13 Oct Q&A WITH JANE KIM OF TIE A YELLOW RIBBON & WEST 32ND
Actress Jane Kim stars in two features at SDAFF this year – TIE A YELLOW RIBBON and our closing night film, WEST 32nd.
LEE ANN KIM: First of all, congrats on your burgeoning career! We’re excited to showcase you in two different features this year (West 32nd and Tie a Yellow Ribbon). It’s interesting how you speak Korean in one film and English in the other. Is there a different method to acting in another language?
JANE: Acting in English and Korean definitely has its differences in that there are certain phrases and slang that cannot be duplicated into another language and have the same impact. Acting in Korean came easier than I thought because I was raised in a very traditional Korean household and was heavily disciplined to be fluent. Although, I don’t have the same opportunity to practice as I did growing up, it came pretty naturally. There really is no method but to allow the influence of that specific culture in your analysis of the character.
LEE ANN: In some ways, your roles in West 32nd and Tie a Yellow Ribbon are similar, in that your characters suffer a lot of pain. Can you talk about that?
JANE: When choosing a project to work on, I gravitate towards certain characters I sympathize for or conversely towards characters I just don’t understand, but want to play for its challenge. I took on “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” before “West 32nd”. I really liked the part of Beatrice in TYR because just prior to TYR, I starred in “Feel” with Billy Baldwin, which premiered at the Philadelphia Film festival this year, and played a very cold and comical tragic character. So Beatrice was intriguing in that she wasn’t cold at all. But, so delicate and fragile and beyond breakable. I understood parts of her- wanting to please her parents (I am Korean..haha), but her deep depression and outcome is so different from who I am, I wanted to take that journey to understand why people get to that point. Because, after all, film is really a tool to allow awareness and better understanding of different people and their situations.
So! When the part of Suki in “West 32nd” was offered to me…at first I declined. I said I just don’t want to play the weak tragic beauty. I also didn’t want to do another part with a character involved in the men’s service industry. In “Feel” I play a woman who works in a massage parlor, in “Shanghai Hotel” (release 2008) I play a woman who was at first a vicitim and then turns into a pro in a brothel, and in “West 32nd” I am a hostess at a room salon. As you see, I didn’t want to be stereotyped.
Well, after several conversations with Mike Kang (director) and Teddy Zee (producer), I really analyzed the part of Suki. Yes, she goes through so much pain, yet it’s her strength that allows to do the right thing whether that is the cause of her demise. As Mike said, Suki is really the heart of the film in that she stays true to herself.
LEE ANN: West 32nd premiered at Tribeca. Did you get to meet DeNiro? What was that festival’s experience like?
JANE: Unfortunately, I was working on another project to make it to the opening of Tribeca so I didn’t meet him. Tribeca was a lot of fun. Especially, since the film was shot in NYC, for it to premiere in NYC was very special. However, because of the tremendous support (all five screenings were beyond sold out), a lot of family and friends stood in line for over an hour and still got turned down.
LEE ANN: Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up, what did you study, and how were you influenced into becoming an actor? And how do your parents feel about your choice?
JANE: I grew up in Atlanta, GA. I came to NY for school as I attended NYU Tisch School of the Arts as a drama major. I also attended Stella Adler Conservatory. I think deep down in my heart, I knew this was my path. However, my rational and sensible side pushed me towards becoming an international lawyer. I was on the debate team in high school and was very academic. However, I kept dipping my feet into the entertainment business as I got sponsored to do pageants and actually won. I was Miss Preteen Atlanta and Miss Georgia Teen USA and even ended up competing in Miss Korea. Many years ago. haha. But, I think my biggest fear was actually making it as an Asian American actor in the US. Luckily, I’ve been working professionally as an actor for 4 years and doing film for 2 years and I just finished my 5th film. My parents, like all parents, were very concerned. My mom kept making me go to early morning prayers with her at church to clarify my goals…but now she is my biggest fan.
LEE ANN: You’re absolutely stunning to look at on film. Were you a model?
JANE: Yes. I started modeling and doing commercials first. I’ve done a lot of work with Clinique, Redken, Avon, Garnier Nutrisse, Clairol and other cosmetic and hair companies. It’s been fun.
LEE ANN: Who’s your role model?
JANE: My mom. My dad. My fiancé. For who they are and who they are to me.
LEE ANN: While there are a growing number of Asian American women in television and film, the numbers are still relatively small. Are you conscience of this, and do you feel a responsibility to represent the Asian American community?
JANE: Yes, however, more than that, I just always feel responsible for representing myself in a respectable way, first and foremost. The rest is too much to think about. Just making sure I make the right choices, treat others the right way and behave professionally and humbly keeps me quite busy.
LEE ANN: What’s your dream job?
JANE: I’m not sure. I guess, when I can call all the shots. (or will that be just a dream..)
LEE ANN: What are you working on now?
JANE: I just finished the principal photography on Mia 2.0 (formerly Transbeman)- “the Death of Death”. It’s a techno-thriller set in the near future. “When a murder is witnessed by millions around the world, society is forced to confront the moral issues raised by the creation of the first post-human.” I star in the film as Mia and play alongside James Remar (Dexter, Sex In The City, The Warriors) and Kevin Corrigan (The Departed, Goodfellas). Release is 2008.
LEE ANN: And finally, is there anything surprising you can share about yourself?
I am a black belt Taekwondo Instructor. I love working with children, especially special needs kids. It’s been the most gratifying, challenging and beautiful thing I’ve done in my life. I hope to continue my work with kids and start something to incorporate Taekwondo into the physical training (but more so, mental and emotional development) of special needs children in this country.
Meet Jane Kim in person at the screening of TIE A YELLOW RIBBON on Sunday, Oct 14 at 2:45 PM.
Lee Ann is the founder and former Executive Director of Pacific Arts Movement and the San Diego Asian Film Festival.