BLACK SUMMER’s Christine Lee: A Cat Mom in the Zombie Apocalypse
Netflix’s Black Summer reintroduces us to running zombies that rush hungrily after characters we all cherish. One of these characters is Kyungsun, a Korean refugee played by the multi-talented Christine Lee. We chat with Ms. Lee about how she survived her scariest scene in Black Summer—and how her first concern in an actual zombie apocalypse would be packing her cat Pierre. (Lucky cat!) Read below for the full interview!
Dread Central: Before I dive into Black Summer, I wanted to ask you about acting. What about this art form do you enjoy so much?
Christine Lee: That’s a good question. I think actors are, in general, people lovers. I love just listening to people talk, and I love listening to people’s stories. I think the best way I can service the audience is to take them on that fun ride. So that’s the best thing about acting. Honestly, it’s just telling people the story that they might never encounter in real life, putting them in that situation and being like, “How would you navigate this?” Or just kind of shock them, make them think, make them sad, or happy? Whichever way, you just feel alive after. I think that’s the best thing about acting.
DC: That’s beautiful. How did you get into acting?
CL: There was never a specific moment where I said, “Oh, I want to be an actor.” I was always that kid who preferred to stay home and play make-believe. When I was a kid, I made my own French musical. I didn’t know how to speak French. I just pretended I spoke it well. I would run around my house, dance around, sing around, play make-believe, and—that just kind of never stopped. Then, it evolved into professional theatre stages and into screen and so forth.
DC: How did you prepare for your role in Black Summer?
CL: Mostly, I knew that she (Kyungsun/Sun) was going to speak Korean and Korean only. I started reading a lot of Korean scripts so I could get my tongue back in line. I really wanted to sound authentic. That was my first and foremost goal. I just wasn’t going to be sloppy about it. I knew that it was kind of a rare case that I would just speak Korean. You know, that sense of responsibility of wanting to represent it properly. So I read a lot of Korean scripts just to kind of practice again and get my mouth familiar with the language again.
And I tried to watch zombie horror movies. I suck at watching horror anything. Eventually, I did watch Train to Busan, which was a fantastic movie. There were a lot of similarities as to what type of zombies would exist in Black Summer, so that was actually really helpful.
DC: What attracted you to Black Summer?
CL: Honestly, it was just one of those things as an actor: you hustle, you audition, you get a callback, and next thing you know, you’re on set. It was just kind of like those things that actors, if they’re lucky enough, get to be a part of. I feel super lucky; I’m not going to lie. This is pretty much the biggest thing that happened to me.
DC: You knocked it out of the park! Just thought you should know. With Train to Busan, you said that it was kind of hard to watch it. So—you’re not a huge fan of horror?
CL: I just don’t do thriller/horror that well. I get so much anxiety. With all the horror movies I’m just like, “They told you not to step into the house. Why are you stepping into the house?” Things like that.
DC: Yeah. You’re not kidding. That happens in horror movies a lot. But while we are on scary stuff, did anything scary happen on set?
CL: I guess the only time I thought, “Oh crap, this is actually scary,” was the air vent scene.
We actually shot that scene twice. The first time we did it, it wasn’t as scary. I guess John (Hyams) looked at the footage and said, “We need to do this again.” So the air vents got smaller and tighter.
Edsson (Morales), who plays Manny, said, “I’m going to go hard in this scene.”
I was like, “Do your thing.” But he was actually really scary. But most of the time, it was actually a lot of fun.
DC: It seemed like it was. It seemed like the entire cast had a good connection.
CL: We really did. Justin (Chu) and I clicked just like that. Kelsey (Flower), obviously. Edsson, too. Erika (Hau), I already knew her from Vancouver. And then Jaime (King), when we first met, you know that she is such a big star. When I first met her I wondered, “Do I shake her hand? What do I do?” But she just gave me a big hug. And I instantly melted into her arms because her hug is so comforting. It’s like a big mama bear. It was great. Sal, he is such a joker. We just all had a really good time.
DC: Going back to that scene with Manny, that was one of my favorites. It was so scary. I probably would of just yelled, “Cut!”
CL: I wanted to, too!
DC: I love that Black Summer is so fast-paced and has something for everyone.
CL: I agree. I like that we’re not going to give you the backstory. We’re just going to trust that the audience will go along with it. We’re just going to push you into this experience. And I think it is a great way to trust the audience. I really appreciate that we are not going to spoon feed everything.
DC: For someone who hasn’t checked out the show yet, how would you describe your character Sun?
CL: Sun is a Korean refugee who tries to survive the zombie apocalypse because she wants to find her mother again. She’s a very strong and intelligent woman. I would say that the only flaw she has is that she doesn’t speak English.
DC: For some reason, I just felt safe with her. If there was a zombie apocalypse, I would want to be with her, especially when they were in the diner and she got that sack of potatoes. She was just ready and creative. I would probably be in a corner crying.
CL: I would be crying there with you, and ask, “Who is going to take care of this?” But yeah, I love her because she just gets things done.
DC: When you’re not filming, what do you love to do?
CL: I love to hang out with my cat, Pierre. She’s a Calico cat. I’m just obsessed with cats. I can talk about cats all day. They’re amazing. They’re smart. They’re sassy. They’ve got personality.
My other job is to sing in a cover band. I like singing. So, I spend most of my days just writing, rehearsing, and dancing.
DC: How long have you been singing?
CL: Ever since I was in high school. I wanted to get professional training because I wanted to get into musical theatre first. My choir teacher said, “If you want to get into a musical theatre program in college or whatnot, you should probably start taking lessons.”
My mom and I found one existing opera singer coach back in my hometown. I started learning singing, and it just went on from there.
DC: I know that you also voiced Dokkaebi in the Rainbow Six: Siege video game. How does it feel when people cosplay as your character?
CL: I think it’s awesome. They look so much better than I do. Some of these girls look so pretty and I’m like, “Wow. I should learn how to do that.” I think it’s great.
I never really played video games, so that whole community was very foreign to me until I started doing the voiceover. I started talking to my friends, and the way they described my character—I could just see how attached they were to Dokkaebi. That in itself was really cool. Obviously, as an actor behind it, I appreciate the enthusiasm and the connection that they have. I think it’s awesome.
Also, I think it brings a lot of female gamers into the spotlight, which I think is pretty great. Recently, I read really fascinating articles about female presence in gaming world and how that could, in a way, be a glass ceiling kind of moment. I thought it was really cool that they came up with a character who’s also smart and strong. Women who are enthusiastic can say, “Yeah, I can relate to that.”
DC: Earlier, we said we would be in a corner crying in the diner on Black Summer, but I have to know if you have ever thought about this. What would you do in a zombie apocalypse?
CL: I thought about this a lot. First and foremost, I would put my cat in my cat bag. Check. Water. Knives—because that’s the only weapon I have at home. And flint—so I can make fire whenever I want. I really thought about this.
DC: Man. Now I feel bad. I would just hide in a tree and hope for the best. I think it’s awesome that you would bring your cat.
CL: Yeah. I made that decision a while ago: I am going to put her as a priority. She’s my little baby.
DC: You are such a great cat mom.
CL: Thank you. That means so much to me.
DC: No problem. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us about your journey and Black Summer.
CL: Thank you!
In addition to contributing to Dread Central, Zena Dixon has been writing about all things creepy and horrific for over six years at RealQueenofHorror.com. She has always loved horror films and will soon be known directing her own feature-length horror. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @LovelyZena.