Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Yun Jin Kim and Daniel Dae Kim, are castaways among castaways -- a Korean couple segregated by language on "Lost."

Actors explore Korean
heritage in ‘Lost’

Daniel Dae Kim and Yun Jin Kim want to make a few things clear just a day before the premiere of "Lost," one of the most anxiously awaited shows of television's fall season.


Premiere: 7 p.m. tonight on KITV/ABC

Inside: Critic says "Lost" worth finding

The Korean-American actors who are part of the ensemble cast of ABC's castaway drama are not related, are not like the characters they portray, and don't know what's stalking them on the mysterious Pacific island that's home to the ABC series.

"I don't know and I don't think (executive producers/creators) J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof know yet," says Yun jin from her Waikiki apartment. "But being a sci-fi fan, I would like to see it as an alien, but I don't think we'll ever find out."

"I have my theories but I won't say," says Daniel from the "Lost" set on Nimitz Highway. "We know what it's not and it's not a dinosaur."

The Kims play a dysfunctional Korean married couple who speak only Korean. In tonight's episode, Yun Jin is Sun, a submissive woman to husband Jin's overbearing personality. When we first meet the couple amidst the awful wreckage of the L-1011 on Mokuleia beach, Sun is cowering several yards away from her glowering husband. In future episodes, viewers will learn the reason for Jin's demeanor.

Reminded that his appearance borders on monstrous, Daniel laughs. "Good, that was my intent," he says. "I like to think that I'm not as ominous in real life."

"And I am not a submissive in real life!" says Yun Jin, 30. "Sun is submissive because she has been taught that way, which is a bit odd because I certainly don't see too many submissive Korean women."

Yun Jin expressed her concern about the character with "Lost" creator Abrams early during a two-hour telephone conversation. "I explained that because Koreans are not being portrayed at all in America media they will really care how Daniel and I look in this show," she said. "I didn't want 'Lost' to get backlash. I didn't want to misrepresent the women."

So Abrams took the time to give Yun Jin her character's back story.

"Sun is a very, very wealthy woman coming from one of 10 families that run the Korean economy," Yun Jin says.

In a future episode there will be flashbacks into Sun's life before she got on the plane, and a clearer description about her relationship with her husband.

"You understand why he changed so much and the huge secret she left behind," Yun Jin says.

Sun's toughness will surface as she becomes increasingly defiant to her husband's wishes. "I think she may hook up with another character on the island," Yun Jin says. "And they're now letting me get wear pants and a tank top and get out of that skirt and sweater.

"The skirt was very uncomfortable on the beach and quite difficult to sit in."

Like Yun Jin, Daniel had lengthy conversations with "Lost's" creators before taking the part. "For an Asian actor it's a minefield," he said. "You have to work through it very carefully.

"There aren't that many chances for Asian actors to be part of a series and move beyond the stereotype," Daniel says. "I trust J.J. and Damon to flush out my character to make him three dimensional, someone interesting to play and watch develop.

"The writers have told me Jin has many layers to reveal. I trust them."

OF ALL THE shows he's work on, the difference with "Lost" is, "I really feel like I'm woven into the fabric of this show more than in the past.

"In 'ER' and '24,' my character performed a very specific function and here I'm developing a total character," he said. "J.J. and Damon were incredibly open about my concerns, showed a lot of respect for my character and open to discussion about what we would have to do to make it perform well. That's why I'm here."

Daniel, who brought along his wife and two children, ages 2 and 8, grew up in the Pennsylvania steel town of Easton -- he was born in Pusan, Korea -- in the only Asian family in his community and the next town. "It was interesting," he says.

His first major role was as a young Torvald in Pan Asian Repertory Theater's presentation of Ibsen's classic, "A Doll's House." Numerous theater roles comprise his early career.

On television he played attorney Gavin Park on "Angel." Last summer he was also seen in "Spider-Man 2." But when the opportunity to work with Abrams came along, Daniel barely needed to hear the show's premise before accepting.

"I knew very little about the project before I signed on," he said. "They didn't send me a script and when I auditioned for them they actually asked me to take a leap of faith with them."

DANIEL'S CHARACTER was needed when the creators cast Yun Jin in a color-blind role.

"J.J. has this style of bringing any interesting actors in to meet. If they like them, then they decide to write a role that hadn't been considered.

