randall f***ing Park,” said Cola. “He sent over the script, and I loved it because it was a universal movie, and we just happen to be Asian. I think that’s really beautiful: we can be so relatable and human, and the cultural specifics are just a bonus.”

Being Surprised by Her Hollywood Career

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

In a 2022 interview with Pulse Spikes, Cola confessed to never thinking she would have a career as an actor, saying, “I thought that Hollywood was for Americans. Society and Hollywood brainwashed us into thinking there were only two spots. Jackie Chan existed? Lucy Liu existed? Well, there is no room for me.” And yet, one look at her accomplishments in the last few years, and it’s clear that Cola has carved out a space for herself among many Asian artists. Between Turning Red and now Shortcomings, and her upcoming roles in Paramount+’s The Tiger’s Apprentice and Adele Lim’s Untitled Directorial Debut (per Variety), Cola has built a solid portfolio of Asian-led and Asian-focused stories.

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When asked about her thoughts on her statement now, and whether she has been surprised by the opportunities that have come her way, Cola said, “It’s always surprising. There are two Asians, three Asians in a scene together without accents? What a treat.” Here, she pointed directly at Shortcomings and her work on Lim’s film as examples of “movies that are the first of their kind,” citing their exploration of complex, flawed, and deeply human characters who happen to be Asian. “There’s a fire within the community right now to push each other up.”

Shortcomings just wrapped up its run at Sundance. As of this writing, no release date has been confirmed.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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