“2020 was the year I spent together with 2 Days 1 Night and Start-Up; a year full of precious experience that was like a gift to me.”
It is the birth of a big star. Right before the 5th anniversary of his drama debut, Kim Seon-ho (34) met his lifetime role in Han Ji-pyeong and rose rapidly to become the hot stuff as everyone’s darling in 2020. After spending 9 years in the theater and making a name for himself as the ‘theater world’s idol’, there was no one in Daehak-ro who did not know his name. He made his entrance into the drama world in 2016 through the KBS2 drama The Good Manager and stealing hearts for his distinct youthful appearance, he went on to star in The Strongest Deliveryman on KBS2 and Two Cops on MBC, rising to lead roles. His popularity slowly rose through various shows: from MBC’s drama special You Drive Me Crazy! that raked in millions of views on YouTube, to tvn’s 100 Day My Prince, tvn’s Catch the Ghost, and the variety program on KBS, 2 Days 1 Night. Finally, he met the project which shot him to stardom, turning him into the cause of second lead syndrome through tvn’s drama last year, Start-Up, portraying the role of Han Ji-pyeong. His followers on his SNS account increased exponentially at an almost impossible rate after Start-Up‘s premiere, not to mention the countless advertisement offers and magazine pictorials that have come to him. It was to the point of his fans giving him the nickname ‘Soseono’ for working continuously like a cow (‘so‘). He is being compared to a flower in full bloom, but Kim Seon-ho does not want to become a flower that wilts after it has bloomed once; he wants to be an actor who gains trust through his acting, an actor people wants to continue seeing around. Living up to his name, Kim Seon-ho’s journey to stand tall as South Korea’s leading actor starts now.
There are lots of advertising companies who want to have Kim Seon-ho these days. Can you feel the effect of your popularity?
I think I can feel it a bit after having the word ‘advertisement’ enter my life. I don’t really go outside except for my schedules, so I haven’t had the chance to experience it myself. I’ve never expected Ji-pyeong’s character to receive this much love, so I’m really thankful.
In the drama, there was this one line that Kim Hae-sook said to Suzy: “You’re a cosmos flower. […] Wait until fall and you’ll bloom beautifully. Be patient.” There were also people who said that the line was perfect for Kim Seon-ho at this moment.
I think that the writer-nim is simply amazing. It’s also my favourite line in Start-Up. It touched me because it was a line that was perfect, not only for me but for anyone too. There are moments for all of us to be in full bloom; it’s just that the season differs from one person to another. Although I’m thankful for being likened to a cosmos flower in full bloom, I don’t want to be in bloom just once. Just like how the cosmos flower blooms and wilts repetitively each season, I want to show various sides of me and a better version of me each time I bloom.
Your mother teared up when you received the New Star Award for the first time. Right now, she must be the happiest person for you.
I’m living with my parents. I still have to go out for my schedule from time to time although the drama filming has ended, but that makes my parents really happy. They are more thankful than anyone else to see their son meeting a good project and a good role.
Throughout the run of Start-Up, people would always say, ‘Dal-mi is the only one who doesn’t know Han Ji-pyeong’s heart’ and that left a lot of viewers sad. Wasn’t there anything Kim Seon-ho felt sad about when you portrayed Han Ji-pyeong?
Did they really said that back then? Haha! There’s no way I didn’t have any regret or sadness. I’m also sad that Ji-pyeong and Dal-mi didn’t have much time to meet with each other. But then, I think it’s realistic and good that Ji-pyeong did not end up together in the end. After all, there’s no guarantee that someone I like will definitely reciprocate my feelings. I think that Ji-pyeong’s fate lies somewhere else. Also, I want to thank the people who cheered for Ji-pyeong, although it ended sadly.
Moon Se-yoon’s cameo appearance on the drama became a hot topic as well. How did it actually go through?
Director Oh Choong-hwan is a huge fan of ComedyTV’s Delicious Guys. Since I was also starring with Se-yoon hyung in 2 Days 1 Night, the director asked me discreetly about it. Then, I asked Se-yoon hyung to appear as a cameo. That’s what happened. After that, a call asking for me to appear on tvn’s Amazing Saturday: Doremi Market happened to come. Of course, I thought that I should return the favour and made up my mind at once for my appearance on the program.
Tickets for the play Ice were sold out right after it was opened for public sale. It was your first appearance after rising to popularity through Start-Up, so did you feel any pressure regarding it?
Of course, I did feel pressured. It was a role that was different from Ji-pyeong. I continuously go back to do theatre once a year, but this time around, it makes me nervous when I think about greeting the audience in front of my eyes. This nervousness in turn becomes a stimulant for me, and I’m happy at every moment.
The play’s schedule started right after you wrapped up filming the drama. Was the time enough for you to practice for it?
