SHOWBIZ: Asian man of substance

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Hawaii Five-0 star Daniel Dae Kim was in town recently and shared his sunny Hawaiian experience with Aref Omar

HUNKY Korean-American actor Daniel Dae Kim has been making waves as one of the cool members of an elite task force in Hawaii Five-0. The successful reboot of the long running police procedural series from the late-1960s, now coming to the end of Season Two, offers plenty of thrills and spills before the next season blows in like a hot tropical breeze. Kim, who plays Detective Lt Chin Ho Kelly of the Honolulu Police Department, was in town recently to promote the finale to the current season.

Born in Busan, South Korea and raised in New York and Pennsylvania, Kim discovered acting while he was a student at Haverford College.

After briefly considering a career as an attorney, he decided to follow his true passion and moved to New York City, where he began his work on stage.

Despite his early success, he decided to deepen his dedication to the craft by studying at New York University’s Graduate Acting Program, where he earned a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts.

Kim has successfully dabbled in film, TV and theatre. Aside from Hawaii Five-0, he is best known for his portrayal of Jin in Lost.

The talented actor has been honoured with an AZN Asian Excellence Award, a Multicultural Prism Award and a Vanguard Award from the Korean American Coalition, all for Outstanding Performance by an Actor.

In 2009, he was bestowed the prestigious KoreAm Journal Achievement Award in the field of Arts and Entertainment.

Below is an interview with the charming and soft spoken 43-year-old actor, who currently lives in Maui, Hawaii with his wife and two sons.

What can viewers expect from the upcoming Season Two finale?

This finale was one of my favourite episodes to shoot. I’m a big fan of in-depth character development and there’s a lot of it here. Also each character gets put in a place of jeopardy, so I think fans will definitely enjoy the ride.

Any developments to Kelly that you’d like to see happen in future episodes?
I think the writers do a great job of fleshing out the characters, so I wouldn’t want to impose, although I do have conversations with them about the developments. A lot of things went right for Kelly’s life in the second season — he got back on the force, got married. I have a feeling that what goes up must come down.

How much of Kelly’s character do you identify with?
There are certain similarities. I’m older than the other actors the same way that Kelly is older than the other characters, so he’s kind of the voice of experience, especially in his relationship with his cousin, Kono. Another aspect is that Kelly has a need for family and so do I.

What were some of your preparations for the role of Kelly?
Living in Hawaii for six years really helped in getting to know the local pidgin dialect and how the island works, to a certain degree. I even followed the Honolulu police around for several days and got to see how they work. I think there’s a pretty unique kind of law enforcement on the island. I also saw some episodes from the original series to get a feel for the source material.

The good thing about working in Hawaii is ...?
I have a family and I think it’s a great place to raise kids. I like the fact that I’m not in the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles all the time, which is a city dominated by one industry. But in Hawaii, if you’re an actor you’re a very small minority in the population there, so I think people there are generally more normal.

Also, as a guy with an Asian face, I’m the majority here and everyone speaks English. In America this is the only place of its kind, so for my children to be able to grow up in Hawaii and not be teased because they look different or funny is great.

And the bad?
When I have to travel out, whether for professional or personal matters, I’m 4,023 kilometres away from any other land mass. There’s no quick trip anywhere from Hawaii, it’s at least a six hour flight to anywhere. Oh, another thing is, where would you vacation if you already live in Hawaii?

What TV shows do you like to watch? And do you watch Hawaii Five-0?
There are a few: Downton Abbey, Californication, Game Of Thrones, Luther. I do watch Hawaii Five-0, I know many actors don’t watch their own shows but I take it as a learning experience. I think it’s important to see whether the work that I feel like I’m doing translates onto the screen so that I can improve myself. I go in with that perspective and try to be objective.

As a successful American actor who is also Korean, how do you find a balance between identifying with American and Korean cultures?
I ask myself that question regularly and I don’t know — sometimes I feel very proud to be both American and Korean, sometimes I feel like I’m neither. Koreans are very nationalistic and proud, especially when it comes to their entertainers. When I’m in South Korea it’s very apparent to me that I’m not a native Korean, but at the same time, I know they’re very proud of anyone who is Korean and is succeeding worldwide so it’s an interesting kind of counterbalance between the two things.

I was raised in America. I spent 99 per cent of my life there, but because of the way I look, there will always be Americans who think I’m not American. So it’s tricky but the good news is that we keep moving forward. The world becomes more open every day. So I’m hoping that the work I do helps that process a little bit.. 
 
The Hawaii Five-0 Season Two finale airs tomorrow at 10pm on AXN (Astro Channel 701) & AXN HD (Astro Channel 721)

Kim’s acting roles transcend the historical barriers of race and stereotypes

(From left) Chin Ho Kelly (Kim), Danny Williams (Scott Caan), Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Kono Kalakaua (Grace Park) of the Hawaii Five-0 task force


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