You probably recognize sexy Tim Kang from appearances on The Office, The Sopranos, Rambo and a slew of commercials. Now he takes center stage as one of the stars of the hit show The Mentalist, and as our July Man of the Moment. He chatted with ATG’s Elia Sheldon:
Firstly, let me start by congratulating you on the success of The Mentalist. What does it feel like to be part of such a successful show?
I feel so fortunate and thankful. It’s incredibly difficult for a show to be made. Harder still for that show to be a success, so for us to be in the position that we are in is a true blessing.
Your bio says that you grew up in San Francisco and majored in Political Science undergrad at University of California at Berkeley and then studied at the A.R.T. Institute at Harvard University, where you earned an Master of Fine Arts degree. Then you went on to study at the Moscow Art Theatre School in Russia. Did you always want to be an actor? How did your interest in the craft evolve?
I took a beginning acting class when I was 26. I had never acted before in my life. I was living and working in San Francisco when, on a whim, I took that beginning acting class and absolutely loved it. I then quit my job where I was making a pretty good living and applied to graduate acting programs. My boss thought I was crazy!
Can you speak Russian? If so, please say (write) something for us.
I got fairly decent speaking the language during my time there, but I forgot most of it. Just like anything else, it’s a perishable skill, and without regular practice it tends to go away.
How has your educational background molded you both personally and professionally?
It has given me the tools to successfully navigate my personal and professional lives, in a confident and self-respecting manner.
Tell us about your family. Were you the oldest? Only child? How do your experiences growing up influence the portrayal of your characters?
I am the eldest of three boys.
What was your first paid acting gig? How did you celebrate that important milestone?
It was an outdoor production of Titus Andronicus. I believe we got a stipend of $50. To celebrate, I bought a round of beers for my friends. After that, the money was gone.
Your character Kimball Cho seems like a straight shooter, down-to-earth guy who is quietly passionate and very serious about his job. How similar or different are you from him?
There is, of course, a side to me that is Kimball Cho. However, in my day-to-day life, I don’t think I’m like him at all. I smile too much!
How similar or different do you think criminal investigations are from what’s depicted on The Mentalist? What have you learned about that line of work that you didn’t know before?
We definitely take some creative liberties on the show. That said, the writers do a great job of keeping the procedural aspects grounded in reality. Our technical advisor, Karl Sonnenberg, also does an incredible job of keeping the show as real as it can be.
I didn’t really know the amount of danger that our law enforcement officers expose themselves to every day. You read it in the paper and see it on the news but until you’re sitting in a police car at 3am after pulling over a van with its windows blacked out, not knowing what’s inside or how many people there are, you can’t really appreciate what they do. Incidentally, two of the people in that van had warrants out for their arrest for violent crimes. Our men and women in law enforcement do this every night!
Would you set up your best woman friend with Kimball? What do you think a first date with him would be like?
If I thought they’d get along, definitely. Depending on the woman, it could be a very quiet date.
What would a first date be like with you?
Not as quiet.
What’s your favorite television show of all time? Why?
There have been so many great shows, I can’t pick just one. As far as recent cop shows, I really enjoyed The Wire.
Who are your role models? Why?
My dad. He’s the best man I know.
Congratulations are also in order for Mister Green winning Best Short Film at SciFi London 2010. I really enjoyed your performance as Mason Park, the jaded government undersecretary who undergoes a huge transformation. What made you decide to do the film? Do you think it will move people and/or our government to take actions that will have a positive change on our environment?
First and foremost, the script. I think it did a great job of conveying a message without bonking you over the head with it. Also, Greg Pak, is an amazing director and when the opportunity to work with him materialized, I jumped at the chance.
As far as moving people or our government to take action, that certainly is the hope, but not very likely. You never know…
What are your pursuits outside of acting? I read somewhere that you like to skydive. Is that true? What other hobbies do you enjoy?
I made my first skydive in 1996. I’ve been skydiving off and on since then. I’m also an avid scuba diver. Lately, though, I’ve been into cars and motorcycles.
What’s your advice to our readers who might be interested in a career in Hollywood?
If you’re truly in love with it, and can’t see yourself doing anything else, I say go for it! Also, to keep at it. Like most things in life, and for the majority of us in this business experiencing some success, it doesn’t and didn’t happen overnight.
If you were psychic, what would you predict for your future?
It’s less of a prediction and more of a hope…I hope more opportunities present themselves for me to contribute in a meaningful way be it in film, television or on the stage.
Lastly, but most importantly, thank you so much for doing this interview and please accept my sincere wishes for your continued success.