Ricky Kim is not your average actor. At the age of 28, he decided to do something that other actors in his country and age would probably consider as career suicide—he married the love of his life and immediately had their first baby a year later.
People around him thought he was crazy for doing so—considering that most Korean entertainers would do the contrary—but being the family man that he is, he couldn't care any less about what others thought because his love for his wife and kids will always be more important than his career.
"I want my life to be as real as possible, I would never be able to bear putting up a façade because, for me, it is important that people know me for who I really am," he shares.
As surprising as it may seem, Kim didn't really plan to enter showbiz at all. He was actually planning on becoming a lawyer after finishing his degree in Mass Communications in Kansas State University. "I've never thought of being an actor ever," he confesses.
"In preparation for law school, I really wanted to come and spend time with my grandma in Korea. As a Christian, I wanted to share the Gospel to her and my family there, so I put off being a lawyer for a short time, went to Korea, and one thing led to another," he recalls.
"I [eventually] found myself working at an orphanage. Working there, I wanted to do what I though was right—which is helping people. I decided I didn't want to be a lawyer anymore. I didn't speak Korean, so I started learning the language. Then, a friend of mine was doing acting and modeling and I thought, 'I think I can do that' since I had to make money. So I decided to do that to earn some money."
He said he did it not just to "survive," but he also viewed it as a platform. Kim pursued acting in order to influence others to do good. "It's like a lawyer has law, a rich man has money, and an actor has voice. I viewed being a creative actor as a platform to be an activist to show people about volunteering and giving back."
But he admitted that his foray into the entertainment industry wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. "When I went to Korea, I didn't speak the language, I didn't know the industry, I didn't have a network, I didn't have anything."
"Going to America wasn't that easy, too, because it took a lot of training. Acting is an art, but people do art differently in every country. I had to re-learn how to do the art of acting again in America," he shares. "I went back to acting school and spent my first six months there studying despite the fact that I already did the same in Korea while I was working as an actor. But I had faith that I was going to be successful."
Despite his hardships, Kim doesn't regret anything at all. "For me, being successful isn't really all about the money and what I'm having. To me, if my happiness creates a product that makes people happy, I become joyous—and, to me, I've been successful."
After almost 10 years in the industry, Kim has starred in numerous Korean dramas, films, and variety shows, which helped him established his name in show business. Now, he's well on his way to stardom. He's set to conquer Hollywood as an actor and executive producer with his upcoming film, Heaven Quest: A Pilgrim's Progress.
When asked to share his best advice, he wants young aspiring Hollywood actors to always be reminded of this, "Work hard. Be kind. Love your family because they'll always be the ones who'll support you in the end. Last, but not the least, always be true to yourself—don't act like somebody else just to achieve fame."
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Banner photograph from Ricky Kim.