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Photo Credit: Apple TV

Acting Up: Joel Kim Booster


The Snapshot:

Joel Kim Booster stars as the quick-witted assistant to a divorced billionaire who’s decided to dive headfirst into her charitable foundation in the comedy series, Loot.

(The 10-episode series premiered on June 24th on Apple TV+.)

 

The Performance:

When it comes to breakout actors, sometimes good things happen in threes. That’s the case for Joel Kim Booster, who in the span of one Pride Month, did exceptional work in the Hulu film he wrote/starred in, Fire Island, his Netflix standup special Psychosexual and of course… Loot.

In Loot, Booster plays Nicholas, who’s been living the good life as the devoted, yet pampered personal assistant to Molly Novak (Maya Rudolph). When Novak discovers that her husband John (the always-good-and-now-Emmy-nominated Adam Scott) has been cheating on her, she breaks it off and is left with $87 billion – and the kind of house you’ll never find on Airbnb.

When Molly decides to dive into the charitable foundation she never knew she had, Nicholas isn’t so keen at first as he’s used to a steady dose of daily self-care. Something he doesn’t attempt to hide after Molly makes a speech to the 25+ house staff on her first day back at work:

Nicholas: I just want to say, I hope this all wears off soon and we all go back to getting massage and buying castles online.

It seems almost every word that flows from Nicholas makes you laugh, smile or catches you by surprise. A great sign for Booster, who many audiences will meet for the first time in this project.

In a different conversation with Molly, who’s in a state of self pity and wondering about her appearance versus the much younger woman John left with, Nicholas tries to cheer her up:

Nicholas: You have the best skin of any human being alive. You should be having sex with all three members of Migos.

Molly: I don’t know who that is – but thank you.

And then in another moment, Nicholas nails it again when Molly questions why it all happened:

Nicholas: It’s straight guys. They’re idiots. There’s an entire channel devoted to fishing because of them.

But Booster’s Nicholas isn’t a one-note portrayal, a gay caricature of someone we’ve seen time and again. We eventually find out Nicholas was once an actor doing terrible body spray ads when he bonds with straight co-worker Howard (Ron Funches) over relationship and dating tips.

Their bromance seems destined to fail at first. Yet, Howard hits Nicholas’ soft spot and he eventually takes time out from “catfishing his ex’s dad” to dispense advice. After all, Nicholas claims all his relationships are “perfect” because none have lasted over 72 hours.

A line that Booster delivers effortlessly, his deadpan is seriously on point.

I’m only halfway through the season (as Apple TV+ is dropping one ep per week versus the full load), but Booster’s role is increasing in scope and for Loot, that’s money in the bank.

 

The Career:

Born in South Korea, the 34-year-old Booster was raised by adoptive parents in Plainville, Illinois, a white middle-American Baptist family he claims isn’t watching most of his stuff.

After an early interest in theater production (writing and performing a play at The Colony Theater in Chicago called Kate and Sam Are Not Ready to Break Up), Booster made his way to standup and eventually the small screen, starring in series as Shrill (2019) and the short-lived NBC series, Sunnyside (2019).

Sunnyside is where Booster met Matt Hubbard, the co-creator of Loot, who reportedly wrote the role of Nicholas with Booster in mind. In this Entertainment Weekly story, Booster says, “It wasn’t necessarily based on me or anything like that, but it was one of those things where he’s a gay Asian guy from the Midwest who’s a little rude and sarcastic,” before concluding, “If I can’t get this role, then we’ve got a real problem.”

Worth noting is that Booster has worked as a co-producer and writer on a couple of noteworthy comedy series including The Other Two (2019) with Heléne Yorke and the animated series, Big Mouth (2019). The writing is a byproduct of being a former copywriter in Chicago and opening up for plays on the Chicago theater scene. Naturally, the road eventually led to standup and he started performing on shows such as Conan (2016) and his own Comedy Central special in 2017.

If you like Booster in Loot, his Netflix rom-com Fire Island is worth a stream. Not only does Booster play the lead in this modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, but he wrote the film – which is about a pair of best friends on an annual group trip to Fire Island and the relationships that spring up for them. It was originally sold as quick-bite series to Quibi (called Trip) but was swept up by Fox Searchlight once Quibi went belly up. In it, Booster’s good friend is played by his good friend IRL, the also-now-Emmy-nominated Bowen Yang from the current cast of SNL.

Finally, for fans of Loot, you can relish in the fact that Apple TV+ just announced the series will be returning for a season two.

We will all be richer for it.

Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.