by GRACE KANG
She may not be decked out in a star-spangled suit or robotic armor, but Claudia Kim in Avengers: Age of Ultron enjoys the superhero treatment as the brilliant geneticist Helen Cho.
The South Korean model-turned-actress had been lauded for performances in Korean primetime, such as the 2011 medical drama Brain, but she caused quite a stir last year when she first appeared in a trailer for the Avengers sequel and was dubbed by fans as the “mystery woman at the party.” Since then, the red carpet has been rolling out before Claudia with new Hollywood projects on the horizon of her promising career.
KoreAm recently interviewed Claudia Kim as she revealed her thoughts on the blossoming relationship between Asian and American cinema and her high-profile Hollywood debut.
The following interview has been translated from Korean to English and edited for length and clarity.
Claudia Kim as Dr. Helen Cho in Avengers: Age of Ultron (Photo courtesy of Disney)
How was the transition from starring in Korean dramas to a major Hollywood blockbuster?
Claudia Kim: I began auditioning for roles in Hollywood films because I’ve always wanted to be in a film, so I’m extremely happy to be in Avengers. The film itself is a huge project, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to work with so many great actors. The biggest challenge for me lied with myself. There was pressure to both represent Korea and adjust to the culture of the American film industry. I was also working simultaneously on Avengers and Marco Polo. What helped a lot was the support I had in Korea as well as from director Joss Whedon. I enjoyed the atmosphere at the shoot, and I thought I had great chemistry with the actors.
We heard there was fierce competition for the role of Helen Cho, and that Joss Whedon had handpicked you for the part. Can you tell us about the audition process?
The audition process was under heavy security. I first auditioned at Disney Korea, and the tape was sent to the casting director in the U.S. Later on, I met with the casting director as well as Joss Whedon and the producer there. I’ll never forget the final audition. I felt no pressure and just enjoyed being able to express myself in front of Joss Whedon, who was really supportive of me.
Did you get the opportunity to show the Age of Ultron cast and crew parts of your home country outside of the scenes filmed in South Korea?
I didn’t have a chance to meet them in Korea, but I was able to meet them at a promotion event where we hung out over some great Korean food. It was a shame that I couldn’t show them more of Korea due to the tight schedule, but I was happy to see them experience how much they were loved and supported in my country.
Claudia Kim poses beside Marvel merchandise. (Photo via Claudia Kim/Twitter)
You’ve mentioned on Twitter that you’re a fan of Marvel Comics. What is your favorite title? And if you could star as a different character in another Marvel film, what would be your dream role?
I loved X-Men as a child. I was a huge Wolverine fan and loved all the strong female characters like Storm. If the opportunity ever came, I would love to play Storm.
You’re starring in the upcoming season of the Netflix series Marco Polo as Khutulun, as well as another role in Equals, a sci-fi romance starring Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult. How did you prepare for those roles?
During Marco Polo Season 1, I discussed my character with the directors and read a lot of books that were related to Khutulun and Marco Polo. Khutulun was a character that required me to fight male warriors, so I went through intense physical training. I’ve always wanted to be in a historical drama so I was happy to achieve that goal.
With Equals, my interest developed as soon as I read the script. Even though it’s a brief role I was able to work with Director Drake. I always picture myself constantly growing with the opportunities that are coming to me.
Asian American actors have been breaking into Hollywood in recent years, but there’s also an increase in international co-productions, such as Snowpiercer and Stoker, in which South Korean directors and actors have worked with Hollywood studios. What are some of your thoughts on this exchange?
It’s only natural. Asia has been producing a lot of high quality films and actors, and I was able to see firsthand how receptive Hollywood has become to Asian American actors. I also feel like the gap between Hollywood and the Asian film industry has closed quite a bit because Hollywood has been trying to recruit quality content and actors from Asia as well, and those things naturally led to a crossover. I believe the reason I’ve had the opportunity to act in Avengers is because of my predecessors, including actors and directors, who have previously worked in Hollywood. I hope more Asian actors and directors continue to work in Hollywood and connect with the rest of the world.
-Translation by Steve Han
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Featured image by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP