Originating from South Korea, Sung Hoon had always dreamed of being an athlete. He was a promising swimmer, but his career abruptly ended due to a spinal injury. Nevertheless, he managed to move on from professional swimming to a more unexpected career: acting.
Sung Hoon debuted in 2009 with White Brown’s Because I Love You. However, it was in 2011 when he broke into stardom with New Tales of Gisaeng, a supernatural romantic drama, which also earned him a New Star Award at the SBS Drama Awards (an award ceremony presented annually by Seoul Broadcasting System for excellent performances in Korean dramas aired on its network).
Over the years, Sung Hoon starred in 14 television series, including a very successful Netflix drama called Love (ft. Marriage and Divorce) and Woori the Virgin, alongside Im Soo-hyang. In addition, the actor has five web series and two feature films under his belt. He has won several Asian Artist Awards, including Best Acting (2021), KBS Drama Awards for Best New Actor (2016 – Five Enough) and MBC Entertainment Awards (2018/2019/2020) for I Live Alone (variety show). In all honesty, it is hard to count all of the awards as there are so many.
Apart from films and K-dramas, South Korea is well-known for its outstanding and entertaining variety shows such as Running Man, I Live Alone, Busted, New Journey to the West and New World, just to name a few. Sung Hoon appeared in I Live Alone, which showed a different side of the actor. As it is difficult to know actors’ personalities through television series or films, variety shows have their own ways of showing a little bit of the artists’ personas. While participating in I Live Alone, Sung Hoon revealed his humorous side.
Outside of acting, Sung Hoon also does modelling. Although you can find him in magazines, TV ads, and on a runway, he prefers to act and spend his time with his beloved dog whenever his schedule allows him to do so. We recently sat down with the actor for a quick chat about his career, acting process, and the things he does in his free time.
What attracted you to begin a career as an actor?
I’ve been an athlete ever since I was young and I was looking for something more active than working at a desk job. I was drawn to TV dramas and films which I had been watching and admiring since I was a kid and I chose to become an actor because of that.
Your latest TV drama, 우리는 오늘부터 Woori the Virgin, is based on the American series Jane the Virgin, and has gained a decent following in the UK. You starred alongside Shin Dong-wook and Im Soo-hyang. I was wondering, as you really complemented each other on the small screen, what was your experience while working with Im Soo-hyang during the shooting?
I’ve worked with her several times and we’ve known each other for a long time, so I think it was definitely much easier to work with her.
Back in 2021, you starred in a Netflix show, 결혼작사 이혼작곡 Love (ft. Marriage and Divorce), that had 3 seasons. The series is a complex portrayal of people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who go through a difficult time while being married. You portrayed Pan Sa-hyun in season 1 and 2, what was the preparation process like for this particular role?
I think I kept going over my lines and then pictured things in my head as I was preparing. What I imagined in advance was always different from the actual conditions on set, so I had to do several things like plan out my movements and positions. A few minutes before filming started, I tried to get into character by applying certain feelings, characteristics, and situations.
I [also] felt that the character of Pan Sa-hyun in Love (ft. Marriage and Divorce) got married on a whim rather than because of his social status or age, which I interpreted as the character being immature when it comes to feelings of love, so I wanted to portray that.
What is your acting process? How do you feel minutes prior to playing a character on camera?
I wouldn’t say I have a special method or anything. I just keep going over the script and imagine the situations in my mind. If there are similar incidents in real life, I try to get vicarious experience by listening to the experiences of others or experiencing it for myself. Occupations and skills would be some examples.
How do you keep plot twists and other changes in television shows under wraps until they air?
Talking prematurely about a project that I haven’t done yet doesn’t give me positive vibes, so I keep quiet and don’t talk to anyone.
Which of all the roles you’ve done thus far is your favourite?
I’m very fond Sangmin, a golfer, which is a character I played in the KBS TV drama Five Enough.
What do you think makes a performance more believable?
I think when actors trust and understand what the directors are trying to achieve and act accordingly, the audience is able to focus on the situation within the drama and become even more engaged.
You are no stranger to reality shows, I truly enjoy watching you in I Live Alone. The show itself demonstrates a different side of you – you’re simply such a fun person. What attracted you to participate in reality shows such as I Live Alone?
I introduced myself candidly and acted naturally. This was very different from how I appeared in dramas, so I think viewers found it refreshing and liked it.
Is there a particular role you would love to portray in the future?
I don’t think I’ve played a character who expresses subtle or minor things in terms of emotions, so I’d really like to try that.
There are many actors who have been venturing into directorial or screenwriting projects; do you feel you also want to try your hand at something besides acting?
I’ve never considered doing anything else. I think I’ll stick to what I’m doing now for the time being, but you never know.
Looking at your current life, to what extent do you think your surroundings shaped you, creatively speaking, and in what way?
So far, I don’t think my surroundings were especially conducive to me continuing my career as an actor. Of course, I loved meeting great people and discussing different projects, but I think that deciding to venture into an acting career was up to me alone.
Has being an actor and a model changed other aspects of your life? Who motivates you to work hard and stay on track?
I was lucky to have been given the opportunity to model, but I wouldn’t say it brought major changes to my life since I’m not a professional model. But I can say my experiences have made it possible for me to understand someone whose values and tendencies are different from mine. As for motivation, I think the past me who was struggling keeps the future me going.
When you are not working, what do you do to get away from it all and relax?
I work out and spend time with my dog and, recently, I’ve been going sky diving.
What are your upcoming plans? Are there any other projects that you have planned for the future?
I don’t have specific plans yet, but maybe something might be confirmed by the time this interview comes out or maybe not. Either way, I’ll continue to learn different things and be ready for what may come my way.
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
Translated by Roc Lee
View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, arts, and fashion, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, arts, and fashion, worldwide.