Go Joon – VOGUE April 2018 Interview

Go Joon is the person behind the character Kevin Lee, the man who captivates women in the whole nation with his devilish charms in the passionate adult melodrama Misty. It is the same when the camera is turned off. Who is this attractive actor, really?

ALL ABOUT KEVIN

‘Who killed Kevin Lee?’ The mysterious death of the world’s top pro-golfer named Kevin Lee sets up a starting point for the drama, as the drama’s unpredictable story becomes its strength in drawing the viewers into the mist of Misty. As much as the viewers are engrossed in the big picture behind the incident which in turn reveals the bare faces of desire one by one, as well as the cast’s fiery acting and the identity of the hidden perpetrator, the viewers also have their curiosity aroused with regard to actor Go Joon, the person behind the character Kevin Lee or Lee Jae-young. From his tanned skin and a solid body that is the result of exercise, to his strong jawline which bears a strong resemblance to the Asian-American image, he radiates a healthy charm. Go Joon portrays Kevin Lee, who captivates every woman in the whole nation through the drama Misty, a show promoted as a passionate adult melodrama. Who is this attractive actor who suddenly appeared without any warning?

Let’s start our investigation. Although his commercial film debut was in 2001 through the movie Wanee and Junah, Go Joon is an actor who has built up his experience onscreen as well as on the stage through 21 years of acting. His hometown is in Seoul, and he has never lived overseas except for traveling purposes, unlike the initial idea of him being a Korean expatriate. He spent his school years in Sanbon New Town, Gunpo, next to Anyang, Gyeonggi-do Province. His real name is Kim Joon-ho, sharing the same name as the gagman. He inevitably changed his stage name, combining his mother’s family name Go with his name Joon. He promoted under the name Kim Joon-ho up until the movie Tazza: The Hidden Card. Can’t remember him? Go Joon was Yu-ryeong, the loitering villain at the gambling house. Of course, it’s not easy to connect the curly-haired country bumpkin that was Agwi’s nephew whose daily activities involved bad deeds, to Misty’s Kevin Lee. Then, how about the leader of the Korean-Chinese descent Young-chun with a rough bearded face in the movie Midnight Runners? Also, the sneaky businessman Jo Gook-hyun in the series The Good Wife and the hair clipper gangster Cha Joon-gu in the drama Save Me. It’s difficult to imagine that all the characters above were actually portrayed by the same person.

You’re mistaken about it (laughs). 90% of the projects I appeared on was shot without putting any makeup on. My real face will change accordingly if I am under huge stress, spending everyday drinking, or falling in love. After all, humans are creatures affected by the environment they live in. I’m just making use of that fact. I’m the type who will live like the character itself while I prepare myself for the role.” It’s not just his characters in the projects; his face will be different depending on the camera angle. His aura switches with just a slight change in his expression: when he frowns, smiles, or even when he is expressionless. “Even those who have watched the movies you have listed just now couldn’t recognize me when I was sitting right beside them. There were instances like that. There were times when we had to reuse the recording tape when shooting indie films due to budget constraints. The filming director shot the scene using a viewfinder and we kept doing playback (on the tape), causing my past image on the tape to be mixed up into the scene. But no one knew that it was me although we had been filming together for a while.” It is an advantage for an actor – who has to act out thousands of faces onscreen – to have a colourful image to him. “I heard it before that I seemed ambiguous.” Now everyone will surely remember Go Joon’s face.

The person who acknowledged Go Joon’s real value was Director Mo Wan-il of Misty. “When I was filming Save Me, the director contacted me first. He wanted to get to know me better. We met and chatted about various things for 30 minutes.” The script came to him not long after that. “I didn’t even know my exact role back then, so I was just reading through the script. It was only later I found out that I would play Kevin Lee’s role. I thought that it won’t suit me, and a more handsome actor should take the role.” The director said that he saw Kevin Lee’s past and future in Go Joon. A persistent man who endured a long period of trials and tribulations holding solely to his strong will and ended up emerging later as the top sports star. Kevin Lee has achieved everything at the moment, but he is still a wounded man who was abandoned by the woman he loved because he didn’t have any future to him at one time. His charms lie in the way they deviate from the standard flower boy look: a manly appearance and a great physique. To Go Hye-ran (Kim Nam-joo), he was the incarnation of Eros in the mortal world who stayed true to his animal-like instincts. To Go Joon, who had caught the eyes of the director through his projects, Kevin Lee was like a gift of a perfectly fitted suit. “I am thankful to the director for recognizing my potential. It was like a much needed godsent rain to me. After Tazza: The Hidden Card, I kept doing the same types of character, hence I was running out of energy. The offer came in right when I really wanted to showcase a different shade to my acting.”

Unlike the difficult part of trying to be everyone’s lover on the screen, it was actually easier for him to showcase the professional image of a pro golfer character. Kevin Lee’s resume included his accomplishment at the winner of the PGA Championship, defeating Tiger Woods and making history as the first Asian athlete to have ever won a major PGA Tour, reminding us of Y. E. Yang. It is pure coincidence, but it was like something planned for Go Joon from how everything fell into their places. He is an exercise maniac who makes use of sparing to release stress: from Judo, boxing, and Muay Thai, to MMA, there was nothing that he did not do. His golfing skills are also excellent. “I’ve been playing golf for about 5~6 years now, and I can even break 80. But then, I didn’t have a proper swing since I learned it by myself. This time around, I’m enjoying golfing under the guise of work. It is great.”

