TORONTO — “Kim’s Convenience” has just ended but cast member Andrew Phung is already “knee-deep in ideas and stories” for his next project, “Run the Burbs.”
The Calgary-raised actor, who played quirky car-rental employee Kimchee on “Kim’s,” co-created the upcoming comedy series and will star in it as a stay-at-home dad with an entrepreneur wife and two kids.
“I’m a kid who did improv in church basements and now I get to lead a show, so I’m taking the responsibility very seriously,” Toronto-based Phung said in a recent phone interview.
“I’m trying to make it a production that represents the best practices of what we want from an industry. So that takes a bit of time takes a bit of extra elbow grease, but I’m happy to do it.”
The CBC announced “Run the Burbs” late last month after news broke that its hit sitcom “Kim’s Convenience” would be ending for good with the season 5 finale, which aired this past Tuesday.
Phung said he’s been developing his half-hour show with his best friend and collaborator, filmmaker Scott Townend, for about a year. The CBC ordered it as a series while “Kim’s Convenience” was planning to go into production on a sixth season.
Phung had several schedules laid out for how he might create his own series around the filming of “Kim’s,” which is about a Korean-Canadian family who run a corner store in downtown Toronto. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Jean Yoon starred as the parents, Appa and Umma, alongside Simu Liu and Andrea Bang as their children, Jung and Janet.
But “Kim’s” producers cancelled the series, saying they couldn’t deliver another season with “the same heart and quality” following the departure of co-creators Ins Choi and Kevin White.
Phung is now hoping to go into production on “Run the Burbs” in the summer or fall.
“In a lot of ways, I think it’s a good spiritual continuation for ‘Kim’s,’” Phung said of his new show. “Not narratively a continuation, but it’s a spiritual continuation in the sense that we get to see a diverse family living their best life, but now we get to see it in the suburbs.”
Phung has a strong bond with the ‘burbs.
The performer said he grew up in about seven different neighbourhoods in northeast Calgary and sees suburbs as a place of opportunity for families and “the only way you can own a home realistically right now.”
The married father of two young boys wants to celebrate such elements in the new series, which is inspired by his own life and produced by Pier 21 Films.
“It was lifted from my experiences but also my experiences being an Asian father and raising kids in Canada,” said the economics graduate of the University of Calgary, who started performing improv comedy at the city’s Loose Moose Theatre Company at age 16. His other credits include the series “The Beaverton,” the feature “Little Italy” and the new film “Events Transpiring Before, During, and After a High School Basketball Game.”
“My cultural roots are Canadian but they have a Vietnamese and Chinese heritage to them. But that’s how things are now. This generation of parents will have been raised in Canada, but will often have cultural roots rooted in their homeland, via their parents.”
Phung said he wants to reflect the conversations he’s having with his children and his approach to parenting, and also represent a loving marriage rather than the “the ball and chain” cliche that’s sometimes seen in sitcoms.
A lot of the stories are pulled directly from his own experiences.
“I sent a script off to the writing team today and I was like, ‘This literally happened last night,’” he said.
Phung has won three Canadian Screen Awards for playing Arnold (Kimchee) Han, best friend and co-worker of Jung. Kimchee’s role grew from slacker pal to responsible assistant manager at Handy Car Rental over the five seasons.
When the time is right, Phung hopes they’ll be able to revisit the characters who’ve resonated with fans around the world, thanks to a presence on Netflix.
He has no intel on whether there might be another “Kim’s” incarnation down the line but believes “that the door will be there.”
“Never say never,” Phung said. “We’re seeing things come back and the power of fans.
“So maybe there’s hope in the future that we get to see possibly this family coming back.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2021.