April 2, 2006 in Features

Kim may be ‘Lost,’ but he’s found a career

Diana Eng Gannett News

Daniel Dae Kim
(Full-size photo)

Daniel Dae Kim is still startled when fans start screaming at the sight of him.

“In New York or Los Angeles, it can be a bit overwhelming,” says Kim, who stars as the Korean castaway Jin-Soo Kwon in the hit ABC series, “Lost.” “They’re appreciative of what I do on the show, and one person may ask for an autograph, then others. I’ll hear shrieks on the street, which can be unsettling. It’s a bit more low key in Hawaii since we film there.”

Not that Kim is complaining. A veteran actor, Kim has played everything from sci-fi military officers on TV shows such as “Enterprise” and “Crusade” to a government agent on “24.” But “Lost” has made him a hot commodity in Hollywood and winning him a place on People’s list of the “Sexiest Men Alive” in 2005.

Still, he notes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

“For any actor, regardless of race, trying to make a living can be hard,” says Kim, in a phone interview from Honolulu, where he lives with his wife and two children. “Being a minority is just an added challenge.

Kim says there are growing opportunities for Asian American men to play significant roles that move beyond stereotypes, but he’d like to see more that are integral to the plot.

On March 22, viewers will see a flashback episode featuring the Korean couple from Sun’s (Yunjim Kim) point of view that involves a love triangle, and will show how Jin and Sun got to be “as dysfunctional as they are,” says Kim, laughing.

In reality, Kim – who was born in Pusan, South Korea – immigrated with his family to the United States when he was a year and a half. His father, an anesthesiologist, and his mother, a homemaker, encouraged him to speak English, so Kim says it takes extra work for him to learn and memorize his Korean lines for “Lost.”

While at Haverford College Kim caught the acting bug. After graduation, he passed up offers to in investment banking in favor of the stage.

“I ended up starving and broke in New York for a while,” he says. After moving to Los Angeles, he quickly landed roles in television and film.

“In my experience, I’ve found that producers have been much more open to ‘nontraditional’ casting in sci-fi,” Kim says. “Because of what Gene Roddenberry did with the original ‘Star Trek’ series, it opened up what’s acceptable in the entire genre.”

His latest foray off the “Lost” island was an appearance in “Crash,” the newly crowned Academy Award winner for best picture.

“I had a tiny role in the Asian storyline about smuggling,” Kim says. “If you blink, you’ll miss it.”

The birthday bunch

Singer Leon Russell is 64. Jazz guitarist Larry Coryell is 63. Actress Linda Hunt is 61. Singer Emmylou Harris is 59. Actress Pamela Reed is 57. Drummer Dave Robinson of The Cars is 53. Country singer Buddy Jewell is 45. Actor Chris Meloni (“Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”) is 45. Singer Keren Woodward of Bananarama is 45. Country singer Billy Dean is 44. Guitarist Greg Camp of Smash Mouth is 39. Guitarist Tony Fredianelli of Third Eye Blind is 37. Keyboardist Jesse Carmichael of Maroon 5 is 27. Actress Bethany Joy Lenz (“One Tree Hill”) is 25.

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