Kool & The Kang
TIM KANG, star of CBS’ The Mentalist, has managed to stay clear of stereotypical roles throughout his career, creating memorable characters in TV and film. How does he do it? The actor—and adrenaline junkie—IS ALL ABOUT PUSHING LIMITS.
by Oliver Saria
It’s a tranquil, warm summer evening with nary a breeze to rustle the leaves in a wooded area in the back lot of Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. The serenity is momentarily shattered by intermittent gunfire and shouts emanating from two men, ducking for cover behind an abandoned car. The director yells “Cut!” Calm is restored, and Tim Kang—the 38-year-old actor who stars as Agent Kimball Cho on the hit CBS show, The Mentalist—walks off set with a hint of a swagger.
It’s easy to tell that he loves this macho stuff.
“When we get to run around and shoot guns, and do fight scenes, I’m all over it,” Kang says.
He holds a black belt in taekwondo and performs most of his own stunts. An avid thrill-seeker, Kang also loves to scuba dive, sky dive, race high-performance motorcycles, surf and pretty much any other activity that risks life and limb. On the day I visited the set, he had a new motorcycle delivered to him—his eighth, a neo-vintage, low-slung, beefy cruiser that he can’t wait to ride. Unfortunately, he’ll have to because the dealer forgot to ship the keys with it. The oversight may have warranted a pampered Hollywood celebrity tirade, but, despite any assumptions one might have made after reading about Kang’s bravura and penchant for Red-Bull-guzzling extreme sports, he is not a douche bag. He nonchalantly shrugs it off and says he’ll patiently wait for them to overnight the keys to him.
Tim’s laidback good-naturedness is in stark contrast to his character on the show. As the resident stickler for the rules, Agent Cho plays straight-man to Patrick Jane, the mercurial lead character played by Simon Baker. In Kang’s estimation, Cho has cracked a smile about twice in three seasons. Behind the scenes, though, Kang is all smiles, hamming it up with his co-star Owain Yeoman, who plays Agent Wayne Rigsby. Kang says Yeoman is like a brother to him. Of all the show’s cast members, Kang is closest with Yeoman and his other cast mate Amanda Righetti, who plays Agent Grace Van Pelt.
“Tim is the total opposite of Cho,” Yeoman attests. “Tim is this incredibly upbeat, sarcastic, funny guy…who’s paying me thousands of dollars to say all these nice things.”
Kang has every reason to be upbeat. With the premiere of the fourth season set to air on September 22, fans of Cho can look forward to seeing a side of him they’ve never seen before. Writer/executive producer Ashley Gable hints, “This season, [Cho] gets a character arc that explores his personal life … And Tim will get to be a part of that creative process.”
Kang also leaked that we may catch a better glimpse of Cho’s love life, which so far has been limited to a girlfriend who appeared in one episode back in season two.
It’s about time. Viewers have been clamoring to see more of him since emerging as a fan favorite. “Even when he’s deadpan,” says Gable, “there’s so much going on with his eyes and face. Tim is so good at so many things, and it’s fun to finally get to see more of that.”
This was an excerpt of the cover story from the September 2011 issue of KoreAm which can be purchased here.