Kim Seon Ho – Noblesse MEN Jan/Feb 2021 Interview

Kim Seon-ho is always meeting people with the intention of learning from them.

The Real Kim Seon Ho, Not Han Ji Pyeong

We want to congratulate you for receiving the Best Emotive Awards at AAA (Asia Artist Awards) yesterday. (rolling his eyes) Kekeke. (Everyone around him cheering and shouting) Thank you!

How do you feel about you popularity these days? Actually, I didn’t know at first since I didn’t go out much because of the shooting schedule. I just thought that my SNS followers had increased because of the fellow cast of Start-Up, but now that the drama has ended, I realized that a lot of people around me are talking about it. I am so thankful for it and currently spending my time happily.

What do you think about the photo shoot for your first magazine cover today? I’ve never thought that a grateful moment like this would come…me on the magazine cover? Thank you very much (long laughs)

How did you feel when you first received the offer? I felt good, but at the same time I was also worried. What if I couldn’t strike a pose? What if I turned out awkward? I shouldn’t be a nuisance to others but I was nervous.

Moon Se-yoon said, “Please don’t make our Seon-ho a top star,” as he wished upon the sunrise in 2 Days 1 Night. (laughs) Is he going to be secretly disappointed now that you are on the cover of a magazine? Eh, it’s not like that. Hyung is actually providing me with lots of support. When I got the first place in brand reputation for actors not too long ago, he was also the first among the 2 Days 1 Night members to congratulate me early in the morning.

How do you spend you time now that Start-Up has ended? I am practising for the stage play Ice that will start in January from morning until evening, and I spend some evenings taking a stroll. I also spend the time with my parents as well.   

Oh right, you really love taking a walk. That’s right. I used to love taking a walk around Marronnier Park, but since it’s difficult to do so in these times, I still enjoy walking to the mart nearby my apartment complex although I can’t go far away.

What do you usually think about when you take a walk? My mind becomes clear as I take a walk whenever I have any concerns or worries. It feels as if my thoughts become lighter when I look at the soil as I walk, focusing only on my thoughts. ‘Yes, this is nothing much, this too shall pass.’ It makes me think positively. My goal gets clearer too, although it’s actually me letting go of the heavy thoughts in my mind. Sometimes, I go out to walk without having much thought but ending up with lots of them on my mind. I think it would be impossible for me to continue living my acting life healthily if not for the hours I spend walking.

You have received intense love through your role of Han Ji-pyeong in Start-Up. The term ‘second lead syndrome’ also got popular because of that. Did you expect this? Actually, it is something I have never expected. I  decided to do it only because of the character and the narrative and did not think of such things. I got to read the script until the fifth episode and liked the content very much. Although Han Ji-pyeong isn’t the bad guy in the drama, he is both the person who could be the stumbling block between Dal-mi (Suzy) and Do-san (Nam Joo-hyuk), aside from someone who helps and becomes mentor to them. Hence, the director was worried about me being cursed at because of the role. Frankly speaking, I have never thought of receiving so much love like this; I’m still dazed and stunned.

Director Oh Chung-hwan of Start-Up said this about Kim Seon-ho, “He possesses the clean appearance but at the same time complicated; a sharp man but innocent in real life.” Perhaps, he was saying that because I had many worries with regard to the series. I’m someone who is usually clear without much thought, but once I get a grasp of a character, I start to have a lot of concerns. Is it true that I am doing a good job? Am I doing a good job? This kind of questions hit me endlessly, hence that could be the reason why I appeared complicated to him? (laughs) I think it’s a relief that there is the sharp side of me when I act.

‘Is is true that I am doing a good job right now?’ Where does this doubtful question come from? I always have that kind of thought when I act: ‘Did I really become Ji-pyeong just now? Am I portraying Ji-pyeong too lightly?’ Although it’s good to be able to provide fun to others, the flow of the drama might be broken because of me trying to be funny  or reveal myself through my character. Ji-pyeong is a character with weight that is intended to provide smooth transition of the events, so if I happen to only be funny and lose my grasp (of the character), then it might be a hindrance to other actors and prevent the viewers from being absorbed in the story. Hence, I paid a lot of attention so that it is easier to be absorbed in the story. Still, there are still things I regretted after filming because I felt that there was something lacking.

