Philosophy, anthropology, and psychology are just a select few of André Dae Kim’s interests. Outwardly nonchalant and cool in his demeanor, Kim unsuspectingly leads a double life. He currently features in CBS’s Salvation as Dylan Edwards, and has previously held the role of Winston Chu in Degrassi: The Next Generation. Kim’s serious interest in acting, turned a once humanities student into a theatre drama studies student. Due to the pressures of balancing his career with academics, he left UTM after the end of his second year in 2015.
The Medium spoke to Kim to get the inside scoop regarding his dual experiences as an actor and student.
The Medium: What was your experience at UTM like? What did you take away from the theatre and drama studies program?
Andre Kim: “UTM was great. I made so many good friends during my first and second-year, both in the humanities program and being in residence. I lived in OPH for a bit. It was all so much fun.
“There were a lot of key moments for me in university that I think a lot of people go through, where they enter a new spectrum of life. I learned a lot about myself, including that, one, I love acting—I can’t do anything besides that, or else I’ll go crazy at a desk. I also learned that friendships are one of the most important things in my life, right now. I might not have made the most headway in terms of networking or educational progress. I learned a lot of new things, but not things I can apply directly to my craft—but I did make a lot of relationships that I think will last a lot of lifetime.”
TM: How did you navigate the world of acting while at the same time being a student?
AK: “It was hard. With my old agency, I was under contract while I was working on Degrassi. There [weren’t] too many auditions that I had to [attend]. But there were days where I had to miss school for an audition, head to Toronto, and then head all the way back to UTM. My mom used to drive me to auditions, but she also worked at UTM. So when she had class, I had to take the shuttle on my own.
“It’s hard enough being a student and balancing your social life. I don’t even know how people with regular jobs even keep up. It just blows my mind. But, it’s definitely doable, if you learn to give and take here and there. [For example, letting your TA know], and then working around assignments. I think the key to it is compromise on both ends.
“I think acting helped with stress. I loved prepping for auditions and it would put me in a good mood. So, whenever I got stressed [out with school], I’d prep for an audition. It definitely didn’t help when I wanted to just bunker down and study for a test, [instead of] attending an audition.”
TM: How did you peers receive your acting career? Did you find people react to you differently?
AK: “No—I think it’s funny, since the first group of friends I had were not drama majors. Two of them were studying to become lawyers [and] one was still deciding her major. We all had different majors. So they really didn’t know about the show, and they figured it out [through the course] of hanging out. I don’t think anybody was ever really starstruck. I went to a few parties and some people recognized me. I got a few shots out of it, but that was about it.
“I think in the drama program, a lot of people asked me questions, just because they want to go into the field [of acting]; and I was happy to answer any question. But [generally], people treated me [normally]. I never surrounded myself with anybody who was toxic. I think people at UTM are super grounded—they’re focused on not failing courses, and so they don’t [seem to care] about where you’re from.”
TM: Do you miss anything about UTM? If so, can you recall an experience or aspect of campus life?
AK: “Food wasn’t that great. The food [at Deerfield Hall] was not that bad. One thing I miss the most was probably living on residence. Every morning you’d wake up with a knock on your door, or a text [asking to hang out]. It was just super easy to be socially busy; it was easy to have people to study with [and] people to go to class with. UTM felt like this little village that was out skirted from the rest of the world. It had its own calendar and events that it [followed], like, every Thursday was a pub day. You’d be excited for those kinds of things.”
TM: What compelled you to leave?
AK: “It was just about my career and the decisions I had to make. Again, it’s not the easiest thing trying to balance student life and an acting career. I was thinking, ‘I am in university and I am learning a lot of new things, but I’m also working right now.’ Some people learn in different ways: some people learn better in class, some learn better by doing. I felt like I was more of a doing person. I felt like I needed a change of pace, I felt like I needed to learn in a different environment, and, to be honest, I felt like it was too difficult to juggle both. I left with the intentions of going back, but I don’t know when that will be or if I’ll pursue the same program.”
TM: How did you know that acting was something you wanted to pursue?
AK: “I didn’t like it for a little while. When I was in [high school], I actually enjoyed acting a lot more. It became more rigorous, more competitive, and that made it more appealing for me.”
TM: How did you get involved in Degrassi? What was the audition process like? What was your reaction when you got in?
AK: “The first audition process was an open casting call. I sent my video in and I didn’t hear back from them in a while. So I said, ‘Okay, that’s alright. You’re not going to get everything.’ I got a call while I was playing League of Legends, it was from Degrassi producers, and I thought that was amazing. I went in. I did a call back. Then, I got moved to a chemistry read with Eric Osborne, who plays Miles, and Olivia Scriven, who plays Maya. From there, I got another call.”
TM: I noticed that your role on Degrassi as Winston Chu came with, what some would say, Asian stereotypes. Although the Western acting industry is starting to recognize the need for ethnic diversity, do you still face any kind of stereotyping when it comes to auditioning for roles? Broadly, what’s it like being an Asian actor in the context of the Western acting industry?
AK: “It is definitely difficult. I don’t want to take away from any actors’ struggle, since we all have different plights. I know many actors who are blind, or who struggle with things [a lot of people don’t struggle with]. It’s hard because you’re in an industry where the [acting roles have a specific description].
“As an Asian actor, you face a lot of discrimination. You don’t get to go to the casting calls: There are some [casting calls] that [claim to be open to ethnicities], but really, they’re looking for something specific. You come with this expectation of being judged based on your acting skill, when, really, it comes down to who fits the part best. As an Asian actor, you either [play] Asian roles or open-ethnicity roles—and these roles typically don’t push your career to the next stage.
“I’m lucky enough to play characters that are more complex than token stereotypes.”
TM: What are some challenges, whether personal or technical, that you’ve had on set?
AK: “Exhaustion. I have days when I’m working eight to ten hours. You have to stay revitalized for [important scenes]. One time I was on set, I had to do a scene with Sara Waisglass and I was just so sick I was throwing up on set.”
TM: What are some things, regarding your personality or lifestyle, that you wish fans knew about you?
AK: “I am a real big fan of these new animé stuff coming out. Personality wise, I feel like I’m a very chill guy. Everyone needs their space sometimes, but d on’t ever feel afraid to get a picture. If I’m not in a rush, I’ll definitely go take that picture with you and have a nice chat as well.”