Kim Jong Il is dead, and the confirmation of this is something I had been waiting for, as I have long suspected that he had actually died years ago, and that the miracle of photoshop and an outsourced Hollywood publicist had kept him alive, rather than heart and lung machines. We had no way of truly knowing. There is no way of knowing what happens in North Korea and what doesn’t. What happens in North Korea stays in North Korea.
It keeps its lurid secrets within its borders, the strange armies with their Rockette’s kicking walk, looking like soldiers from another time, a time that is not now. They are fairly comical, a militant vaudeville. when I see the North Korean border guards with their straight legs march, I half expect them to get in a line and link arms as the camera swings to an aerial view so we can watch them go around in a circle as a grand finale.
North Korea is an unsolved mystery. I once had family there, and now the family ties, cut for so long because of the separation of the Koreas into north and south, have healed over into non-existence. Perhaps there is a scar there, an infinitesimal tear in some great grandmother’s conscience, but I don’t even know her. No one in my family remembers her name, so its like she never existed. We from the south and we from the north now are separate and at best, indifferent. At worst, hateful in the terrible way of civil war and the brutal animosity of a country divided is capable of. Do we despise ourselves more when we are ourselves?
When I got the part of Kim Jong Il in the fantastic television program 30 Rock, I approached the role with the zeal of Cate Blanchett transforming herself into Bob Dylan. I remembered once I heard a story of the celebrated actress Glenn Close being seen wearing dark glasses and waiting for a wheelchair in an airplane, feeling the air in front of her as if she were blind, and thinking this is what an actor must do to prepare. Live it. Do it for real.
Since I had no access to an entire nation of people I could force into simultaneously holding up pieces of cardboard in a stadium to create stunning, momentary, very large pixilated propagandist images that rival any sophisticated computer animation done in South Korea, I had to do a YouTube search. I found nothing. Kim Jong Il isn’t up on YouTube. Nothing. No one got anything of him – not nowhere. Not ABC, not BBC, not TMZ. No one got nothing on the guy.
Kim Jong Il’s image was tightly controlled to the point there was no way of finding out what he actually sounds like, at least in my usual suspects of search engines. Perhaps you have better search engines than I, but I looked for days and came up empty handed despite all the cursing I did and all the tapping I did with my cursor, so I decided to base my portrayal of him on my mother, which was a good enough guesstimate, as the episode for me went smashingly well.
Even though the role was obviously comedic, on what is one of the funniest shows on television (one scene imagines Kim Jong Il in Alex Baldwin’s famed coffee is for closers soliloquy from Glengarry Glen Ross) when I put on the fat suit (yes it’s a fat suit – that is not my gut) and Amy Poehler’s borrowed wig from SNL and no makeup because KJI and I have the same face (!), I felt tragic. I felt sick and sad for the people on the North Korean side of my family who died without ever getting to know me, or hating me just because we happened to live on one side of a suddenly come into existence line. My heart broke for a country cut off from the rest of the world, whose only representative is a crazed megalomaniac who fancies himself a polymath, like Leonardo da Vinci or Walt Disney or Woody Allen or Thomas Edison, a truly singular artiste, who can not only play the most incredible golf, he also directs films and is half man-half diety (also half size) as well as being a full time dictator. Now that he is dead I would like to know what he really sounds like. Let me hear so I can truly do him justice.