Meet Kahyun Kim
Kahyun Kim plays pink haired, rockabilly Minnie in the play "Linda Vista" at Steppenwolf Theatre from March 30 - May 21. 2018. Kahyun had never acted before attending Juilliard's Drama School in New York City. She makes her Chicago debut in this World Premiere play by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and Steppenwolf ensemble member, Tracy Letts. Wheeler is 50. His marriage is over, his job is mundane, and the best years of his life appear to be behind him. A move from the cot in his ex-wife’s garage to his own apartment opens up new possibilities for love and sex—complicated, painful and hilarious. Full of opinions, yet short on self-examination, Wheeler must reconcile the man he has become with the man he wants to be. For tickets to "Linda Vista" and more info, click here.
What's your personal story?
I was born and raised in Seoul Korea, so I’m super Korean. I’ve always knew I wanted to become a performer, even though I come from a very academic family background. When I got into the Drama program at Julliard, that was it for me- I was 17. I’ve never done any acting before in my life, so it was really exciting. I spent four years in New York being culture shocked and inspired left and right, studying with one of the most talented group of actors. After graduating from school, I decided to move to LA, so that’s where I’m based right now. My parents and all my family lives in Korea, so I’m homesick a lot of the time.
What's your character's story in Linda Vista?
I play Minnie, a Vietnamese Rockabilly with pink hair and a lot of tattoos. She’s in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend Derek and is pregnant with his baby. He meets our lead, a ‘young’ 50 year old guy named Wheeler, at a bar, where she’s waiting for her job interview. From there, the story unfolds :)
What challenges does your character face and how does she overcome them?
Minnie has and had, a hard life, especially for a young woman. She was kicked out of her parents house and no longer talks to them anymore. Her boyfriend is abusive and she’s pregnant with his baby. She’s financially unstable and at one point, runs out of options for a place to stay. I don’t want to say exactly how she overcomes her challenges, because it might give away the plot point, but if anything, Minnie’s a smart gal. I feel like she is very aware of her surroundings, both people and situations, and she definitely knows how to work her way in and out of things.
What are your challenges playing this role?
I would have to say, listening to Vietnamese rockabilly music constantly on my off time was pretty hard, haha. I wanted to embrace the character as much as I can in my personal life and being a rockabilly is such a huge part of Minnie’s identity that I felt like it was important to really experience that side of her life - but it’s definitely not my first choice of music. Also, Minnie and I are similar in so many ways - which is an advantage that also sometimes turns into an actor challenge. Unlike some of the roles I’ve played in the past, it’s so easy for me to relate to Minnie. I understand how her strength and flaws were/are formed.
Even though I’m not necessarily a rockabilly, I know what it’s like to attach my self with a certain identity to feel like I fit in. I’ve been in an abusive relationship, maybe not physical, but definitely emotional.
So I get attached in a lot of ways and this confuses me sometimes in the rehearsal process. I want to make sure it’s not Kahyun who’s reacting to the situation, but Minnie - who is similar, but a different person than I am. The line often gets blurry and I have to check in with myself to make sure I’m on the right track.
I hate to admit this, but being an Asian actress, the roles we get to play are very limited. Me and my other Asian actor friends talk about this all the time. Assistant, best friend or hooker - in my experience - have sadly been the majority of roles that seem to be offered to Asian women, especially my age.
So when I read this play, it was such a mind awakening experience. It came to me when I needed it the most - I was thirsting for inspiration, something to stimulate me as an actor. And of course, I instantly fell in love with it - I loved the story and I was able to relate and identify myself with each and every character, which is why Tracy is such a brilliant writer. Having the opportunity to play a character like Minnie is so rare, and it truly has been one of the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. I am so thankful to Tracy - for writing a part like Minnie; for giving her so much depth and complexity; for giving an opportunity to a story that’s somewhat unusual and different; for giving Minnie her own journey and really, for making her just another human being, with real human experience by giving her flaws and virtues like any other characters.
I am also so fortunate to work with my truly exceptional cast. I have so much respect for every each and one of them. We were in a blind rehearsal process for a while, so we didn’t get to see each other scenes until recently. Honestly, I’ve been having minor panic attacks after seeing my cast, because I felt like I wasn’t even close to being up to par with them. They are just brilliant - I really can’t say it enough! Especially Ian, who’s playing Wheeler in the show and whom I have majority of my scenes with, has a LOT to do in this show, but never fails to be so present and open - it’s a dream come true to have an actor like him to be your scene partner. And working with our director Dexter has been such a gift- he really lets us play and live in the experience, which is so essential for the actors to create a full character journey. I am so humbled and inspired by being in the room where true magic is created.