It’s been almost two years since Daniel Dae Kim last appeared on television, but that’s all changing Monday evening. The Hawaii Five-0 and Lost alum is making his return to the small screen on ABC’s The Good Doctor, a show he just happens to executive produce. He’ll be playing Dr. Jackson Han, St. Bonaventure’s brash new chief of surgery who clashes with Freddie Highmore’s titular doc, Shaun Murphy.
Given how long it’s been since he’s been on camera, Kim was pretty nervous when he stepped on set for the first episode of his four-episode arc.
“I know the quality of David Shore’s writing and I wanted to do it justice,” Kim tells EW. “I also wanted to be a good scene partner to all my fellow actors and people that I’d known in a producing capacity, so I wanted to service the show. Because of that, I felt a little bit more butterflies in my stomach than I expected.”
One thing that helped calm his nerves was that Highmore, who is also a producer on the show, was directing his first episode, which airs tonight.
“I actually really enjoyed the fact that my first episode was directed by a [member] of the family,” he says. “It was nice because I’d known everyone and some as friends, but now to work with [Highmore] as a member of the ensemble, it was even more special because Freddie was at the helm.”
That familiarity made things easier for Highmore, too. “We all knew him incredibly well, and there was that easiness when being on set with him of not needing to get to know someone but immediately being on the same page,” says Highmore.
We last saw Kim as Detective Chin Ho Kelly on CBS’ Hawaii Five-0, which he starred on for seven seasons. In the summer of 2017, he and fellow castmate Grace Park left the series after contract negotiations with the studio fell through. At the time, it was reported that both actors were seeking parity with Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, and Kim said in a statement that he left the show in order to “maintain a steadfast sense of your self-worth.”
While Kim was working on the tropical island-set cop drama, he had also started to get into producing and launched his own production company 3AD in 2013. The very first property he tried to develop was The Good Doctor, which is based on a Korean drama. The series went through a development cycle at CBS Studios, but it didn’t move past the script stage. Nevertheless, Kim didn’t give up, bought the rights himself, and proceeded to redevelop it over the next few years. Eventually, House creator David Shore came on board, and “that changed everything,” Kim told EW in Oct. 2017. “Once David’s involvement was known to people, we pitched it again. We had a very different reception, it moved forward, and four years later, here we are.”
Of course, when the show premiered, one of the questions surrounding it was whether or not we’d see Kim on screen. At the time, he maintained that the circumstances would have to be right — and thankfully, everything lined up in the show’s second and current season. Kim and Shore had several discussions about wanting the actor to appear on the show. “We wanted it to be organic to the show and not just stunt casting. If it moved the storyline forward in some way or presented an interesting option for the character then we thought that’s when we’ll do it,” he says. “It happened to fit my schedule availability-wise and there was a natural storyline.”
When we meet Kim’s Dr. Han in tonight’s episode, he’ll have some problems with Shaun, especially after Shaun’s breakdown during the quarantine incident in the fall finale/winter premiere.
“He’s not keen on Shaun,” Highmore tells EW. “Not in an overtly evil way, but he just considers him to be more of a liability than an asset to the hospital in terms of his weaknesses. So that’s the direction that the last few episodes go in: Shaun trying to prove to Dr. Han that he’s worthy of the position that he currently holds in the hospital and just being at the hospital in general.”
Adds Kim: “Jackson Han is someone who represents the challenges he may face in the future.”
When Kim started shooting, he was surprised by how intense the role was. “I didn’t realize how long and grueling [the surgery scenes] could be. There’s a lot of medical jargon and you’re on your feet with fake blood on your hands for long periods of time. So those days can seem like they drag on for a while,” he says.
Thankfully, his fellow castmates gave him some helpful advice. “They gave me little tips like, wash your hands in between; when your mask goes down, stick it over one ear so then you can just prop it back up; find certain angles for the instruments so that sometimes they’re out of frame and you don’t have to worry about matching. Little things like that I really appreciated,” he says. “Of course, the medical jargon is something that there’s no hack for. You just have to learn it.”
The Good Doctor airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC.