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For Minha Kim, Pachinko Is Just the Beginning

In Pachinko, we watch your character Sunja grow up, experience love and heartbreak, leave the only home she’s ever known, become a mother, and find independence in a foreign land. How did you prepare to take on such a rich character?

Firstly, I had to study my history. I read books and watched a lot of documentaries to learn what happened in that era, not only in Korea, but around the world. But the most crucial thing that helped me was talking to my 94-year-old grandmother and hearing her stories. She lived in that time and knew exactly what was going on. She really did suffer similarly to Sunja. While I was researching, it was all about facts, but from my grandmother, it was all emotional. My grandmother is a great storyteller.

Have you watched Pachinko with her?

No, not yet, but she calls me every time she watches the episodes and she never stops crying, so I have to stop her!

What was your favorite scene to film?

There were so many scenes that I loved, but I really liked the scenes that were set in the boarding house, especially when I said goodbye to my mother and all of the boarders. While I was shooting that scene, all of the emotion came from my heart. I felt like I was saying goodbye to my own mom, siblings, and the people I love. Sunja’s mom is her everything, and I was thinking of my own mom. I hate hurting my mom, and Sunja is the same. Back then, there were no iPhones—if you said goodbye to someone, you never knew when you were going to see them again. I didn’t want to fake anything and was just really honest with my emotions in that scene.

In what ways do you most relate to Sunja?

Sunja has two sides to her—she’s both delicate and very sturdy. That disposition was a junction between Sunja and me.

Was there a scene that made you most nervous to film?

I was nervous to film the childbirth scene, because that’s something that I’ve never experienced before. Even though I watched a lot of videos and talked to my mother and grandmother, I couldn’t imagine how painful it was.

What was it like to wear the traditional Korean costumes?

The costumes were really comfortable—they were easy and quick to put on, and really pretty. I loved the color, too. I actually asked if I could keep them, so I have a couple in my closet. I haven’t worn them since, but I love seeing them in my closet and reminiscing.

What was your go-to snack on set?

Every morning I had to have a warm, black coffee. I especially loved the coffee from McDonalds. We always shot in the early morning, so it helped wake me up. On set I was also known as the girl who loved to eat jelly beans. I love candy, so every time I was on a break I’d eat them. The green apple flavor is my favorite.

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