Black and white still of Judy Song as Ji Yeon Park in Kayla Yumi Lewis's "Parked In America" series pilot.

Kayla Yumi Lewis’s ‘Parked In America’ is the YA show for Asian teens

We are long overdue for another series about Asians and Asian Americans. 

Parked In America premiered its pilot episode at South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival 2021 for the Episodic Pilot Competition.

Summary of Parked In America

Parked in America is a half-hour dramedy that follows Ji Yeon Park, a Korean teenager. She moves in with her relatives in Illinois after a family tragedy strikes back at home in Seoul. There, she meets her cousin Eli, and together they navigate high school while struggling with identity, guilt, and grief.

About showrunner Kayla Yumi Lewis

Portrait of Kayla Yumi Lewis, writer and filmmaker
Showrunner of Parked In America, Kayla Yumi Lewis / Photo credit: https://www.kaylafilms.com/about

Kayla Yumi Lewis is a writer and filmmaker based in California. She graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in Film & TV. Lewis has also executively produced a web series, Strings Attached. She has also directed shots and audio narratives/documentaries with guidance from professors at NYU. She specializes in television writing and production, aiming to represent diverse communities on screen.

About director Luke Salin

Director Luke Salin speaking with actress Judy Song on the set of Parked In America / Photo credit: Kristina Nazarevskaia

Luke Salin is an Asian-American filmmaker from the Bay Area. During his time at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Luke worked on dozens of projects, focusing on producing and directing. His experience culminated in his work directing Parked in America—one of two advanced television pilots produced by the film department each year.

View the Parked In America trailer

Warning: Minor spoilers ahead.

Read our review of Parked In America

Camera in the foreground filming Judy Song, who plays Ji Yeon Park, in "Parked In America"
Camera in the foreground filming Judy Song, who plays Ji Yeon Park, in Parked In America / Photo credit: Kristina Nazarevskaia

Relatable for Asians, teenagers, and Asian teenagers

Parked In America depicts believable and identifiable situations of teenagers being teenagers. Ji Yeon is a teenage girl dealing with emotional trauma and tries to navigate a whole new world away from home. Her cousin Eli works hard to stay on track in school but also wants to be the cool guy who throws an impromptu party. Teen heartthrob Harvey is the misunderstood guy type (came off a little emo but maybe that’s the intention, I still dug the look ;)). We’ve seen or read these similar experiences in young adult stories and it’s so important to see that on screen for Asian and Asian American characters. 

Reminds us about the racisms that Asians deal with

As an Asian American myself, I appreciated how the showrunner and directors depicted casual racism and microaggressions that Ji Yeon experienced. It’s all too real and common and, like with Ji Yeon, ignored or swept under the rug. 

When she tells Eli’s friends that her name is “Ji Yeon,” her friends didn’t understand and asked her to spell out her name. Then, she gets frustrated again when her teacher can’t pronounce her name. Rather than ask her to educate himself and her classmates, the teacher opts for her to introduce herself. She does. And then a classmate blurts “Is that your China name?” Which shows not just ignorance in assuming Ji Yeon is Chinese but also shows blunt inconsideration and impatience to learn her name. So, tired of the ignorance and racism, Ji Yeon lets everyone know that they can just call her “Jamie.” Like Jamie Foxx… Oh Uncle Mark, you were a hoot.

Halmeoni shines!

I really loved Ji Yeon’s grandmother (or halmeoni, “grandmother” in Korean). Actress MeeWha Alana Lee does a fantastic job as the caring, supportive grandmother Ji Yeon needed. Narratively, the grandmother fulfills the “wise adviser” character we often see in TV, film, or literature. It was heartwarming to see halmeoni cook and comfort Ji Yeon. I hope we see more of her!

Concluding Thoughts

30 minutes of feels and laughs ends in a major cliffhanger that definitely leaves me wanting more. Kayla Yumi Lewis, thank you for this ambitious project. I’m excited to see where this series eventually releases to the public. We need to see more media out there, whether a series or a film, about the Asian and Asian American experience. Five stars for Kayla Yumi Lewis and the cast and crew! 

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Featured image credit: Kristina Nazarevskaia

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