Whenever I ask fans what they think about actor Daniel Dae Kim, who plays Chin Ho Kelly on “Hawaii Five-0” — they will often tell me how incredibly kind and genuine Kim is, no matter where they are– on the set of Five-0, at “Sunset on the Beach,” and lately– after seeing him on Broadway in “The King and I.” Their observations about his roles, either Chin or the King of Siam, I find that their comments are not very different from what they also say about the actor, apart from his on screen or on stage roles.
Fan Ann M. Bauer said in the fan favorites survey that the reason she liked Chin, was because “he is the most believable I’ve ever seen.” Other fans have commented that they find that Kim’s characters are usually very caring, consistent, and protective. For the most part, in the almost six years I’ve been writing about the show, I’ve not heard one single negative story or comment about Daniel Dae Kim. Yes, there have been times when fans have disliked something Chin has done, or perhaps not agreed with his actions or reactions on the show– but for the most part, everyone loves Chin.
Chin is the character most of the team relies on. He’s always there to back everyone up, to be a bit of a voice of reason, to fix things when it gets really out of hand, and to be the shoulder for several of them to rest on and to be consoled upon. Consistent should be Chin’s middle name, and as one of the few characters who has been in every episode, he can definitely win that title distinction.
I think that the same could probably be said for the actor, as well as his character on Five-0. In my experience meeting him on the red carpet, Kim is so very solid. He answers questions with a smile and with sincerity. He will laugh along with a clever comment, and he will entertain the reporter that obviously does not watch the show. He is never condescending, and he is gracious and thankful when he is complimented. He’s fun to talk to, easy to converse with. He’s one of the actors we know will give us something good to work with once the premiere is over.
In my quick research prep this week, I wanted to know what Kim’s name meant in Korean– if perhaps his name reflected the impression he leaves fans with after they have met him. I found that “Dae” means “greatness” and “Kim,” a very popular Korean surname, means “gold.” And the name Daniel, comes from the Biblical story about the man who survived the lion’s den by being consistently faithful to God. This, of course, is my own interpretation of Kim’s name, and to be clear he and his family may have a completely different translation or definition of his name than I have found. A person’s name is depended on the meaning the family deems appropriate and true– not on basic searches of language websites and my own presumptive speculation.
But If we think about Kim, he is solidly consistent, as Chin is pretty level headed, has kept his temper in check for the most part, has never blatantly gone off the deep end seeking revenge. Yes, he did make a deal with Gabriel to get money for Danny to help save his brother; and he did shoot Delano, the ex-cop who killed Malia– but both actions reveal a need for justice and a desire to get rid of the bad guys who don’t seem to stay in prison or leave good people alone.
While Kim is consistent in his portrayal of Chin Ho Kelly, he is the same way when it comes to his interactions with the public. Fans often repeat: “He’s is so nice, charming, and generous of his time.” He is very sincere, happy to answer questions, and seems genuinely pleased to have a chance to meet and greet with the fans.
When I have seen him at a local restaurant with his family or with friends, and witnessed fans approaching him to say hello, ask for a picture, or an autograph– he has always been warm and genuine. I’ve never seen him turn people away, nor have I heard stories of him doing so. And believe me, I would have heard if he is not nice to fans.
So when a friend of mine, Karen Dritto from New York, told me that she and a few other East Coast “Hawaii Five-0” fans had met up at the Saturday, June 18 matinee of “The King and I,” I was eager to hear what they thought of Kim’s performance as the King of Siam.
Kim once played the same role in a London production of the show in 2009, and some fans may not know that he has a master’s degree in acting from the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Yet it took him two hit television shows and co-starring in several feature films to get Kim on Broadway. He made his debut in “The King and I” on May 3, shortly before “Hawaii Five-0” aired their season five finale.
Once Kim wrapped shooting in March, he headed straight to New York for rehearsals. He plays the King alongside veteran Broadway actress, and three-time Tony Award nominee, Marin Mazzie who plays the British widow Anna Leonowens. Also in the production is 2015 Tony Award winner for her role as Lady Thiang, Ruthie Ann Miles, who is originally from Hawaiʻi.
