Exclusive Interview: The Mentalist’s Tim Kang aka Kimball Cho Talks About The Summer-Cho Moment, Hot & Heavy Scenes and Game of Thrones


There is no business like Cho business.

Nothing exemplifies that more than last week’s episode of The Mentalist “At First Blush” in which the always straightforward and serious CBI agent Kimball Cho broke down and admitted that he liked Summer, the quirky and intriguing stripper/informant played by the delightful Samaire Armstrong.

In an exclusive interview to TV Equals, the very gracious Tim Kang talks about the Cho and Summer heart-stopping kiss, what viewers can expect in the upcoming episodes (apparently it’s going to be hot & heavy) and his new production company, One Shoot Films.

Check out what he had to say below and don’t miss the upcoming episode of The Mentalist “War of The Roses” which airs tonight at 10 pm on CBS.
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Last week’s episode was insane.

Tim Kang: Yeah, it was a lot of fun.

Cho and Summer. That was a crazy moment.

Tim Kang: And working with Samaire [Armstrong] has been really fantastic. She’s a fantastic actress. So we just kind of made it fun and wanted to make sure that we were both having fun, no pressure and all this. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at how the thing turned out.

Did you know from the beginning that this was going to happen when Samaire was cast in the role?

Tim Kang: No, because as I’ve said in previous talks with people, we don’t really know, really, what’s coming down the pipeline. We have a general sketch, but nothing in any great detail. So, no. I didn’t know that it was going to culminate into Cho and Summer kind of getting together a little bit there, but there was an inkling from the writers saying that, ‘Yeah, there’s a possibility.’ So, the possibility was there, but we never knew for sure. You never know.

Are you okay with not knowing every fact about your character or everything that’s going to happen to your character when you start out?

Tim Kang: For me it’s something where ideally we would have all that information and we would’ve had it well in advance and we’d have the final shooting draft in our hands. But the vagaries of production and the script writing just make it so that we have to change things on the fly. Storylines change on the fly. Lines change. I get handed Owain [Yeoman] and Amanda’s [Righetti] or Robin’s [Tunney] lines and they get handed mine, just by the nature of the way that we do things and we have to remain flexible. In fact, this week’s shooting schedule was completely turned upside down and I’m going to work when I should have the day off. So, we have to make ourselves available for that kind of flexibility.

This was a rare moment, seeing Cho overtly displaying an emotion. Was that fun to play?

Tim Kang: Only Summer could’ve driven Cho to that kind of place. Certainly as a character it’s a lot of fun to go to places that normally the character doesn’t really live in. To directly answer your question, yeah, it was a blast. But there are certain things, we provide a certain function in our characters, each of us, as supporting characters and what we do on the show. So, we’re happy of course doing that, but yes, it was a blast.

I remember that Cho had a girlfriend. Will that be addressed in the following episodes at all?

Tim Kang: I think he had a brief encounter with Elise, brief in terms of the show. We really only had a chance to meet her once, but from the back story that just ultimately didn’t work out only because of the fact that it wasn’t a good match. We never visited it in the storyline, but ultimately that’s sort of what happened, it just faded. We’ve all had relationships where it just kind of fades away. That’s sort of the back story and what happened with Elise.

What’s coming up next for Cho and what can viewers expect in the upcoming episodes?

Tim Kang: I think for Cho we’re going to definitely revisit the Summer relationship and be privy to it. We will be able to see how it develops and they are in the process of writing scripts for I think the fourth to the last episode and the second to the last episode for Cho and Summer. As to whether we’ll see her again next year that’s completely open. It depends on how they wrap it up for this season, but I’m hoping that she becomes a bit more of a regular thing because as I mentioned before it was really super fun to work with Samaire and it was certainly a lot of fun to go to places Cho normally doesn’t go to.

And your character isn’t actually aware right now that Red John is still alive. Will that be addressed in the coming episodes?

Tim Kang: Absolutely. With the rest of the team. I think the people that are really aware of that are Lisbon and Jane. Certainly that will be addressed.

What’s been the funniest moment so far this season during ‘The Mentalist’ production?

Tim Kang: During production we have moments, especially with the character that I play where the Cho veneer is lost. You play this really stoic, serious guy all the time and sometimes you just can’t keep a straight face. I’m looking at Owain or Simon [Baker] dead in the eye and I just burst out laughing. That’s happened on maybe two or three occasions. I’m pretty good at staying in character, but yeah, this season it’s happened about two or three times and it gets to be pretty funny. Everyone in the crew, everyone around us, they all have a good laugh, like, ‘I broke you. I got you.’

Who do you blame for breaking character, Owain or Simon?

Tim Kang: Most of the time it’s Owain. I mean, the guy is hysterical. I love working with him. He’s a great actor. He’s a lot of fun to work with, and certainly it doesn’t really help sometimes from his point of view where I’m trying to keep a straight face and in between takes, he’ll say something funny; that thought will stick with me as the director says action and it’s still sticking with me and just won’t leave my brain. That’s typically how it happens.

What was the toughest moment of the season?

Tim Kang: I would say the toughest moment in the season was probably, and you guys haven’t seen some of the scenes yet, but working some of the scenes with Summer, with Samaire. It’s tough in the sense that I wanted to make sure that she was comfortable, that I was comfortable because later on we’ll find out they do get a little hot and heavy. I just wanted to make sure that she felt comfortable at all times. It wasn’t necessarily tough, like difficult to do, but it was just more making sure that she was covered and making sure that she was comfortable with everything we were doing and ultimately it ended up turning out fantastic. Outside of that, it’s what we do and we’ve done it for four years now. We slip into them fairly easily now.

You also recently launched a production company, One Shoot Films

Tim Kang: That’s one of the real exciting recent developments. What we’re doing right now in order to inaugurate the launch of the production company is we’re holding a short film competition where anybody in the U.S. 21 and over can submit a short film script and we have a panel of judges. We’re sifting through scripts and the winner of the contest will get up to a $15,000 budget to shoot their film. So we provide the team, we provide everything, transportation. In essence all they have to do is come out to L.A. and create it. So, we’re really excited about giving the opportunity to someone to shoot and produce their short film. Ultimately we’re going to be submitting it to film festivals and getting the word out in that way. So, it’s a real exciting time.

Is it challenging to balance that with your current work schedule?

Tim Kang: It is. There’s definitely a give and take. Right now it’s not as bad, but I foresee it getting a little bit stickier as we close in on the contest end date which is March 12th. We will stop accepting submissions on March 12th and then after that we go right in to pre-production and then we start shooting a film and then we’ve got a month in post. That’s all during the season, and so it’s going to be a little bit of a challenge, but I’m sure that we’ll be able to deal with that without too many hiccups.

If you could guest star on any other TV show, which one would it be?

Tim Kang: If it was in the past I would’ve loved to have done something on ‘The Wire’ to keep with the cop show theme, and then the present, and probably something that I’m precluded from participating in for obvious reasons, is ‘Game of Thrones.’

I think there’s room for you. That would be awesome.

Tim Kang: It would be a lot of fun to do that, just the production value of the show. The scripts are amazing. The storylines are a lot of fun, and just getting dressed up in that sort of period costume, that just kind of brings me back to my theater days a little bit. That would just be a lot of fun to do in front of the camera.

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