Korean-American Actor Keong Sim has Big Plans
AF: When did you discover a passion for acting?
KS: My love of performing started with improv. I have such huge respect for those who do it well. It’s a long story, but after my college relationship ended, I started taking improv classes just to meet people. I loved it and started performing in improvised children’s shows, then straight plays and eventually I decided to move to New York to study acting formally. In hindsight, my move to New York was just as much about finding the courage to leave home and see the world as much as it was about pursuing acting.
AF: Tell us about your experience on the Glee set compared to the Monday Mornings set. How was it similar or different?
KS: Both were fun and challenging experiences, but inherently different. Although I had a 4-episode arc on GLEE, being a series regular is more challenging and fulfilling than being a guest star on a show. I had the chance to start from the beginning with Monday Mornings, to originate a character. I got to shoot a whole season on Monday Mornings — many more story lines and fuller character development. But both were fun and challenging experiences: GLEE was more of a 5K run while Monday Mornings was a marathon.
AF: You play Dr. Sung Park in Monday Mornings, who is an intense Asian American neurosurgeon with a very ambitious personality. What helps you get into character?
KS: It helps that the writing is so good. Any actor will tell you the relief they feel when he/she gets a script that is well written. I think we all know people who are a little rough around the edges and it’s fun to play those roles. It also helps to have the right eyewear for a character.
AF In what way(s) do you relate to Dr. Sung Park? If not at all, tell us how.
KS: Well, though my parents are Korean, I was born in Vietnam and came to the United States when I was 4-years-old. So I can definitely relate to not knowing the language and the culture, and, as a result, having felt like an outsider. I admire Dr. Park’s integrity and sometimes wish I could speak my mind as honestly as he does.
AF: Any memorable moments during your acting career?
KS: My first response is a little tongue-in- cheek, so I’ll say “no, no memorable experiences”, next question? There were just so, so many. I’ll relate one story when I put my acting “career” on hiatus. I had been living in New York City for quite a while, but my career was going nowhere, couldn’t get an agent, etc. So I accepted a full-time job at a financial institution where I had been a temp worker for years. I thought I should take a break from my acting career, save some money to put a down payment on a place of my own so that, at least, years down the road I would have something to show for all the years of struggle. Well less than 2 months after I became salaried, I got an offer to do the musical ANYTHING GOES at the Paper Mill Playhouse, starring the legendary Chita Rivera. After about one day of soul-searching, I realized that I wasn’t here to work in a financial institution. So I quit the lucrative job and acted for non-Equity scale in New Jersey. I knew in my gut it was the right decision.
AF: Do you find any difficulties or obstacles in the acting business as an Asian American?
KS: Of course. I’d be lying if I said no, as any actor of ethnicity can tell you. It’s all perspective. As any actor can attest, in this business you are constantly dealing with rejection. So you better learn to make peace with it and not take it personally. There are a lot fewer roles for minorities, but there’s a lot less competition for those fewer roles. Ultimately though I believe this business, and perhaps most careers, you can’t take a victim mentality and have any longevity. This business rewards those who see it for what it is, can endure and find fulfillment in other areas of life.
AF: Are there any dream roles you would like to see yourself in?
KS: There are projects that would thrill me and people I’d love to work with. I’d love to be a guest on The Daily Show. I have such huge respect for Jon Stewart and what he does, how he uses comedy to cut through the B.S. (In my younger days, I submitted to be a writer on his show.) I’d love to host Saturday Night Live. I’d love to be part of a smart, fun sitcom. I’d love to work with Judd Apatow. I’ve been a huge fan ever since Freaks N Geeks. But you know I’m kind of in a dream role now.
AF: Is there an actor/actress that you idolize or look up to?
KS: So many, where to begin? I’ll mention my last filming experience, Gerard Butler’s upcoming film, “Olympus Has Fallen”, directed by Antoine Fuqua. I had a chance to work with — among many fine actors in the film– Academy-Award-winning actress, Melissa Leo. She was so smart and sensitive; in one scene, I had to improvise some dialogue on the spot in speaking with Aaron Eckhart’s character, the U.S. President. Melissa made sure I had the time to come up with the dialogue. She nurtured me in that scene and was just so generous. Above all, she’s such a genuine person. I also remember when I got to watch Dick Van Dyke and Jerry Van Dyke rehearse, in a small theater in Malibu, scenes from Neil Simon’s THE SUNSHINE BOYS. To see them rehearse, play around, make mistakes, joke. I was super awestruck.