One of the biggest news stories at the end of last year was that of hackers attacking Sony Pictures Entertainment and issuing a menacing warning about what might ensue if The Interview, a comedy about an assassination attempt on the leader of North Korea, were to be released by the distributors. There was much speculation about who was behind the hacking (likely North Korea, which had issued similar threats in June, said the FBI. No, not us, but clearly someone righteous, said the North Korean authorities). Fearing terrorist attacks, some cinema chains pulled out and Sony cancelled the release. This decision drew criticism from Barack Obama, among others. In the end, the film was released in select cinemas and made available online, soon becoming Sony’s most successful digital release.
Diana Bang, BA’04, who was born in Vancouver to Korean immigrants, played the character of North Korean government official Sook-Yin Park – the romantic interest of Seth Rogen’s character in the movie. You may remember Bang from her previous roles in TV series The Killing and Bates Motel, and her lead role in Rob Leickner’s indie feature, Lost Lagoon, which won Best Canadian Feature at the Reel World Film Festival. Here she talks about her route into the profession and the experience of being cast in a big Hollywood production.
When did your acting ambitions first take hold and why?
I think I’ve always wanted to do it from the time I saw kids on TV pretending to be detectives. Their adventures seemed so much more exciting than my mundane life. But before acting, I wanted to be a dancer. I think I just wanted to perform in some way, shape or form. However, I was never encouraged to act or dance, nor did I excel at it in school. I was shy when I was younger and dreamt about performing rather than actually doing it.
What was your route into the acting profession?
While at UBC, I actually took a 100 level acting course, but at the end was told by the professor that I should not continue with acting as I did not have the personality for it. While a comment like that did not completely scar me or stop me, it did lead me away from acting for about a year. I ended up really finding my voice and stride when I fell into doing sketch comedy with a group called Assaulted Fish. It was an environment that fostered my confidence and ability as a performer, and introduced me to the world of writing. Within a couple of years of performing with Assaulted Fish, I was encouraged to pursue acting more seriously, so I took some courses around town and found an agent. Then I began my roller coaster journey towards becoming a working actor. It’s still a work in progress!
Tell us how you landed your role in The Interview.
I auditioned for the role. It’s very rare for someone who doesn’t have some star power to be in a Hollywood film, but it was a niche role that I somehow, and luckily, fit.
How would you describe the character of Sook?
She’s strong, intelligent and badass.
How did you prepare for the role?
I watched whatever I could find on North Korea, and read blogs from North Korean defectors to get a sense of what was going on. I also had to work on my Korean as my Korean skills are equivalent to that of a two year old. I had to enlist the help of my mom and her friends, and friends of her friends, to help me translate some of the English into North Korean, which is different from the South Korean dialect.
What was the most challenging thing about it? And the most fun?
I’d say the most challenging was trying to speak Korean when I was just given new dialogue right before shooting. I generally need to practice Korean before I can actually say it properly and with ease, so having to get things translated by random Korean extras and then being able to say it properly soon after was definitely a challenge. I’m sure there is tons of footage of me speaking gibberish rather than Korean. The most fun was doing the physical action stuff, like shooting the gun, punching people and kicking down doors. I love pretending to be a badass.
What was the atmosphere like on set?
The atmosphere was very relaxed and good-natured. Everyone in the crew always expressed to me how lucky and spoiled they felt working on this set. Seth [Rogen] and Evan [Goldberg] really set the bar high for maintaining a fun, relaxed and creative environment, and it all started with their easy attitudes. They enjoyed playing and being spontaneous.
What was the initial reaction among cast and crew to the hacking incident and cancellation of screenings?
I’m sure people were shocked and probably disappointed about the cancellation of screenings, but I don’t really know, as I was in Vancouver, away from the hubbub.
And in retrospect, what are your thoughts about this incident?
It’s still very surreal for me and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a movie about this whole incident in the future. In the end, I’m glad people got to see The Interview, whether in a movie theatre or on their TVs at home. There were many people who worked extremely hard to make it happen, and I’m pleased people are getting to see their work.
How was the red carpet experience at the premiere?
It was just like any other movie-going experience, except I got fancied up, had to take photos down a short red carpet, and saw random Hollywood stars. So, you know, typical.
Whatever comes my way!