May/June 2015

When I first met with Tim Kang, I was greeted with a smile. A rare occurrence if you are familiar with Kang’s by-the-book, deadpan character, FBI agent Kimball Cho, on the longrunning CBS hit series The Mentalist. In person, Kang is a laid-back guy who enjoys adventure and a good laugh.

In March, the final episode of The Mentalist aired, ending a reign of seven successful seasons. Kang, 42, expresses how honored he is to have worked with such an outstanding cast and crew. “It’s a bittersweet end,” Kang says. “Obviously we’ve become a big family. I think it’s what has contributed to the success of the show. If you could see the relationships coming through as we play the parts and as we tell the story, you can tell that we genuinely like hanging out with each other. I loved going into work every day. So obviously, those kinds of things I will miss.”

Kang graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, and then went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts from the A.R.T. Institute at Harvard University. How similar is Kang in real life to his stern Cho character? There are some similarities, Kang states, but he doesn’t live there all the time. “I think that certainly any actor brings something of himself or herself to each character they play, and I think that’s true with Cho. Cho lives in that professional space most of the time, but you know, I like to laugh, I like to smile every once in awhile,” Kang chuckles.

Stunt Work Means Staying in Shape

Being in top shape has helped Kang tackle some of the action scenes on set. Kang performed most of his own stunts on the show and having a black belt in taekwondo comes in handy when faced with a fight scene or chasing down a bad guy. “It’s not a stunt-heavy show, but as much as I can do, I will definitely participate in,” shares Kang. “Now, if Cho’s jumping off a 15-story building, I’ll have a stunt guy do that [Kang laughs], but most stunts I participated in. There were some injuries here and there, but I managed to make it out with not too many scrapes.” Staying fit is nothing new to Kang—it’s been on the agenda since he was a kid. He started taekwondo at age 10 and began weight-training by high school to prepare for football; that’s really when he started working out and spending time in the gym. Kang recalls, “Back then it was just five sets of five reps of bench press and five sets of five of squats and just strength training those big muscles.” Now, Kang works with trainer Derius K. Pierce who got him into TRX suspension training, plyometric and body weight training, and he does a lot of cardio on his own to stay as trim as he can. “[Derius] mixes it up in every workout so my muscles are surprised and I don’t get used to any one motion or any one exercise,” Kang notes. Pierce described Kang in an interview as a person who likes learning new things and being challenged. Circuits provided by Pierce for Kang have included 3 or 4 exercises done 3x in a 20-minute period. An example workout may consist of:

  • Decline pullovers with a crunch at the height of the movement.
  • Weighted dips using the Roman chair—touching knees to the back pad.
  • Peck deck flys.
  • 10 wide step mountain climbers using 4-count reps.(1)

When he’s not working out, Kang is still physically active. You scuba diving or hitting 130 to 140 miles per hour around the track on his motorcycle, or letting loose on off -roading motocross adventures.

The Paleo Approach

When it comes to diet and nutrition, Kang says he has found great benefit from the Paleo Diet™. “I’m not super strict about gluten-free, but it’s just a good, healthy diet,” he says. Kang notes the recent “Paleo craze” is nothing new to the world of fitness. “All those guys in the ‘70s were eating a Paleo Diet—Schwarzenegger, Ferrigno, that was all Paleo they were eating,” Kang exclaims. “We just kind of repackaged it, put some flash in there and called it Paleo. I’m doing it now and I’ve gotten a lot of benefit from it. I haven’t felt better in my life.” But, Kang admits that every once in awhile he’s a guy who likes to eat junk food and splurge on fast food. “But those are cheat days,” Kang explains. “When I’m in my mode, it’s Paleo.”


In 2009, Kang’s daughter Bianca was born opening up a new and exciting chapter in his life. “It’s the most amazing thing that I ever experienced,” Kang enthuses. “It’s an amazing experience just to watch her grow. She’s such a wonderful kid—her mom and I really lucked out.” The birth of his daughter helped influence Kang’s charity work as well. For many years now, Kang has been involved with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC), a nonprofit organization that provides information to help locate missing children who run away from home or have been abducted. NCMEC also assists children who have been physically or sexually abused. “With the early success of The Mentalist I wanted to give back, and at that time my daughter was born—I thought to myself it would be my worst nightmare if anything were to happen to her,” Kang says. So, he decided to find a charity that helps children. “Our kids are our future and it’s important to ensure their safety and this is a fantastic organization and fantastic people. They’re really the salt of the Earth.” You can visit their website at www.missingkids.com.

Beyond The Mentalist

After many seasons on The Mentalist, Kang for the first time in years found himself “unemployed” after the show wrapped shooting in December 2014. He’s grateful for having had the opportunity with The Mentalist, but also embraces the change. “I think we’ve run the gamut as far as the stories that can be told within this context on CBS. I think everybody is ready to do something new. That’s not to say if they asked us to come back and do another year we wouldn’t do it,” notes the San Francisco native.

Kang is now focusing on his own production company, One Shoot Films, which he hopes will open up more opportunities for young actors and writers to get noticed. He also aspires to churn out his own series. “We are in the process of fine-tuning the pilot,” Kang reveals. “It’s always one of the hardest things to do, getting a pilot made. You have to keep at it and keep those creative juices flowing. Right now we are just working on a script and throwing some ideas around.” Kang hopes to dabble in directing and writing in the future as well. One thing is for sure, you can expect to see more of Tim Kang for years to come. AF

KEVIN McGUIRE holds a BA degree in journalism and is the managing editor for American Fitness.