Go Joon also spent a long time in obscurity, just like Kevin Lee. “I started out by majoring in acting in Film Department, Seoul Institute of the Arts. I quit halfway. The reason? I don’t know why. The tuition fees were quite expensive too (laughs).” He chanced upon a stage play organized by college students when he was a senior in high school, leading him into finding his dream that is to become an actor. Just like other students, he also went through a tough period of puberty and being a rebellious kid. “Up until that moment, I didn’t have any dream. I did have one dream when I was younger, which was to become a priest. I became one of the altar boys who assisted the priest during Mass, starting from the first year of elementary school until I entered middle school for about 6 years. I made it until I became the leader of the altar servers, believing that I would eventually walk the path of priesthood.” To the young Go Joon, the priest in his white robe standing in front of the attendees against the blaring holy organ pipe sound inside the huge church was probably the coolest image he had in his mind. Perhaps, it is a blessing for us when the boy chose the secular world instead of entering the monastery as his eyes of reasoning were made open. “It was vague, but the image of an actor standing on the stage to act in front of his audience has a similar vibe to that of a priest.”

However, the image Go Joon is talking about is not that of a showman. “When I got older, I gave a long thought about why I was so fascinated with the priest. There’s only one reason: healing. He is someone who gives comfort to and consoles many people. I’m not talking about self-healing; it’s to provide emotional healing to others. Everyone has their own trauma. I view the roles I portray as real people who live in this world, so I work hard to speak for their wounds. If that’s not it, then I have no reason to become an actor. I don’t concentrate on getting my own name out there. I actually feel shy and embarrassed.” The real-life Go Joon is always embarrassed during the filming session. He doesn’t really have any interest in the things he is adorned with, be it the clothes, the cars, or even the cool watches. He is someone who doesn’t even put on lotion daily and arrives at the studio in his comfortable tracksuit as if he’s just going to a neighbourhood mart. “But still, this is a nice tracksuit. I’m wearing everything people give to me…(laughs)”

He doesn’t have any worldly desires but he’s still taking care of his health diligently. He rummages through his bag and takes out a pouch drink before sucking it. It is a packet of red ginseng juice. He can’t take meals regularly since he’s building his body. He still possesses the fresh and manly charms seen in those youth stars in their 20s. There are a lot of actors who shot into stardom late into their career, but Go Joon is far from the so-called “typical actors”. He’s an actor who neither specialized in playing villains nor the sweet secondary characters. He is a Cinderella Man who rises amidst the cheers of the female fans. Go Joon was born in 1978. His success story was something never seen before. “The truth is, I still find it hard to believe that something like this is happening to me…although I also have my share of worries, I should do well. It feels like I’m getting promoted at my workplace, little by little.”

He said that the long time he spent as an actor was like a process of getting work done on his insides. His 20s were spent trying to move forward only with his strong will. He got angry at the world when he was the one who failed to recognize himself. The way to become an actor is not simply by doing his hair or putting on great clothes. “I couldn’t direct my focus on the right thing and only looked for a chance. I went through lots of auditions while only paying attention to my physical appearance. Because of that kind of mindset, I had a terrible inferiority complex and had a hard time by myself.” It took him almost 10 years to realize that every outcome requires a working process behind it. Everything became as clear as the blue sky when he came into terms with his own shortcomings. “An actor’s aura isn’t visible through his eyes; it’s seen through his thoughts and attitude. I only realized that in my late 20s. From that moment onwards, it was not as difficult as before, since I only had to concentrate on what to improve within and what to do with myself. It was even better than before.” He proceeded to build up his resume silently. That was how he added about 60 titles to his filmography. Prior to Misty, he also filmed two movies that will soon premiere: Director Lee Jun-ik’s Sunset in My Hometown and Director Lee Byung-hun’s What A Man Wants.

Sunset in My Hometown follows the journey of an underdog rapper Hak-soo (Park Jung-min) as he goes back to his hometown in Byunsan, where he reunites with his elementary schoolmate Seon-mi (Kim Go-eun). Go Joon takes up the role of the neighbourhood thug Yong-dae. It is a meaningful project for him since he joins the production after the actors who were scouted before him strongly recommended his name to the director. “I’m honoured. It feels that I haven’t lived wrongly as an actor before this. (laughs) Although my role is a thug again, this time it’s not a one-time appearance. The character also undergoes changes and shows growth throughout the movie.” As for What A Man Wants, he appears as a chef named Hyo-bong who studied abroad in Italy. Although the character is full of bluff, but he’s kind of sloppy and comical as well. “2018 seems to be a lucky year for me. Everything is flowing naturally and smoothly. I’m also looking for my next projects.” The slow pace he takes might seem foolish, but it’s a result of his long, honest journey up until now.

He isn’t simply excited with all the opportunities that have come to him. Instead of a toast to his success, he looks back at himself in silence. “These days, I feel the pressure with regard to the position I am at for the first time ever in my life. I used to live a simple life, but I have a lot on my mind recently. I don’t want to go back to those days when it was difficult and I was starving, although I was blissful back then. That kind of fear still exists in me unconsciously and it makes me sensitive, so my life feels uncomfortable at times.” People are bound to change with the changing situation. Go Joon is also changing, but it’s still unknown how the changes will contribute to his transformation and the outcome. However, as much as he waited for a long time for this moment to arrive, it’s clear that Go Joon’s era will last longer in the future. “I should do this for a long time, so that I could act on other people’s behalf and treat their wounds. I think that is the way to live a really good life.”

A man finally appears right in front of us when the gray mist disappears. This is not a story about Kevin Lee; it’s just a short prelude about the actor who appeared on our side before we realize it.

Go Joon. This man’s drama starts from now.

©VOGUEKOREA

Rant Out, Souls!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s