Angry Reader of the Week: Jean Yoon

"It's ridiculous how fun this job can be."

Photo: Denise Grant

Greetings, good people of the internet. It is time, once again, to meet the Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Jean Yoon.

Who are you?

Jean Yoon, or 윤 진 희 ( pronounced Yoon Jean-Hee) in Korean, or 尹真姬 (Yin Zhen Ji) in Mandarin. Yoon means bailiff or tax collector, the Jean or Zhen part means real or true. Hee or Ji means woman, princess or going way back, concubine. So I'm a real woman, a true princess or a genuine concubine.

What are you?

Actor, writer, mom, Korean-Canadian multi-hyphenated post-menopausal feminist, this year's Actra Award of Excellence recipient.

Also, I’m a pretty good cook.

I'm best known, these days, as Umma in the CBC hit comedy Kim's Convenience. If you’re into SF, I do a wee turn in The Expanse now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Where are you?

I'm based in Toronto. I was born in Illinois then moved here to Canada when I was three and it has been home ever since. I've lived and worked in Vancouver, Edmonton, Harbin and Yanji City PRC but Toronto is always home.

At this moment, I'm at my dining room table, the room kind of smokey from some undisclosed mishap that occurred while I was out. Something to do with Mediterranean chicken and sweet potato fries... My son is teaching himself how to cook.

What do you do?

What a question. What do you do?

As an actor, I explore a text, identify and understand its parts, texture, intent, and my character's purpose within it. Then I do the same with my character, the scenes, and then move into the moment to moment. I use my body, my voice, a lifetime of human observation, a bit of magic, a bit of prayer, and I just do it cuz it's time and everyone's waiting. I tell stories. I play. I get to play with others, brilliant, generous, inventive artists. It's ridiculous how fun this job can be.

In this role as Mrs. Kim, part of my job is also being a kind of an ambassador for the Korean Canadian community, and to some extent for Toronto, a uniquely intermingled and culturally diverse city.

This job of acting, though, is just really just the latest phase of a longer life project. I knew out of high school that I loved acting and writing, but at the time the conditions for minority artists were dismal. I took many surprisingly rewarding detours, then came back to Toronto in the nineties as an arts advocate and policy maker. My goals were to develop a healthy culturally diverse arts scene, remove systemic barriers that were unfairly excluding culturally diverse artists from public funding, advance programs to develop our artists, and produce projects to share our voices and stories with audiences. I eventually jumped back in as an artist, acting and making a few plays of my own along the way. I am especially proud of The Yoko Ono Project (2000) and Hong & Nolbu: The Tale of the Magic Pumpkin (2005). I started on Kim's in 2011 when playwright Ins Choi produced it at the Toronto Fringe Festival. The rest is history.

What are you all about?

Justice, equity, reciprocity, compassion, coffee, comedy, truth, dancing, stories.

What makes you angry?

Lying, gaslighting.

Kind words, cold eyes.

I hate being lied to, especially to my face.

Your President Donald Trump and our Ontario Premier Doug Ford are both making me pretty damn mad. They both lie A LOT. About big things and small. Our Premier, affectionately known as Drug Fraud, was a hash dealer starting in high school. His campaign slogan was A Buck A Beer. He promised $1 beers if he became Premier. And your President. Ugh.

Ford and Trump, they're both members of the same club of entitled, lazy, corporate power lackeys who seek public office in order to raid the public purse, to steal from the poor services that our governments are capable and morally obligated to provide in times of need. We're facing a mortal and imminent threat, a Climate Emergency, and these guys, these guys LIE to us about it. They LIE as they fire people, close down programs, cut productive organizations, and give that money back to their corporate friends who are hoarding their wealth, buying up cheap public resources like water, land, mining rights. Cuz they know a disaster is imminent. They know, and they don’t care about anybody but themselves, right here, right now.

They make me pretty angry.

But this kind of anger isn't always good. It can be paralyzing. If you cling to it, it will sink you like an anchor into despair so thick you can barely move. Or it can make your head throb, it can make you reckless.

And that’s when I breathe and channel my Inner Nancy Pelosi.

Channel your Inner Nancy Pelosi, filibuster in four inch heels, throw a death stare or two, and carry on.

Also, can anyone explain to me why The Farewell was in the "Best Foreign Film" category at the Golden Globes? American writer, director, producers, most of the cast. The location was foreign but if that's the measure of cultural citizenship, then why the hell was Lord of the Rings in the regular category? Excellent though that Awkwafina won, eh? Sooo good.

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