Ed Helms and Randall Park on Embracing Extraordinary People in Peacock's 'True Story' (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
Ed Helms and Randall Park are ceding the spotlight in their newest series, Peacock's True Story With Ed and Randall, where they put the spotlight on real-life characters from all walks of life who all have unbelievable tales to tell. The series features as unique of a premise as you'll get for a TV show. Billed as a hybrid scripted-unscripted comedy, True Story covers a gamut of genres. There's the storyteller recollecting their extraordinary real-life story to Helms and Park, which already is intriguing enough, but sprinkled throughout are comedic reenactments starring familiar faces like Adam Pally, Terry Bradshaw, Terry Crews, Rob Riggle, Paul Scheer, Lauren Ash and many more.
And the featured stories are as diverse as ever. In the premiere episode, Helms and Park meet Rick Steigerwald, who tells of the times he snuck into every home game during the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 1978-79 football season. When the Steelers made it to the Super Bowl that year, he managed to overcome all odds, not only scoring the best seats in the house, but also a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The second episode, which introduces viewers to Yasmin, couldn't be more different. Flashing back via reenactments, audiences meet high-schooler Yasmin, an immigrant who has her sights set on becoming class president of her Alabama high school after the events of 9/11. In a campaign rooted in being herself and singing parody songs, she has desires to defy the odds against the most popular kid in school.
Ahead of True Story dropping on Peacock on Thursday, Helms and Park spoke with ET about partnering on the unique concept, what the criteria was in deciding whose stories got to be told and why they think the time is right for a show like this to be airing.
ET: True Story has quite a unique premise for a show. It ticks a lot of boxes in terms of genres that it covers. Why was this show the one idea that you guys wanted to partner on? What felt intriguing about this?
Randall Park: For me, it was the opportunity to work with Ed. For that opportunity to be literally us sitting down together with someone we've never met before and hearing these incredible stories for the first time with no preparation. And for our job to just react accordingly as we would in real life. And to ask questions as we would in real life. And to really be engaged with these people that we would have never met otherwise. That sounded so fun to me. It was just kind of this no-brainer. Then the thought of, from there on out, giving them this re-enactment with these great, hilarious celebrities. To be able to elevate their stories and to be able to share them with the world, and to play any part in that, was just so exciting and so joyful, and something that I were really wanted to be a part of.
Ed Helms: You kind of nailed it in your description. The concept of the show is so unique. It's unscripted and it's scripted. I've never been asked to do a show where my job is to just sit down and be real, and be really authentic and genuine with somebody.
Helms: And I get to do it with my buddy, Randall. I think it comes across in the show, there's a warmth to the experience of it. There's real human connection happening. We really bend over backwards to make the storytellers feel comfortable and safe. In return, they are extremely vulnerable and open with us. It's really magical the stuff that comes out -- just the human experience that we hear. It's wild. It's totally wild.
The first two episodes feature two very different tales. The first one focuses on a real-life character named Rick and the second episode spotlights Yasmin. You're featuring real people with interesting backgrounds and life stories. Since you're both producers on this, what was the criteria that you had in finding who to feature?
Helms: I love your take on Rick. You're exactly right. He comes across as this, like, bananas con artist. He's just, there's no way anything he's saying is true. It's all true. Like, it's documented. There are concurrent news articles about what happened to him. It's absolutely insane. But this is another great part about this show for us, is that we had nothing to do with the story selection process. We made a decision early on in developing the show that it was really important for Randall and me to not know the stories ahead of time. And not know anything about the stories or the storytellers. What you're seeing when we sit down with these people is the most honest and, like, genuine, spontaneous "getting to know each other" and that's both a tremendous amount of fun and a hell of a lot easier for us.
Park: It's the dream job in that way. But I will say that as far as the producers who pick the stories, just from the show itself, all the stories are so different from one another. All the storytellers are different from one another. In that way you get a real variety of stories, and also characters and people. It really made things more exciting for us just sitting there.
Helms: I think the criteria that the producers were going for in casting these storytellers was that their stories just need to blow Randall and Ed's minds. And they succeeded with every single one, like our minds were so blown.
You mentioned the reenactments, which play a big part in the show. How did you pitch this to someone like Adam Pally?
Helms: You're speaking to the other incredibly joyful part about this show, which is that we get to invite our friends to be parts of the reenactment, and just come play and have fun with us. But Adam's a friend, and it was just a text. Like, "Hey, man, we're doing this insane show." And you saw Rick's story? We sent the story to Adam and he's like, "Oh yeah, I'll do that in a second!" Of course, he nailed it. But yeah, it wasn't hard to recruit a lot of our brilliant, hilarious friends to jump on board.
Did this open the door for you remembering your own true stories that might seem too fantastical for people to believe?
Park: Not like these. At least I don't. Nothing like the ones in this show that I can think of. I definitely have stories, but I don't know if any of mine would make the cut.
Helms: Yeah. Truly every story in this series is more insane than anything that's happened to me.
There's always that saying, "stranger than fiction," right? What do you make of the show coming out at this particular time?
Park: It really feels good, not just to be a part of the show, but to watch the show. I think we could use that feeling of uplift. Even though some of the stories are truly embarrassing, some of them are heartbreaking at times, but we always came away afterwards feeling uplifted and feeling good. I think that that's important for these times especially.
Helms: I totally agree. Every storyteller is so different and they're from such different backgrounds and different places -- all over the country and the world. There's just something about sitting in that space, the three of us -- Randall, myself and the storyteller -- connecting with people that we might never have even known in life, and laughing with them and sharing this special episode of their lives. It's about connection and it's about having a bond. And again, this is a weird time in the world and we're feeling our differences with other people more than ever. And the differences are largely superficial. So this show, not to get too high and mighty or anything, but I do think one of the things I love about making this show is that the differences don't matter. It's really about the humanity and the connection and being together. I think that's what makes it feel so warm, too.