Actor Daniel Dae Kim, whose extensive list of credits stretches back to the early ’90s, is careful about choosing the parts he plays.
“I’ve done my best to avoid stereotypes throughout my career,” Kim told Emmy Magazine for its upcoming issue. “If I know there’s a role that breaks stereotype or turns a stereotype on its head, I may take it just because of the statement it’s making. It’s definitely one of the top priorities when I consider a role — what the portrayal is, what it’s saying about representation.”
Portraying lead character Matthew Ryker — a special FBI agent and microbiologist in National Geographic’s upcoming miniseries The Hot Zone: Anthrax that focuses on the deadly anthrax attacks that followed 9/11 — was an easy yes.
“The fact that we can see an American who looks like me and that we can conceive of that person as a hero and a patriot, expanding the notion of who can be defined as American, that is something I’m very interested in doing,” said Kim, whose family emigrated from South Korea when he was a baby. He grew up in Pennsylvania.
In a separate interview published Thursday, this one in People, Kim said he couldn’t have predicted that he would be in such a place.
“If this show were being made 10 years ago, I could guarantee you that a face like mine wouldn’t be the FBI agent leading this investigation,” Kim said. “To me, that’s a real sign of progress.”
Kim, who has appeared in Hawaii Five-0, 24 and dozens more projects, explained in May that he also considers a prospective character’s fate before signing on to play him.
“I’ve died so many times onscreen that it became a real issue for my kids,” said Kim, who shares two adult sons, Jackson and Zander, with his wife, Mia. “It’s now one [of] the primary factors in deciding whether I take a role or not.”
He emphasized that the trope of the Asian character who doesn’t make it to the end of the story “needs to change.”