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Mania Interview: Lost's Daniel Dae Kim
Opening up about Jin and Gene Roddenberry
By Robert T. Trate
February 19, 2009
Daniel Dae Kim as Jin on ABC’s LOST
© ABC, Mania/Robert Trate
It turns out Jin wasn’t dead. That’s not a spoiler if you have been staying tuned in to LOST. He has caught up with the rest of those that survived the island’s time shift and has made what he thinks is the ultimate sacrifice. Jim believes if Sun thinks he is dead she will not return to the island and she will finally be safe. Jin is played by Daniel Dae Kim. Kim is a long time character actor who has appeared in numerous incarnations of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek as well as genre favorites Angel and 24. Born in Korea and raised outside of Philadelphia Kim is one of the few LOST cast members that seldom does interviews. Mania had a chance to sit down with Kim in New York City, as he prepares for his stint on The King and I, and ask a few questions we knew we would get answers to.
Mania: Did the producers alleviate your fears that you would return this season despite last season’s finale?
Daniel Dae Kim: There has always been fear (laughs). As long as I have been on this show there has always been the fear of me losing my job. From season one where he was a character that people disliked, to put it mildly, I was concerned that I would 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 kept the boxes for (laughs). I still have the box for the TV I bought during season 2. Yeah, there is always that fear. As we come to our final season it becomes a little bit more okay because I feel like I have gone for the ride so long. Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see it through ‘till the end and I hope Jin has a significant role to play in the ending of the series. I’ll appreciate whatever time I have on the show.
Mania: Did they let you know that you would survive?
Daniel Dae Kim: They front footed it and picked up the phone and called me. I really appreciated that. Otherwise I would have read it and called them (laughs).
Mania: You have been in a lot of science fiction TV shows and films. As an Asian-American actor do you find it easier in the genre to get non-stereotypical roles?
Daniel Dae Kim: I credit Gene Roddenberry for that. When he started Star Trek, the original series, his vision of the future was an inclusive one. Thankfully producers in the Sci-Fi genre have picked up on that. I think, like so many other things on the original series, his vision has come to fruition. From the way our phones work, just like the Star Trek communicators, to color blind casting. I think he deserves a lot of credit for that.
Mania: Has there been anything about LOST that has challenged you as an actor?
Daniel Dae Kim: There have been a few things that this show has presented me that I have had to never think about before. I’ve never had to act in Korean before. That has been one of the most difficult challenges I have ever faced and one of the most rewarding. My Korean has never been better. My parents are very happy about it. As far as an acting challenge goes I don’t know of too many other actors asked to work in language that they aren’t comfortable in.
Mania: What is it like to build a character on such a non-linear show?
Daniel Dae Kim: When we first started the series we didn’t know our characters’ histories. We found them out along with the audience when we got flashback episodes. It is difficult sometimes as an actor to make choices about what you think a character will do in a given moment because so many of them would be based on their experiences in the past. So we have had to try and make specific choices while trying to keep them open to change and variation.
Mania: When you travel is there any awkward moments from the flight crew or other passengers?
Daniel Dae Kim: Actually when I was traveling from LA to New York the flight attendant came up to me late in the flight and said (laughs) there are a couple of passengers that told me they are scared to fly with you. I guess so (smiles). I remember in our first season we all traveled for a group publicity event from Hawaii to Los Angeles and it was almost the entire cast. That flight we heard a couple of chuckles and some nervous laughs coming from the cabin.
Mania: What is the one question you always get asked and how did you keep that answer fresh?
Daniel Dae Kim: “What’s going to happen?” You know that changes from year to year but my latest response is, tune in to find out.