Helen Madelyn Kim
If you take a bit of quirk, a dash of empathy and a pinch of acceptance, then send it off to the Renaissance Faire – you get the new Lifetime dramedy series “American Princess.”
Created by writer-actress Jamie Denbo and executive produced by "Orange is the New Black" team Jenji Kohan, Tara Herrmann and Mark A. Burley, this slightly raunchy comedy follows a Manhattan socialite (Georgia Flood) who runs off to join the Renaissance Faire after her wedding crashes. Of course, her actions aren’t going over very well with family and friends, including her superficial and not-so-bright bestie Lexi, played by actress Helen Madelyn Kim
Think you’ve seen Helen before? Well, you probably have. She recently recurred as Megan in Season 2 of Marvel’s teen superhero series “Runaways” on Hulu. Plus, she has appeared on Netflix’s “Glow” and opposite Bella Thorne on Freeform’s “Famous In Love.”
I recently caught up with Helen Madelyn Kim to find out more:
Tell us about Lexi in “American Princess.”
HELEN: Lexi is one of Amanda’s best friends back home in NYC. She’s sweet, loyal, but not the brightest of bulb in the room (and that’s putting it nicely!) and very superficial. In the original pilot, she’s described as a “total airhead”, so there ya go, haha! Lexi definitely has Amanda’s best interest at heart when Amanda decides to join the Renaissance Faire but I think Lexi can get easily influenced by those around her. I’ve sort of put together that Lexi has always found it difficult to “fit in” growing up considering her background - she’s adopted and raised Jewish, with two dads. Not in any way conventional for a girl who looks Asian, you know? So I feel like she’s always had to mold and take on majority opinion just to fit in. She’s gullible and not bright but she means well.
What would you consider your characters ‘best’ quality? And their ‘worst’?
HELEN: For 'best', I’d say she’s loyal and sweet, and truly means well at heart. 'Worst' - I’d say she’s very superficial.
Any interesting stories from the set you can share with us?
HELEN: I was just blown away by the number of women on set and felt so grateful to be part of a production that so heavily employed women behind the camera. From our showrunner, Jamie Denbo, to our director for the pilot, Claire Scanlon, to our 1st & 2nd ADs, to members of the sound crew, our prop master on set, women were all around and it was AMAZING. I guess that’s what you should expect when you’re working with Jenji Kohan and her team.
We have to ask – have you ever been to a Renaissance Faire?
HELEN: Yes! So random but my first visit was to a Renaissance Faire out in Pennsylvania back when I was living in NYC. I went with my ex-boyfriend and his family (they were all very into it) and I had never been. He said we had to dress up so we dressed as pirates and went. Haha! Imagine me at a Renaissance Faire out in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania - I felt like fish out of water. And then I went again to the Faire out here in LA when I found out I booked the show, just before we started shooting the pilot. I didn’t dress up that second time around but I did buy a flower crown, haha!
You also played Megan in “Runaways”; how was that?
HELEN: It was great! I was shooting “Runaways” concurrently as “American Princess” so I’m just grateful the scheduling worked out between the two shows! The tone of each show is very different from the other so it was interesting to go from one set to the other. Working on a Marvel is challenging in its own way because unless you’re a Series Regular, you don’t get the whole script to read in advance. The only way for you to know what’s going on in the episode is if you go to the table read with the production team. So, there was a lot of 'filling-in' and imagination work I had to exercise for my role as Megan in "Runaways." It was a great learning experience for sure. When I first booked "Runaways," we thought it was going to be a one-episode job so it was a nice surprise and a huge treat when Megan turned into a little recurring role for the second season.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned from working on these projects?
HELEN: Geez… where do I even begin? Haha! Stay humble, be nice to everyone, but most importantly, do the work and show up ready. Even if it’s just one line, or 4 pages of dialogue, you’re there to serve the story. When you don’t get notes or any direction on set, it means you’re doing something right so don’t beat yourself up too much. I know it sounds SO CLICHE but learning to your trust yourself is really hard. So many of my working friends and mentors have said that - trust yourself and be kinder to yourself - but it’s a lot easier said than done. Imposter Syndrome is real and I certainly experienced it. At the end of the day, you’re there to tell a story, along with all of these other storytellers. So don’t stress and have fun!
And, now just for fun:
Who’s your favorite actor/actress?
HELEN: This is a hard one. Tom Hanks and Bryan Cranston. Emily Blunt. Is saying Meryl Streep too cliche?
What role from the past do you wish you could have played?
HELEN: Lady Macbeth is the first role that comes to mind but I don’t think it’s too late. I’d love to play her. Maybe later in life, when I’m a little older, ha!
Favorite movie or TV show from your childhood.
HELEN: I love “Singing In the Rain.” “Home Improvement” and reruns of “The Brady Bunch.”
Tell us one thing that would surprise our readers to learn about you.
HELEN: My parents never pushed me to go into medicine or law and were fairly supportive about me pursuing acting. Because I’m Korean American, I feel like a stereotypical response I get is “were your parents disappointed you wanted to pursue acting?” but both of my parents were musicians so they just kind of understood and “got it”. They weren’t thrilled by any means and told me I’d go hungry, haha! But my dad said “if you’re going to pursue it, just make sure you pursue it all the way”. I still hold that piece of advice very dear to my heart.
How can fans keep up with you?
HELEN: Instagram @helenmkim link
I’m trying to get better at Twitter @helenmkim link
but I’m most active on Instagram.
"American Princess" / courtesy: Lifetime
"American Princess" / courtesy: Lifetime
Helen Madelyn Kim on set of "American Princess"