Daniel Dae Kim is widely credited with having broken barriers for Korean-American actors in Hollywood. Since his debut in 1992, Kim has starred in popular series, including “Lost” and “Hawaii Five-0,” and has been outspoken in his advocacy of racial equality in the American entertainment industry.
Kim, who was born in Busan, South Korea but was raised in the United States, told reporters that he is branching out into producting Korean drama titles in the US. Next month, “The Good Doctor,” a remake of the hit 2013 KBS drama of the same name, written by Park Jae-bum, is set to air on ABC on Monday evenings.
In the original series, actor Joo Won is a pediatric surgeon with autism and savant syndrome. The ABC series will feature Freddie Highmore as Shaun Murphy in the role. The show also has a multi-ethnic cast of Antonia Thomas, Nicholas Gonzalez, Chuku Modu and more.
Kim said producing has given him a “surprising” amount of satisfaction and newfound freedom.
“As an actor you can only get the roles that you are given. As a producer you can create a world from the ground up and populate it with the types of people you want to see, ones that reflect the actual reality around you,” he said.
“You can’t just rely on romance. For a show to succeed in America you need something beyond a love story -- an engine that can keep it going for several seasons maybe," he said. Korean dramas tend to be hyperfocused on the intense emotions of characters, he noted. “I remember watching ‘Winter Sonata.’ There was a lot of ‘I love you but I can’t be with you.’ ... In Korean dramas, (the characters) feel everything 100 percent. If they’re in love, they’re deeply in love with their whole body, their whole being. These things are, I think, unique to Korean culture and the way (Koreans) express (feelings). That’s one of the dangers of trying to bring a Korean format to America. Relationships are different in America. Things like divorce and family are treated differently.”
Regardless of the adaptation process for remakes, however, Kim feels original Korean dramas “shouldn’t change at all” and should remain true to their distinctive identity.
“That’s the character of K-drama.”
A growing hot topic in Hollywood is diversity. Many imported content from Asia has gotten whitewashed by casting non-Asian actors in main roles. Kim pointed out that many Asian-American actors get “tired of just waiting and hoping that someone will write” a multidimensional, fulfilling role for them, so they venture into the creative process themselves.
Recently, Korean-American actor Justin Chon of the “Twilight” film series wrote and directed the film “Gook,” which released in the US on Aug. 18. The film centers on two Korean-American brothers and a manager running a shoe store in Los Angeles when a riot breaks out and upends their business.
Kim predicts more of such movements will take place. He also believes that a gradual transition toward racial equality is taking place in Hollywood, though it may feel slow to many.
“I think it’s changing. We’re having roles for Asian men where they get to be sexy and funny. ... But it’s ridiculous that we still have to face those obstacles.”
Kim had a breakthrough role in LOST. His character did not speak English. He spoke Korean in the series. No viewers complained about it. It added to the realism of the show. It also emphasized the lack of communication between different cultures can lead to misunderstandings and problems.
South Korea's major export is K-Wave - - - its entertainment culture in film, TV and music. It is just getting started in America.