Several “Hawaii Five-0” cast and crew members traveled to New York to see Kim on Broadway. Christopher Sean, who played Kim’s brother-in-law and nemesis, Gabriel Waincroft, was one of the first to see Kim play the King. Jorge Garcia, Grace Park, Will Yun Lee, and Chi McBride all made their way to Lincoln Center to see their “Five-0” friend in his Broadway debut.
Five-0 Hairstylist Debra Rego, and her friends Rhona Joy Staszkow and Joslyn Fiddler, visited Kim backstage and brought him lei from Hawaiʻi. Staszkow spoke to me earlier this week via phone about Kim’s performance. “It was an awesome show. Lots of talent and beautiful singing. Daniel was really great– he has a good, strong voice and is very convincing as the king.” She also met actor Brian Yang backstage, who had also come to see Kim, which was an extra bonus. Yang and Kim worked together on the documentary “Linsanity” about NBA basketball star Jeremy Lin, as well as on “Hawaii Five-0.”
Along with all of the “Hawaii Five-0” cast and crew mates coming to support him, Kim has received other accolades as well. He has been on several daytime talk shows, he presented at the 2016 Tony Awards, and this week Kim won the Inside Broadway Beacon Award. The Beacon Award is given to “individuals in the theatre community who have been advocates for increasing the audience for live theatre and for understanding the importance of Arts and Education in the lives of New York City’s young people.”
And of course, H50 fans also made it a point to travel to New York to see Kim on stage, like Karen Dritto and her friends, Swati Limaye, who traveled from Virginia, Deb DeLuca from New Jersey, and Kim Scofield from Connecticut, met up at Lincoln Center to see the show together. Another fan, Teresa Coico, from New Jersey, met the four after the show, as she had seen it earlier in the run. All five are Five-0 fans who had never met before, but are Twitter friends who gather every Friday night to live tweet during “Hawaii Five-0.”
“He was so impressive in the role. His personality just showed through. He couldn’t be more sweet, kind, and generous with his time,” said Dritto, via phone earlier this week. She told me that when they all got to the stage door, within ten minutes he was out. He answered everyone’s questions, signed anything they wanted, and even took pictures and selfies with the anyone who asked. “Anything you wanted he would take care of. I was just so impressed. You hear it all the time, but having witnessed it myself, now I know,” said Dritto, who has seen many Broadway shows and is well versed in New York theatre. “It was really funny that when we said, “we’re the Five-0 Tweeters” and he said “I know you guys!” It was great. He gave everyone a little pinch of his love and it was marvelous,” said Dritto.
Scofield has a similar reaction to Kim’s performance, as well as the pleasure of meeting her online pals in person. “I had a great time meeting everyone for the first time and, of course, the show, and meeting Daniel as well. He really is as kind patient and gracious as everyone always says. I always admire the actors that can do Broadway, as it takes a skill that not a lot of actors possess, and DDK possesses this skill in spades!” said Schofield via email.
Limaye sent similar thoughts in an email to me about Kim’s performance and meeting him backstage: “Daniel’s performance was magnificent and his stage partners were equally fantastic! I personally thought the female leads were amazing with their vocal abilities. After the show, we immediately headed for the stage door to meet him. Daniel exited soon after and promptly started signing autographs and taking pictures with the fans. He was so gracious and kind, it made us love him even more as an actor,” said Limaye in her email.
DeLuca spoke to me on Friday from New Jersey. She too had a similar experience seeing Kim on stage and meeting him backstage. She had known that people would ask Kim to autograph their playbills, so she wanted to do something different. She printed out pictures of Kim in front of “The King and I” marquee and he graciously signed them for her. “I never do this kind of thing, but it was now or never. He was so kind and so nice, he’s such a terrific ambassador for the show. You couldn’t ask for a nicer man or a more polite man. He didn’t push anyone aside, he was so genteel, and gracious,” said DeLuca.
Kim has said publically that when he was a “young actor in New York, he often walked by Lincoln Center” and wondered if there would ever “be a time when he would get to act on its stage”
Well, Daniel, you finally made it. Your time is now.