Every few awards seasons, we are blessed with one of Hollywood’s greatest gifts: The adorable young star of a contender makes the red carpet rounds in some snazzy outfits and simultaneously charms the entire entertainment industry. This year, that star is Minari’s Alan Kim, the 8-year old actor whose big sense of humor and little cowboy boots have stolen the hearts of audiences since the movie’s Sundance debut back in early 2020. And while COVID has robbed us of the opportunity to see Kim bump shoulders with fellow luminaries at FYC events, he’s made a habit of showing up to virtual interviews dressed to impress.
The A.V. Club logged on for a chat with Alan Kim to find him rocking a striped bowtie and sensible cardigan, ready to discuss Minari and perennial superhero favorite, Captain Underpants. Kim was joined by Minari writer/director Lee Isaac Chung and his co-star Steven Yeun, and the trio shared how cast bonding time between takes helped bring the film’s Yi family to life, and revealed just how much Mountain Dew was on set. You can read the interview below, or watch the conversation in the video above, but be warned: You will be charmed by Alan Kim.
AVC: Time on the Minari set seems like it was pretty intimate, and everyone spent a lot of time together, almost like a family. Alan, how was that for you? What did you do to pass time on set when you weren’t filming?
Alan Kim: I guess me and Noel [Kate Cho] would watch, like, Captain Underpants, or we would play a game on my iPad called Talking Tom Hero Dash. And we also went swimming in the hotel!
AVC: That sounds fun—I love Captain Underpants.
Lee Isaac Chung: That’s the secret to Minari: Captain Underpants. [Laughs.]
AVC: Yes, lots of similarities!
AK: Yeah, I need to borrow underpants from Captain Underpants. [Laughs.] So I replace the underwear I peed in—so no suspicions!
AVC: Extra underpants aside, Isaac, how was this “family time” together valuable to you as director?
LIC: Oh, it was super valuable. We didn’t have a lot of time—it was very focused when we were all together, and everybody knew that we didn’t have a lot of time, so everyone was dialed in. But any time that we had together was just precious and valuable. And I felt like we didn’t have much time to make any mistakes. So what I’m amazed by is just the level to which everybody worked every day, bringing their best. I mean, you should you should have seen Steven and Alan in many of these scenes with lots of dialogue, just nailing it time after time and really giving us so much to work with in the edit.
AVC: Steven, you have two young kids at home. How much of of yourself—and your role as a father—did you see reflected in your character Jacob?
Steven Yeun: I had the bags under my eyes just naturally, so now I can access that on a natural way. You know, I think parenthood, at least for me, course-corrects a lot of things. It really just rips away frivolous things that, at least for me, I didn’t know were frivolous. And it maybe balances you a little bit—it also throws you into chaotic disarray as well.
But I see that connection. For me, what really was more of the journey of understanding Jacob was just understanding fatherhood and the generational connection of it all. You know, like, my father being my father, and me being a father to my own children—there’s a bond and a connection that we can share from those experiences.
AVC: And did the paternal instinct kick in on set?
SY: Oh, yeah, it was [there]. I was in “dad mode” pretty much the whole way.
AVC: Mountain Dew is part of one of the funniest parts of the whole movie. Alan, was there a lot of it on set—were you drinking a lot of Mountain Dew?
AK: I only drank Mountain Dew in scenes, and I don’t know how much there was [on set], but I’m pretty sure it was over one gallon though!
AVC: Isaac, can you confirm? More than a gallon?
LIC: Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was over one gallon.
SY: That’s so much Yellow 5 [dye].
LIC: I’ll always remember that I am the one who introduced Mountain Dew to Alan Kim.
SY: Do kids even drink Mountain Dew anymore?
AVC: I was going to ask—I don’t know!
LIC [to Alan]: Have you had it since the shoot at all?
AK: After Sundance! I mean, in Sundance, on the last day, I did drink some.
AVC: A little celebratory Mountain Dew!
SY: Well, and there’s that organic Mountain Dew now—I’m just joking.
LIC: [Laughs.] It’s straight from the mountains!
Minari is now playing in select theaters, and is available via Premium VOD beginning February 26. Before making the decision to see it—or any other film—in a movie theater, please consider the health risks involved. Here’s an interview on the matter with scientific experts.
Graphic: Natalie Peeples; Alan Kim Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images; Captain Underpants Image: Netflix