New Podcast ‘Moonface’ Centers Korean American Queer Experience

James Kim, podcast producer of The Competition, releases his fictional narrative series Moonface on October 9 (tomorrow!). The independent production features Joel Kim Booster (of NBC’s Sunnyside) in the lead role:

Moonface follows Paul, a 20-something Korean-American living at home with his mother, a Korean immigrant. Paul wants to come out as a gay man to his mother, but struggles with the language barrier. The series is a labor of love for Kim, who honed the semi-autobiographical story over several years:

I made this podcast because I wanted to push myself and create something that I wanted to hear. I’m watching shows like Insecure, PEN15, Fleabag, and I wanted a podcast version of that — a slice of life, coming of age story told from a new perspective.

Hopefully, this podcast makes people feel something, and expand the scope of what a podcast can sound like.

All six episodes of Moonface will be released at once, meant to be played out as a self-contained cinematic narrative. I got to preview the first four episodes, and was impressed by Booster’s nuanced performance and the delicate attention to soundscapes emphasizing music by Korean artists. (For sentimental reasons, I also enjoyed that it takes place in and around Downey, a suburb of Los Angeles notable for its quiet proximity to Southern California’s allure of glitz and danger.)

The intimate and often erotic scenes are played tenderly, and the almost-communication in broken English between second-generation son and first-generation immigrant mother ought to resonate for most generations of Asian Americans. Fans of Joel Kim Booster may appreciate that Paul is somewhat a departure from his usual style, while continuing to advance the representation of Asian American men’s experiences in a subtly subversive way. Here’s James Kim again on the pop-culture sources that inspired him:

Adrian Tomine’s Shortcomings really set everything in motion for me. It’s a beautiful coming of age tale with modern day Asian American characters who were complex, funny, and they talked about their romantic relationships. At least for me, I never really saw Asian men portrayed as sexually desirable in media. So when I read Shortcomings for the first time, I just couldn’t contain all of my emotions. 

James Kim, creator of Moonface.

…I really got into indie movies in the early 2000s, and Ghost World and The Virgin Suicides really shaped the kinds of films I watched from here on it — quiet, character driven, and a little dark. And Spa Night (Andrew Ahn) and Treeless Mountain (So Yong Kim) opened my eyes to Korean Americans telling beautiful, quiet stories about our community. 

(Concur, Ghost World is an awesome movie. ScarJo gets forever points for that one.)

Here at NOC we’re happy to advocate for audio dramas with a focus on POC casts and creators, including Moonface, the Kelly Marie Tran-starring Passenger List from Radiotopia, and our own forthcoming science-fiction episodic Occupy Me. As always, independent shows thrive when you listen, subscribe, and review on whatever platform from which you absorb podcasts, so please do that! It’s both karmically-rewarding and totally free.