Some might call it an accident; others might call it fate, but Minha Kim’s path to being Pachinko’s young Sunja had an auspicious beginning. According to an interview in Vanity Fair, while looking at several audition tapes, casting director Su Kim happened upon one that unintentionally included Kim’s previous auditions, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What is striking about the South Korean-born young actress is how methodical she is in her approach to playing such a pivotal role in Pachinko. Perhaps, I wasn’t expecting that from that; at this point, from an actor who doesn’t have an extensive resume. During the interview, she details how she prepared by tagging what Sunja felt at that moment so she could reference that during filming.
She further alludes in our discussion that she would clear her head to allow herself to embody those moments Sunja felt. Remember, her character walks a tight emotional rope and has to balance moments of vulnerability with strength; for some actors, that would easily be the most demanding part of their role, but not for Kim. However, she found getting into the headspace of being a mother challenging.
While her first taste of American culture didn’t come until she was 10 or 11, as an exchange student in Palm Springs, California, her first real commitment to becoming an actor came when she studied theater and film at Hanyang University. At first, her mother and father weren’t sure of their daughter’s chosen path, but ultimately her true talent was not to be denied.
Kim’s portrayal of Sunja is heartbreaking, but it’s taken a long time for her to accept praise. She admitted she’s her own worst critic. Is that just something actors deal with, representative of her culture, or someone who isn’t used to being in the spotlight? It’s likely a combination of all three, but she’ll get used to it over time.
Minha Kim is Emmy eligible for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Pachinko.