How do you solve it when there is something you don’t understand after reading the script? That is so difficult, since I can’t simply get over it while feigning innocence about it. When such situation happens, I get help from the director and even the actors I work with. Is it correct if I do it like this during this part? I get to understand the set-up of the situation as we exchange our thoughts.

Start-Up’s Han Ji-pyeong is like that, and there was also Oh Jin-gyu in KBS The Strongest Deliveryman, who was the troublemaker chaebol deserving enough to be hated, but strangely, he was not hated but instead adored. Do these two owe it to the power of Kim Seon-ho? I should thank you for taking it like that. (laughs) Actually, there wasn’t any narrative of Oh Jin-gyu in The Strongest Deliveryman which made him worth of receiving hate. Hence, I started wondering: Why is this person being hated like this? Is it because he has grown up all this while without knowing the way to receive love? The writer of the drama would later say this, but the writer couldn’t understand why I had to act it out as such. It was a role of chaebol, but he had to be portrayed as a lacking fool. It was around the fourth episode when the writer felt, “Ah, this actor has planned it all!” (laughs) If I couldn’t understand the lack of the character, then I just have to make up for it. 

Are you the type who builds your character outside the world familiar to you? I like to use the term ‘taking out and using them’. I take out the things I have experienced in real life – what I have seen myself or experienced indirectly – and use them. If it’s an unknown world, then it’s logical for me to make it myself. Despite that, if it happens to be a world I really have no idea about, I am the type who will quickly substitute it with my situation that is the closest to it while thinking, ‘How about this situation?’ This is something really embarrassing to me, but I used to just read the lines in certain scenes when I first started doing drama because I was in an unfamiliar setting. I was talking, but actually, it was no different than reading it straight out of a literature book. That was when I realized: I shouldn’t be doing it like this. Hence, even if the situation doesn’t suit me or I happen to misunderstand the narrative, it would be better to substitute it with something I am familiar with and include my feelings in the lines. The variables have now been reduced ever since I take out something out of my experience and use it. 

Before this, you used to participate in the stage play Kiss of the Spider Woman and MBC drama Two Cops at the same time, while you chose to join the play Memory In Dream after filming tvn drama Catch the Ghost. Is it an intentional move for you to be involved in a drama and a stage play at the same time? I have promised myself not to do such thing again after starring in Two Cops and Kiss of the Spider Woman at the same time. (laughs) At that time, I wanted to show what I could do, but having a drama and a play at the same time was just something that shouldn’t be done. Memory In Dream was my project after I was done with Catch the Ghost.

This time around too, you are preparing for the play Ice right after wrapping up Start-Up. I wanted to do a stage play, and I have always been greedy for the stage. I get to learn many things and check on my acting as I act on the stage. Each director has his own strength, so it’s fun to make use of it somewhere else after learning in at a place. (laughs) I especially enjoy Director Jang Jin’s projects like Flower’s Secret, Taxi Driver, and his other previous projects, hence I would like to work together with him if there is an opportunity for me to do so.

What kind of project Ice is? It is a 2-person play where two complete opposite 
detectives appear and there is also an imaginary character of a young man who is the suspect. The detectives interrogate the young man and hold conversations by themselves as if they are monologuing with their own selves. They make eye contact with the character who doesn’t exist in real life. I was amazed when I first saw the scenario and thought that it woul be fun to do it.

