Kim Seon Ho – Esquire December 2020 Interview

Start-Up’s Han Ji-pyeong, 2 Days 1 Night’s Variety Rookie, and right here, a place called Kim Seon-ho’s World.


From Han Ji-pyeong in Start-Up to Variety Rookie in 2 Days 1 Night and Detective 2 in the theater Ice. And then there’s Kim Seon-ho, owner of a deep clear world you’ve never seen before.

Today, you are here to shoot the first commercial in your life. Congratulations!

Aw, thank you. I was so nervous, but thank goodness it ended well.

What made you feel so nervous?

First, because it’s my first time. I also met the advertising company’s representative for the first time today. We were just chatting outside for a short while before I entered here, but my heart was thumping loudly as I was putting on make-up. (laughs) Ah, I felt like I was dying, because it was my first time.

Nevertheless, it ended earlier than what we expected.

At first, I was standing still as if my neck was going to break, but I’ve become a bit comfortable. I’m thankful since they find my smiling face likable. Rather than me doing something good, it’s the shots that came out nicely. It’s such a huge relief, I think.  

I will take it as a humble remark coming from you, then. We already saw how diligent you were in the middle of the shoot, focusing on the session.

No, it’s not like that. Today’s photo shoot was just…a fun one when it comes to the concept. Since today’s shoot contained some theatrical concepts, I did some related image searches on my phone before coming here.

Thanks to you, the photo shoot session ended earlier too. Since both of them ended earlier, you might be able to watch the live broadcast of Start-Up’s episode 7 later.

Yes. I’m so excited to think that I’ll be able to watch the episode.


There’s something like that. When the filming becomes physically straining and you get the chance to watch the broadcast, there’s this feeling of seeing such a beautiful drama with a cool touch from the director, and the fact that you are actually a part of the drama itself. Start-Up is mainly set in a startup investment company called Sandbox. But then, there are times when I feel like I am living inside Sandbox instead of being on a filming set. I’m immersed (into it). I also feel nervous at times too. Hence, watching the drama has become some sort of driving force to me.

This is something we are personally curious about. Is SANDBOX, a multi-channel network (MCN) company, an investor of this drama? This will be off the record should there be any sensitive issue, but nothing came out when we searched about it online.

Ah, I heard that the similar name is purely coincidence. The writer has been preparing the script since a long time ago but she happened to find out that there’s a real company with the same name. Despite the complicated situation, the decision was to just continue with it. The original title was supposed to be Sandbox too, but it would be too much to share the same title too and the title was changed to Start-Up.

Indeed, the name Sandbox itself plays important roles in the drama itself, not just a company’s name which can be changed. From the subject of startup to the relationship between the sisters Seo Dal-mi and Won In-jae. Is it okay to just leave this here instead of making it off the record? But we think that the word should be spread, right?

Yeah, you’re right. (laughs) Indeed, there might be people who are curious about this too.

Anyway, there are also actors who never watch the broadcast of the dramas they starred in, since it might affect the direction of acting or the influence it might have on their confidence.

That’s right. It was also the same for me at first. I couldn’t watch myself. I would think of things like: my face would seem weird; my expressions and my way of speaking while acting might seem awkward at times; how I don’t fit in well with the other characters. Truth to be told, there’s nothing that I’m fond of (with regard to my acting), even at this moment. But then, I got to think over the parts where I found excessive in terms of my acting. It’s like monitoring my own acting, and it helps a lot.

Aren’t you the type who doesn’t do something excessively?

As an actor, I think I should stay true to my roots at all times. If I happen to be too excited while filming, it might be impossible for me to portray the important message and the essence of the scene. Contrary to that, if my feelings happen to be down under, then it might affect the harmony with other cast members and it might appear forced on the screen. Hence, I always try to be moderate and keep my composure. That’s how watching the drama helps me. ‘Why was I acting like that during that scene?’ ‘What was the set like at that time?’ I’m still learning, so I still need such kind of monitoring.

Things like ‘you’re handsome’, ‘your acting is good’ might be something you are used to hear, but your way of self-reflection is on another level.

That might be helpful..but truthfully, I am not good looking.

Excuse me? Aigoo, I was thinking that it might be tiring for you (to hear that) so I was thinking of just keeping it to myself. You are so handsome.

