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15 things you didn’t know about playwright Ins Choi

By Christina Leadlay      
Canadian playwright Ins Choi P&I Illustration by Anthony Jenkins
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Ins Choi may not yet be a household name, but 2017 could be the year that changes.

Choi’s popular play, Kim’s Convenience, debuted as a comedy series on CBC television in 2016 with, on average, 933,000 viewers per episode, according to the CBC. The second season has been confirmed for this fall, and at time of publication, the staged version is touring once again. It’s now in Toronto and off to Montreal in March, and New York City in July.

But, the Toronto-based playwright and actor isn’t stopping there. Choi is developing a new self-titled concert show. Here, Choi tells P&I what inspires him, his favourite Korean tradition, and about camping his way along the fringe festival circuit.

These responses have been edited for style and clarity:

Where were you when the CBC called to say they wanted to turn your play, Kim’s Convenience into a television series?

I was in the playground of my children’s school, waiting to pick them up when I got the call. I was overjoyed and we went out for dinner to celebrate.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

My father was a preacher, so for a bit I wanted to be a preacher. But then I grew out of that phase and wanted to be a professional ninja. In high school I wanted to be professional skateboarder, but I wasn’t very good. Then I wanted to run a comic book shop, but I didn’t have that many comic books, so my shop would suck. Hence, I went into acting.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee.

What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken?

In summer 2015 my wife, children, and I travelled from campsite to campsite from Toronto, to the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, and
to the Edmonton Fringe Festival. I performed my solo show, Subway Stations of the Cross, at those festivals. Trip highlights included elks in Banff, bears in Killbear Provincial Park, dinosaurs in Drumheller, and lying on picnic tables in our sleeping bags watching shooting stars at night.

What were you known for in high school?

I think I was pretty unknown. But if I was known for anything, I think it would be for my long bangs and the group of Asian skaters I rolled with.

Cats or dogs?

Dogs. But if we lived in the country, chickens for sure—maybe some sheep.

What is your favourite book?

Ecclesiastes.

Everyone has a vice. What’s yours?

Lagavulin scotch.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working with creative, smart, considerate, and funny people. Also [having] the fortune of walking my kids to school and sometimes picking them up, too.

Early bird or night owl?

Night owl.

Best advice you’ve ever received?

Be still.

What’s your favourite Korean tradition?

On New Year’s Day, my family and my two sisters’ families all go to our parents’ place for dinner. We get dressed up in traditional Korean outfits (Hanbok) and perform a bowing ritual (Sebe) where we receive blessings for the upcoming year from my parents.

We then feast on rice cake and dumpling soup (Dduk Mandoo Guk) that my mom makes. It’s so good. After dinner, we play a few rounds of this Korean board game (Yoot No Lee), which involves sticks thrown into the air, pieces moved around a board, teams chanting, cheering, a few injuries, and dancing for some reason.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

Watching the first episode of Kim’s Convenience with my children, knowing that seeing Asians on Canadian television will be normal for them.

What is your main source of inspiration?

God: creating the universe using words; my children: creating worlds with our imaginations; and my wife: creating order in our home.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Writing the sixth season of the TV show Kim’s Convenience and touring my concert show idea that I’m currently working on: INS CHOI: Songs, Stories and Spoken words. 

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