After tuning into awards shows virtually the past few months from her home in Korea, “Minari” star Yeri Han is finally getting the opportunity to celebrate in person. The actress flew into L.A. earlier this week for the Independent Spirit Awards (which were pre-taped and virtual, although winners were revealed live) and Academy Awards this weekend. On Thursday, Han was up for best supporting actress alongside her costar Youn Yuh-jung, who ultimately won the award, and is favored to win in the same category on Sunday night.
“I’m not going to be nervous about it, I’m just going to watch it comfortably,” said Han ahead of tuning in for the Spirit Awards on Thursday. “I’m curious what kind of movies get awarded tonight so I can go back and watch those later on,” she adds. “Independent movies are the ones where we can really read the director’s mind and the writer’s minds. So these are the movies that I want to watch.”
Although she hasn’t had much downtime since landing in L.A., she’s been able to meet up with Yuh-jung for dinner, as well as Alan S. Kim, who plays her son in the film, and his mother. “Alan has grown up already!” she says of the reunion. And Han will see the rest of the “Minari” crew, including costar Steven Yeun and director Lee Isaac Chung, in person on Sunday night at the Oscars. The film is nominated in six categories, including for best picture.
While the dress code has varied throughout the 2021 awards season, Sunday’s ceremony will be an opportunity to glam up. “I have a great team of people who help me look natural and myself, but at the same time according to the atmosphere of the ceremony,” she said, adding that she’s been unable to name a favorite look from the season. “It’s so hard to choose a dress for the events — maybe sometimes it’s harder to choose a dress than to choose a script.”
WWD caught up with Han, speaking through a translator, from her hotel room in L.A. ahead of the Spirit Awards and the Academy Awards on Sunday.
WWD: You’ve been unable to travel much this awards season. How has the cast stayed in touch?
Yeri Han: Korea has a messenger called KakaoTalk. So we all created a room; there’s one chatting room that [is titled] “1401 Carson Avenue,” the location that we stayed together [while filming “Minari,” in Oklahoma]. So we all chat in that room. If anybody gets awarded, they post it up there, and lots of congratulations coming up. That’s how we stayed in touch. We’re missing each other, though.
WWD: There’s been a lot to celebrate. The film has had an amazing awards season journey, with many of your cast getting nominated and recognized. What moments from the awards season and ceremonies have been most memorable for you?
Y.H.: There is no physical contact that we’ve had during this season, because we haven’t seen each other. So it feels kind of still surreal. It feels almost strange to be here, sitting here. Of all things, I think the most memorable moment was — I know we’ve been awarded, too — but getting nominated for the Oscars was just surreal. We were delighted to learn the news. We were standing up, cheering, screaming when Youn Yuh-jung and Steven got nominated. It’s a historic moment for us.
WWD: You lived with Youn Yuh-jung while filming; she’s had an incredible career. What would it mean to see her win the Oscar on Sunday?
Y.H.: Every Korean knows how great of an actor she is. It’s a great pleasure for me to see that her talent is finally acknowledged here in Hollywood, too. Also you’ve reminded me that movies are a type of art that goes beyond race and language, and just touches every heart.
WWD: The film has gotten an amazing reaction with audiences here in America. What has been the reaction to the film at home in Korea? Is there similar excitement for the film?
Y.H.: It’s difficult for people to go to movies in the theater, but even with this situation, we already have a million moviegoers. In Korea people also find this movie beautiful and they can relate to it. Not just in immigrating to a different country and moving to a bigger city from a smaller town; a lot of people could relate to the changes that people face. Everybody has that memory of meeting your grandma. People say when they watch this movie, there are different times when they can relate to different characters. At some point they can relate to Monica, and sometimes they can relate to [Yeun’s character] Jacob. I think a movie that makes people think is a great movie, and for that reason “Minari” is special.
WWD: What are you looking forward to most about the ceremony on Sunday and being there in person?
Y.H.: I don’t want to trip, that’s one. I want everything to go smoothly and safely. That’s what I want foremost. And I want to just enjoy that moment.
WWD: How are you planning to spend Friday and Saturday before the ceremony?
Y.H.: I think I’ll just do more interviews. My days will be filled with a busy schedule.
WWD: What are your plans when you’re back in Korea? Do you know what project you’ll be working on next?
Y.H.: I’m headed back to Korea on Monday. I’ll be quarantined for two weeks, and then I’ll start shooting for a TV drama series. I’m going to memorize my lines while quarantining.
WWD: Are you interested in filming more American-facing film projects?
Y.H.: I’m not in a hurry. I think opportunities will come naturally. I just need to prepare myself for those opportunities to come, because Monica was a role that came to me so naturally, this great character that I got to play [in “Minari”]. I don’t want to rush myself to take on a role that I don’t feel like is something that I want to do. So I want to take my time. There’s nothing that we can manipulate to happen; it has to happen naturally. I need to do what I can do, and good things will come along the way.
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