At only 18, Kim Ho is an actor and a writer who has already won praise from world famous celebrities. It’s hard to imagine what he can’t do.
Playing the arm chair critic I tried to look to for his bad side, trying to find the arrogance behind his nice smile and friendly demeanour. When I interviewed him, the only problem I could find with Kim is that it was impossible to find a flaw.
He’s the kind of guy you can’t imagine angry. His hair is shaved down, but it looks more Joseph Gordon Levitt than juvenile delinquent. His calm eyes and measured voice makes conversation with him have a strangely calming effect.
It’s incredible; he should be an arsehole. He’s 18, has won a premier Australian writing competition, had his monologue made into a movie, which went viral, racked up over half a million Youtube hits, and attracted fans like Stephen Fry and Ellen de Generis.
But there’s no ego. No haughty eyebrow raising. No snorts of superiority. He’s a consummate gentleman.
Kim’s story is world famous now.
He grew up in Sydney, climbing trees and singing. Was there a dark, brooding Brando streak in this Jungle Book upbringing? “Nah, I was a goody two shoes at school. One time my friend stole a plover’s eggs and I confessed too so I could go with him for emotional support.”
At 17, He entered the Australian Youth Theatre’s monologue writing competition, with a monologue, “pretentiously titled Transcendence,” about a young boy coming to terms with his homosexuality. It blew the judges away.
Kim was given a scholarship with playwright Tommy Murphy. Together they produced the short film, The Language of Love, directed by Laura Scrivano. Everyone from Stephen Fry to Danni Minogue commented on it. It was his first time writing a screenplay.
Does that success scare him? “Absolutely. I don’t want to peak with the first thing that I write, but I’m also prepared for my subsequent work not to have the same level of success.”
Of course with that level of success, you attract the inevitable,“do you reckon it’s a true story?” Kim remained decidedly silent on whether it’s autobiographical, giving no help to the College girls’ frantic bathroom conferences.
“I’ve had people tell me they knew my sexuality from the work,” he sighs. “Whilst I understand that presumptuous behavior, it’s quite disrespectful towards me as an artist. I mean, Ang Lee wasn’t treated like that when he directed Brokeback Mountain.”
He suggests that for him he found silence was the best way to make sure his work was taken seriously.
His Asian Australian heritage also drew multiple comments. Did it influence his writing?
“No yet. After The Language of Love, when I started seriously considering a writing career, I thought that I needed to reference my heritage and Asian Australian issues,” he pauses, “But I’ve thought about it, and I’m convinced my heritage will come out in my work, regardless of the subject matter.”
He says that he isn’t interested in being overt, “I don’t want to be know for polemic…writing about people makes for more compelling fiction than writing about an issue.”
Does it bother him to always be asked about his Asian-Australian roots, when white Australian authors don’t get asked about their whiteness?
Kim frowns, “Someone commented on my film, “I like Asians. You should do one about how not being full Asian makes it bad.”” He sighs, “To me, it wasn’t just dumb, it was quite hurtful. I’m really proud of being Eurasian, but also this guy completely looked past the point of the film.”
While some responses about race have disappointing Kim says he has had positive experiences as well. “Another guy said he was really pleased to see an Asian playing a character that didn’t have to be Asian. I was so proud to have unintentionally promoted colour-blind casting!”
So what does his future idea of success look like? When will he say, ‘yes, that’s what my life’s about!’
“God, that’s hard,” he pauses, “Well, it’s always really rewarding to see people made happy by something I’m involved in. I will definitely need to do something creative, but while acting’s fun, it’s not my calling.”
Maybe writing? “I see writing as a form of humanitarian work. Every story is an exercise in empathy; the audience have to put themselves in a new situation. That’s really important to me.”
He grins, “I don’t really know yet….but I think that following the path I’m on is a good start.”