By our guest blogger, Joel Crabtree
Every group has one. That straight-faced, all-business guy who is hardly ever caught goofing around. For “The Mentalist’s” CBI unit, that man is Tim Kang’s Kimball Cho.
But, as many viewers already know, Cho has loosened up a bit over the three seasons. As the 38-year-old actor told WeekinRewind during a phone interview, “Cho letting his hair down is one or two smiles more than he usually does.”
But fans of the series love Kimball Cho for that very reason.
As the two-hour “Mentalist” season finale nears (9 p.m. Thursday, May 19, on CBS) WeekinRewind caught up with Kang earlier in the season to discuss the show, his career and the character that fans have come to love.
Joel Crabtree: You’ve worked on a lot of TV in your career, what’s different about working on “The Mentalist”?
Tim Kang: Wow, I know that answer right off the bat. I don’t even have to think about it. It’s definitely the attitude and just general work environment every day that I’m in there. And what that means, is that every single person on that crew is a cool person, a nice person, a hardworking person. There’s no attitude, none of this sort of competitive nature. They’re just excellent at what they do, and they know that. It's a pleasure going to work every day because it is sans attitude.
I’ve been on TV sets where the grips will [mess] with the lighting guys, just because it’s a competitive thing. I’ve been on sets where they don’t care about the guest actors that come in just for a week to do a guest-starring role, and just the attitude that “we’re better than you” kind of thing is nonexistent on this set. I’ve heard this before from guest actors, as well, that they’ve had a great time coming and working on our show. Because I think that’s one of the single best things to do on an episodic is come in and work as a guest star.
JC: What do you think it is in particular that keeps audiences coming back and watching the show? What is it that has made it such a success?
TK: I think a lot, obviously, has to do with the show itself, meaning the way that it’s been set up and the way it’s been constructed by Bruno [Heller]. Secondly, I think it is also the casting. We started with Simon [Baker] and built a cast around him, choosing the people who would gel the best. From Day One, there was this ease that I felt. I didn’t know who Simon, Robin [Tunney], Owen [Yeoman] and Amanda [Righetti] were, really. I didn’t know how we’d get along, I didn’t know what that situation would be.
You can tell when you’re watching a TV show, or a movie, or even a play, where you see the casting was not very good, and certain people hate each other. You can see that in the performance. I don’t think you see that in [our show], because in real life, we genuinely like each other, and in real life, we’re genuinely friends. I think that translates.
JC: In what ways do you think your character Cho has developed as the series has gone on.
TK: He has, I think, become a little bit more comfortable with his role in the unit, in terms of the job he is tasked to do. And with that comfort comes a little bit of ... he’s learning how to kind of take it a little bit easier when he’s at work. Certainly in Season 1, anytime he was on duty, he was on duty. He never cracked a smile, and he was very focused and knew how to get the job done.
Now, he's definitely learning how to let his hair down, so to speak. He doesn’t necessarily need to be that focused and that intense all the time, which he was in the first year, and a majority of the second year. What it boils down to, is we’re going to see him smile just a little more. That’s all you’re really going to get. Cho letting his hair down is one or two smiles more than he usually does. He picks his moments, and they’re very specific when he can crack a smile. This isn't a small thing.
JC: Kimball Cho and Tim Kang, where do they separate? Where are they different and where are they similar?
TK: I think the focus is where they’re similar. When there’s a job to do, it’s 100 percent immersion in that job and to do that job successfully. I think where it separates is that I’m not quite as serious and I don’t live in that focused state of mind as much as Cho does. When the cameras are rolling, certainly it’s Cho’s attitude, but when the director yells “cut,” Tim Kang shows up right away and Owen and I start to act like 12-year-old kids.
JC: So, now that you have your smash TV hit, do you plan on taking some more movie roles?
TK: Absolutely. In fact, we’re working on some feature possibilities right now. I can’t really talk further than that, but certainly that is something I’d love to do a little bit more in the future.
As much as you appreciate the job security and the daily work that you’re able to do in an episodic -- and I could do this for years and years and years, don’t get me wrong -- there is an aspect to movie making that we don’t really get to do, which I miss in episodics, which is the detail work. We’re shooting six, seven, eight pages a day. In doing that, you kind of miss out on the detail work, you gotta go, go, go, go, go. Shoot it and move on to the next scene. I love it in movies when you can spend an entire day on half a page.
The season finale of “The Mentalist” airs 10 p.m. Thursday, May 19, on CBS. Seasons 1 and 2 are currently available on DVD.