Seo Ji-hoon, a 25-year-old South Korean actor, debuted in 2016 in Signal, a drama show that consists of a gripping multilayered plot. Although Seo took on a minor role, he quickly gained recognition and was cast in Matching Boys Archery and The Legendary Shuttle, with the latter giving him his first nomination for KBS Drama Award. In the same year, he was cast in Solomon’s Perjury. A year later, the actor starred in School 2017 and Prison Playbook, a dark comedy series that can still be watched on Netflix in the UK. 

Despite the fact that Seo is often cast in supporting roles, his acting is solid and he always makes his characters feel alive and believable. 2018 was a considerably successful year for Seo; he was cast in My First Love, a fantasy romance drama, Misty, a mystery series starring Kim Nam-joo and Ji Jin-hee, and Tale of Fairy where he starred along Moon Chae-won and Yoon Hyun-min. 

I don’t usually get nervous in front of the camera, but I do feel I could have done more once a shoot is over. I want to keep at it so I give an optimal image. 

Image © Walt Disney Company Korea

In 2019, Seo was successful with casting in various dramas including one-act drama Drama Stage: Crumbling Friendship and historical series Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency. In the same year, the actor won Best New Actor at the KBS Drama Awards for his role of Park Do-gyum in Men are Men, and for the main role of Lee Jae-sun in Welcome

Seo’s talent was further acknowledged when he was chosen to portray Lee Ha-min alongside So Ju-yeon in 2022’s Season of Blossom, a subtle drama that tackles topics such as nostalgic first love, secret friendships and the desire to fit in. But the biggest show that has garnered Seo international recognition was his recent Disney+ drama Revenge of Others. The series itself, in a heart-rending way, depicts social issues such as school bullying and a broken justice system. 

It seems like 2023 will keep Seo very busy as he has signed onto even more dramas – including a major role in a mystery fantasy series, King of Saju (also known as King of Four Pillars of Destiny). We recently caught up with the actor and discussed his role of Seok Jae-Beom in Revenge of Others, his work with Shin Ye-eun, Lomon and Chae Sang-woo, and acting in general. 

As an actor, I’d love to play a manly role. I’ve played a student or a good guy many times, so I’d like to try playing a somewhat darker and sharper role.

Image © Management KOO

Looking at your acting career, one wonders how it all started. Was there a moment when you realised that acting was for you?

Seo Ji-hoon: There’s a Korean film called Bleak Night. As soon as I watched it, I was thinking, ‘I want to act like that’. So I enrolled in an acting academy right away and started learning how to act. I watch Bleak Night whenever I have time to remind myself of how I felt when I first started [as an actor].

You recently starred in Revenge of Others (3인칭 복수), a K-drama on Disney+, that gained popularity with a global audience. Revenge of Others is also a tense and gripping show filled with excellent acting. You portray the character of Seok Jae-beom, who wakes up from a six-month coma and has to resit the year as a senior in his high school. Your character also lost all of his memories. What was the preparation for this role and did you experience any difficulties while getting into character?

Seo Ji-hoon: First, I concentrated most on ‘understanding the character’. I spent a lot of time contemplating on how I was going to express having lost my memory when I had never actually experienced it. I was thinking, ‘If I don’t understand Jae-beom fully, then I’m going to lose not only my memory but also my direction’, so I think I focused on understanding my character. I kept asking myself, ‘Why would Jae-beom say this and why would he act this way?’ and I was convinced that there must have been a specific reason and motive. 

I especially agonised over how I was going to express the chaos he feels when fragments of the memory that he lost come back to him. Because it was something I had never experienced personally, I talked with the director a lot about the direction I should take. We researched it together and built up the character, but I don’t think I pulled it off perfectly, of course. I don’t think that everything was completely satisfactory, but it was a positively challenging experience for me as an actor. 

How much artistic freedom did you get while filming Revenge of Others? Did you follow the script from A to Z? How much were you allowed to improvise while shooting the drama?

Seo Ji-hoon: As I mentioned earlier, I talked a lot with the director on set about the character of Seok Jae-beom. For some scenes, we shot two versions from the individual perspectives of ‘Seok Jae-beom’ and ‘Seok Jae-joon’. The director gave me the freedom to try things out, so I think I tried to do lines that seemed the most natural for Seok Jae-beom to say and would make it believable for the audience. 

My colleagues are my family. They always support me in what I do and their existence is already a big help. I hope they’re always happy and healthy.

Image © Walt Disney Company Korea

In Revenge of Others, you starred alongside Shin Ye-eun, Lomon and Chae Sang-woo. What was that like for you? You all complemented each other so well in the show.

Seo Ji-hoon: Thanks to the actors that I worked with, I was able to always smile and laugh as I was shooting. Being of a similar age obviously made it easy for us to find common ground, so we exchanged opinions and adapted ourselves to each other as we worked on the project. I believe our bright energy came together to generate even better synergy. 

I worked with Shin Ye-eun on the drama series Welcome. So I was happy to see her again when we met for the table read. It was like how seeing one familiar face in a crowd of new people puts your mind at ease. We cheered each other on and gained strength from it. 

What is your acting process? How do you feel minutes before playing a character on camera?

Seo Ji-hoon: I try to become the actual character. I focus on what or how he would be thinking in a certain situation in order to make the character’s inner mind match my inner mind as much as possible. I don’t usually get nervous in front of the camera, but I do feel I could have done more once a shoot is over. I want to keep at it so I give an optimal image. 

Which of all the roles you’ve done thus far is your favourite?

Seo Ji-hoon: Out of all the projects I did, I like Banya (Midnight) the most. I’m originally from the city of Daegu and my character spoke with an accent [of that region], so I liked that I could be natural in the way I talked. The chemistry with the older guys I worked with was great, too. The ambience of the drama was also like the genre I usually like, so I remember being quite happy while I was filming it. 

I love travelling, too. Simply spending time in a new place with a new routine is refreshing for me.

Image © Management KOO

What do you think makes a performance more believable?

Seo Ji-hoon: I keep saying this but I personally think ‘understanding’ is important. I may not actually become that character, but if I truly understand the character and think like him, I feel I get as close to the character as I possibly can. I believe that a convincing performance comes out of confidence in the character.

We learnt that you recently signed up to be a part of an upcoming drama, King of Four Pillars of Destiny, that is based on a web novel, I Became a Genius Fortune Teller. Could you tell us more about the role of Geum Tae-young?

Seo Ji-hoon: The character of Geum Tae-young is a genius fortune teller who attempts to ‘change the fate’ of clients. I think this is a character who tries to change destiny, and his hope even in the face of dangerous situations will provide diverse things to see. You can look forward to it. 

Is there a particular role you would love to portray in the future?

Seo Ji-hoon: As an actor, I’d love to play a manly role. I’ve played a student or a good guy many times, so I’d like to try playing a somewhat darker and sharper role. This time, I was able to do some action scenes, although they were on the milder side, and I found it to be fun and cathartic in a different way. I think an action-packed detective story would be great, too. Actually, I’d love to take on the challenge of any kind of role. 

Also, I really want to do a movie because I haven’t done one yet. 

Looking at your current life, to what extent do you think your surroundings shaped you, creatively speaking, and in what way?

Seo Ji-hoon: I’ve actually lived a pretty ordinary life, so I don’t think I’ve been influenced that much by my circumstances. It’s just that I find acting fun and I really enjoy working with great colleagues, so I think that makes me work harder. I like to read web novels or webtoons, I think maybe that stimulates my imagination and creativity. 

I believe that a convincing performance comes out of confidence in the character.

Image © Walt Disney Company Korea

Has being an actor changed other aspects of your life? Who motivates you to work hard and stay on track?

Seo Ji-hoon: It makes me more aware and careful about everything and I developed a habit of comparing and applying all situations to acting. I sometimes take a multi-faceted approach with the premise of ‘what if?’. 

My colleagues are my family. They always support me in what I do and their existence is already a big help. I hope they’re always happy and healthy. And, of course, my fans motivate me. I’m so grateful that they like me and care about me unconditionally. I want to be more responsible and work hard to return the love I have received twofold. 

When you are not working, what do you do to get away from it all and relax?

Seo Ji-hoon: I’m a homebody so I prefer to rest at home than wander around. I relax and watch movies or TV dramas and spend leisurely time chatting with my friends from my hometown who visit me sometimes. I also play computer games to relieve stress. 

I love travelling, too. Simply spending time in a new place with a new routine is refreshing for me. But, because of COVID-19, I haven’t been able to go too far except for when I had to go somewhere to shoot something. When circumstances improve, I’d love to travel more to other countries. 

Apart from King of Four Pillars of Destiny, do you have any other projects coming in 2023?

Seo Ji-hoon: I think you’ll be able to continue to see me in a wide variety of works. Please keep an eye out for me [laughs]. 

Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler

Translator / Interpreter: Roc Lee

Edited by Maddie Armstrong

Featured Image © Walt Disney Company Korea

View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, and art, 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 / K-music, and Asian music in general, and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, music, and arts, worldwide.

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Asian Cinema, Film, Foreign Films, General, In Conversation with, Korean Cinema

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