Photo courtesy of CBC
Andrew Phung was born and raised in Calgary. He is a Canadian actor and comedian, and currently stars in the role of “Kimchee” on CBC’s television sitcom Kim’s Convenience. He is also “…the resident artist at Central Memorial High School where he teaches improvisation to their PVA Performing Arts Program…and [he] is formerly the Director of Special Projects at Youth Central.” (Phung, pp. 3) However, regardless of the glitz and glamour of primetime television he still remains connected with his past in Calgary. At the age of 16 he became a volunteer at the Loose Moose Theatre Company (LMTC) while attending Bishop McNally High School. (Phung, pp. 1) His love for theatre, comedy and improv has remained his driving force even today.
High school was, as for many others, a time of boundless energy but lack of funds. As such, Phung naturally gravitated towards the generosity of LMTC who charged nothing but his own attendance. The theatre troupe provided not only a stage but a community as well. Nowadays, he continues to perform at the LMTC as a Senior Ensemble Performer and Instructor. (Phung, pp. 2) He uses the opportunity to mentor and give back to a community that has given him so much.
Phung states that, “Asian-Canadian kids in the arts are usually in two things, Piano or Violin. Very rarely are they taking theatre because it’s seen lacking in job prospects and monetary gain. I ended up going to the University of Calgary for an Economics and Business Degree and I remember my mom was not particularly thrilled that I would not be a doctor. I told her I didn’t have an interest in biology or chemistry and definitely not medicine. My dad was the one who talked her down saying that I had always been a hard worker and that I would be fine.”
However, that was not the end of Phung’s creative career. Even after he graduated and found himself in the ‘nine-to-five’ workforce, he knew that cubicle work was not his passion so he continued to perform and promote. In 2012, he decided to transition fully into his artistic work.
In 2015, at the Edmonton Fringe Festival during his two-person improvised action-movie parody called Kill Hard with fellow LMTC member, Jamie Northan, Phung hit his big break.
“In the audience was writer Ins Choi, the man behind the hit 2011 play Kim’s Convenience. He told Phung he liked his performance and thought he would be perfect for the role of Kimchee in the upcoming TV adaptation.” (Volmers, pp. 5)
Phung has truly enjoyed his time working with the other performers and crew members. Especially, with Kim’s Convenience being one of the few television series staring Asian actors. Phung says,
“It’s a unique show. Even though it focuses on an Asian-Canadian family and the cultural clashes they interact with on a daily basis. It isn’t about their race. The experiences they go through are in part universal to all immigrants and, perhaps, all Canadians. I can watch this show with my grandparents and relatives and we will all find something to enjoy about it.”
“It’s a Canadian upbringing,” Phung says. “If you have the German grandmother, the Italian grandfather, you understand this play. If you have any ethnic background — and I think anyone in Canada does, every Canadian should — then you will connect to (Kim’s Convenience).” (Volmers, pp. 8)
“For Phung, Kim’s Convenience is an important step forward for visibility – and for more Canadians to see people like them on screen.” (Chatha, pp. 7)
“Since 2012, Andrew has hosted large stages at the Calgary Stampede. This includes the Bell Adrenaline Ranch and Enmax Coral Show. Each summer, Andrew entertains over 150,000 visitors to the grounds. “As a Calgary kid, there is no greater honor than to perform in front of your home town on the biggest stage possible”, says Phung.” (Phung, pp. 6)
Phung’s advice for aspiring artists is simple.
“Don’t worry about your headshots or websites. Worry about getting good. I hear young artists say they want to be big but they only come out once every few weeks. I totally understand that people have responsibilities: jobs, friends, and family. But you have be out there making art. Jay-Z said that, ‘You’re not a businessman, You’re a business, man.’ I had to look at my art and work as a business. I can’t sell expired produce. That’s why I have to sell the freshest thing. I take up a lot of odd acting jobs as well and my agents always ask me why I have to do it? It’s not that I have to do it, it’s that I want to do it.”
Yet, Phung also views his downtime as important as his “uptime”.
“I get really introverted sometimes and it surprises people. They see me up there emceeing and performing but afterwards I need time to de-stress and relax. During the Calgary Stampede I would be doing twelve shows a day and then I would go to my dressing room and sit in the dark. People would pop their heads and ask if I was alright and I would say “I’m fine.” I always enjoy my time back home in Calgary and with my family. I can relax and not have to perform.”
Chatha, Aaron. “Calgary comedian runs his mouth through Kim’s Convenience.” Metro News. September 25, 2016. http://www.metronews.ca/news/calgary/2016/09/25/calgary-comedian-runs-his-mouth-through-kim-convenience.html
Phung, Andrew. “Andrew Phung Biography.” 2017. http://www.andrewphung.com/bio/
Volmers, Eric. “From improve to the CBC Calgarian Adnrew Phung lands role in Kim’s Convenience.” The Calgary Herald. October 3, 2016. http://calgaryherald.com/entertainment/television/from-improv-to-the-cbc-calgarian-andrew-phung-lands-role-in-kims-convenience