After a 31-year career, Daniel Dae Kim was happy to see his name atop the call sheet for the first time when he began filming National Geographic's The Hot Zone: Anthrax. Kim talked to emmy magazine about his experiences making the limited series and his continuing quest to break stereotypes through his roles. The award-winning, official publication of the Television Academy hits newsstands Oct. 15.
The Hot Zone: Anthrax, told over three nights beginning Nov. 28 and streaming the next day on Hulu, is the story of the largely-forgotten anthrax attacks in the wake of Sept. 11 that killed five people and injured 17. Kim, whose family emigrated from Korea when he was a baby, portrays Matthew Ryker, a microbiologist and FBI special agent. The prolific actor and producer tells emmy that he sees the character as a breakthrough: "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."
Kim, who earlier this year spoke before a House Judiciary Committee about hate crimes, has been a vocal advocate for inclusion in the industry. "I've done my best to avoid stereotypes throughout my career," he says. "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."
In the emmy cover story "Patriot Acts," Kim shares that to inform his character, he spoke with three FBI agents, two of them Asian Americans, including a Korean American. "If he has a superpower, it's his doggedness," Kim says of Ryker. "He will not be deterred, no matter who gets in his way. One of the interesting things about playing him was that he had trouble speaking up for himself early on, and now he's finding his voice through this investigation. He was standing up to obstacles that maybe would have deterred him earlier in his career."
Kim costars with Tony Goldwyn, who plays Bruce Ivins, a microbiologist who worked on two anthrax vaccines at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. While Goldwyn and Kim are the main characters, they don't meet until the fifth episode and only share two long scenes. It reminded Kim of a favorite movie, Michael Mann's Heat, starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. "I don't ever purport to be as significant or as good an actor as either Pacino or De Niro, but the structure of the story was very similar," Kim says. "And so, I loved those scenes together because I felt like we could take all of the work that we had done independently and play together; and that was really, really satisfying as an actor."
Shooting during the pandemic took a personal toll on Kim. Throughout six months of filming in Toronto, he was away from his family in Hawaii, due to Canada's stringent COVID-19 restrictions. "It left me feeling more isolated than I'd ever felt on any job on location," he tells emmy. "It's no fault of anyone's; but if you ask me anything about Toronto, I really couldn't tell you. My entire experience was: Go to work, come home, get takeout or cook something, go to work, come home, repeat. That was pretty much it."
Additional feature highlights from the new issue include:
- In "The Invincibles," Bob the Drag Queen, Shangela and Eureka O'Hara, the stars of HBO's We're Here, talk to emmy about the Emmy-nominated show's second season and their mission to bring healing and understanding to small-town America.
- New Universal Television President Erin Underhill has come a long way from her small-town upbringing in Petaluma, California, as a first-generation American. In "Change? She's Cool With It," the seasoned executive discusses the challenges of taking over a studio in the wake of the pandemic and how it necessitated taking risks, being adaptable and trying new things.
- "Floating on Air" is a stunning 52-page portfolio featuring photos of Emmy winners, nominees and presenters by photographer Robert Ascroft, shot at the 73rd Emmy Awards in the emmy portrait studio.
Emmy, the official publication of the Television Academy, goes behind the scenes of the industry for a unique insider's view. It showcases the scope of television and profiles the people who make TV happen, from the stars of top shows to the pros behind the cameras, covering programming trends and advances in technology. Honored consistently for excellence, emmy is a six-time Maggie Award winner as Best Trade Publication in Communications or the Arts and has collected 52 Maggies from the Western Publishing Association. Emmy is published 12 times per year and is available on selected newsstands and at TelevisionAcademy.com for single print and digital copies as well as subscriptions.
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