Ah, no. That’s..I’m thankful if you said it like that. (Nam) Joo-hyuk himself is so handsome, right? I even thought that he’s someone who jumped out of a comic book when I first met him. There are so many good-looking people. I’m just someone who wants to do better at acting. It seems that I’m a bit ambitious on that part. During the early days of Start-Up, I had many doubts with regard to myself. Am I doing this right? At first, I approached my character as a heavy and sharp one, but I made fine tunings in order to fit with the youth drama vibe, like giving him more wit and making the scenes more enjoyable. It seemed to be helpful in allowing the story to flow more naturally. Still, even when I got a hold of my own character from the beginning, I was uncertain and anxious with regard to other parts. Here? Ji-pyeong? Is he really going to do such thing? There were moments when I didn’t know that I needed to mingle around more with Do-san and Dal-mi. Hence, that is the reason why I’m so thankful towards the director. It gets more natural and the drama also gets more comfortable.  

Then, what was the reason you choose Start-Up in the first place?

I really enjoyed watching I Can Hear Your Voice, which was penned by writer Park Hye-ryun. I also liked watching the projects of director Oh Chung-hwan. It was already thrilling to be able to work together with them in a project, but I thought that the drama would be so beautiful after reading the script. It’s almost like a beautiful, cherished fairytale-like story, but at the same time it’s also a story which can exists in real life as well. I suddenly thought that it would be great if I got to be a part of this picture, hence I was the first one who said yes.

So, the production team and the staff played the biggest factor then.

Yes. There’s this faith I had for them. The faith that surely felt like it would be a good thing. As expected, it turned to be so beautiful. The directing is detailed and heart-fluttering, plus each and every line is like a painting. “Do-san, I’m still your voyage without a map.” Lines like this made me wonder, ’Wow, where does the writer quoted this from?’ ‘Or is it another creation of hers?’ Things like this made me excited for no reason. The director also plays the role of tuning the filming in order to deliver what is written on the script smoothly. There are just so many things to be experienced this time around.

Actually, when it comes to works with motifs from the play Cyrano de Bergerac, all won’t end happily for the character who ghostwrites for someone and then falling in love with the subject. But then, we are really clueless about this drama. If we are to follow the standard way of youth drama, then Dal-mi and Do-san seem to be the end game, but Ji-pyeong surely holds considerable amount of rights when it comes to feelings.

The writer once said that she doesn’t like writing something that points towards one single direction and giving certainty towards one person. After all, that isn’t the case in the real life we live in. When I look back at this, it’s such a relief that she chose to view it like that.

Well, I am actually investing my whole stocks in Ji-pyeong. Is it okay to continue doing so?

Umm..that’ thing I’m sure of is that I do like Dal-mi.

Everyone is aware of that. Except for Han Ji-pyeong himself.

(laughs) I don’t know the ending too. I don’t even have the chance to take a good look at episode 16’s script yet.’s totally possible to grab the hints from episode 15.

No, that’s not it…perhaps, there is possibility to have another surprise twist in the final episode. Ah, right. Start-Up has something like this. There are parts which have taken me by surprise. There are twists along the way. I think it’s okay to say it like this.

Okay. It is a good tip. (laughs) The days, there is one comment that is being posted on the YouTube clips of your past works: ‘I’ve come this far because of Han Ji-pyeong.’

Wah, is that true? I didn’t get to see that. It makes me feel good.

I also feel pleased even just being an onlooker. It is as if everything you have accumulated bit by bit so far is receiving the limelight through this one opportunity.

The writer of 2 Days 1 Night also said this to me not too long ago. She told me about a clip of You Drive Me Crazy! raking in more than 10 million views. It’s really like that when I checked it out. I felt good. After all, it’s a good thing to know that a short drama I did before managed to spread happiness to other people. That was how I exchanged messages with the director after a long while and spent the whole day watching that clip. Actually, everything still feels surreal to me with regard to the drama’s reception since I’m busy filming these days. Then, I receive messages from directors I have worked with before, seniors, and friends, saying that they’re watching my drama. I feel happy to hear them saying that I’m doing well.  

You have always liked going on walks. Isn’t it difficult to do so these days?

I did go out for a walk few days ago…no one could recognize me. Maybe because I was wearing a mask, but no one stopped by to talk with me, so I felt a bit disappointed. (laughs) ‘Hmm..I guess it’s okay.’ I thought so and went on my way. I went for a sightseeing around Daehak-ro while listening to music. I even walked to a cinema to watch a movie but no one recognized me. I had a good time walking around and enjoying my stroll.

Actually, I’m not a huge fan of the usual portrayal of a ‘master of melodrama’. But your performance in You Drive Me Crazy! brought back memories of such portrayal.

The drama’s content was actually a very ordinary story. (It was about) close friends and whether they could turn into lovers or not. Even if that’s the case, it could be the most special thing to those parties involved. I think that was how I approached the character. ‘Let’s go with the ordinary one. Let’s pick the most comfortable option: a bit timid and cautious, something that is the most similar to me.’ Many found it relatable, so it might not be such a bad choice (to do so) after all. Plus, rather than a melo master…the character Kim Rae-wan was just a bit similar to me.

