Acting as his one and only interest, according to actor Kim Seon-ho.
The Light Shining from Somewhere
A boy who could not imagine himself doing a job which would require him to stand in front of other people, through one warm word, grew up to become actor Kim Seon-ho. Just like the light shining through his hair when he first started acting, he is bright and refreshing today.
Your drama 100-Day Husband, also starring Do Kyung-soo and Nam Ji-hyun, recorded steadily high ratings throughout its run. The whole cast had set off to Vietnam for the reward vacation but why are you still here?
I was supposed to have a script reading session for my next drama but the schedule got cancelled. Everyone is wearing their swimsuits and having fun there, writing 100-Day Husband on the sandy beach. I’m really envious of them, since I have never set my feet on Vietnam soil all my life. It’s freezing cold here in Seoul…
It has been nearly two years since your drama debut through KBS Chief Kim after being active in theater. How was your experience filming your fifth drama?
We filmed in summer since it was pre-produced. It was not easy at all to wear hanbok and go into shooting under the hot weather. I also stayed in the dorm since we were filming in the countryside areas like Gyeongju and Mungyeong. On the days where I had nothing to do, I would do my laundry diligently at the dorm and visited the filming site nearby.
You must have monitored your acting until the last episode. Do you think your acting is worth watching?
It wasn’t worth watching at first. We were shooting scenes not according to the sequence it would be airing, so I could see how my acting did not flow naturally from one scene to another. Fortunately, I learned how to let go of the burden on my shoulders as the time went and it got better.
Your character in 100-Day Husband was Jung Je-yoon, the second lead man having one sided crush on Hong-shim and coming in between Hong-shim and Won-deuk’s relationship. Why did the director cast you for the role?
Kim Ki-du, who acted with me in Strongest Deliveryman, suggested me for the role. The director also said that it was an eye-opening experience to see me there as a rookie actor with different kind of acting and synergy. I went to the audition for that drama (Strongest Deliveryman) while chewing a piece of gum, because I really wanted to score a role in it; even one of the deliverymen’s role would do for me. But then, I got a bigger role: a chaebol family’s son who lived his entire life being called worthless by his own father. I asked the director firsthand, “I am okay with this, but is it really okay with you?” I can act out something I know well, but I have never met any chaebol in my daily life. Instead of the sharp, haughty male chaebol we always see in dramas, I acted out the character using my own way of interpretation. No matter how I see it, I think I portrayed the character like a normal man, far from a usual chaebol’s character. As you can see, I’m more on the normal side.
You’re a normal person, but how did you manage to score yourself a spot to enter the competitive Seoul Institute of the Arts?
A friend who attended an acting school during my senior years asked me to tag along to the school. That’s how I started acting. Actually, I have a trauma in my teens; back then, I found it difficult to stand in front of the class and read, because I was extremely wary of strangers.
What kind of trauma was that?
When I was in elementary school, a thief broke into the house when my mother and I were home. I thought that it was my father who entered the house. Even when my mother was stabbed and something big was happening in the next room, I was staying in my room without knowing it. I still remembered everything vividly; the sound of the falling box of toys; the thud of the falling guitar; the moment when my mother was dragged and our eyes met; the thief’s scream as he restrained my mother…after that incident, I would feel uneasy whenever someone stood behind me. I would have a hard time breathing properly when the teacher stood behind me as I read the book in the class. Even during the examination, I would feel light-headed when I sensed that the invigilator stopped walking and stared at me. Hence, it was difficult for me to even imagine having to work in front of so many people.
It must be so difficult for you. Is your mother okay?
She still saw everyone who wore white shirt and jeans as that thief from that day for a while after that incident. Every time she went out, she had to return home to make sure that the house was properly locked. Of course, she’s become a lot better these days.
You attended acting (cram school) when you were preparing for the entrance exam. How did it affect your changes in acting?
A teacher I met there said, “Your acting is not the problem. It seems that there is another problem to you?” But the words approached me with a different kind of warmth. It was as if the practice room was suddenly filled with yellow lights shining on me. As the time went by, whenever I stood on the stage, the shining lights would remind me of the advice from my teacher, and I would get emotional at the thought of it. That teacher graduated from Seoul Institute of the Arts, and that became my motivation to also enter the college. Of course, I was that boy whom people thought would be impossible to succeed in acting, but I have become a bit better.
