The actors are used to change, always starting and finishing new projects in various locations with new people. But for Melissa Fumero, who starred in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” for eight seasons, taking on a new role in the Netflix series “Blockbuster” was anxiety-provoking.
“I was like, ‘Look, this kind of magic won’t happen again. You’ve had your only unicorn in your career. It’ll probably never be this good again,'” Fumero said in a recent interview. co-star Randall Park and the rest of the cast reunited to film the 10-episode show about the employees of the only surviving Blockbuster video store.
“I met this cast and met Randall, and we all started working together, and it was literally the same magical unicorn again. I can not believe.
Park — best known for the ABC comedy “Fresh off The Boat” which aired for six seasons — plays Timmy, the proud manager of a Blockbuster store in small-town Michigan. Quickly in the first episode, he learns that all remaining Blockbusters will be closed immediately, the company’s office is turned into WeWork, but Timmy’s Blockbuster can remain open as it still generates a small amount of business. He becomes the de facto owner of the last Blockbuster in the world. (The last remaining Blockbuster is in Bend, Oregon.)
Timmy loves his job, his co-workers and connecting with people who come to his store. In the pilot episode, while Timmy is chatting with a customer who hasn’t rented a movie in a while, he says, “What was that? Three years in March? The client tells him that he uses Netflix, but ends up renting “Under the Tuscan Sun” on Timmy’s recommendation to help him through a breakup.
Timmy’s sincere belief is that exchanging a movie rental in person, or just leaving the house to visit any brick and mortar store, is valuable because human beings need socialization. . His employees (played by actors such as Madeleine Arthur, Olga Merediz and Tyler Alvarez) don’t exactly match his belief, but they will follow his lofty ideas to bring attention to the store – and keep working.
“Timmy is the same kind of boss I would be, I think. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing,” Park said. “The problem with Timmy and the problem with me is this deep desire to be loved. … He emits a lot of positivity and a lot of love. That’s what really speaks to me about the character. But his need for being loved often gets him in trouble.
Vanessa Ramos, creator and showrunner of “Blockbuster,” says that when creating her characters, Park is the one she had in mind all along for Timmy.
“In my original pitch, Timmy was described as ‘a Randall Park guy’, and that was because they were like ‘there’s no way to get Randall Park’.” Enter Netflix, who suggested sending it to Park and seeing What Happened.
“He read it and was into it. In my brain, I was like, ‘OK, this is as good as it’s going to be. Like, I was really lucky here,” Ramos said.
That good fortune continued when her pal and former colleague Fumero, for whom she wrote on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” became available. Fumero plays Eliza, a Blockbuster employee who once worked with Timmy at the store when they were in high school and has had a crush on her ever since. Eliza went to Harvard – for a semester – but dropped out because she got pregnant. She got married, had a baby, and is now estranged from her husband, whom she caught on a date with another woman at the Costco cafe.
“The thing about Eliza that really drew me in was this woman that things didn’t turn out exactly the way she thought they would,” Fumero said. “We catch up with her at that time in her life where she finds out what’s next and who she is after already raising a child.”
Timmy and Eliza have a classic storyline that the actors say they enjoy.
“Everybody loves a romance,” Park said. “The fact that these two characters also had a story before, makes it so special and different and complicated and all those things. I’m very invested.
Fumero says “Blockbuster,” like “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” is a workplace comedy where employees become family and, in some ways, know each other better than family.
“No matter what industry you work in, there are these dysfunctional little families that exist everywhere and these people that you spend all those hours with every day and that’s part of everyone’s life.”
—Alicia Rancilio, Associated Press
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