You know Kenny Ridwan as Dave Kim, the sarcastic turtleneck aficionado with the bowl cut, on ABC’s “The Goldbergs.”
The show is set in the ’80s and centers on a tight-knit family whose day-to-day lives are recorded via video camera by the clan’s youngest, Adam. As a foil and friend to Adam, Dave Kim is a pop culture-loving at-heart romantic who’s never afraid to speak his mind.
In real life, Ridwan, 19, is a college student studying creative writing at Columbia University. KORE spoke with him about the show, learning about the ’80s and content creation.
How did you start acting? Were your parents opposed to you doing it at such a young age?
My parents were just kind of like, “OK, whatever you really want to do, as long as you achieve something meaningful with it and you’re happy.” So when I was 11, I said, “Shoot, I want to be Asian Tom Cruise!” I talked to them about putting me in acting classes, and they were super supportive.
So you’re a pre-teen, and you move to L.A. — it’s a lot.
And when you’re that young, you barely have an idea of who you are, and you really, truly don’t have an idea of how hard it is to get a job or how hard it is to do TV.
You had to grow up before other kids your age.
A lot of the time in high school, that’s what it felt like. A lot of my friends were going to parties and I’d be like, “Well, I actually have an audition on Monday, so I have to memorize my lines.”
You’ve been doing “The Goldbergs” for five years now. How did you first get involved?
Dave Kim was originally just a one-episode guest star, a one-off character. He had, I think, four scenes in the first episode and that was it. I really liked the character because the episode was about “The Goonies.” I’d watched it before and was always iffy about Data because I thought it was kind of offensive — but what I liked was that “The Goldbergs” pointed [that] out. I sent in a self-tape, and I got the role two or three days later, then I worked, and then I got called in a few weeks after that for another episode, and another. I thought, “Wow, this is pretty sweet!”
Kenny Ridwan is Dave Kim in ABC’s ’80s comedy “The Goldbergs.” (ABC)
What’s it like to keep donning that turtleneck and bowl cut?
In high school, the bowl cut was not the greatest with girls, namely, but I honestly love the turtleneck. I’ve also grown fond of the cut — I think it’s sort of Stockholm Syndrome. I really enjoy it. When I get to set every morning now, I look forward to both.
Every time I see Dave, I think, “Man, he must have the biggest turtleneck collection known to man.”
Yeah, in all pastels, too! That’s what’s shocking.
How fun is it for you to discover so many ’80s references and pop culture moments through the show, especially considering you weren’t alive in the ’80s?
Oh, it’s super weird. A lot of it is me realizing people got away with a lot of stuff in the ’80s. Long Duk Dong, you know. I did some research on “Sixteen Candles” and I was like, “Wow, this is really not OK!” Otherwise it’s been great, because I can relate with people much older than me about things I probably shouldn’t logically know.
Do you get advice from the people you work with on set?
I’ve had the privilege of working with David Katzenberg, Lew Schneider and all these experienced people. Most of their advice to me is like, “Stay in school, kid.” Lew wrote one of my college recommendation letters for Columbia. It’s really been like a family experience growing up in that environment.
Do you have interest in creating your own content?
Yes. In high school, I took advanced filmmaking. They were pretty amateur. The main one I was really proud of was a film about Asian American stereotypes. I don’t know if you’ve seen this YouTube video, but it’s a woman on a jog and a man comes up to her and says, “What kind of Asian are you?” It sort of roasts that person — that’s the sort of satire I made.
You’ve been involved in a lot of projects that happen to be names of families, like “The Goldbergs,” “The McCarthys” and “The Thundermans.” If there was a show called “The Ridwans,” what would that show look like?
What’s interesting about my family, I think, is that my mom and dad got divorced when I was 7. My mom is from China, and my stepdad is Caucasian. I grew up in that sphere of being half-involved in Chinese culture and half-involved in American culture. Also, my mom is incredibly zany — I’ve thought on multiple occasions that she could actually be a sitcom mom.
That’s so interesting because that’s not a story that’s typical to what people think is the Asian American experience.
Yeah. It’s definitely in my range of ideas of what I really want to do after college.
Is becoming Asian Tom Cruise still a goal for you as an actor?
I don’t really have any set goals — it’s just to keep moving up. Being Asian Tom Cruise could be part of that plan, but it could also be moving into directing or producing. One of our guest stars, Quincy Fouse, has a motto: “constant extension.” Which is my idea of what I want, this constant movement [up].