At Comic Con in New York last weekend, we sat in some roundtables with Daniel Dae Kim, who plays the Korean character Jin-Soo Kwon on LOST. Also, read Fallon Prinzivalli's report from the convention, and Patrol's top ten comic books of 2008.
Q: At the end of last year when you’re talking to the producers and they’re kind of letting you know what’s going to happen, was there some relief or was there some fear that they weren’t going to be using you very much this season? Or did they relay that and let you know that you would be coming back but in a very different kind of way than you had in previous season?
Kim: There’s always been fear. As long as I’ve been on this show there’s always been fear of me losing my job. You know, from Season One when he was a character that people disliked, to put it mildly, I was concerned that I might get written off the show to make room for more likable characters. I was concerned to the point where everything I bought in Hawaii, I saved the boxes for. I still have the box to the television I bought in season two [laughs]. Yeah, there’s always that fear. That said, as we kind of come to our final season, it becomes a little bit more okay because I feel like I’ve gone for the ride so long. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see it all the way to the end and I hope Jin has a significant role to play in the ending of the series. But I’ll appreciate whatever time I have on the show.
Q: Was there any fear when you flipped open the script and read “Jin blows up on freighter?” Or did they help you know that this wasn’t going to be the end, or did you flip open the script and go, “Hey, didn’t I just die there for a minute?”
Kim:No, they front-footed it. They picked up the phone and called me and I really appreciated that ‘cause otherwise I would’ve read it and called them [laughs]. And you know, that’s not as ideal and so what it enabled me to do was when the script came out and I saw what happened to Jin I was able to say “cool” instead of “what?!”
Q: You said before that you’ve done a lot of sci-fi roles but not really why. I was wondering if you found it as an Asian-American actor that you get less stereotypical roles to play in sci-fi because it’s open, like in [Star Trek] Voyager, where you played an alien. Have you found that to be true in general?
Kim:Yeah I absolutely believe that. And I credit Gene Roddenberry for that. When he started Star Trek the original series in the late 60’s, his vision of the future was an inclusive one. You know, thankfully producers in the sci-fi genre have picked up on that and I don’t see … I think like so many other things in the original series, his vision has come from intuition like the way our phones work just like the Star Trek communicators and, you know, colorblind casting. I think he deserves a lot of credit for that.
I said the phrase “colorblind casting”; what was so great about Gene Roddenberry and what the rest of sci-fi does … is that grammatically correct? What’s so great about what they do is that it’s not colorblind casting, it’s very color-conscious casting. They have a very strong regard for how their shows and the future should look and that’s more admirable than being colorblind about it.
Q: Has working on LOST changed your technique of acting? Is there anything that they have required you to do on the show that you were like “well that’s something I should learn to do as an actor” or just kind of in general, the way you approach a scene?
Kim: There are few things that the show has presented me with that I’ve never had to think about before. I’ve never had to act in Korean before and that has been one of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever faced and one of the most rewarding ones. You know, I’ve gotten a lot of different kinds of feedback about the Korean that I speak and what my ability level is and regardless of it all I’m really happy to be able to say that my Korean has never been better. My parents are very happy about it [laughs]. And as far as an acting challenge goes, I don’t know too many other actors who are asked to work in a language that they’re not as comfortable in. I don’t know if that gets overlooked but that part of it I haven’t really heard that much about among the fans, medias and printings.
Q: You are going to be doing The King and I, a one-month limited run, do you think that you want to do more musicals or do you want to stick with sci-fi or both or other or what?
Kim: You know, I don’t think I want to limit myself to anything. Wherever the good stories are and wherever the good roles are, I’ll go.
Q: Building on that technique question, what’s it like to constantly keep grilling track of such a non-linear story for your character and still make sure you’ve been kind of consistently building a person and keeping him straight?
Kim: Yeah, that’s been a challenge, too, because when we first started the series we didn’t know our characters history’s, we found them out along with the audience when we got flash back episodes so it’s difficult sometimes as an actor to make choices about what you think the character would do in a given moment because so many of them would be based on their experiences in the past. So we’ve had to try and make specific choices while still keeping them open to change and variation.
Q: Do you find yourself sort of keeping a diary of your character or something to keep it straight?
Kim: No, part of Acting 101 is making a character biography, and during the pilot I did that. It was pretty extensive, so what I was able to do was see how it matched up to what I was finding out episode to episode and try and make adjustments along the way
Q: You said earlier that the producers talked to you early on about your character because you said at first you were a little leery of some aspects of him but he was allowed to grow. How much did they let you in on about, not his past, but where he was going that made you comfortable enough to go forward with the project?
Kim: They didn’t have to tell me that many specifics. All I needed to know from them was that this character later would not be the same as he appears now. You know and, again, that’s one of the things I love about the show is that what you see is not necessarily what you get. And for me as an Asian actor it’s always been important to me as you guys know if you’ve seen any of my other filmography that I don’t portray stereotypes for negative images. That’s not to say that I don’t want to play interesting characters that are full of flaws, and Jin is one of those characters. But if all you see is something negative that you can make assumptions about the rest of Asians or people of color than it’s something I’ve always tried to shy away from, so that’s why it concerned me. But as in so many other elements to this show the producers are very smart and they’re very aware and thankfully they’re very conscious of those kinds of issues and I think that’s why this show is as interesting as it is.
Q: I understand the show had a Korean writer there specifically for Sun and Jin—there to bring Korean culture and make sure things were being done right in terms of how your characters were written.
Kim: Yeah, I’ve heard that, too. I don’t know how much direct input this writer had into our storyline but it’s always great to kind of bounce an idea off of someone who speaks the language or eats the food or who has experience kind of being a fish out of water. So yeah, absolutely, again, it’s a testament to how much they take this issue seriously and it’s always nice to know that there’s another writer of color getting a job.
Q: When you travel on aircrafts and what not do the airline crews see you and go “oh no.”
Kim: Not so much …well, actually, when I was flying from L.A. to New York the flight attendant came up to me kind of late in the flight and said, “There are a couple of passengers who were scared to fly with you’ [laughs]. So yeah, I guess so. And then in the first season we all traveled together for a publicity event from Hawaii to Los Angeles and it was almost the entire cast and that flight we heard a couple of chuckles and nervous laughs coming from the cabin, for sure.
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