How did you make yourself seen during the entrance examination to the college?
When I heard what others said afterwards, it seems that I was doing everything I could, including opening my eyes real wide, and people ended up looking at me favourably. When I smile, the dimples appear on my cheeks, and people even said that I bear a resemblance to actor Shin Ha-kyun with the wrinkled expressions I had. It was a complete chaos, because the rest of the candidates danced, and one of them even took off his pants. Have you ever seen someone doing that during an entrance exam?
We can’t see the said dimples in today’s photos so we have to see it for ourselves in your next project. Are those dimples considered Kim Seon-ho’s weapons among others?
Although it used to be one of my causes of stress, perhaps it could be a point of focus on the somehow boring mask on the face? I had fair skin when I was young, and together with the dimples, other kids used to tease me and said that I was a girl. A girl even followed me home, asking how I got my dimples. My younger self was stressed from receiving that question, so I answered without thinking much about it. ‘I got them from pressing hot peas into my cheeks.’ But then, that girl went home and really gave it a try…and her mother came looking for me at our house.
You have been involved with theater and stage acting for about 7 years, and you have starred in various plays like Sherlock, True West, Closer, and Kiss of the Spider Woman, just to name a few. Did you do a lot of vocal training in particular?
I originally have a low and heavy voice note, so there were times when the other actors could not understand what I was saying. I put in a lot of effort in order to raise my voice tone, even in my daily routines. As I continue to act in dramas, it seems that for someone like myself, my average self can become a strength and it does become one; but I just can’t stop myself from paying attention to differentiating the voice tones between drama and stage acting. There were times when I was shocked to find out that my acting was not good when I was doing theater, so I asked for advice from the seniors around me, like Bae Sung-woo, Oh Man-seok, and Kim So-jin, and followed them around a lot. Bae Sung-woo was especially a funny person, and he always said wise words like, “Acting is science.”
Since you have gained a fair share of experience on the stage, have you ever thought of switching career path by venturing into dramas or movies?
No, it was really a start purely by chance. Someone called the place where I was performing, asking whether it would be possible to have Kim Seon-ho come for an audition. It was my first drama audition, and it was for Chief Kim. The drama’s director, Lee Eun-jin, was a friend of the writer for Feel Good to Die, and the writer is someone who watches 100 stage plays in a year. The director came to find me after receiving the suggestion from her friend. At that time, I was filled with happiness from doing theater. I learned from listening to the seniors talking about various things, and it was a precious moment for me. Although people said that living as a stage actor might make one go hungry (with the lesser amount of pay), it wasn’t that bad, considering that I still got to earn money from it.
You have overcame your trauma as you act. Do you find acting fun?
I was someone who didn’t know how to date or the proper way to hold a conversation with other people. But then, I learned the ways of (participating in) such social activities through acting. I realize something as I go on: that my acting will be affected when my heart and mind are hurt. I learned that if I open up about my weak points of my acting to my acting partner first, it would make us grow closer. That is how the acting will flow in an interesting way. I don’t have any other interest outside acting.
Who do you think is the greatest actor?
Song Kang-ho sunbae-nim. Even when I am asked about an actor I want to be like, I would answer with Song Kang-ho. Acting is a matter of choice, but for him, it’s the most realistic choice. We are not talking about the artificial acting produced for the sake of acting, but the most natural type of acting. ‘Was it mentioned in the scenario, or was it something he made it himself?’ and ‘If it is stated in the scenario, how does he make it look like he isn’t acting at all?’ Those were some of the thoughts I had.
You will be greeting the viewers again as a lead for JTBC’s Welcome to Waikiki Season 2 from March onward. The first season was a memorable one, thanks to the actors who are new but possessed great acting skills. It is worth anticipating the second season, coming from writer Kim Ki-ho, who also penned the sitcom Nonstop and the series Hello Francesca and Blue Tower.
I will be appearing as a character whose dream is to become someone like Park Hyo-shin but things don’t go his way, hence he is stuck teaching the grannies trot in a singing class. He even scored himself an appearance in a television show What On Earth? because of a diet gone awry. It has the same setting as the first season, set in a guest house. Our drama is the living definition of comedy in all seriousness.
Don’t you think that your career is unfolding nicely up until now?
Yes, and very nicely, to add to it. I am very lucky, and the fortune continues to follow me closely.