Both Kiss of the Spider Woman and True West were also close to a 2-person play (two-hander). What is the charm of such project? Both drama and film divide between scenes with cuts, but a stage play’s scenes are divided according to the character’s entrance and exit. A scene in a 2-person play is almost similar to a whole play itself. Since we have to maintain the harmony on stage for a long time, (furrowing his brow) a great deal of concentration is needed. I used to be an actor who lacked concentration. Hence, those 2-person plays turn out to be a great help to my acting career. It was the moment for me to build stamina and concentration. One’s stamina is not only dependent on the physical strength, but it also requires the mental strength together with that person’s ability to concentrate. I’m very much aware of the charms and challenges of a 2-person play, but it is also a place where I could be influenced and develop myself. Frankly speaking, it’s still scary, but I don’t want to avoid it.

Are you the type who faces your fears? Yes. There will be no chance to develop myself if I don’t do that. I’m quite passive in some aspects; once I start avoiding something, then it will continue to haunt me. ‘No, I should step out first.’ As I repeat that chant to myself, I unconsciously face it without avoiding.

It seems that being a drill instructor during your military service made you change a lot. I’m someone who is usually bright in front of friends, but when I’m with other people, my mind would go blank as I thought, ‘Where am I right now?’ I would stutter when I find the situation I am facing at the moment strange and unfamiliar. Military service made my character and thoughts different from before. As I saw many people who were more passive compared to me getting through it, I thought, ‘This is nothing to me, I will be okay.’ I have always been the ‘outsider’.

So, have you become the ‘insider’ now? The ‘middler’ who is on his way to become an ‘insider’? Ah, I sound like an old man. (laughs loudly)   

Do you realized that you mentioned ‘learning’ and ‘learned’ a lot like a habit? From when did you start having such attitude towards life? (emphasizing himself) Right, right. When I was young, seeing people who didn’t pay attention to what other people were saying made me think a lot. When I go out for a drink with my seniors, they would say to me, “People would be stiff and unyielding once they become older; they become stubborn and close-minded. Don’t become like that.” So what should I do then? I thought to myself: I should have the mindset of learning something at all times! ‘If I can get to learn something from this person, I might found a liking for him then?’ It becomes a habit to talk about learning once I have that kind of mindset. It also makes me see the other person’s strength first thing.

What have you learned from someone you met recently? This is a bit embarrassing. (his eyes darting left and right as if he is telling a huge secret) This is something even (Nam) Joo-hyuk himself didn’t know, but I found his pose during the press conference of Start-Up cool and loved it. (the pose frequently used by Nam Joo-hyuk where he slightly tilts his chin at an angle) I thought that I could make use of the pose somewhere, so I gave it a try during the photo shoot session earlier. (laughs) I learned a lot from Joo-hyuk’s thought on acting and Suzy’s concentration as well as her bright attitude. I’m the type that try my best to put what I’ve learned into practice.

You have also mentioned about your admiration towards 2 Days 1 Night’s member Kim Jong-min. Jong-min hyung is someone who would never lower anyone but himself. He’s actually short with his words and a really reserved person. I asked this once, “You do know the real thing but still choose not to tell about it, right?”  and he answered with a serious look, “Um. I know that it’s not something you’d want to talk about.” He is always laughing and embracing other person’s mistakes. I think of him as an adult and I’m learning a lot from him.

How do you feel about interacting with people from different entertainment fields like comedians and singers on the variety show? I learn a lot from watching them being frank. ‘I feel like this, but how about you?’ Thanks to them being straightforward in approaching me, I was able to adapt myself in the unfamiliar atmosphere of variety program. Having people around me who allows me to show even the slightest bit of emotion frankly makes me feel that they don’t think of me as a difficult person. Everyone is just full of affection and has lots of humane aspects to them.

