On Friday 20th October 2017, I had the pleasure of meeting Korean actor Lee Je Hoon, who has stolen many hearts on both the small screen and of course, the silver screen. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin!
I’ll set the scene, it was a warm Autumn day, mid-afternoon – 3 pm to be exact. As I sat waiting in the living room of a suite of the Corinthian hotel (very posh and snazzy, I must say), I began to feel both nervous and excited at the same time.
Lee Je Hoon arrived and greeted us with a hello, a bow and sweet smile. He was dressed very smartly in a fitted, navy-blue suit, with an artsy neck tie. He looked sharp!
inSEOULuble: How was your flight?
Lee Je Hoon: It’s my first time in London so I was very excited and I am very excited, and I’ve been looking around a bit so I don’t feel that tired.
inSEOULuble: The role of Park Yeol 박열differs from the characters you’ve portrayed before in dramas and your other movies, what was the biggest challenge for you?
Lee Je Hoon: So I’m playing an actual character in history. And it takes place during a very specific period – during the Japanese occupation. And so there were many, many Koreans who were abused and oppressed, and so in that kind of situation this character goes to Japan, he goes to Tokyo. And he stands up against Japan for the independence of Korea. And by doing so, by standing up against the Japanese government, I felt that what he’s trying to do is to become someone who can be a symbol of hope to the Korean people. And because that role was so important I felt that it was very, very important that we, not just myself, but we as a team did not distort any of the historical facts; that we don’t embellish on anything and we tried to keep it very accurate. So to leave very little room for misinterpretation of our intentions, and actually of what happened. And so I wanted the audience (whether they be Koreans or non-Koreans) who know or don’t know about the history, they would be able to learn about what actually happened; and see things as they really happened. And because I had to keep that in mind the entire time I tried to reflect that in the way I was thinking inside, the subtle nuances and differences in my expressions and even my physical gestures. I tried to keep that in mind all the time. And so I’ve constantly asked myself
“Is this right?”
“Am I Doing the right thing?”
“Is this wrong?”
“What am I doing now?”
“Is my line right?”
“Is my gesture or my movements right?”
So I kept checking on myself.
inSEOULuble: Will there be a second season of “Signal” 시그널?
Lee Je Hoon:I’m looking forward to it. I would love to see it happen, I would love to do it. But in order for that to happen, it’s not totally up to me of course. The writer has to write, the director has to be ready and then the three other characters/actors they also have to take part. And I would love to see everybody back again, the same as season 1, so we can continue. So I just want to say I’m ready. I’m ready!
inSEOULuble: Your movie “I Can Speak” was released in September. Did you study English for the lines, or did you just memorise them?
Lee Je Hoon: I didn’t study English for the role, but I studied my lines – very studious. And I really don’t speak English well, but because the character that I played was supposed to be someone who speaks English well and he has to teach this grandmother, this old lady; so I tried to practice as much as I could so that I could sound close to a native speaker. And so I had a tutor who helped me with that, and the tutor had lived in Brooklyn before, so I think the English that I picked up from my tutor, it has a bit of an East coast kind of accent, a little bit. Because obviously there are many different accents in the U.S So I think that might be noticeable.
inSEOULuble: Does it shock you that K-Dramas and Korean movies and Hallyu as a whole are very popular in the UK?
LJH: I didn’t know it was popular here. How popular is it?
inSEOUL: K-Pop, K-Movies, and K-Drama are very, very popular.
inSEOUL: Yeah! There are K-Pop concerts, Korean festivals and we have the Korean Cultural Centre just across the road. Yes, Hallyu is very popular – you’re also very popular.
inSEOUL: Yes! Your movie screening is sold out tonight!
LJH:I’ll try to come back with another great film to help promote Korean culture. I love traveling and London is like “thee” city that I really wanted to go to the most, and it’s one of the ones that I really wanted to come to, and I finally have. And so this is a great opportunity for me, and I think what’s going to be more important is what’s going to happen now. Like what will I do in the future? Now that I’ve been here and now that I know what you told me, I will try and come back with a film that’s really good.
inSEOUL: Why did you want to come to London so much?
LJH: When I travel, it’s like traveling through the movies that I watched. I also like New York because I’ve seen lots of films that feature New York; but London especially has been in a lot of films that I’ve watched and so it was very special for me, a very special place for me to visit. Like today after the breakfast event that I had at the Electric cinema, I had time to go outside and walk around a bit and I actually went to the bookstore that’s featured in “Notting Hill.” And then on the way back, we stopped at a tailor shop they made for “Kingsman”, the sequel. So I took a picture in front of that, then Ialso went and found MI6 and used it as a backdrop for another picture. Craig David.
inSEOUL: Daniel Craig.
LJH:Yeah! So by doing that, by traveling to all these places that I saw in movies I feel like I’m in that movie as well. And so that’s why I really, really wanted to come.
inSEOUL: What was your experience like in 3 meals a day? Will you appear in any more variety shows in the future?