"My interview was pretty long. Then they asked me to sit down and talk about Korea. I said, 'Hey Damon, you were a half hour late and I have to go to the airport to pick up my mom, well, something like that.'"

Yun Jin made it to the airport a bit late, but she got the role and mom understood.

The actor made a name for herself in Korea and Asia with the film "Shiri." "Lost" is her American TV debut. Her credits include starring roles in Korean films "Ardor," "Yesterday," "Iron Palm," "Ginko Bed 2," the Japanese film, "Rush," and several TV dramas and miniseries.

Born in Seoul, Korea, she grew up in Staten Island, New York. She said she was a shy child who decided to get over her fears by taking drama classes in the seventh grade.

One of the main reasons she left a successful film and TV career in Korea is that she simply missed America.

"I kept telling myself that I had spent eight years studying in English in America so I could act here and ... I wanted to find my way back home," she said.

Then ABC offered her a sweetheart deal she calls a "Holding Contract" which meant you can only audition for that network's shows while they pay you. And that's when "Lost" came along.

Both actors agree the hardest aspect of their roles thus far is not being able to interact with the other characters because all the survivors but one think they only speak Korean.

"So I can't actively participate in the crisis we're all going through," Yun Jin said.

Daniel's character has the same problem.

"I've only been speaking Korean so it's hard to find where I fit in because Yun Jin and I spend so much time apart from the others in the story," he said. "It's going to take some effort on my character's part to integrate into the group."

Both actors speak Korean in the show which may be used more extensively in "Lost" than any other network series.

"My first language is Korean," Daniel said. "My parents spoke it to me at home growing up. But Yun Jin's is better than mine because it is current day and she teaches me slang and colloquialism.

"We've worked together on conversational Korean so Koreans will be able to follow us."

Both actors agree that the icing on the Abrams' cake is working in Hawaii.

Yun Jin giggles when she says she's going to tell a real secret.

"The best part of the show is being in Hawaii," she says. "Driving to the North Shore crash set was so amazingly beautiful. ...I have never seen so many rainbows in my life. Every day I am in awe.

"I'll never forget one day we were filming and suddenly there was this incredible double rainbow over the ocean. Everything stopped and we just looked at it.

"OK, a secret for viewers: the rainbows will be one of the best parts of 'Lost.' "


Creators of ‘Alias’ gamble
ABC viewers will find ‘Lost’

"Lost": 7 p.m. tonight on KITV/ABC

The first scene in "Lost" is almost unbearably dreadful, not just for what you see but also what you fear you might see.

A bloodied young man awakens in a bamboo grove, then stumbles to the nearby beach to confront a horror he shares with many: a jet crash, with pieces of the huge, doomed craft strewn across the sand and passengers everywhere injured or crazed.

The man, Jack (Matthew Fox, "Party of Five"), happens to be a doctor. The camera follows as he makes his heroic rounds at wholesale triage.

Fortunately, in this scene and throughout the debut episode, "Lost" never loses its way. Thanks to stylish handling by J.J. Abrams ("Alias"), it stops just short of the grotesque in even its most extreme moments (a throbbing, whirring storm of sound effects at the crash site is as disturbing as any of the visuals). Although "Lost" is filmed on Oahu, the setting is an unknown Pacific island.

This is "Gilligan's Island," the nightmare edition, with more castaways (and squabbling) than on any two seasons of "Survivor." There's a pregnant woman, a rock star with a drug habit, a hot-headed troublemaker and more. Jack, as leader of this disparate and desperate band, will clearly have his hands full.

But soon enough, he finds a helpmate in Kate (Evangeline Lilly), self-possessed and lovely. No time yet for sparks to fly, but if the situation ever settles down, count on it.

There are medical and nutritional problems to deal with (the packs of party mix on the plane won't last long). These survivors have to figure out where they are, and try to get a message to the outside world.

And, well, there's one more hitch. As if bidding for "Jurassic Park" fans, "Lost" throws into the mix monstrous predators. They are impossibly huge, noisy as all get-out and prone to pop up at the least provocation. So far we don't know exactly what they are, but the prospect of getting eaten by one of these bad boys only adds to the maddening urgency to get the heck out of here.

Will the radio recovered from the jetliner's cockpit, with its dying battery and crackly reception, prove to be the key? In any case, it figures in the premiere's cruel climax. And if you're not hooked on "Lost" before then, that twist could convince you: Here is a series worth getting lost with.

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