Monday, January 17, 2011

Male on Monday : : Tim Kang

Anne McAllister is coming up for air between finishing revisions and plunging into a new book. During her brief look around, she watched a little television -- and found this week's Male on Monday.

Anyone who has watched The Mentalist knows that Simon Baker's quirky, not-exactly-a-psychic, Patrick Jane is the man to keep an eye on. He and his acute observational investigative techniques coupled with a penchant for making uncomfortably accurate comments to all and sundry are the focus of the show.

But he's not the whole show.

And the group of investigators surrounding him have come into their own over the past couple of years.

One of the most compelling and watchable is Tim Kang. Tim plays straight-arrow, hard-ass, never-crack-a-smile, CBI Special Agent Kimball Cho.

It's a little bit of a disconnect to watch Cho week after week and then go looking for material on Tim Kang.

For one thing, Tim smiles a lot more.

He even laughs. His face is expressive, definitely un-Sphinxlike, which makes his acting ability all the more apparent -- because Kimball Cho would make Dragnet's iconic detective Joe Friday look like a laid-back sort of guy.

Obviously, then, there is a great deal more to Tim than we know about Kimball Cho.

Tim Kang is described on a Korean film database as one of the most sought-after Korean actors. He was born in San Francisco nearly 38 years ago, and grew up speaking Korean at home. And after studying the language at Yonsei University, he says he "pretty much understands Korean."

He doesn't play only Korean parts, though, and for a long time he didn't intend to be an actor at all.

His resume sounds a bit like the all-American kid. He broke his arm twice skateboarding. He likes to scuba dive. He's a bit of a risk-taker (note: he ran with the bulls in Pamplona). He was the lead singer for a rock band that once opened for Primus. And he has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

He studied political science at the University of California at Berkeley and afterwards went to work for a securities firm. Not exactly the straight line to an acting career.

But, he says, "Nearby where I lived, there was an American Repertory Theatre (ART), Harvard's professional theatre in residence. I would pass by the ART on my way to and from work, and this idea of wanting to become an actor suddenly overwhelmed me."

So he decided to go for it. (see: running with bulls, risk-taking, etc).

He studied at ART and eventually got an MFA in acting from Harvard.

But even with exalted credentials, acting jobs were not easy to come by. He says he barely got one role in a hundred that he auditioned for, in part because there were not a lot of roles for Asians in Hollywood.

But if you look at his list of credits on IMDB, you can see that he didn't let type-casting stop him.

For every character with a typically Asian-sounding name that he played, there were others called Liam Kelly, Chaplain Alan Lantz and Mr Brenneman.

In the past nine years years he's had roles in such films and television shows as Rambo, Two Week's Notice, Law and Order, The Sopranos, The Office, Third Watch, The Unit and Monk.
He's delighted with the success of The Mentalist,

The trick to succeeding? He just never gave up.

And that does sound quite a bit like Kimball Cho.

Anne hopes you'll look for her book, Hired by Her Husband, from Harlequin Presents this February. It's the story of George Savas, who turned out to be an unexpectedly sexy physicist. He also turned out to be married. Who knew? Well, George did. But George plays his cards close to his chest!

He'll be blogging over at her site once she lets him out of the lab. Stop by and say hi!


  1. I adore Tim's character Cho in The Mentalist and I always secretly hope he gets bigger parts in the episodes!

  2. Me, too, Maya. The one they reran right before Christmas -- about Cho's childhood buddy getting killed -- brought out more of his back story and was, I thought, a really wonderful episode. May they have many more! He's the most interesting of the crew, in my estimation.

  3. I love Kimball Cho! Some of my favorite scenes in The Mentalist are when Cho and Jane are together--Mr. By-the-Book and Mr. Free-thinker. Cho is straight on, in your face, and Patrick Jane comes at you from left field. I see Cho as Jane's protector, too, even though he may not "get" him. Great characters and great writing make The Mentalist a show I try not to miss.

    And it doesn't hurt that Tim Kang's a hottie!

  4. Last week's show, Cho had to choose between his code of honor and his partner's lies to save his dad...the fact that Cho backed up his friend promises to bring more tension to the show.
    Love these characters. Great choice, Anne.

  5. Julie, yes, I see him Patrick's protector, too. But at the same time I see him openmindedly trying to learn from Patrick. In an interview he gave a while back, Tim said that he thought Cho was studying Patrick, trying to understand how he got there (to the crucial bits) before everyone else, so he could figure out how to do it. Intriguing dynamic in any case. I try not to miss it -- or I record it if I know I'm going to.

  6. Julia, yep, that's what I thought, too. It would be lots more trouble to watch him weekly at a securities firm!

  7. Carol, I agree. That was a dilemma, and I doubt if we've seen the last of that particular problem. If you reflect on it in light of the earlier episode when he turned his back on his old gang buddy who he thought had fallen back into his old ways, it makes sense, though. That time he opted for 'straight and narrow' and felt guilty when his friend died trying to do the right thing. This time he's opting to help the person, even though what he says is a lie. Poor Cho!

  8. He is such a hottie!! I love him!!