Meet Gia Kim, the rising actress who shines in her break-out role in Netflix’s hit series XO, Kitty, the long-awaited spinoff of the beloved movie series, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. Only a week after debuting, the show claimed the top spot on Netflix’s Top 10 Chart and has gained a rising fanbase ever since.
In XO, Kitty, her first ever television role, Gia portrays Yuri, the Queen Bee of KISS (Korean Independent School of Seoul) who happens to be the daughter of a prosperous hotel owner and the school’s principal – it couldn’t be more complicated than that as her parents have high expectations which leads to Yuri having to hide her relationships and sexuality from them. Throughout the series, Kitty and Yuri develop a complex bond, and go from being friends to frenemies to everything in-between, all whilst trying to navigate the hurdles of life as a teenager.
Schön! speaks to Gia about the casting process, the great chemistry between her co-workers, her attempt to learn how to DJ and much more.
Disclaimer: SAG-AFTRA members are currently on strike; as part of the strike, union actors are not promoting their film and TV projects. This interview was conducted before the strike.
XO, Kitty has been out for a bit and the buzz has been incredible. How has life been for you since then? It must have been a crazy rollercoaster.
Yeah, it has been very hectic for the last three months, before the show and after the show, so actually it’s only been a few weeks. I feel like I’ve had time to do nothing and rest. It coincided with the 4th of July here so everyone was on holiday, so it felt like that was the first time I had no schedule the whole day. My brother was also visiting me for a few months and when he left it felt so quiet all of a sudden, which is nice. I needed it. I just love that people love the show and I’m so glad that it was received well. It means a lot when people come up to me and tell me that they love this show and I still love to hear it even though it’s been more than a month.
I must say, I binge-watched it in one go as well.
Aww yay! That makes me happy when people tell me they binge-watched this show.
You are playing the character of Yuri who is quite popular with a powerful family and who, in the beginning, is still in the closet. Could you relate to her at all, and how did you prepare to channel her?
I was very social as a student too but I was never a Queen Bee or anything like that at all. I never lived that kind of life where your family’s under so much scrutiny and people care so much about what you say or do. So, it was hard at first to figure out how I step into this character who looks like she is from such a different background. All she wants is to love her girlfriend and be free to love her and have her mom’s approval for who she is. Those things I can relate to because I was a teenager once — everyone was — and I’m sure a lot of people, like myself, had to struggle with one or both parents trying to get them to accept them for who they are. So, on those levels, I was connecting to her as a human being, as every human being goes through something like that, especially with the people that they love. That’s how I was able to connect with her.
I love that, because it’s so true – we’ve all been there! What was the whole casting process like?
It was very long and also felt very long because the waiting was very excruciating. I think from the moment I submitted my self-tape to the day I was finalized for the role, it took two and a half months or so I think. There were the holidays involved and no one was working which meant nothing was in progress and I was dying inside. I was like, oh my god, just tell me already! It was a very long process so it just made it all the more worth it when I did get the part.
And here you are! The show is wrapped and out for the world to see, so the patience paid off. What I noticed from all the interviews you’ve done afterwards as a whole collective, the chemistry between everyone is so good. Your brother was part of the cast too but it did seem like you are one big family. When did you meet everyone for the first time, and was it instantly a great connection with everyone?
I met Anna at the hotel lobby in Korea with her mom. I was so excited. We were both so excited to see each other in person. Obviously, she’s a very sweet person, so we instantly just got to talking about how we feel about the show and everything and then I think I met everyone else also in the hotel lobby one by one. It was nice and everyone is easy to get along with thankfully. It wasn’t hard to make that connection.
That sounds perfect! I love how the show explores so many emotions, relationships, coming-of-age topics, and overall so many important things. What did you find most challenging to film, and also what did you find the most fun to film?
The challenging parts were definitely the first few days on set that felt like a boot camp. I had just gotten out of quarantine for having COVID so my body was still recovering and, at the same time, I had to learn as I go on set because it was my first time on a film set. All of my scenes were crumpled up back to back because I was delayed on my schedule. They had all of my scenes in three days so it felt very go, go, go. The first three days were the toughest but also I learned the most as I had to learn quickly. I think the episode where I had to dance and DJ at the same time was stressful because it was multitasking — it required more than just acting. I had to bring other skill sets to the character, I wasn’t sure that I was ready to take on these new skill sets that take a long time to learn and we didn’t have that much time. That was stressful but the rewarding parts, I think, come with the challenges. Once I overcome it, it’s the most rewarding too. I think that came hand in hand — the challenge and the reward part of it.
Well done, because it looked like you were a pro at DJing!
Thank you, I had three hours of class before that and, obviously, I can pretend but I didn’t want to make it look so fake so that’s why I wanted to learn the basics.
It didn’t look like you would have just learned it! But that must have been super challenging indeed. You were also acting in two languages. I speak two languages back to back as well and switch them up all the time by accident. Did you ever get confused when you had to switch from Korean to English and vice versa?
Yeah, sometimes I would speak Korean and then feel like my pronunciation is not very clear in Korean. My tongue is used to speaking English. Then, when I’m speaking Korean, the pronunciation part just struggles sometimes. I think Korean requires more of me needing to be more exact with my tongue and oral placement because I’m speaking English most of the time, I would slip up. I usually mix Korean and English anyway because some of my friends are bilingual but sometimes I would get into my head and be like, am I not speaking enough?
I can so relate. The end of season 1 had a bit of an open ending with a moment between Kitty and Yuri. So for season two, would you like to explore more of a relationship with Kitty or learn more about your existing relationship with Juliana?
You know what? That’s a good question. I don’t know. I think both would be great. When you know something is there, you want to explore it and see what is there. Right? What is this? I would want her to explore everything because now she’s just becoming more public with her sexuality. I want her to explore as much as she can with different people and also her relationship with her parents. Things like that I’m excited to see.
Yeah, it will be great to see where her journey takes her in season 2. Was there anything Yuri taught you personally?
I already kind of knew this about myself, but I noticed more that I’m not as comfortable taking up space as it is. That kind of energy is something that I’ve always known that I like and I want to have more of, so Yuri taught me that because she is very unapologetically herself in public. She has her secrets that she kept to herself but she commands space and attention. I think that’s something that never came naturally to me or nor was I ever taught to be like that or have that sort of energy for myself. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, too, or maybe it is just being a woman, I don’t know. But I’m sure a lot of that factored into that. I learned that about myself more, and I think Yuri taught me to embrace other parts of myself that maybe I don’t pay attention to enough.
XO, Kitty is streaming now on Netflix.