Interview by Camden Ferrell
When Minari first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020, many were impressed by the performance from 7-year-old Alan S. Kim who plays David. In anticipation of the release of Minari, his debut film appearance, disappointment media had the opportunity to talk with Kim and discuss his role in the movie.
On Joining the Minari Cast
disappointment media: You made your film debut as David recently, and it's a great debut. When did you first know you wanted to be an actor?
Kim: I guess when my mom told me about Minari I’m like, “I guess I'll do this.”
disappointment: And what was it like to audition for Minari? Was it nerve-wracking? Was it exciting?
Alan S. Kim: It was exciting, but the heat wave was kind of hot, like really hot. It was so hot, and the hotel was so well air-conditioned, so when I had to go out to film, I'm like, “Do I have to go out? It's way too hot.”
disappointment: And you were filming in Tulsa, Oklahoma, correct?
Kim: Yes, in the summer.
disappointment: What did you like about the area?
Kim: Well, it was big and cool, but kind of western, I guess?
On Preparing for and Filming Minari (Contains Mild Spoilers)
disappointment: Whenever you got the role of David, what did you do to memorize your lines and prepare for the role?
Kim: Well, for the Korean lines, my mom would speak and help me memorize. I would repeat it, and if I still didn't get it, she would do some of the motions to help me understand.
disappointment: In the movie, you speak both Korean and English very well. Did you learn both of those languages growing up, or was there one you learned first?
Kim: My first language was Korean and then my teacher helped me learn English, but before she even taught me how to speak in English, I always spoke Korean to the teacher. Yeah, that was really bad.
disappointment: What did you find was the most exciting part about filming Minari?
Kim: Probably when I gave pee to the grandma [Youn Yuh-jung]. Because it’s just so funny, but kind of naughty. It's like, giving pee to someone innocent.
disappointment: That was hilarious. So, you and Steven Yeun, who plays your father in the movie, you guys seem like a real father and son. What was it like to work with him?
Kim: It was really fun working with him because he really was kind and awesome. Since I was such a slow eater, he would say, “Hey, let's have an eating contest. Fastest one to eat is the winner," just so he can make me eat faster.
disappointment: So, giving the pee to your grandma was your favorite part of film, but what was the most difficult scene to film for you?
Kim: Probably nothing because everything was so easy except the heat wave. Yeah, it was really hot.
disappointment: What do you think kids are gonna like most about this movie?
Kim: Probably the funny parts because most kids like to see funny parts. And yeah, they will really like that.
On Being Behind the Scenes
disappointment: In the movie, there's lots of Korean dishes and beverages you have to drink, so what is your favorite Korean meal?
Kim: Well, the Korean meal there on set was probably like the rice and the kimchi and lots of things like that. In the movie, I had to drink Mountain Dew. Other than that, I would drink nothing but like apple juice and orange juice, so when I drink Mountain Dew, I'm like, “Yum!”.
disappointment: What was it like working with a movie big sister [Noel Cho] on set?
Kim: It was really fun. Off set, we would watch Captain Underpants, and we would play games like Talking Tom Hero Dash.
disappointment: Are there any behind the scenes secrets or stories that you want to tell us?
Kim: Like, behind the scenes, for the raining scene we would watch the TV and then Steven would carry me into the car. That’s more of a cut scene. It didn't actually rain. It came from like a giant rainmaker thingy majiggy. Then, there's also a part where I go to Johnnie's house, but in that part, there was a scene that was cut out. I had to ride a bike but since the bike was so big, they had to attach it to the go-kart, and I had to fake that I was riding the bicycle.
disappointment: In the movie, your grandma teaches you how to play a card game. I believe it's called go-stop. Did you actually learn how to how to play that in real life?
Kim: Yes, my mom taught me.
disappointment: What's the most fun part about that game?
Kim: I don't really care about winning or losing, but if I win, I don't really boast, but I'm like, “Oh, yeah!” kind of like that. I really like to play.
On David and Minari's Message
disappointment: How do you relate to the character of David?
Kim: Well, mostly everything except he has an unhealthy heart while I have a healthy one. We both have older sisters, and we like to annoy them. And we also follow rules on our own terms. Because if my mom says to sleep, I'm like, “Okay,” then I sleep somewhere random.
disappointment: David's a fun-loving kid. He likes being mischievous. He likes goofing around, but in your free time, what do you like to do for fun?
Kim: I like to play video games and watch TV. My favorite video game is either Minecraft or Roblox.
disappointment: Now, what do you hope people learn the most from Minari after watching it? What's the lesson you want people to learn from the movie?
Kim: I'm not sure, but the lesson would probably be if you believe in yourself, you can do it. Probably something like that.
disappointment: Minari is a movie about family and what a home truly is. What does home mean to you?
Kim: A house mostly, but more so than a house, love.
On His Future as an Actor
disappointment: What's next for you and your career as an actor? What do you plan on doing next?
Kim: More movies, and I'm doing another movie sometime in March. I think it's called Latchkey Kids.
disappointment: That's great. Are you excited for Latchkey Kids?
disappointment: What advice do you have for any children who want to be in movies?
Kim: Don't overreact and don't rush. Also, don't really do anything that's not yourself.
disappointment: Who do you want to thank the most for all the help they've been when filming this movie?
Kim: My family.
Minari will be in select theaters February 12 and on VOD February 26.
Dedicated to unique and diverse perspectives on cinema!