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‘The King and I’ taps a ‘Hawaii Five-0’ star

  • Daniel Dae Kim attended the premiere of “The Divergent Series: Insurgent” in New York on March 16. Kim, who plays a detective on the TV series Hawaii Five-0, takes over in May as the King of Siam in the blissful Lincoln Center Theater revival of The King and I, a role he calls maybe the greatest role for an Asian male in theater. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

NEW YORK » Broadway’s next king has been awfully busy chasing bad guys on the streets of Honolulu.

Daniel Dae Kim, who plays a detective on the TV series “Hawaii Five-0,” takes over in May as the King of Siam in the blissful Lincoln Center Theater revival of “The King and I,” a role he calls “maybe the greatest role for an Asian male in theater.”

Kim, who graduated from New York University with a master’s degree in acting and cut his teeth in off-Broadway shows, said he’s been “looking for a way to get back” to the New York stage but instead found himself in Hawaii doing TV for the 12 past years.

Kim managed to see the current “The King and I” twice — once with Ken Watanabe and once with Hoon Lee — and said “it was treat to be able to watch both of them interpret the role.”

The king, who is both imposing and romantic, will mark Kim’s Broadway debut, but he’s played the same monarch before, at London’s world-renowned Royal Albert Hall in 2009.

“It was really a fantastic opportunity and I felt at the time that as much as I enjoyed it, there was more to be done with the role,” he said by phone from Hawaii.

“The opportunity to revisit it is a really valuable one for me. I’ve grown since then, my experiences have changed and I look forward to trying it again on Broadway.”

Born in Busan, South Korea and raised in New York and Pennsylvania, Kim will be stepping into a role made famous by Yul Brynner, who was king for more than 4,600 performances. Kim saw the movie version, but the actor hopes to leave his own imprint.

“I have a healthy level of respect for what Mr. Brynner did, but, at the same time, I look forward to my bringing something of my own to it,” he said.

“This work is strong enough where there can be many different interpretations of the same character. When you look at a Shakespearian play, you don’t say, ‘Well, there is one definitive Hamlet.’ There are many different Hamlets that you can find relatable.”

The 51-cast-member revival won the Tony Award for best revival and co-stars Kelli O’Hara as the Englishwoman who travels to Siam to teach the children of the king. Its score by Rodgers and Hammerstein includes “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” ”Getting to Know You” and “Shall We Dance.”

The show’s current king, Lee, abdicates on Feb. 28 and Tony Award-nominated Watanabe returns to the role from March 1 to April 17.

Jose Llana, who starred last summer in the royal role, returns to it from April 19-May 1 and then Kim, who also played Jin Soo Kwon on the TV series “Lost,” takes over from May 3-June 26.


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