To cast young adult Sunja, the central character in Apple TV+’s ambitious multilingual, multigenerational historical epic. Pachinko“We needed someone special and timeless,” says showrunner Soo Hugh THR. Although the producers considered the Korean industry’s treasure trove of popular and successful stars (having cast Oscar winner Yuh-Jung Youn to play the older version of the character and later casting global heartthrob Lee Minho as one of the young woman’s love interests) Sunja), the seven -The country’s search for the central part finally landed on a relative newcomer.
Seoul-born actress Minha Kim auditioned over a period of nearly four months with a series of scenes spanning Sunja’s evolution from an innocent teenager in a 1930s Korean fishing village to, at the end of the first season, a mother of two who learns to take care of her children. her family as a migrant in pre-World War II Japan. “She didn’t have any [industry] connections. He got that role because he was undeniable,” says director Kogonada of Kim, who studied acting in college and only had a handful of credits, mostly in independent movies and web dramas, plus a small role in the Korean TV series. School 2017 – to his credit before his big break in Hollywood.
“At times I felt pressure, but at other times I was relaxed and confident in the team,” says Kim. “I think having a little bit of intensity and stress helps me.”
besides reading PachinkoThe source material for Min Jin Lee, the 2017 best-selling novel of the same name, Kim, 26, prepared for the series (which premiered on March 25) by immersing herself in research on the zainichi, ethnic Koreans who live in Japan.
He found his greatest resource in his 94-year-old grandmother, who grew up in Korea under Japanese imperial rule. “Minha, I am very proud of you because you can play this role, but I am also very sad that you have to play this role,” her grandmother told her after the couple’s many conversations about the discrimination Koreans faced during that time. . .
“That sentence he said to me, I just understood it,” says Kim. “I totally understand what he had to go through.”
Of all the experiences she had during filming, which took place in Korea and Vancouver, she is most proud of the scenes she had with Inji Jeong, who plays her mother, Yangjin. “We shared so much energy when we were on set, and when I was watching the [playbacks]that energy just ran off the monitors,” she says.
Kim also shared several intense and intimate scenes with Lee Minho, a superstar with a devoted international fan base. “There were a lot of difficult scenes, but we had a lot of conversations about the scenes, the characters, and our personal life experiences,” she says. “She tried to make me feel comfortable and relaxed on set, so I feel like I made a really good friend.”
For her part, Lee credits her scene partner’s natural abilities. “When it comes to acting, popularity is not something that matters. I think because it was almost her first time, there was more of an authenticity to his performance,” she says. “I loved working with her.”
Because they played the same character at different stages of life, Kim did not cross paths with him on set. PachinkoYoun’s other big celebrity, Youn. The two women developed their versions of Sunja separately, trusting each other and the team that chose them. Kim finally got a chance to talk to Youn after she finished filming.
“It was beautiful talking to her; she is legendary, not only in Korea but all over the world,” says the younger actor, who promptingly reveals what the Oscar winner said about her performance: “He told me there was a reason I was Sunja. That explained everything.
Sydney Odman contributed to this report.
A version of this story first appeared in the March 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here for subscribe.