Comedy

Kim's Convenience: Surprising facts, easter eggs and stories every fan should know

Going behind the scenes of the set and cast of CBC award-winning comedy series.

Going behind the scenes of the set and cast of CBC award-winning comedy series.

(CBC)

Kim's Convenience follows the lives of a family running a convenience store in a downtown Toronto neighbourhood. The feel-good comedy has connected with audiences all over the world, since it first aired on CBC in 2016, across cultures, age-groups and geography.

As the fifth season premieres January 19, CBC Comedy has compiled a list of behind-the-scenes stories, trivia and facts about the actors on and off set that may surprise even the biggest Kimbit (more on that later). 

Stream Kim's Convenience from the beginning – for free – on CBC Gem.

 

Setting the stage

Kim's Convenience was originally a theatre production. The show's playwright and creator, Ins Choi, spent five years working on the script for Kim's Convenience, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia. At one point when he was low on funds, he received financial assistance from his Korean church, which raised $3,000 to help Choi complete the play and fund a performance of his show.

1. The show is based on the real life experience of Ins Choi.

When Korean-Canadian actor and writer Ins Choi created the series, he used his own family living in Toronto for inspiration. The Kim's convenience store is inspired by a combination of things; Bob's Convenience in Regent Park (Parliament Street), Choi's own experience working in a convenience store in the city, as well as the store run by his uncle which was called Kim's Grocer. 

Choi told CBC Comedy that his uncle owned a convenience store in L.A. in the 1990's, and many people who were poor would come to him for help and borrow money. When the 1992 riots happened, his customers defended his store from looting.

"The corner store was adopted by the community as their business, as their means of surviving," says Choi.  

2. Every theatre company Ins Choi sent the play to rejected it.

Ins Choi eventually entered the play into the Toronto Fringe Festival, and Kim's Convenience started in July 2011, and had its premiere at Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre in 2012. After that, several theatre companies were finally interested, and the performances started selling out.

3. The play ran over six years with hundreds of performances. 

In the play Kim's Convenience, Ins Choi originally took the role of son, Jung (a role played by Simu Liu in the TV adaptation). Paul Sun-Hyung Lee was the only actor who played the same role in all stage performances. Ultimately, Lee did 481 performances of the stage play while Jean Yoon did 322 and Choi did 344. 

The original cast of Kim's Convenience for its 2011 Toronto Fringe performance. Left to right: Esther Jun, Andre Sills, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Ins Choi, Jean Yoon. (Ian Liwanag)

4. Ins Choi turned to scripture to help get through the early days of shooting. 

Ins Choi describes this in Faith magazine

"Kim's Convenience has been a wonderful journey of learning. This is my first adaptation. That world of TV is very different from theatre. These are long days, 12-14 hour days, Monday to Friday. I thought I was going to lose it. I was overwhelmed, overworked, so tired. I opened up Scripture... So every morning I'd be in my office, at 6:00am and crack my Bible and get on with my day." 

5. The adapted TV show is quite different than its original play. 

Originally the play had a darker story-line and the characters speaking complete scenes in Korean. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee in an interview describes his first performance in the play as "stunning, because it was the first time I'd ever seen them represented, and in a sense, me. It really showed a part of me that I've been trying to bury for so long. But I loved the play because Ins [Choi] had dealt with these characters with such love, such honour, and such respect."

Toronto locations: TV that honours the city

Unlike most Toronto-based productions, Toronto proudly plays itself in Kim's Convenience. Most of the locations are a stone's throw from the studio, Showline Studios. Located by Toronto's waterfront, this complex with 78,000 square feet of studios has also hosted production of international features such as X-Men, and many locations are literally a walk around the block from the studio!

6. The Kim's Convenience store set is a real convenience store that had already been around for 30 years. 

The show is filmed on an indoor set in Toronto, but the outdoor shots take place at an actual convenience store, originally called Mimi Variety, on Queen Street East. The Kim's Convenience signs have been left up permanently at the owner's request, and the owners of the store changed its name after being featured in the show. 'Mimi' wasn't an actual person so there were no emotional ties to the name.

7. Toronto's OCAD University makes many appearances. 

Kim's Convenience's Janet Kim (played by actress Andrea Bang), is a photography student at OCAD U. The scenes are filmed on the OCAD campus in Butterfield Park and on McCaul Street, and the strikingly unique exterior of the Sharp Centre for Design can be seen in several episodes.

Season 1 Episode 2 of Kim’s Convenience. (CBC)

The show's producers also commissioned and leased photos by OCAD students to represent the works of Janet and her classmates.

Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) University (CBC)
(CBC)

8. Janet and Gerald's apartment is in Kensington Market. 

(CBC)

You can see Kensington Market's boutiques and tattoo parlour when Appa helps Jung parallel park during Janet's move in episode two of season one, Janet's Roommate.

(CBC)

9. The Kim family's church has been filmed at the same church since season one. 

The church was built in 1920 and is located in the Leslieville/Riverdale neighbourhood. 

(CBC)

10. The Handy Rental Car exterior was shot at Corus Quay (25 Dockside Dr.)

It was filmed in season one and two at the Showline studio, then moved around the corner for seasons three and four.

Behind the scenes secrets 

11. Simu, Paul, and Andrew all participated in soccer training for the soccer game scene in Soccer Dad.

To add to the fun, we asked CBC Sports' award-winning sports writer and sportscaster Scott Russell to do a play-by-play voiceover of the scene for us!

Kim's Convenience Soccer video

1 year ago
0:48
A play by play voiceover by CBC Sports commentator Scott Russell on the soccer game in Kim's Convenience 0:48

12. Jean Yoon doesn't know how to drive.

When you see Jean Yoon behind the wheel, it's some of the transport department pushing the car while she steers.

"Hope you bake as well as I drive" | Sneak Peek 312

3 years ago
1:22
Umma and Appa butt heads when gender biases interfere with a bake sale. 1:22

13. The crew looted the store when season one wrapped.

On the last day, Line Producer Derek Rapaport allowed the cast to empty all the candy from the Kim's store set that would otherwise go stale. 

14. Simu Liu (Jung) is an experienced stuntman. 

In the episode Resting Place, Kimchee playfully wrestles Jung and flips him over. The flip was filmed without a need for a stunt double (although they did have one on set just in case).

15. The song that the Kim family performs at church in Family Singing Contest is called "내 주여 뜻대로" ("Nae Joo-Yuh Ddeut-dae-ro").

The English version is titled My Jesus, As Thou Wilt. You can listen to a full version of the song here:

16. Stunt doubles were used when Gerald gets flipped using Hapkido, when Kimchee falls with his crutches at Handy and when Appa passes out while scuba diving.

17. Unlike in the show, there is no third floor in the actual store.

Janet's bedroom and the dormer window you see in wide shots are not real, and the dormer is added to the roof before the shots are taken from outside the store.

18. Kimchee & Jung's apartment is fictionally set across from Allan Gardens in Toronto. 

The shots on the "balcony" of the apartment were actually taken in a studio: they have never shot on location on the balcony.

(CBC)
19. The Kim house is designed with several details and features of Ins Choi's parents' home.
(CBC)
(CBC)

Actors on set

20. At the end of each and every season, the cast and crew of Kim's get together for a softball tournament. 

21. The video games are fake.

There are a lot of scenes where Jung and Kimchee play video games together. In reality, it's a loop on the TV, and they've never actually played video games. 

(CBC)
(CBC)

22. At the end of each day of filming, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee thanks each crew and cast member by name, and shakes their hand or gives them a hug.

23. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee received a strange fan gift on the set of season five: a penis-shaped candle.

24. The Kim's Convenience cast once joined the cast of Fresh Off the Boat for a live table read of their episodes.

Watch it here:

25. Kimchee's love of sneakers is based on actor Andrew Phung's love of sneakers. 

Andrew Phung would get shoes delivered to set during season one and two because it was safer at the time: he was renting an apartment and didn't know the mail system. The writers saw this and it was added into season two. 

26. Andrew Phung was diagnosed with Gout during production of season four

You can see little moments where he's limping or hiding the gout. There are at least 4 moments like thishow many can you spot?

He used the same crutches he used on screen in season three episode, Appanoon Delight.

27. Jean Yoon's hair is much shorter than Umma's.

As Umma, Jean Yoon wears a wig in every scene to lengthen Umma's hair. 

28. A funny story behind the scenes with pork rinds:

In the scene where Janet (Andrea Bang) and Kimchee (Andrew Phung) sit on the couch to talk (in season three episode 12), they are eating pork rinds. At one point they both smelled something, and it got so bad that they asked who had farted. They both laughed when they realized it wasn't a fart but the smell of the open bag of pork rinds. 

(CBC)

29. Gerald (played by Ben Beauchemin) was originally conceived as a hardcore goth character.

(CBC)

30. Kimchee (Andrew Phung) is actually sleeping in this scene.

(CBC)

During the scene where Jung finds Kimchee and Nayoung sleeping together in bed (season two, episode four), Andrew Phung fell asleep and was woken up when they finished filming. 

