Paul Sun-Hyung Lee

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Paul Sun-Hyung Lee in 2017

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (Korean: 이선형) (born August 16, 1972) is a Korean-Canadian actor and television host. He is best known for his roles as Randy Ko in the soap opera Train 48 (2003–2005) and as family patriarch Appa in the play Kim's Convenience (2011) and its television adaptation (2016–2021).


  • Script in television is easier: you can study it and do your homework. When doing “Kim’s,” I’m often three days ahead of schedule, learning my lines and making choices because I have the luxury of an almost complete script in front of me. It’s different from doing a television show that’s improvised and ad-libbed; basically what you are saying is predicated by what the competitors do. As a host, you have to think about so many different things because there are so many different moving parts—not only technically being aware of where the cameras are, but also reacting to what you are given by the competitors and making it seem effortless is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life!
  • When you are improvising a show, it’s different as well, because people understand you are improvising, you’re allowed to make mistakes. When you watch game shows, the really good ones, [they] look like they don’t ever miss a beat. I’ve realized that it’s because they are all edited within an inch of their lives, there were probably tons of mistakes, but it looks like everything is going smooth, but it’s like getting into the deep end of the pool and being forced to sink or swim. I’m curious to see how I was in the first episode versus the finale, as almost two different hosts because at the end I found my comfort zone, and I was more familiar with the language, the technical aspects of what was going on and being more engaged, getting to know the kids a lot better and getting to know the format a lot better.
  • For a large part of my youth, I was very angry and very pissed off. It’s one of those things where you’re allowed to feel that. However, if you spend all your time pissing and moaning about and just talking about it, instead of doing something about it, that’s the problem. When you are complaining about the status quo, it’s easy to rail against the man and it’s comfortable because usually when you are ranting about it, so many people agree with you. The hardest thing is doing something about it. It’s a painful lesson to learn, but I’m on the other side now and I understand completely, especially younger people, being super pissed and stuff. I needed to understand when I was young too, that no one is just going to hand it to you because of the color of your skin or because you think you deserve it. This is a difficult industry we are in. You have to focus on doing your job, doing your best, so next time they can’t ignore you.
  • Show what you can do and be excellent at it, then you can’t be ignored anymore. It doesn’t have to be a culturally or ethnically specific role or project; you can just be a talented filmmaker, artist, actor, producer or whatever, you can turn that corner. If that’s what gets you in great, but that isn’t what we should always be limited to (culture/ethnicity).
  • I would say follow your passion, follow what you love. You are going to be doing it for a long time, so at least you have to like it! I know a lot of people who have a good paying job and when I ask if they like it, they say “no.” Then why are you doing it then and what would you rather be doing? “Well, to make money.” You make these choices in life, you can choose to be comfortable or choose to be passionate and do both, few can do both at the same time. That’s life too. I had to work retail jobs just so I could stay acting. But there was never a question for me to quit acting. I was just too stupid and stubborn to quit! Things change, if you have a family too, I get it! You need more money for your kids to eat! If acting doesn’t pay for it, then you need to get that job and you find a way to make things work. Sometimes you have to wait, but at the end of the day, nobody owes you anything!
  • Television is a gateway for other people too. It reaches such a mass audience and it only makes sense that this is the easiest way for newcomers to learn about Canadian society and a love of pop culture comes out of that. That’s why shows like Star Trek that have such a positive and hopeful view of society in the future are so important because they will reach that audience and give them hope. It’s a powerful medium that has so much influence, so much power to abuse the trust that audiences give to it.
  • I fell in love with the craft of acting. Breaking down a scene, finding the beat, understanding character motivation – all of these things became real to me on a level that I had never before appreciated. It was more than just memorizing lines; it was excitement and never in a million years before this, did I think that this would be a job for me. And that was exciting as well!
  • When you’re 18 and you’re starting to lose your hair – it sucks. So, my agent always got me roles that were older than my actual age. I’m Asian and an actor and I worried about my appearance. I played dads, grand-dads and that was my career. But that taught me something: I learned that I’m never going to have a leading role but that doesn’t matter; I’m going to be the best actor I can – bit roles, whatever and that attitude made me a better actor. I believed I could be a character actor and that’s a thing to aspire to.
  • You hone your craft so that you can be excellent in whatever it is that you do. I say that to my kids but it really is about the way you approach your work, your craft, whatever, that’s what makes you a success. You can be pissy about not getting the lead role or the attention you think you deserve, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about doing the best role you can. Our industry is based on hope – being discovered and all that, but that accounts for only 0.001% of success. I’m pragmatic, I just decided I was going to be excellent and realistic and be a grinder at my work. I was just going to keep going, be happy, work hard, and accept the roles that came to me.
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