MAN with a PLAN

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//ESPACIO The Jewel of Waikiki
After being closed for close to a year due to the pandemic, ESPACIO The Jewel of Waik?k? reopens June 1, welcoming guests back to its exclusive oceanfront hideaway with enviable new amenities and elevated wellness standards. Located on Kal?kaua Avenue across from Waik?k? Beach, the nine-floor, nine-suite ultra-private luxury hotel features nine 2,250-square-foot multi-bedroom suites—each occupying an individual floor— with an expansive ocean-view balcony equipped with a Jacuzzi, private dry sauna, spa-like bathrooms, designer kitchen and personal elevator entry. There also is an elegant rooftop infinity pool and sun deck, where during our photo shoot with Daniel Dae Kim, our crew all witnessed the elusive green flash at sunset.

Like me, Daniel Dae Kim is Korean, has two kids, and lives in Hawai‘i. He could be a brother from another mother-he’d be the cool, successful brother, while I’d be the one asking if I could borrow money. The guy, who has lived here now for about 15 years, is so full of aloha that he’d probably consider it.

I met Kim at a posh penthouse at the Espacio in Waik?k?. I noticed how comfortable he felt in this luxurious setting. That’s the thing about Kim. Whether
it’s a deserted island in Lost, a hospital in New Amsterdam, or a spaceship in Stowaway, he looks the part. That chameleon quality is part of his craft. He’s a successful producer as well. His company, 3AD, produces ABC’s The Good Doctor and has other projects in the pipeline.

“I’m busier now than I’ve ever been in my career,” Kim says. “It’s almost around- the-clock. My company is based in LA, so whether I’m in Hawai‘i, New York, Korea, or wherever else, I’m still working LA hours. But since I’m still an actor, I’m working on location as well. For example, when I was in Bulgaria shooting Hellboy, we were still developing shows, so I’d be literally up in the middle of the night talking to LA before I went to work in the morning to shoot.”

That non-stop grind is a necessary ingredient in a business where careers can be so unstable. Not only does Kim runa production company, he voiced Chief Benja in Raya and the Last Dragon, and he’s slated to star in the latest season of the anthology series The Hot Zone. Fortunately, his parents instilled ferocious work ethic in him.

“No one is forcing me to work hard in this business. It’s not like, when you were a kid sitting at the dinner table and your parents were forcing you to study. You have to be a self-starter. The truth is, if you’re not doing it, someone else is going to. If you’re an actor, and you don’t like what you’re doing, there are a thou- sand others who would be more than happy to take your place.”

I told him that I recently watched Stowaway and loved it. The film, also starring Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette and Shamier Anderson, is about a space crew headed to Mars who discover an accidental passenger shortly after launch.

“I have to say it was the project that I might’ve been most excited about since Lost. It’s in the science fiction genre, but it’s a very human story. It’s not action in space with aliens and things like that. It’s a story that could take place anywhere because the themes are very grounded—man versus nature, with just four people through the entire movie. I really loved the director and thought the script was tight as well. It was a great experience. I really felt like an actor again.”

Here on Earth, despite the fact that both of his kids are grown and out of the house, Daniel Dae Kim continues to maintain a presence in Hawai‘i.

“The only thing that’s bringing me back to Hawai‘i is my love for Hawai‘i. That’s why I’ll come back even if it’s only for five or six days, because that’s how much I miss it. When I left Hawaii 5-0, so many people thought I left the island, so for a lot of years I’d be walking around Safeway, and someone would be like, ‘Oh, you’re still here!’ I’d laugh and say, yeah, I live here. One of the things I love most about living here is how a part of the community people consider me. That means a lot.”

Speaking of communities, Kim is also a leading vocal advocate of stronger Asian American presence in the film industry.

“I look at it this way. I think about Hawai‘i, and I see how racially mixed
the population is here. When I go to the mainland, I see so little representation of the people I live with every day. That lack of representation often leads to a lack of consideration for our experiences and stories. I don’t think that changes without people speaking up about it. And not just speaking up about it, but creating their own projects based on the world that they see. If there are people in Hollywood or any other industry gatekeeping and not allowing those stories to happen, then we have to be vocal about it. For me, it’s always been important to be a part of the community, to help others in the community, and lift us all up. I really do believe a rising tide lifts all boats.”

Daniel Dae Kim’s advocacy stretches beyond Hollywood. He’s also been admirably outspoken about the recent rash of violence committed against Asian Americans.

“Obviously, what we’re doing is not enough to bring awareness to this issue. This last year, there have been around 3,800 documented cases of attacks, which means that there are many more that were undocumented, and the rate was increasing so rapidly that I just felt like an alarm needed to be sounded. We live in Hawai‘i where we’re fortunate enough not to have these kinds of racially motivated attacks against Asian Americans, so I think I felt that once I was on the mainland working and seeing these things firsthand, I just had a different relationship to these kinds of incidents. I felt like they were more immediate and they needed to be addressed, so I think that’s why I started to speak up more loudly and thankfully I wasn’t alone. There were many others who were speaking out at the same time.”

Kim, a graduate of NYU’s MFA Graduate Acting Program, started in theater. In 2016, he went back to his roots, playing the King of Siam in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I on Broadway.

“It was a highlight of my career—really something special. When that run was over, and I was in every single show without calling out sick once, I considered that a badge of honor.”

Ranging from appearances in Law and Order, Angel, 24, ER, and providing character voice for the Saints Row video game series, Kim’s entire career should be considered a badge of honor. In January, it was announced that he landed his first lead role in a series after 31 years of working in TV. The anthology miniseries, The Hot Zone, will pair Kim with Tony Goldwyn.

“Careers are not paved in gold, and success in this business is never guaranteed. I think a common misconception is that once you ‘make it’ in Hollywood that everything becomes easy. And that’s not true. I think, in many ways, it’s even harder to maintain a career than it is to establish one. Especially if you want to continue to build as opposed to just be on cruise control. If you’re interested in expanding what you do as an actor, especially after a monumental show like Lost, then there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Kim is no stranger to work. I don’t think he’s ever “called-out” his entire career. But after living here in Hawai‘i for a decade-and-a-half, there’s a genuine quality to him, too. He fits right in. So, the next time you’re at Safeway and spot Daniel Dae Kim, don’t be surprised. Despite all his success, he’s a Hawai‘i guy and always will be.

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