Lee Hyun-woo may be a 16-year-old teenage boy barely entering the fifth year of his acting career but he has quietly and steadily been gaining experience to already hold over a dozen film and drama roles under his belt.
And his efforts have started to pay off since last month, with his prime time KBS TV series "Master of Study" scoring the highest viewership ratings amongst all televised Monday and Tuesday shows.
Lee is gaining increasing popularity as one of the main cast members, also including popular actors Yoo Seung-ho and Ko Ah-seong, in "Master of Study" about a determined lawyer who offers to teach five rebellious students and get them accepted into the country's most prestigious college.
10Asia talked to Lee to ask about his acting career and future ambitions.Edit
10: Before you mentioned how people don't recognize you. They all do now, right?
- Lee Hyun-woo (Lee): Not as much in everyday life yet... And I don’t really know how it'll be outside since I’m always on set. But my fans come to see me on set and they cheer me on and give me presents which feels weird in a good way... how a single drama could bring such change.
10: You must be exhausted from the busy shooting schedule. Do you still enjoy the acting itself though?
- Lee: Yes because I haven't been given that many lead roles besides being a child actor. And it's a lot of fun on set because we joke around and play pranks on each other. Bong-goo, who is actually in college right now, is like our older brother and the one who livens up the atmosphere on set. He is completely different from the character he plays in "Master of Study". There were several people who even cried because they're sad that there's only a week of shooting left.
10: I remember hearing that you're more athletic than your co-star Yoo Seung-ho. Have you guys worked out together before?
- Lee: We haven't but I don't know... I think maybe Seung-ho might be better.
10: Well, there was a scene from the show where you two race.
- Lee: Oh, yes, something happened when we shot that. Haha. You know how he acts cheap and takes off first, right? Well I was going to turn the game around and win by waving my arms like this. But he was just too fast. I couldn't take him over! We shot that scene twice and I really had to run as best I could.
10: I think the public have become curious about you than the character you play in the drama. And I think that's why they want more from you, such as meeting with your fans.
- Lee: Oh, like a real fan meeting? I would like to hold one. Since I've never had one before, I'm curious what it'll be like! I think I'd be nervous yet it would be fun? Probably not with a big crowd though because then I won't be able to pay attention to everything that's going on. Maybe just 10 maximum? And then I'd want to prepare a lot for them.
10: Would you plan on dancing and singing at the fan meeting too?
- Lee: Maybe, when I become an adult. (laugh) I'm not the best singer in the world.
10: But is there any song you enjoy listening to? You mentioned before that you like listening to Big Bang's songs.
- Lee: I've been listening to ballad songs lately... pretty much all kinds of music.
10: In a previous interview, you said you sort of want to be a singer too but that dancing and singing is difficult. Do you still feel that way? Your character Hong Chan-doo from "Study" wants to be a singer too.
- Lee: I don't really know. [Shakes head] I don't know what the future holds for me as of yet but for now I want to focus on my acting.
10: Does that mean you have accepted acting as your destiny?
- Lee: At the moment, yes.
10: But it wasn't your decision to start acting in the first place. If that's true, why are you still acting?
- Lee: I still don't have the answer for that. I've somehow ended up where I am right now but I still think a lot -- whether if this is something I'll see to the end or if I'll be able to pursue acting even when I'm an adult. But I know it's all up to me. I'll be able to lead on a life as an actor if I keep trying hard. And at the same time, I sort of feel like it's too late for me to try and find something completely different to do when I'm already 16. So I'm acting because it's fun but also because I'm scared I might not be good at anything else.
Q: You've basically started working already and can't go to school sometimes because of shoots. Do you get stressed about leading a life different from that of your friends?
- Lee: Not too much, but I wish I could hang out with my friends or rest more. I haven't been able to go to school once since shooting for "Master of Study" started. It was winter vacation before, then school started again and then just went into spring break again. I had fun at school and I am disappointed that I can't go. But I have my advantages and disadvantages and my friends have theirs, so I shouldn't be envious of the good things that my friends have so I just accept it and move on.
Q: If you were accepted into Cheonha University, what would you like to major in?
- Lee: Me? I would.. um.. not natural sciences but I am not the liberal arts type person either. I want to do something like sports... I would rather major in music or art rather than be a theater and acting major.
Q: The reason I asked the above question is because I am curious about the many dreams that 18-year-old Hyun-woo might have -- you have a lot of potential in many areas outside acting too.
- Lee: I thought a lot about whether I would apply to the department of theater and acting or to a different department. But I had pursued acting and then realized one day that I'm already 18 and haven't had much time to do anything else. So it's highly likely that I would major in theater and acting but I don't know yet. If I learn to do something else that I am interested in, I might head into that direction. I like to learn how to do new things so if what I learned suits me, I could choose that path or I could show that through my acting.
Q: So you are saying that you could broaden your scope of acting by learning and knowing many different things. Then when you are establishing the character for a role, do you take note of someone else's acting or do you bring out a certain side to you from within yourself?
- Lee: I actually have not seen "Dragon Zakura", which is the original piece for "Master of Study". If I had seen the actor who played the character of Hong Chan-doo from it, my acting might have been different. But I put on my own style of acting in this drama and have with other ones as well.
Q: The maturity we see in your character from KBS TV series "The Great King Sejong" and the charm of Chan-doo from "Master of Study" are very different -- hard to say they came from a single person, to be honest.
- Lee: "The Great King Sejong" was my first traditional drama and I did not know anything back then, really. So the director helped me a lot by coaching me one-on-one. I think I was able to pull off roles in other traditional dramas afterwards, thanks to that experience. When I do traditional dramas, I do the kind of acting that is necessary for that. There is such a thing as different types of acting for different genres.
Q: Does having to play the younger version of a certain character, like you did in "The Great King Sejong", ever limit your acting as you mature?
- Lee: I chose to play that role because I liked the part and felt that it suited me, not because I was a child and had to play child roles. And I played the younger years of that character because I was young. It's not like I could play the part of my senior Kim Sang-kyung. Hahahaha.
Q: Then did you yourself create the charm Chan-doo has? I feel like you really know what viewers want from this character when I see scenes like when you are doing psychokinesis.
- Lee: The director pretty much leaves it up to us to do our stuff rather than tell us how to do something, so I like that very much. For example, the facial expression I put on when I am sending psychokinesis to Seung-ho, I created that myself with Chan-ho on the set.
Q: Your character is so charming, but do you ever feel like you want to play someone with a completely different personality like Baek-hyun?
- Lee: Yes, I have tried his lines when I was reading the script. Hehe. When you are reading through the script, half of it is mine the other half is Baek-hyun's. And at one point on, my eyes would wander to Baek-hyun's lines. It feels different than when I am acting out Chan-doo, but then I suddenly think, "Oh, let's just work hard on my part".
Q: When you get older, do you have the ambition to show a different side to you, beyond the cute and pretty image that you have now?
- Lee: Yes, I want to play the role of a bad boy! Hehe. You know, a bad guy but who looks very cool yet is likeable.
- Lee: Yes, that would be the best! He is very cool.
- Reporter : Wee Geun-woo email@example.com
- Photographer : Chae ki-won firstname.lastname@example.org
- Editor : Jessica Kim email@example.com, Lee Ji-Hye firstname.lastname@example.org
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