Comic takes a serious turn
LEE Kwang Soo is best known for his role on South Korean TV show Running Man, which earned him various nicknames: "Giraffe" for his 1.9m height, "Prince of Asia" for his mysterious popularity in Asia and "Icon of Betrayal" for his habit of betraying his teammates to survive.
But little has been shown of what lies beneath the veneer: a serious, quiet and thoughtful 30-year-old.
His first lead movie role, in Lee Do Yoon's Confession, could show his deeper side.
"When I first read the script, it hit me hard," said Lee.
"The story and the character resonated with me for a while and I could really sympathise with Min Soo. He is a rare character who experiences heaven and hell throughout the movie. I wanted to convey what I felt about him to the audience."
Confession is about friendship, as suggested by the Korean title, which literally means "Good Friends".
Min Soo, Hyun Tae (Ji Sung) and In Chul (Ju Ji Hoon) have been close friends for 20 years.
All of a sudden, however, they come across an accident and begin to doubt their friendship and loyalty to one another.
"Director Lee wrote a personal letter to us all about our roles before we got started. He described what he thinks of Min Soo and how he wants me to portray him. Min Soo is not a fool. He does have an unfortunate childhood, growing up without his parents. But he is just a naive and good-hearted man who wants everyone to be happy.
"I am like that, too. I want everyone around me to be happy," Lee said.
"When I read the script, I found myself to be similar to Min Soo in many ways. He makes a radical choice, but he does so only because he thinks it would lead to happiness for his friends. He knows nothing better."
Lee thinks that the three types of friends in the movie can be easily observed in real life.
"There are assertive friends, quiet friends and funny friends," he said.
"When I hang out with friends, I don't have too many opinions. I enjoy taking care of my friends, especially detailed care."
People around him were concerned at first when he accepted the serious role of Min Soo. Even Ji Sung said at the movie press conference last week that he had worried a little if Lee could do his role well because of his deep-seated stereotype of Kwang Soo as a funny person.
Lee said: "I'm not trying to change who I am. I have been part of Running Man since 2010 and it has already become a large part of me, just like a family. I don't want to change that, nor find the need to do so."
He is aware that many people see him as an entertainer rather than an actor, but he enjoys being both.
"I used to think a lot about my fixed image and worried if I would disappoint people," he said.
"But as time went on, I came to realise that both being funny and serious is who I am. I wasn't trying to be someone else when I was on Running Man, nor when I was filming this movie. I think the key is to be truthful to each situation.
"I am sure that as I build up my acting career, I will be able to find what I am really good at."
Lee started out as a model in high school. After that, he was part of a theatre troupe and worked as an advertising model, then appeared in two sitcoms, including the wildly popular High Kick Through The Roof.
"I want to keep playing diverse roles. Maybe for the next film or drama, it would be very interesting to play a bad guy because I have never played that role. Plus, I can't live like that in real life," he said.
THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK