Television fans have watched actor Daniel Dae Kim jump from one successful TV series shot in Hawaii (Lost) to another (Hawaii Five-0). Unbeknownst to few, save gamers with keen ears, Kim is also the voice of Johnny Gat, the charismatic leader of the Saints gang who takes on Satan in the recently released Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell. The actor — who made time in his schedule to play Jack Kang in The Divergent Series: Insurgent, takes on Playboy’s Lucky 7 Questions in this exclusive interview.
What do you like about playing Johnny Gat in the Saints Row franchise?
I think Johnny Gat is incredibly liberating. One of the best things about video games is that you’re free from appearance, you’re free from the everyday world and you can just lose yourself in this fantasy of being this balls-out gangster who does crazy things like singing opera. So it’s a great world. When in your everyday life you’re concerned with the things you need to do and your errands and your work and not having enough time in the day, it’s nice to come home and just take out all your aggression on a video game.
How much of yourself is in Johnny Gat?
Johnny Gat is the Id to my superego. He’s who I might be if I didn’t care about anyone or anything and I just wanted to live out this fantasy of a gangster. He gets to do all of these things that I would never do in my real life. It’s every little boy’s fantasy to be able to rule the world and have power over people. You want to have power over and beat the devil. What’s wrong with that?
What was it like for you to step into the world of Insurgent?
It was great. It’s such a switch from television because for TV we’ll shoot somewhere between eight and 12 pages [of the script] a day, and on film you shoot three pages. So there’s the luxury of time, and you get to know your cast mates. You get to find scenes. You get to work on little moments in a way that we don’t have the time to do on TV. I thought that was fantastic, and the cast was great: I really like Shailene [Woodley], Theo [James], and I got to meet Octavia Spencer. It was a really great experience.
What was your first exposure to Playboy Magazine?
I grew up in a very conservative, traditional Asian American family, which is to say that I didn’t even know Playboy existed until I went over to my friend’s house. His dad owned a body shop and there was this magazine just sitting on his counter called Playboy and I opened it up. Let me just say that the whole world changed in that moment.
What movie scared you the most when you were a kid?
I would say the two movies that scared me the most are The Exorcist and Jaws. Because they still have an impact on the way I feel today about certain things. I’m not as scared watching the Jaws today, but I have to say that when I’m out on the water either swimming or surfing or on a boat, I still think about that movie to this day.
Heaven forbid you end up on death row, what would your last meal be?
A clam bake with lobster, clams, corn on the cob and a little sushi here and there. I’m Asian, so you got to add to the flavor with some noodles to go with it, and some mussels and all that. Ideally, my last meal is on a beach somewhere just with good friends and seafood.
What was your first car?
It was a Toyota Celica. I’ll never forget how much I loved that thing. It wasn’t even the Fastback; it was a little blue four-cylinder. I think it had 95 horsepower or something like that. It was just terrible on the highways and it look like 10 minutes to get from 0 to 60, but I loved it and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
What was your favorite mistake?
I made a lot of mistakes in life. I got to figure out which is my favorite. Let me think. Honestly it’s something that I don’t consider a mistake anymore, but my favorite mistake in life was not doing what was expected of me. When I was graduating from college, instead of going into law or investment banking like all of my friends were doing, I made the “mistake” of following my dream and wanting to become an actor.
What’s the first song you knew the words to?
“Beth” by KISS. Honestly, for about three years I would go around singing it. KISS was my favorite band from when I was kid and my parents were so upset that I liked this band, who dressed up like cartoons and looked like demons. Destroyer was the first KISS album I ever got and I used to draw when I was a kid. I would always draw the album cover. “Beth” was the first song I could really understand all the lyrics too and not have to worry about all the sexual innuendo that I didn’t get when I was younger. I remember learning all the words to that song and playing it over and over, as I would draw Gene Simmons in my notebook.
What do you consider your pop culture blind spot?
Reality television. I’m not a fan. The fact that they call it reality television when so much of it is staged is deceptive. And to get on my high horse for a second, I don’t generally like it when our entertainment appeals to the lowest common denominators so that everyone can feel superior to it and laugh at it. That’s not what I feel that entertainment can be. Sure, it’s valid and you know a lot of people like it, but it’s just not my thing. The culture of people becoming famous for the sake of being famous is unusual to me because there are people who work hard at a particular skill to become notable in their field. That seems much more admirable than seeing staged, “reality” TV.