“Run the Burbs” star Andrew Phung is widely considered to be one of Canada’s biggest sneakerheads. But his former “Kim’s Convenience” co-star Simu Liu is no sneaker slouch either, having famously rocked some ultra-rare Jordans in “Shang-Chi”. So whose kick game reigns supreme?
If you ask Phung, it’s not even a debate: Kimchee all the way.
“Oh yeah,” says the actor when asked by ET’s Carlos Bustamante if his shoe appreciation is above and beyond Liu’s. “I think he would even admit to that. Look, Shang-Chi is wearing some Jordan 1s in the movie, I respect that. But even he would admit to it.”
Still, Phung admits Liu’s “leveled up” his sneaker collection in recent years. “Sometimes I’ll see a photo of him at a Clippers game or something and I’ll text him saying, ‘Yo, nice sneakers.’ His game is evolving. But the flash was always Kimchee’s jam.”
We’re hanging out with Phung at OD Toronto, one of the city’s biggest sneaker consignment shops, as he does a little sole searching. It’s not uncommon to tune into “Run the Burbs” — the CBC comedy series he co-created, which was just picked up by The CW in the U.S. — and see his character Andrew Pham rocking some heat (he wears the Jordan 1 “Mocha” in the pilot). The show’s inspired by his own life, after all. And with a collection of over 600 sneakers, he’s made a name for himself not only as one of TV’s funniest suburban dads, but as a bona fide footwear aficionado.
“I love that it’s become part of my persona,” says Phung. “Even walking here, people were like, ‘Yo, you see that?’ I was wearing a pair of the Travis Scott Jordan 1 Low Fragments. A bunch of teenagers came up to me like, ‘Yo! Can we take a photo of the shoes?’ I was like, ‘Yeah!’ And they looked up and were like, ‘Ohhh! Can we take a picture with you?’” It’s pretty cool that my appreciation for sneakers has connected me to a younger audience.”
But what Phung finds even cooler is the way that younger audience can now see themselves reflected on screen when they watch his show. “Run the Burbs”, about a Vietnamese-South Asian-Canadian family subverting contemporary family values, represents a welcome rise in Asian representation that we’re seeing in North American TV and movies — between 2021 and 2022, series with at least one Asian regular increased 2 per cent, while Asian main title cast and directors in film increased by 7.7 percent and 5.9 per cent respectively, according to a recent study.
There’s still a long, long way to go, but Phung’s encouraged by the change — especially considering network TV’s pitiful track record of failing to cast Asian actors in the past.
“What I love is seeing the representation just be,” says Pham. “Before it was like, ‘Oh, we got an Asian character in something!’ and it was a big deal. Yick on ‘Degrassi’ was my guy because he was the only Asian guy on ‘Degrassi’. But now, when you see Paul Sun-Hyung Lee on “The Mandalorian”, he just is. He’s part of the world. He’s not the Asian guy. He’s just in the world and we believe him and we love him for it. And we see it in our work now. Our characters are more rich with a cultural background. They just are. And so my show ‘Run the Burbs’, it’s just about a family living their best life in the suburbs. It’s a family you know, that lives around you.
“It’s just showcasing us being. Not having to explain why we’re here, why we should be here. We just exist.”