31. Originally in her Handy karaoke scene for Stacie's 30th birthday party (in season four, episode six), Shannon was scripted to sing You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette.

Given that Nicole Power is a big soul and R&B fan, Whatta Man by Salt-N-Pepa was used instead.

32. Behind the toilet scene:

The scene where Appa helps Kimchee fix the toilet (season one episode 11), is the scene that Andrew Phung auditioned with and the first time he met Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (Appa). It's also the last scene Phung filmed during season one, which was a nice bookend of the first season. 

(CBC)

33. Which baseball player signed the baseball bat that the Kims fight over in the Silent Auction episode? 

Former Blue Jay, José Bautista. 

(CBC)

34. Andrea Bang auditioned with the "cool Christian" scene. 

35. Kimchee's real name is revealed in season three to be Arnold.

36. Umma and Appa's real first names are Sang-Il and Young-mi.

In Blabber Talker, season three episode nine, we find out Appa's name is Sang-Il in a conversation with Mr. Mehta.  

37. Umma sometimes call Appa "Yeobo" on the show, which is a Korean way to say honey, sweetheart, and darling.

The food of Kim's Convenience 

38. Bin Dae Duk 

(CBC)

Janet had to learn to cook this dish of savoury mung bean pancakes in the season four episode, Soccer Dad.  Umma challenges her to try to make it herself, and it's not a complete disaster. 

39. Gimbap 

(CBC)

Umma cooks this seaweed rice roll filled with a variety of delicious fillings, from vegetables to crab meat, to keep her son Jung (Simu Liu) coming home in Best Before (episode 109) of Kim's Convenience

40. Galbi jjim (braised short ribs)

(CBC)

Umma cooks what she calls a "very special recipe" to outshine her rival at the local church in the episode 

41. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee didn't swallow any of the "expired" Ravioli that Appa ate in episode 109.  

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee commented on the scene in a tweet:

"Number of ravioli shovelled into my mouth: 5 or 6 cans. Actual number of ravioli swallowed: 0. Thank god for spit buckets, but I could taste them for days after."

42. The cast created convenience store recipes

CBC Life asked Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (Appa), Jean Yoon (Umma), Simu Liu (Jung) and Andrew Phung (Kimchee) for their best three-course dinner menus made only with convenience store items.

"I actually did this three-course meal in a Japanese convenience store; it was delightful!" says Phung. 

Fans around the world 

43. The Queen Street Kim's Convenience store keeps a guestbook, and fans of the show have visited from all over the world.

Fans have come from the Netherlands, Michigan, Hawaii, Vancouver, Wisconsin, Halifax, Chicago, Mexico, Australia, Vermont, Colombia, Montreal, The United Kingdom, Malaysia and Florida.

44. Many things in Kim's stand out to international audiences as "Canadianisms."

This Reddit page has fans outside of Canada calling out Kim's for things like ketchup chips that are only available in Canada, and phrases Canadians take for granted, like "hydro" bill, "toonie", calling a grill a "BBQ" or the term "e-transfer" for what Americans call a "Venmo."

45. There's a podcast dedicated to the show called What You Talking, made by fan, Mike Yuan.  

The National Arts centre also made a podcast episode about Kim's Convenience.

46. The South Korean President is a fan of Kim's Convenience.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and was handed a t-shirt by Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland at G20

"As a Torontonian, I am proud of the success that Kim's Convenience has at home and abroad and for its representation of our Korean-Canadian communitymany of whom live in Toronto's Koreatown, an important part of my own riding of University-Rosedale." 

47. Kim's Convenience won Most Popular Foreign Drama of the Year at the Seoul International Drama Awards! 

48. This fan made a cute miniature diorama of the Kim's Convenience store.

49. Kim's Convenience has won awards in Canada at the ACTRA Awards, Canadian Screen Awards and WGC Screenwriting Awards

50. The Kimbits show their love with fan art.

From Lego replicas to posters, these fans have talent. 

(CBC)

Actors off set 

51. The stars had very different career paths before the became actors. Simu Liu was once an accountant, a career path he says he chose in order to satisfy his parents, which led him to studying finance and accounting at Western University's Ivey Business School for two years. He then spent a year working as an accountant at Deloitte.

52. Before Kim's, Andrea Bang was a psychology student, although during university, she really wanted to be an actor and did student films. 

