Con­ve­nience hit­ting the road

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - CLASSIFIEDS - BILL BRIOUX

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.”

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