K-pop has already taken over the airwaves and become a global music phenomenon. With KPOP the musical opening in New York later this month, will Broadway be next?
Considering KPOP has the talents of writer-producer Jason Kim behind it, chances are: Yes! Absolutely, yes!
Even if you don’t know Kim by name, you definitely know his work—or, you will very soon. With credits on everything from Lena Dunham’s generation-defining Girls to Bill Hader’s acclaimed Barry (which has earned him two Emmy nominations), Kim has been very busy these last few years. Next, he’ll be penning the long-awaited spin-off to Crazy Rich Asians, and is set to produce an adaptation of Crying In H-Mart, the best-selling memoir from Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner.
Meanwhile, he’s been working at his dream of bringing KPOP to Broadway, an idea he first came up with eight years ago while finishing his MFA at NYC’s New School For Drama. Born in Seoul, South Korea, Kim moved with his family to the Midwest at 10 years old, so he set out for his musical to tell a story of the blurred lines between Asian, American, and Asian-American identities.
Now set for its official debut on November 20, KPOP represents Broadway’s first musical production celebrating Korean culture, and it boasts an incredible ensemble, including international K-pop sensation Luna as its star.
But before the curtain rises, Queerty popped by to make Kim the latest guest in our rapid-fire Q&A series, Dishin’ It. In the conversation, the booked-and-busy writer touched on everything from the lessons he learned while working on Dunham’s comedy, his love of “writing wigs,” and why he thinks K-pop has redefined the meaning of male beauty for the better.
What’s the gayest thing about you?
My writing wigs. Not to brag, but I have a box full of wigs in my office. Everything from a “Marie Antoinette” to “Fun Mom from Long Island.” Writing requires playfulness, and it’s important for me to step into the right mindset in order to sink into the story.
Is there a piece of pop-culture—whether a movie, TV series, book, album, etc…—that you consider a big part of your coming-out journey? Why does it stand out to you?
What is the holy trinity to you? To me, the holy trinity is Working Girl, Broadcast News, and The Birdcage. I grew up loving these movies, and I watch them still with great delight. Sure, they might get canceled to some degree if released today, but they were, for me, a portal into new worlds, where I could be banging Harrison Ford and banter with my friends like Elaine May.
View this post on Instagram
You’ve said you began conceptualizing the musical KPOP back in 2014, and K-pop, the genre, has only continued to explode as a global phenomenon since then. In your opinion, how has K-pop’s international popularity positively impacted the music industry (or culture at large)?
K-pop has been a gift to the world in so many ways, but one aspect I personally love is how it has helped redefine the meaning of male beauty. Growing up, I got made fun of for my glossy skin, my thick hair, and my almond eyes. I was called girly and feminine. I think K-pop is saying a big “f*ck you” to all that. It’s moving us slowly away from a gendered, binary, limiting understanding of beauty. And that’s a great thing.
Outside of K-pop, if you could build a musical around any artist/band’s catalogue, who would it be, and why do you think their music lends itself to a musical? What sort of story could the musical tell?
Mariah Carey. So I could hang out with Mariah Carey. Who cares about the story when there’s Mariah Carey?
Where’s one of the first places/spaces you can remember that made you feel a part of a queer community?
To be honest, my life has been a series of failed attempts at finding community. I genuinely feel out of place everywhere. I think that’s why so much of my writing happens to be about people seeking common ground, desperate to be understood.
One of your first television credits was as a staff writer and, later, a story editor on Girls. What’s something you learned while working on that series that you’ve carried with you in your career since. (And, bonus: Do you have a personal favorite episode?)
No matter how hard you try, no matter how true your intentions are, there will always be people who hate your work. So toughen up and stick to your truth. I thought about this lesson a lot while writing KPOP. My goal was to put a K-drama on a Broadway stage in the most honest and theatrical way possible. A lot of people make fun of K-dramas for being over-the-top, melodramatic, but I think that’s a myopic way of looking at the form. How can we see a Korean story unfold on its own terms without the pressures of the white gaze? Growing up, my friends would ask, “Why is your mom screaming at you?” And I’d have to explain, “She’s literally asking what I want for dinner.” I want to put my mom on the big stage without having to explain or apologize.
Back to Girls. Favorite episode? I think I I had to pick… it would be “Flo,” the one where Hannah visits her grandmother in the hospital.
It was announced earlier this year that you’re writing a Crazy Rich Asians spin-off. If you could write a spin-off movie from any other character in movie history, who would it be and why?
Hmmm… This is a great question. Can I follow the magic carpet in Aladdin? They fly away from Jasmine and go to a circuit party?
Who is a queer or trans artist/performer/creator that you think is doing really cool work right now? Why are they someone we should all be paying attention to?
I’ve always been a massive admirer of Zachary Drucker. I particularly love Zachary’s work with the late Flawless Sabrina. To me, Zachary is not only a thinker and performer, but a wonderful historian, who has been instrumental in documenting important moments in queer history. Also a big fan of SuperKnova and her music!
For tickets and more information about KPOP, head the musical’s official site here.