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Daniel Dae Kim Spoke Up to ‘Lost’ Creators Over Pilot’s Asian Stereotypes: ‘It Was a Land Mine’

Kim told Damon Lindelof and J.J. Abrams his character "cannot progress in this same way."

Lost

Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim in “Lost”

© ABC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

In a career-spanning interview with Vulture, Daniel Dae Kim reveals he spoke up to “Lost” creators J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof during the production of the pilot with concerns about the Asian stereotypes being depicted in the episode. Kim and co-star Yunjin Kim starred in “Lost” as Korean married couple Jin and Sun, but the characters drew criticism early on for falling into the Asian stereotype of the overbearing husband and his submissive wife.

“When I read the script for the pilot, I knew this was a land mine,” Kim said about the stereotypes. “My greatest fear was that the pilot of ‘Lost’ would air but the series would not — because if you were to see the pilot as the totality of my character, you would have been left with that stereotype.”

Kim continued, “While we were shooting, I remember sitting down with Damon Lindelof and J.J. Abrams and saying, ‘Guys, this character cannot progress in this same way.’ They basically said, ‘Trust us.’ I did, and it turned out for the best. As an Asian actor, you’re just looking to get hired. It’s about working within the system to try and change it when you have the opportunity. The character grew to a place where I don’t think you’d call him a stereotype by the end.”

Another source of criticism during Kim’s tenure on “Lost” was his accent, to which the actor now says, “It is a funny thing about my accent. It’s not standard Korean (표준어) because I speak Busan satoori (사투리). So when we first started, because Yunjin spoke standard Korean, it was decided that I was going to try and change my Busan to standard Korean. So that, plus thinking about the acting of it and realizing I did have an American accent — it became this weird mix of things.”

“But there’s no doubt it stung when I felt like the people I was trying to respect and please the most were the ones who were critical of me,” the actor continued. “It was painful because, as my career since then has borne out, I take a great deal of pride in being Korean American. I know that not every representation is 100 percent something we can stand behind all the time, but I choose to look at things as whether they’re moving the needle of progress on a larger scale. I don’t think you can question the positive effect ‘Lost’ had on representation. You could even argue it has had an effect on the way we cast now, if you look at the copycat shows that came out as a result of ‘Lost.'”

Head over to Vulture’s website to read more from Kim’s interview.

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