LJH: Usually when I do a reality show like that it’s to help promote the film that I just worked on or a TV series that I’m in. But last year I received an award at the tvN TV award ceremony and the presenter of the award was Na Young-Seok 나영석 who is the producer of all these famous shows. So we were talking backstage and I was telling him that I’m a huge fan of his programs and I love his programs. And I was telling him that I watch 3 meals a day, I also love all the programs that he does about traveling, and he said “well would you be interested in coming on one of the shows?” and I said, “sure anytime, just give me a call.” So he did, and I went, and I really enjoyed it and if by me being on the show it gives enjoyment to the viewers then that’s great! So if I get another opportunity I would love to do it again, and I think I probably won’t realistically I won’t be able to go on shows like that, a lot. But, if I do get another opportunity and people like to see me, then, of course, I would love to go. I think I’ve been on most of them (reality shows), except for “2 Days and 1 Night” – I haven’t been on that one yet.
inSEOUL: Who are your favourite western artists?
LJH: Coldplay had a concert in Korea this year so I went, and I screamed and shouted my head off. I loved it, I sang along. And I love lots of UK musicians like Ed Sheeran and the reason I mentioned Craig David earlier, is because I like his music too. And they also influence me, and so now that I’m actually in the UK, in England, I’m planning to go to galleries and also watch as many musicals as I can. Because from what I know, there are a lot of great musicals playing in the West End; but I’m just sad that I won’t be able to watch all of them.
inSEOUL: Which musical do you want to see the most?
inSEOUL: You should see Motown the Musical that’s really good.
LJH: Motown the Musical? Oh! On Sunday a lot of them are not playing, but I heard that Matilda and The Lion King will be playing so I’m going to check them out. And if possible, I’d like to watch a Premier League game of course.
inSEOUL: Who do you support?
LJH: I don’t have a favourite team, but I heard that Tottenham is playing Liverpool on Sunday, so I’ll be looking into it. I have to make the most of my time. I’d also like to visit the Tate Modern.
inSEOUL: Also, you should visit the V&A museum, that’s really good. In Kensington, really good.
LJH: Victoria Museum?
Translator: The Victoria and Albert Museum
inSEOUL: So you’re wearing a suit today and your tie stands out a lot. Was this selected by you or your stylist?
LJH: Well, my stylist and I, we discussed it and we said well we’re in the UK, we’re in London so let’s go with something that’s from here. This is Vivian Westwood and I’ll be wearing Burberry later.
Who is your favourite actor/actress that you’ve worked with?
LJH:The two recent films that I worked on
In the “Anarchist From Colony” the actress who played my partner Choi Hee Seo 최희서, we had very good chemistry when we were working together, and also my senior actress in “I Can Speak”, Na Moon-Hee 나문희, she played the part of Ok-Boon.
They were both wonderful to work with because I didn’t have to try and express myself unnecessarily or more, they would just be very patient with me, they would listen very carefully- they were very attentive. And they knew just by looking at me or looking into my eyes what I was trying to do and they acted accordingly. So they made me feel very comfortable and it was easy to work with them; so it just happens that they’re both actresses, both female, but lately that’s who I’ve felt the most comfortable with.
Translator: So you don’t like male actors?
*We then laughed.*
inSEOUL: You arrived yesterday, have you managed to have any traditional British food? The UK is very multicultural, so you’ll probably see a lot of different types of food that isn’t necessarily “British”. What have you eaten since you’ve been here?
Translator: He had a British breakfast this morning.
LJH:I had an English breakfast, a proper English breakfast with haggis (black pudding), and then I plan to get some really good fish and chips, and I heard that Indian curry is really good here. I’m gonna go check that out. I also want to check out the franchise restaurants like “Pret A Manger” and possibly “EAT”. I’d like to try local foods that well, the locals really eat.
inSEOUL: Maybe you should try Nandos?
LJH: For curry?
inSEOUL: Oh no, not for curry. Just to be”like a local.” It’s Portuguese; they have chicken, fries, and spicy rice. It’s really “British” because almost everyone eats it.
LJH: And I’d like to try afternoon tea.
We had to end the interview here, as our time was up. But what I must say is that Lee Je Hoon is extremely humble, kind and so genuine. He took his time to really answer my questions and the other participants from other websites. He gave deeply detailed answers and showed so much articulacy. There’s a lot more to him than what meets the eye. I didn’t feel starstruck at all, as he makes you feel so relaxed and calm. That’s the effect his voice, persona, and aura/ambiance has on you! He is very passionate about acting, it’s his craft, and you can see that from the way he talks about his roles.
He was kind enough to take pictures and selfies with us. Such a sweet guy, and somewhat shy. But he warmed up to us in an instant, and we shared some laughs with him. His interest in London and the fact he went to movie locations is so cute!
What surprised me was that he wasn’t aware of how popular he was? Or how popular Korean culture and the Hallyu wave is.
I’m looking forward to seeing what movies and dramas he stars in next!
Many Thanks to the London East Asia Film Festival and Lee Je Hoon!
Photo Credit: London East Asia Film Festival