I recently got the chance to talk to Jennifer Kim about her role in Tilda Swinton’s new film, ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’. Here, Jennifer talks about how she got involved in the project and what is currently on her I-Pod right now…
Hey Jennifer. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin‘.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
The movie is about a mother dealing with the feelings of guilt and responsibility that she has about her son, who years ago went on a killing rampage at high school.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play a high school student who’s fortunate enough to be spared in the massacre. I spent time researching the role and a lot of accounts of the Columbine shooting made me understand the tragedy and complexity of these events from the perspective of people like my character. On a personal level, I found creating relationships between my character and the victims who would have been other students at my school, teachers or friends helped make the circumstances of the script more real and immediate for me.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I’ve had quite a few auditions with the movie’s casting director over the past few years so they were familiar with my work. They thought of me for this film and that’s how I got booked. It’s really nice for an actor to be seen by a casting director repeatedly. The more they get to know you and your work, the more they start to trust you. Auditioning is such a different beast than the acting training you get in school. It takes time for you to develop that muscle and for you to feel comfortable with it all. I feel like I’m still learning it, to a certain degree. But once you get over the initial weirdness of auditions, they can actually be quite fun. It’s just another chance to act.
How would you say this film is different and unique to most thrillers?
First of all, nothing is black and white, which gives more depth to each character and their relationships with one another. But also, the script isn’t totally linear, so it goes back and forth in time, which allows for the intricate and complicated relationship between mother and son to be revealed in a unique way. Instead of focusing primarily on the main plot incident: the massacre, the story gets woven together in a really captivating way, each fragment builds from the last. While the events are horrific, the way the story of the film is told is almost beautiful.
The film stars Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, John C. Reilly, Siobhan Fallon, Ursula Parker and Jasper Newell – with Lynne Ramsay – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
It was a really good learning experience because I felt challenged by the material. I think the emotional nature of the circumstances caused everyone on set to want to put their best work on film as a show of respect for people who have actually gone through these experiences. Watching Tilda Swinton’s process was a dream come true since I’ve always admired her work. I aspire one day to have her focus and presence. Also, it was a night shoot so that’s always tough. You’re forced to flip your schedule, which only heightens the intensity. I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished product.
Let’s talk a bit about you Jennifer. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I’ve always been drawn to acting, even when I was really little. I started by acting out my favourite fairy tales to myself, like Rapunzel. I remember using a mop as hair and I’d stand on tables and chairs pretending I was locked up in a tall castle. It was a good time. I was a pretty shy kid so maybe in a way acting was a way for me to express myself in a safe environment, while also having fun. Gathering the courage to be a part of a play took a few years, and when I finally did I was so nervous I just wanted to be the narrator so I could have the lines in front of me. The role of the narrator in ‘James And The Giant Peach’ was my very first part and on opening night, my mom gently suggested that maybe I should try looking up at the audience for at least some of the lines.
Thankfully, I continued acting in other school plays and moved on to more meaty characters. The funny thing is I never really thought I could pursue acting as a career. Maybe it was having traditional Korean parents who encouraged more stable career choices, but not until I had to apply for colleges did I really consider it as an option. I remember thinking, “If I could do anything for the rest of my life, what would it be?” My mind immediately went to acting. It was just something I always loved to do. I’m always fascinated with learning new things and I’ve had my share of different phases of sports and music, etc but none of these things held my attention for very long, acting always did. I think acting is something that’s always intrigued and challenged me because I’m constantly learning and growing. You can always get better because people are so complicated and fascinating.
You’ve been in a number of different films and TV series – who have been your favourite actors/actresses to work with so far, and which project has been your favourite to be a part of?
I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with many amazing actors. It’s hard to pick favourites. I guess if I had to choose, my top three would be Isla Fisher, Michael Ian Black and Tilda Swinton, but for all different reasons. My first movie role was opposite Isla Fisher in ‘Confessions Of A Shopaholic’. I thought she was hilarious in ‘Wedding Crashers’ so it was really fun to work with her. First experiences are always memorable and they tend to hold a special place in my heart. Recently, I had the pleasure of working with Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter. I’ve been a fan of ‘Stella’ and all their other projects for ages, so it was a personal pat on the back for me to be able to work with them. And of course, being in a scene with Tilda Swinton was such an honour because she’s one of my favourite actresses. Working with someone you’ve admired for a while is such a privilege. I always have to restrain myself from turning into a gushing schoolgirl.
Picking a favourite project is also very difficult because every single show or film I’ve been a part of has been a truly wonderful experience. I recently shot a Universal film feature abroad and that was a professional milestone for me. Unfortunately, I cannot say much more about the project because of contractual obligations. But having a story arch in a huge Hollywood feature is pretty exciting. I can only hope there will be more to come.
In terms of projects I’ve felt most creatively fulfilled by, I would have to say working with my close and talented friends on an independent feature called ‘First Winter’ has been my favourite acting experience. Working with friends is an amazing opportunity because there’s so much love and creativity that gets channeled into this one work of art. Shooting is a magical experience because you’re surrounded by people you love. And at the end of it all, you have this beautiful film that everyone has contributed to.
What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
I tend to get obsessed with certain records and listen to them repetitively until I get sick of them and move on. The good records stand the test of time by continually cycling into my obsessive listening habits. Right now I’m listening to a lot of Big Star, Fleetwood Mac, Otis Redding, Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks’, My Bloody Valentine, Neil Young, Bonnie Prince Billy, Paul McCartney’s ‘Ram’, Grouper, Ariel Pink and John Maus. I haven’t been keeping up with music very well lately, but I have some awesome friends who help me discover interesting stuff.
If you could have dinner with three guests (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
I’m not sure he’d be a very good dinner guest, but one of my favorite film-makers is Tarkovsky so I would definitely love to meet him. He’d probably just sit in the corner silently, but it would be cool just to be in his presence. If anyone could get him talking, it would probably be my next guest, Kate Bush. I really love her music and videos. Plus, I think she would just be really fun to hang out with. She may be one of the coolest people on the planet. Lastly, I guess I would invite Amelia Earhart so that I could be the only person who knew what happened to her. This dinner may be a glorious disaster, but it would still be glorious!
If you were stranded on a desert island – what three things could you not live without?
Practically speaking, I would say a boat, a machete and a survival book. But I suppose you’re more interested in my favourite indulgences. The first thing that came to mind was cigarettes, sadly, but I’m hoping that’ll change soon since it’s something I’m working on. I’m really into watercolours lately so I would definitely want to have those with me too. And lastly, one of my favourite things is dark chocolate. So I guess I’d say cigarettes, watercolours and chocolate.
What’s coming up for you in 2011/12?
This coming year is really exciting for me because two of my favourite projects to be a part of are coming out. The film that I made with my friends, ‘First Winter’, will run the festival circuit. So hopefully people will get to see some really great work created by people I love. Also, the Universal feature I worked on will be coming out in summer 2012. It will be strange and exciting to be a part of a blockbuster experience.
Thanks for the interview!