How actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee spends a day off in Toronto

How actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee spends a day off in Toronto

Including family breakfast at a ’50s-style diner, shopping for sci-fi collectibles and coaching his son’s baseball team

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee in front of Treehouse Collectibles on Donlands Avenue in Toronto

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee’s breakout role in Kim’s Convenience may have been rooted in realism, but sci-fi and fantasy were always the end goal. “That’s all I wanted to do, but I was never afforded the opportunity because of the colour of my skin,” he says. “Apparently there are no Asians in space.” Then he landed a role in The Mandalorianand if there’s any franchise that can instantly confer sci-fi credibility, it’s Star Wars. Case in point: he went on to make appearances in The Book of Boba Fett and Ahsoka.

Most recently, he broke out of the Star Wars universe to appear as Uncle Iroh in Avatar: The Last Airbender, which premiered in February. “I was a fan of Avatar before they announced this series, so it felt like the stakes were high, but I was happy to rise to the challenge,” he says. Now that the show is out in the world, Lee is able to return to earth—and his family in Toronto—for some downtime. Here’s what he does on his days off.


Morning

My alarm goes off around 6 a.m. I’m a night owl, but I have to get up early because of our dog, Podrick. He’s a rescue, so we’re not sure what breed he is, but we think he’s mostly black lab with a bit of pit bull. He’s a creature of habit, and he doesn’t care if I stayed up late or if I’m hungover. My wife, Anna, and I get up, feed him, clean his teeth and give him a treat.

Then we get dressed and take him for a half-hour or 45-minute walk. We like going up by the East York Civic Centre or the S. Walter Stewart Library. It’s one of my favourite parts of the day because I get to connect with my wife. Sometimes we’re quiet; sometimes we talk a lot. Either way, it’s a nice way to start the morning.

When we get home, around 7:30, I usually have a coffee while Anna has a tea. Refined coffee drinkers will hate me: I take mine with sweetener and cream, kind of like a double double. Then, if it’s a school day, we’ll rouse the boys. My youngest, Miles, is in high school, so that’s an eternal struggle. Noah, my older son, is in his first year at Toronto Metropolitan University. Getting them up is a big task—if they don’t physically get out of bed, they’ll fall back asleep.

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee in front of the Donlands Diner

If it’s not a school day, we try to hang out as a family. Miles has been really pushing us to do that, which I love. We often go to the Donlands Diner in East York for breakfast. It’s a great ’50s-style joint with a lot of nostalgic decor. If I’m looking to load up on food, I’ll get the Lumberjack Breakfast, which comes with pancakes, eggs, home fries and a side of bacon, sausage or ham. They also do a great eggs Benedict.

Afternoon

I collect toys, so there are a few places I like to shop on my days off. First and foremost is Treehouse Collectibles on Donlands Avenue. They sell comic books, vinyl, new toys and vintage stuff. I’ve gotten a lot of great Star Wars toys there, and I recently got a replica of the Romulan Bird-of-Prey, a ship from Star Trek. It’s a collector’s item, but the box was open, so it was only $25. I like opening up my toys anyway.

Sometimes people recognize me while I’m there and are shocked to find out that I live in the area. Others have heard I’m around but are excited to finally run into me. For me, those encounters are always kind of unexpected, but it’s a real delight getting to talk to people. Other stores I like for toys are Planet X, in the Beaches, and Heroes World, which moved from Markham to Richmond Hill last year.

Related: Inside the home of the city’s most dedicated Funko Pop collector

Noah recently got into vinyl, so sometimes we’ll make a trip over to Sonic Boom on Spadina. I’ve started collecting original soundtracks on vinyl for movies I love. I just bought a collection of all the soundtracks John Carpenter composed for his movies, including The Thing, Halloween and Monster Madness.

For lunch, I have a group of friends who like to eat together. Right now, we’re really into Harry’s Charbroiled—they do a great smash burger, and their poutine is fantastic. We’ll also read through different lists of Toronto’s best burgers or best kebabs and pick spots we want to try. Right now we have a bunch of barbecue places that we’re planning to check out.

I’m also one of the coaches for my son Miles’s baseball team. He’s at the double-A level in rep baseball, and he plays for the Scarborough Stingers. We spend a lot of time training. Our two favourite places to play are Sunrise Fields, in East York, and Total Baseball Training Centre, in Scarborough. I love coaching and helping him train whenever I can. I want to be around as long as he’ll have me, because there’s going to come a day when he’s like, It’s cool, Dad—you can go wait in the car.

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee at his son's baseball practice

In the summer, we’ll also go see Jays games. We share season tickets with three other families, so we get about 20 games per season. Noah, my eldest, will come with us sometimes, but I think he likes the food at the Rogers Centre more than the games. Right now, I am absolutely in love with Davis Schneider. Last year, when he hit a home run at Fenway Park during his first time at bat, I became a huge fan. I love his story. He wasn’t a top prospect, so he had to work for everything. I can relate to that. I was always underestimated as an actor, and when I finally got cast in Kim’s Convenience, I knew I had to seize the opportunity.

Evening

I’m a bit of a homebody, so I usually cook dinner at our place. I make a pretty wide variety of dishes, including Korean food, roasts, steaks, lasagna, and garlic fried rice with spam and eggs. That said, we do sometimes go out for dinner. We like Pai for Thai food, and I love Storm Crow Manor. That’s where I bring any of my nerdy friends from out of town: there’s all kinds of sci-fi stuff there—a lot of Star Wars—and the basement is modelled after sets from The Walking Dead. There’s also Korean Village Restaurant, which is my favourite Korean place. Jason, the owner, has been a big supporter of mine ever since Kim’s Convenience.

After that, there are a few spots Anna and I like to go for drinks in our neighbourhood. One is a fun ’80s-style retro bar called Mom’s Basement. There are LPs, CDs and cassette tapes all over the walls. I also like the Dylan, which has a great selection of whiskeys.

Related: How Jordan Miller, the lead singer of The Beaches, spends a day off in Toronto

After dinner, I like to head home and watch movies and shows. I have an extensive collection of physical media. I used to collect VHSs, then I updated to DVDs, then Blu-ray and now, finally, mostly 4K. I’m not a huge fan of streaming because you’re always at the mercy of your Wi-Fi. And if a streamer decides not to carry something anymore, it’s just gone. Nothing beats a disc because you own it. We have a TV in every room in the house, which was my doing—my wife’s family only had one tiny TV when she was growing up.

I will watch new stuff via streaming, though. I’ve been watching Masters of the Air on AppleTV Plus, Blue Eye Samurai on Netflix and Star Wars: The Bad Batch on Disney Plus.

Some days, I’ll do work for The Boba Squadron, a podcast I’m a part of. We do episode breakdowns for different Star Wars series and talk about new toys that are coming out. I also have my own YouTube channel, and I’ll do some filming for that. I unbox new toys and do half-assed reviews of them—mostly I just chat. It’s got a small but loyal following: I just broke the 20,000-subscriber mark, which feels like a million to me. I like that I get to spend so much time around toys. I believe that we get old only when we stop playing, so it keeps me young at heart.

Most days, my wife will crash early, and I’ll try to claim a few hours for myself. I’ll watch a game if there’s something on or maybe a movie. I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos on my iPad lately, especially videos of people camping or doing bushcraft. It’s a lot of ASMR, and there’s something really soothing about watching someone out in the wilderness. To be honest, though, I hate camping—it’s such an effort. But I love watching someone else do it. My favourite channel for that right now is called Outdoor Boys.

Sometime between midnight and 1:30 a.m., I’ll close my iPad. Then I’ll go upstairs, put my very sexy mouthguard in and head to bed.