Convenience hitting the road
What do you do if your new Canadian sitcom strikes gold its very first season, becoming the No. 1-rated domestic comedy on any channel?
If you’re the CBC, and that show is the critically acclaimed Kim’s
Convenience, you double down and showcase the Season 2 launch with a cross-country promotional tour and fan experience.
The series, which returns Sept. 26, is visiting Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday before heading to Calgary, Alta., (Sept. 21), Ottawa, Ont., (Sept. 26), Montreal, Que., (Oct. 1) and St. John’s, N.L., (Oct. 3).
“It’s almost like an old-school rock ’n’ roll tour,” says Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who plays poker-faced convenience store owner Mr. Kim, a.k.a. Appa. Lee is thrilled to be participating in a Canadian TV promotion that will not only “pump the show, but pump the actors.”
“In Canada, we don’t do the big star system,” he said while wrapping production on the new season last week in Toronto. “To have this opportunity to promote the hell out of the series and the actors is beyond my wildest dreams.” Set in downtown Toronto, Kim’s
Convenience focuses on the lives of a Korean-Canadian family who own a corner store. Lee is especially proud that all Canadians have embraced the show, “not just the Korean community. It has become a show that has transcended culture.”
The tour will allow fans to get up close and personal with Lee plus cast members Jean Yoon (Mrs. Kim, or Umma), Simu Liu (estranged son Jung), Andrea Bang (daughter Janet), Andrew Phung (Jung’s pal Kimchee) and Nicole Power (Handy Car Rental manager Shannon).
Born in South Korea and raised in Calgary, Lee, 45, has spent more than half his life as an actor.
“My career, if you look at my resume, has been a plethora of day player bits,” he says.
In the past, he has been one of those actors you’ve seen but can’t name, with credits on everything from Train 48 to Degrassi. Appa was his first shot at a series lead and he aced it, winning the Canadian Screen Award as best actor in a continuous leading role.
Yoon was also recognized for her work on the series, winning an ACTRA Award and beating out the likes of Catherine O’Hara and Tatiana Maslany in the process. “Humbled is the word,” Yoon says.
She’s also thrilled to be taking the show on the road. “It’s exhilarating,” she says. “We’re all really proud of the work we’ve done this season. The stories, they’re more adventurous and the comedy is zinging right out from every character.”
Other cast members returning to their hometown include Bang (who lives in Vancouver), Power (from Newfoundland and Labrador) and Phung, who like Lee is from Calgary.
An improv player since he was 16, Phung is thrilled to be emceeing the live promotional events.
“We want the audience to walk away not that they went to a screening, but that they had an experience,” says Phung, who has worked crowds at the Calgary Stampede.
Former CTV boss and executive producer Ivan Fecan sees the cross-country tour as a way to take the series past the big urban centres of Toronto and Vancouver — markets that drew the most ad dollars last year — and into the rest of Canada.
The best way to do that, he feels, is capitalize on the first season momentum by connecting this cast with fans of the series.
“To be really blunt, these were not household names,” he says of when the series was launched last season. Now, with strong critical reviews as well as an average minute audience at close to 900,000 viewers — as well as a lift from summer reruns and Air Canada viewing — Fecan feels the time is right to take the show directly to the fans.
The series will again air opposite two of last season’s biggest import hits: This Is Us and Bull — part of the reason, according to CBC’s research department, many viewers tend to catch Kim’s Convenience on their PVRs. When Canadians do watch it, research shows they tend to watch as a family.
“The biggest feedback we get is that young adults are watching with their parents and they’re both getting off on it,” says Fecan. “We deal with some things that maybe aren’t dinner-table conversations but we deal with them in a way that is palatable for a family.”