53. The actors relate personally to the characters. 

What were Appa and Umma's jobs before they moved to Canada? He was a history teacher, and Umma sold hats. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee relates to being a teacher because both his parents were teachers in Korea as well. Watch this video for their stories.

54. Simu Liu (Jung) began his acting career as an extra in the film Pacific Rim

An art print of Gypsy Dangerthe legendary Pacific Rim Jaegercan be seen on the wall of Jung and Kimchee's apartment. 

55. Simu Liu will be Marvel's first big-screen Asian-American superhero.

See him in the upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

56. Simu Liu in 2017 was part of Canada's Most Beautiful list and HELLO! Canada also nominated him as one of Canada's 25 Hottest Bachelors.

57. The cast loves to interact with fans. 

The #Kimbits, what the community of fans call themselves, tweeted during a live broadcast, and were very surprised to see the cast responding to what they said. 

"They watch every show, they live-tweet with us, and they stay connected with us throughout the year," says Andrew Phung. 

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee talks about his fan encounters, how he jokes with fans and will always take selfies with them.

58. Simu Liu and Andrew Phung often support Asian-American content 

Once, they bought out an entire theater to create a free screening of Liu's Shang-Chi co-star Awkwafina's film The Farewell. Simu Liu is also in Taken, Fresh off The Boat, and Comedy Central's Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens

59. Simu Liu (Jung) plays guitar and piano.

60. Many Kim's stars are in other CBC shows. 

Jean Yoon also appeared in Being Erica, and the first episode of Baroness Von Sketch Show.

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee was in CBC comedies: BitPlayas (episode six), Baroness Von Sketch Show (S4E3).

Enrique is played by comedian Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll, who has appeared many times in Baroness von Sketch Show, as well as the CBC comedy series Decoys. Amanda Brugel (Pastor Nina Gomez) plays Sonia in CBC comedy, Workin' Moms.

61. Andrea Bang plays a serious role in the gripping drama film Luce.

Working alongside Hollywood stars like Naomi Watts and Octavia Butler, Andrea Bang shows a side of her talent in this intense drama, which is very different from her lighthearted comedic role in Kim's. 

62. Andrew Phung has his roots in improv comedy.

"Everything I know about theatre, about comedy and... about being a human being, I learned all of that through the foundations of improv," Andrew Phung told CBC Comedy.

"It gave me my entire career."

You can watch Andrew Phung in the 2019 Canadian Improv Games

63. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee is obsessed with Star Wars and Ghostbusters. 

Watch as Paul Sun-Hyung Lee shows off this Ghostbusters proton pack he built from scratch!  

64. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee played a New Republic pilot in two episodes of the Disney+ Star Wars spinoff series The Mandalorian.

Playing a character in the Star Wars universe was a life goal of Paul Sun-Hyung Lee's. 

65. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee shared an inside scoop from his Mandalorian set visit:

Is "Baby Yoda" CGI or a puppet? 

66. A fan created an action figure to commemorate Paul Sun-Hyung Lee's character on The Mandalorian.

67. If you're a fan of Tina Fey's Mean Girls, you might recognize someone in this episode of Kim's Convenience.

Jan Caruana played Emma Gerber in the cult film Mean Girls. Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) mentioned her in the speech she gives upon winning the Spring Fling Queen: "Emma Gerber, that hairdo must have taken hours and you look really pretty". In the end, Emma calls Regine George a "fatass."

68. Mr. Mehta is played by Sugith Varughese who is best known as one of the original writers of the classic Muppet TV show Fraggle Rock, Faisal on Little Mosque on the Prairie. You'll also find him making appearances on Suits and Remember.

69. Andrea Bang did a series of CBC Olympic videos in Korea called Annyeung, Andrea!:

70. Kim's creator Ins Choi has also starred in his one-man, spoken-word performance Subway Stations of the Cross.

Ins Choi plays a homeless man speaking and singing a message from the divine. He wrote it as a book that is illustrated by internationally renowned artist Guno Park. 

71. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Jean Yoon make appearances in season three of Dark Matter: Yoon plays Dr. Hajek and Lee plays Dr. Borsin.

Watch Kim's Convenience on CBC Gem and take a look at the new Kim's Convenience Youtube Channel for exclusive content from Kim's Convenience

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aruna Dutt

Digital Producer

Aruna Dutt is a multi-platform producer and journalist specializing in editorial writing and digital video production. Currently, she produces content for CBC Comedy and many of your favourite CBC scripted programs like Kim's Convenience and Schitt's Creek. Aruna was previously at CBC's The Current, a United Nations Correspondent, and produced documentary video for non-profit organizations.

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