SINGAPORE – “It’s a signal of change.”
This is what Asian-American actor, director and producer Daniel Dae Kim said on what is perceived as drastic restructuring happening in Hollywood to accommodate more Asian talents.
Note that in the recent Golden Globes 2019, Canadian actress Sandra Oh – who is of Asian descent – took home the Best Actress in a TV Drama award for “Killing Eve.” She made history for becoming the first Asian woman to win in that category in almost 40 years since Yoko Shimada did so too in 1980 for her role in “Shogun.”
Also Fil-Am actor Darren Criss put the Philippine flag on the Hollywood map as he won the a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television for his portrayal of the serial killer Andrew Cunanan in the award-winning Ryan Murphy-helmed “The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.”
The 31-year-old actor-singer was able to defeat veteran actors in the said category, namely Hugh Grant for “A Very English Scandal,” Benedict Cumberbatch for “Patrick Melrose,” Daniel Bruhl for “The Alienist,” and Antonio Banderas for “Genius: Picasso.”
Korean native Daniel added the stocks of Asian talents got a big boost when the American contemporary romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians” became a phenomenal hit last year. The movie based on the global bestseller with same title, follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family.
Filipino actress Kris Aquino even did a cameo in the movie as Princess Intan, a Malay princess.
The movie was nominated in the Golden Globes under Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy category while lead actress Constance Wu was one of the candidates in Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.
Daniel pointed out that the milestone “never happened before to an Asian movie, an Asian-themed movie” and so it “made stars of people which used to be reserve for white people.”
He said: “So there’s a change and I hope that this is a chapter that opens doors through which many other people can go.”
Daniel made his mark on TV series “Lost,” for which he shared a 2006 Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble, and was honored with multiple individual awards.
He’s also known for his roles on “Hawaii Five-0” and the “Divergent” films.
Behind the scenes, Daniel tries his hand at directing, as well as producing premier content for TV, film, and digital media. He spearheads production company, 3AD, in development partnership with ITV Studios America.
Born in Busan, South Korea and raised in New York and Pennsylvania, Daniel discovered acting as a student at Haverford College.
Bulletin Entertainment had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the star wherein he discussed reinventing himself.
What challenges did he encounter as Asian before he landed a good role, we asked.
“I think the challenges of being American–Asian actor… they’re not new,” he related. “The roles are few, the kind of roles are not that necessarily for lead, not necessarily dimensional, and you have a number of friends, colleagues competing for the same few roles.”
But despite rejections and disappointments, “vision and belief in oneself” kept him going.
“I think that’s necessary no matter what field you are in,” he said.
According to Daniel, he doesn’t focus on the obstacles but, instead, pays attention to goals.
“I can identify them (obstacles) but it’s more useful to know how I want to navigate them,” he related.
But is there something he regrets doing in his career?
“Steve Jobs said ‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.’ And so if I look at my career and where I am now, I don’t think I would do anything differently because of all the decisions I made, all the choices I made led me here.”
He maintained success is all about decisions, hard choices sometimes.
“Like a rock that falls into a pond, you’re not focusing on the rock, you’re focusing on the riples made on the pond.”
Asked how he balances creating quality content while making it appealing to the broader audience, he said there’s “no magic formula.”
“If there is then everyone would be doing it,” he explained.
“And so, again, it’s really about having a vision of the kind of story you want to tell and you wanna make; and having an awareness of the market; understand what audience is looking for, what’s popular in culture.”
His goal as producer is beyond entertainment.
“It’s about contributing to the conversation in our culture in some positive way whether we shed some light of the issue or create entertainment that bring us together, elevate us,” he pointed out.
In fact, Daniel admitted he purposely touches on Asian culture and traditions as much as possible in every project he does.
What’s his advice to Asian artists who want to make it big in Hollywood?
“There’s a lot of things that you can’t control in Hollywood, lots of variables beyond your control. But your work ethic and your ability is something that you can control so you should do everything you can to be the best of what you do.”
We caught up with Daniel at the recent Singapore Media Festival (SMF) where he was one of the jurors of Asian Feature Film Competition along with established Hong Kong film director Stanley Kwan who served as the head juror; Japanese cinematographer Akiko Ashizawa, Canadian producer Sylvain Corbeil, and Vietnamese actress Tran Nu Yên Khê.
They judged the four categories: Best Film, Best Director, Best Performance, and Special Mention.
Asked what are the things he looked up when judging a film, he said it’s a “combination of things.”
“Like, what is the story? How is it being told? How is the director using the camera? How are the actors? What’s the chemistry on screen? Is there a narrative? Is there something innovative in the way they’re trying to tell the story, so many different things.
“What’s the cinematography like, even the sound design, music? It’s everything but ultimately it’s just whether all these ingredients come together to move the audience, that’s really the bottom line.”
In terms of the festival, he said he likes the fact that the event encourages young filmmakers to follow their dream and pursue their passion.
Daniel’s latest project is as producer of “The Good Doctor,” a U.S. adaptation of the hit Korean TV series of the same name.
He also landed a meaty role as Major Daimio in the 2019 Hollywood superhero film “Hellboy.”