Actress Kim Hye-soo said this once: doing melo is a matter of maintaining the purity of one’s emotions, rather than depending on age or experience.

Oh, Kim Hae-sook sunbae-nim also said something similar to me recently. “How old are you?” “I’m 35 years old.” Then, she said, “This is the beginning for you. You should be able to do melo in a matter of time.” “Really?” “Of course, you can do anything.” I think it’s more about the changing times, and it seems more like it. Love has nothing to do with age.

There is credibility to that statement, considering that it was Kim Hae-sook who said it. After all, she herself showed a surprising middle-age melo acting in The Thieves.

Everyone knows how good she is at acting, but this time around, I have become a real fan of hers after acting together. ‘Wow, so this is how she’s delivering the line?’ ‘How does she do that with her eyes?’ That was the thought that crossed my mind when she was looking at me with flushed red eyes. ‘What if I can’t do this right?’ I would have sudden thought like this before making up my mind. ‘Nope, I shouldn’t be like this. I should concentrate. ‘

Both of you shared many scenes in Start-Up because of your relation with each other.

Yes. We filmed our last scene together recently. Actually…I’m bragging about myself here. At that time, she hugged me tightly and said, “We should really meet each other again, even just one time. It’s not easy to find someone with perfectly matched emotions like you. Be it a movie or a drama, we are surely going to meet again.” “Thank you for saying such words,” I replied, but she said, “Nah. I mean it, really.“ I was so happy to hear that.

You must have felt touched (after hearing that). You said it before that your biggest goal is ‘to become an actor people want to work again with’.

That’s right. It’s still the same right now. Hence, when sunbae-nim said that we should meet again, I was moved to tears. I was so happy. Perhaps, those words might be something that remain in my memory for the longest time ever from this project, so I wanted to thank her for that.

Although you started appearing on TV from 3 to 4 years ago, we are well aware that you have been standing on the stage for more than 10 years.

Yes. I’m still doing theater until now. Actually, I’m more ambitious these days compared to before. Maybe because there are so many talented people around. I recently had the chance to watch a play with Hwang Jung-min sunbae-nim. I was so shocked, since he was so great on the stage. It left me wondering, ‘How much did he put in his effort for this, really?’ To me, it all boils down to one’s effort.

There are people who do not believe that effort is proportional to results, even in the acting field. It seems that you don’t possess such pessimistic thinking. So, do you think that there is separate place for those born as ‘genius’…

Yeah, but of course, there is no correct answer to this. I have also witnessed many cases in which effort does not equal success, and there were times when I felt the same thing myself. Hence, I tried to take control of my own mind. If there’s one thing that I’m sure of myself, it’s the fact that my effort will result in my development. If nothing comes out of it, then I’m just getting lazy.

It’s not that we don’t have anything to say in return, but the most important thing is we know that you believe in the power of effort.

That’s right. However, this thing called effort does not really require one to put on force every single time. There are moments when the force has to be removed in order for the effort to take place. When you take a step back, saying things like ‘Let’s not be too attached to it.’ ‘Let’s not try too hard.’ The process of consoling oneself is also considered an effort.

You are an actor who is garnering attention right now, but we heard that you used to receive harsh criticism during your school days. Perhaps, you really know better about effort than anyone else.

(laughs) ‘You won’t make it.’ I was a student who heard things like that from others. Even when I attended the university, the lecturers also said something along the line ‘I thought you won’t be able to make it. Your vocal is bad too…’

You’re saying that your vocal used to be bad?

Yes, at that time.

When we listened to your voice, it reminded me of rock star Billy Squier…I thought you were born with it.

Wah, really? This is the first time I’m hearing about my voice being similar to Billy’s, but nevertheless, it’s an honour for me. Back then, my voice was not that bad. It was just that my voice tended to be swallowed inside. It would be normal in usual setting but once I stood in front of the audience, the trouble persisted. I was nervous at that time. In order to get rid of it, I put in more effort every day. It’s the same until now. Recently, I couldn’t pronounce the word ‘investor’ clearly, so I repeated the word again and again for the whole day. Whenever I face such issues, it gives me something to ponder about. It seems that effort is something important to someone like me.

We heard that you used to be nervous and passive when you were younger. It was also due to the trauma you have after the encounter with a robber who broke into your house.