It was an unavoidable circumstance, so I joined the practice session later than everyone else. The other cast was already in the final phase (of preparation), hence I had to get used to my lines in a hurry. But then, the actors I acted alongside were all pro, and the director, Jang Jin, was a really gentle and wise man; everyone was so understanding and helped to lead me well into the story. I’m so thankful for them, and I really learned a lot from them.
What kind of energy does a stage play’s existence gives to you?
As I practice for a stage play, it does get physically straining, but the feeling of healing also grows bigger for me. When I practice diligently, I gain the anticipation to see my own development (through the play). Reviews from the audience will definitely come later, but there is this moment when I get this feeling of confidence in upgrading my skills. Those moments make me yearn for the theatre and I keep going back to join stage plays.
Can you elaborate on that moment in detail, if that is possible for you?
During a practice session not too long ago, Director Jang Jin made a request for me to analyze my voice and movement to find a new way of delivering my lines. I really enjoy moments like that, which allow me to spend time together with someone as we think about acting and then develop myself in the process. I got to discover something I didn’t know before, plus with the advice I received, I gained the confidence in believing that I would be able to show a better side of myself in front of the audience.
You also took part in Epitone Project’s music video recently. We heard that it was your first time starring in an MV since your debut.
I’ve always had the thought of joining an MV filming session. I was overjoyed when the offer came in. It was an honour to be able to be a part of a great song produced by great people. I have listened to lots of Younha’s songs before, and I became a fan of Epitone Project through this filming for the MV. Starring in a music video requires no lines but only concentration on the facial expressions, but the director asked me to act according to my own understanding, which was a new kind of joy for me.
If we are to combine your years in both drama and stage acting, you already have more than 10 years’ worth of experience. What do you think yourself about the kind of actor Kim Seon-ho is?
I can say that I’ve been acting for more than 10 years, but I’m still lacking a lot. When I was younger, I thought that acting would make me be better at understanding and grasping things. But then, I was mistaken and it was a delusion of mine. As I continue to act in more projects, the clearer my weaknesses appear in front of my eyes. Hence, I want to move forward slowly, one step at a time. Then, the good results will surely follow after. When I filmed Start-Up, I had many concerns and anxieties. Despite making the effort to discuss with the director and the writer in order to further polish the character, truth to be told, I was surrounded with fear before the drama premiered. There was the possibility of me being cursed at too. Perhaps, it’s not the right stage yet for me to say what kind of actor Kim Seon-ho is.
Start-Up received great reviews right from the first episode. You must have felt relieved afterward.
I couldn’t believe it. We even talked among ourselves on the set, saying that ‘Ji-pyeong is just detestable and repulsive.’ But then, Ji-pyeong was looked on favourably despite having that kind of side to him, probably because of his sad background story. I’m thankful for the love, but I still think that it was a surprise to see the reactions.
You declared on 2 Days 1 Night before that you would stay on the program longer than everyone else. Is it because you gain a sense of freedom despite being active in both acting and variety show?
That isn’t the case actually. I’ve never thought that the members of 2 Days 1 Night would become a close-knit, family-like existence to me. I don’t want to be left out when the members are together as one like this. Also, I have this realization recently that variety show does provide help to me when it comes to projects and acting. Cha Tae-hyun sunbae-nim sent this message about me to the writer of 2 Days 1 Night: ‘The situation is something that everyone will face. Even this situation will be of help to your acting later, so please keep an eye on yourself.’ I still feel uneasy even to this day. But then, with the growing confidence that I have in my own acting and the faith I receive from the viewers, I think that the image I show through the variety show won’t become a problem to me.
So, you are being active in dramas, stage plays, and even variety shows. What is the driving force that keeps you going, working continuously from one project to another?
This might seem immature, but I feel happy to have the fans who are supporting and looking over me. There’s also the joy in knowing different reactions with regard to the characters I portray. Of course, the delight in acting is still there, but having people who look at me with affection gives me more energy to continue working.
If you can summarize the year 2020 in one word…
It was a ‘gift-like year’. A huge gift that came to me without any warning. I’m thankful to be able to work alongside great people in various projects, such as Start-Up and 2 Days 1 Night. It was a joyful year because I realized again how many people were cheering beside me.
As for 2021, what kind of year are you planning to turn it into?
There’s nothing better than being able to give confidence in being ‘a reliable and trustworthy actor’. It’ll be even more meaningful to make people think that I can portray the character perfectly regardless of the success of the project itself and that I’m an actor people want to continue watching. Although I have this feeling of pressure, thinking, ‘What if I happen to be a disappointment to them?’ I don’t have any other way of reciprocating the love they have given me, except through acting. I want to show myself making an effort to do my best, confidently.