The CBS show Madam Secretary, which centers on a female US secretary of state, featured Tim Kang earlier this year as a reporter with a white wife in episode 20, titled “The Things We Get to Say”. And while it was merely a starring role, critics praised Kang’s performance, not to mention the complex character the series created for him. (Warning to those who haven’t seen the episode yet — there are mild spoilers!)
In the episode, Kang’s character, reporter Neal Shin, shadows the US secretary of state as she faces a refugee situation.
At the center of the episode tonight was Neal Shin, a prominent journalist who worked hard but continued to battle many different things including the perception of the press, a lack of trust, and the slow decline of quality in his field. He was cynical, but he was also played really wonderfully by The Mentalist alum Tim Kang.
Neal Shin was that rare thing, a full formed guest character.
He had a backstory that wasn’t dumped on us all at once and also consisted of more than one fact. He had a family, he had an apartment with a crappy fridge. He had an Instant Pot.
He was complicated and had more than one motivation and wore very stereotypical reporter clothes and asked hard questions just seconds after acting like your friend. He was perfectly imperfect.
This character pretty obviously had a lot going for him when he was just words on a script, but Tim Kang (The Mentalist) has to be given credit for bringing Neal to life.
There were a lot of great aspects to Neal that were all his. His spat with Morejon’s comms director, his dedication to truth and integrity, his discomfort with his desire to land a book deal — he was a real person.
In one moment, Neal Shin mentions how he got into reporting to “impress a girl” (which he admits, with self-deprecating humor, didn’t work). And in the next, his line of questioning with the same person makes them wonder if they benefited from nepotism. It makes for really engaging TV.
This is exactly the kind of casting we need more of, not just for Asian men, but for all minorities. Roles that humanize them, that are complex and meaty, and that avoid stereotypes.
The reporter’s wife also plays a critical role (which I won’t reveal) in the episode.
Kang, best known for playing Kimball Cho in the Mentalist, now stars as Detective Gordon Katsumoto in the Magnum P.I. reboot, which debuted September 24, 2018 on CBS. But if you’d like to catch of glimpse of him in that episode of Madam Secretary, here’s a trailer on Youtube:
What do you think?