Yes. It could be the effect of the memory itself, but now that I think about it, I do resemble my mother in various things. My mother is also timid and passive. She couldn’t talk when she’s in front of people, and we probably only had one photo or two of hers. If you want to know how bad it is, she once came to my theater show and everyone was telling her to take photos with her son. But then, she backed down while saying ‘Aw, it’s okay, it’s okay.’ before withdrawing herself and escaping through the back door. Everyone was laughing at that time.

Your mother seems to be such a gentle person. When you won the New Actor Award, your mother cried and said something to you. Reading this almost made me cry. “Starting from a small town where you had nothing to learn, I’m so thankful and happy to see you becoming someone who doesn’t hear bad words from others and doing well in your work while not becoming a hindrance to others.” That was what she said.

Ah…that’s right. (sniffling) We recently did the psychological test on 2 Days 1 Night and I teared up on the show. My mother watched it and suffered by herself. She couldn’t even say to me that she watched the episode. When I told her about taking the test, only then she told me about watching it. She was so upset and couldn’t bring it up first, fearing that I was having a hard time because of her.

She was probably thinking that her son was having a tough time by himself because of her.

Hence, I told her that wasn’t the case. Really, it’s not because of her. It’s just that at that time…well, I was upset because nothing seemed to work out for me. Be it the variety program or that time, Start-Up had not started airing yet. I had a lot on my mind. My desire to do better was just too strong. I was just making a big deal out of it. (laughs) Still, I needed to keep myself composed, so I took control of my mind. But then, suddenly there’s someone saying to me, ‘Do you have any worries? You’re doing just fine.’ The answer was given and I was nodding along, but actually, I couldn’t hear any of the explanation. I was too busy focusing on my thought, ‘Hold the tears in, hold it in.’

The job of an actor also has its own difficulties, then. It requires someone to show most of himself to others but on the other side, there is the fact that acting is such a lonely job, the continuous effect of one’s choice, and the fate of other people which depends on that choice.

At first, I was alone. I lived alone and I was comfortable being with my own self, but now the family has grown bigger and I’ve gained more people I’m thankful for. I’m that person who can’t even keep contact with someone…but I also have this thought along the way. Supposedly, there is a moment when the choice I make turns out to be a wrong one, who will look after them? Although it becomes a good type of burden at times, it also makes me nervous and pushes me forward. To tell you the truth, I’m doing well and enjoying the work in return for those thoughts. I guess everyone has this kind of concern from time to time.

That seems to be the case. It’s not being depressed but pure passion for something. You also seem to be opening your heart towards 2 Days 1 Night’s team members.

Yes. I think I’ve gotten closer to them. I’m still growing closer to them even at this moment. Although I can’t show every side of me on 2 Days 1 Night, there are sides never seen before, such as my worrying self. But I get to be more comfortable after showing it. Even on our days off, we’re curious on what the others are doing. When we’re filming, we’re taking care of and looking out for each other, asking about health and any issues we have. I’m feeling attached to each and every single of them: writer noona, PD Smiley, and all the staff. When we did the psychological test, we didn’t know much about it and drew while joking around. But then, the moment I started tearing up, Dindin came to me and gave me a hug. Other members also sent me messages afterwards. That’s the reason I like them so much.  

I have to apologize but actually, I have never seen any of your stage plays before having this interview. I am not someone who watches plays regularly…

Ah, if you have some time, please come to watch one. I’ll give you an invitation. It will start this coming January.

Wait, why are you telling me this just now? This is the perfect time for you to promote it through the interview.

(laughs) The title is Ice. It’s about two detectives who are interrogating a young man who becomes a suspect for a murder case. However, the young man isn’t there on the stage; it will be us the detectives delivering the monologue as if we are in a conversation.

It sounds like an edgy project. I was actually going to ask a related question. How does Kim Seon-ho on the stage differs from your usual self? For those who are waiting for the play’s opening, what should they expect?

I debuted in drama Chief Kim through the recommendation made by a theatre critic to the drama writer. That person said that I was ‘raw’, in a sense that I speak and move as if I’m the character itself. If Han Ji-pyeong is a bit neat and stiff, then people might be able to see a different side of me that is more energetic.

Oh, is it because of the play’s title? It’s thrilling just to imagine you screaming into the void by yourself.

I think it will be fun too. I really want to do a good job. Please come over to watch if you have time.



6 thoughts on “Kim Seon Ho – Esquire December 2020 Interview

  1. Thanks for the translation! I am a new fan currently going through seonho’s old dramas while waiting for startup. Can you accept request? I want to read more about him in older interviews

  2. Late reading but I was amazed of KSH’s replies how neat and on point they were. Thank you also for the interpretation Simply put on the right words
    I enjoyed a single nit of it.

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