Ever since the Lost castaways crash-landed on ABC's airwaves, the drama's fans have struggled to sort the heroes from the villains. Actor Daniel Dae Kim, who plays Jin, knows his Korean-speaking character has fallen into the latter bunch because of his domineering attitude toward Sun, his on-screen wife. However, he hopes viewers will warm to Jin as more of his backstory is revealed. Here, TVGuide.com rings up the 36-year-old thesp — previously best known for his memorable guest spots on 24, Angel and ER — to see how he's adjusting to life as a series regular.
TVGuide.com: Have you a favorite crazy theory about the castaways' predicament?
Daniel Dae Kim: I like [the idea] that they are all dead and in purgatory — that they are there for a reason and they have got to seek some kind of salvation.
TVG: How does your role as Jin compare to playing evil attorney Gavin on Angel?
Kim: There is a lot more room to explore the depths of the character. Gavin, as much as I loved him, was more of a functional role. He was there to serve [the villainess] Lilah and provide a foil for her. Jin is a character in his own right, and we're going to watch him develop and grow.
TVG: We finally got more of Jin's backstory in the "... In Translation" episode.
Kim: I think that was a real key to his personality. I think when you see the way his father is, you see the humble beginnings that he came from, you are really seeing his true nature. The Jin that we are seeing on the island has been corrupted by Sun's father and the things that he's been forced to do while he's been working for him. For me, it was a nice reminder of where Jin is going. He's heading back to his roots.
TVG: By leaving Sun?
Kim: For the moment.
Kim: I used to, but I started realizing that I was taking their comments personally — both good and bad. I needed to distance myself [for the sake of] what I wanted to do with the character.
TVG: How has the response been from Korean viewers?
Kim: I've heard a lot. I'm happy to report that the response has transformed into being very, very positive all around. Initially, I got some negative feedback about the character being stereotypical, but I asked everyone to be patient. I think the patience is starting to be rewarded now. Jin is very far from a stereotype now [that] you understand the specifics of his life and his history. To me, that's the furthest thing from a stereotype.
TVG: Good point.
Kim: I think the Koreans by and large are proud to see themselves represented on the screen. Not just Koreans, but Asian-Americans. There aren't that many well-developed Asian characters on television anywhere. I would argue that Sun and Jin are among the two most developed in the history of television. I'm really proud to be a part of that. I'm so grateful to the producers for taking a risk and putting characters who aren't even speaking English on a prime-time network TV show. It was a huge risk. But I think it has paid off for all of us.
Kim: It is one of the biggest challenges I've ever had as an actor. This is the first role I've ever had where I've been asked to speak Korean. I've had to go back to square one and learn how to approach my character, and my preparation takes a little bit longer than it usually does. That said, it has been a really rewarding challenge; I am so honored to speak the language of my ancestors. It is a way for me to get in touch with my roots and acknowledge that part of me.
TVG: Will Jin complete that raft before the end of the season?
Kim: I think that's a good bet. I think that will be a very important story line as we complete the season.
TVG: Jin is isolated because of the language barrier, but have you personally bonded with your cast mates?
Kim: Absolutely. We all get along really well. The people that I am meanest to on the island are Harold Perrineau [Michael]and Yinjin Kim [Sun], but they happen to be two of the people I'm closest to off camera. It is ironic how that works.
TVG: Are you one of the musical members of the cast?
Kim: I'm afraid I am. Though I'm not nearly as accomplished as Naveen Andrews or Terry O'Quinn. I'm learning guitar, and we get together and just play whenever we can. We bring our guitars to the set and, in between takes, we'll just pick a tune and go.
TVG: Sounds fun. What kind of music do you play?
Kim: I like a lot of alternative rock from the '80s and '90s. I grew up on the Cure, the Smiths, New Order and R.E.M. But because we all play acoustic guitar, we all know the folk songs from the '70s. I was playing Crosby, Stills and Nash with Terry on set. Naveen is like a human jukebox — if you ask him to play any song, he'll play it for you. If you know the lyrics, you've got a band.
Kim: Yeah, the Lost Boys. [Laughs]For more of the lowdown on Lost, keep reading today's Insider.