One of your psychological tests on 2 Days 1 Night became a hot topic. Was it prior to Start-Up’s broadcast back then? I was in the middle of shooting for the drama and it was yet to be aired back then. There was no way of checking whether I did well, and it was the time when I was wondering if my decision to do a drama was going affect 2 Days 1 Night badly. The person who conducted the psychological test looked at my drawing and said, “You have lots of worries. But you are doing very well.” Those words made me choke with tears. Perhaps, I needed to hear that I am doing well. I was contacted by Cha Tae-hyun sunbae-nim and 2 Days 1 Night writer Noh Jin-young. They said that they also had such time as well but they got over it, and that concern would later be helpful in terms of acting as well; hence, it would pass. I thought I was going to die after hearing that. (his eyes turns red) After the episode was aired, I read the comments by the viewers and cried silently by myself. I’m so, so thankful. (short silence) I won’t let you down. I still feel like tearing up too right now.

According to the test, there is this firm person inside Kim Seon-ho, hence there is nothing to worry about. I was thankful for those words. That’s right. I think I’ll be able to get through it, no matter what it is.

It seems that your inner self is the real you. I put a lot of effort into making it into that. It’s a relief that it’s an suitable age for me to go on shows and variety programs. If I happen to be younger, there might be many instances where I would be shaken and suffering in despair. It’s a fortunate thing to be able to meet good people and experience the right worries at the right time.

You said it before that you were anxious while you filmed 100 Day My Prince in early 2018 because you could not monitor yourself due to it being a preproduced drama. Do you prefer to do acting that can satisfy yourself rather than gaining such satisfaction from the viewers’ reactions? It was shocking to me. Even during Start-Up’s shooting this time, it felt new and refreshing to see other people’s acting. I wondered if they thought of me stiff and unyielding should I happened to think that I couldn’t do something; or that I was not concerned about anything at all, or even that I have become lazy. When I did 100 Day My Prince, I felt as if I was doing the acting like a chore, so it was as if I was being lazy. Being someone who acts on the stage, I have the desire to check on myself and monitor to  see if I am portraying the chracter spontaneously. I adjusted according to what I have monitored since I am still lacking. Perhaps, I have yet to get used to the system of preproduced dramas.

Isn’t it a hard thing when an actor finds that his acting doesn’t go well? It is. But I have started to regard acting not as a mere work. I want to enjoy doing it. Of course, it does get difficult too. Is there anything that isn’t difficult? On the days when my acting doesn’t go along with my plan, I would go home and get it off my chest by drinking a glass of beer or a cup of coffee. As I ponder about acting, it goes to prove how I’m not just regarding it as a chore. I’m happy today, since it feels as if I’m having fun with a project through acting. I am making an effort so that it always feel new to me. ‘Learning’ is a term I always use, right? Learning is a process of yourself being shocked. Then, what should I do next? What should I do here in order not to lose the game I’m playing right now? I want to provide excitement for my acting partner, as much as the shock I have received. It seems that having such concern has helped me not to treat acting as a work.

In the end, this learning attitude has pushed Kim Seon-ho for endless cycle of changes? That’s right. Although the wave of changes isn’t as huge as before, I think my thoughts, as well as my attitude and confidence towards acting will always change bit by bit. For instance, a dancer would suddenly be able to do the moves he wasn’t able to do before if he does it consistently. Acting is also like that. While saying I’m not sure, I’m not sure about this, one would come to improve himself if he keeps doing it. Although I get upset that those kinds of changes don’t come easily these days, meeting the character of Ji-pyeong has allowed me to  experience a lot of diversions. I’m also thinking of expanding the new sides of me which was unfamiliar before. I’m always pondering, and I’m always changing.

©NOBLESSEMEN

5 thoughts on “Kim Seon Ho – Noblesse MEN Jan/Feb 2021 Interview

  1. It’s a lovely interview and like his thoughts and insightful answers. I watch all Seon Ho’s drama before Start Up, it got me sit up and think, he is not just gifted, his got very good interpretation of the characters that makes you feel for him. I think whatever he is in, i would watch it, it’s enjoyable healing and feels good. When I watch Start Up, i standup to give him an ovation. Seon Ho is very special and very doing what he is required with all his passion with wit and skill. Love him so much. Thanks for giving him the opportunity to appear in your magazine.

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