EXCLUSIVE: Actor Kwak Dong Yeon talks about his charms, playing Jang Han Seo, his future projects & more

Kwak Dong Yeon as Jang Han Seo in Vincenzo Kwak Dong Yeon as Jang Han Seo in Vincenzo, courtesy of Studio Dragon
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One of the most beloved Korean actors in the Korean entertainment industry, Kwak Dong Yeon has been even more in the spotlight ever since he played Jang Han Seo in the mega-hit tvN drama 'Vincenzo'. Having been streamed via Netflix, Vincenzo's popularity has reached corners of the Earth never thought imaginable. Along with the same, an actor who has been receiving immeasurable love and support from millions of fans worldwide is, of course, actor Kwak Dong Yeon. 

Kwak Dong Yeon is versatility personified. Regardless of whether he's playing a protagonist, an antagonist, or even just a morally ambiguous individual, Kwak Dong Yeon pours his soul into his art. He has an inherent ability to make each character his very own, which in turn, makes them unforgettable, to say the least. There's no end to his talent just as there is no end to the love and affection fans feel for him. From musical theatre to films to dramas, Kwak Dong Yeon is a master of all his trades. After all, it isn't easy to embody a character as beautifully and heartily as Kwak Dong Yeon does and his ever-evolving character of Jang Han Seo in Vincenzo was just another glorious example of his limitless talent. What's even more exciting is that, Kwak Dong Yeon has come a very long way but he is only getting started.

I had the incredible opportunity to interview actor Kwak Dong Yeon and the conversation that followed was just as filled with light and laughter as it was with perfectly nuanced pieces of enlightening glimpses into who Kwak Dong Yeon is as a person and as an artist. Keep reading for a special message the actor had for his fans all over the world and especially in India!

First of all, fans have thoroughly enjoyed your character and have rooted for Jang Han Seo in the drama & Vincenzo and we are honoured to have the opportunity to interview you. What made you choose Vincenzo as a drama that you wanted to work on?

Kwak Dong Yeon: First of all, thank you for asking me for an interview to greet my fans, the Vincenzo viewers in India.

Thank you.

The reason why I decided to appear in "Vincenzo" was because of my love and trust for director Kim Hee-won and writer Park Jae-beom.

That's because I believed that working with a great writer and director would bring outstanding results.

You are one of the most talented and expressive actors in the industry with an innate ability to make viewers feel the deepest of emotions. Where do you draw inspiration from?

Kwak Dong Yeon: I get inspiration every day, every moment, everywhere. I’m always thinking about acting. I've met a lot of people, interacted with them, and experienced a lot of things in my life that I try to keep in mind. Such large and small experiences are accumulated and incorporated into acting in various ways. It's the same.

You have a beautifully soothing and powerful singing voice and your first musical "Something Rotten" truly showed how incredible you are as a musical theatre actor as well. If you could play any role in any musical in the world, which role would you choose and why? 

Kwak Dong Yeon: Those of you who have seen a lot of the characters I've played so far might expect this: I live a dramatic life and love the characters that are constantly changing in their lives. For that reason, if I have an opportunity, I would like to participate in the musical ‘Hedwig'.

You grew up being surrounded by cinema because of your parents. At what point did you think that you wanted to be an actor? 

Kwak Dong Yeon: The power of movies and dramas to us was amazing, and I felt freedom and achievement after I first encountered acting. Those moments made me want to become an actor more deeply.

With any role that you take on, you completely transform into the character whether it be that of protagonist or an antagonist. How do you prepare for such roles? 

Kwak Dong Yeon: Basically, I focus on my character. First, I analyze the person's life, their relationship with other people, and habits, and think about what kind of function the person should play in the work after the analysis.

Your character in 'Vincenzo', Jang Han Seo can be described as a complex multidimensional character that fans have come to love. When playing a role like this, does it affect you when you have to be in character for long amounts of time?

Kwak Dong Yeon: The character Jang Han-seo shows a big change on his own because he has a clear past history and the part of his life dealt with in Vincenzo is very dynamic. After playing this character, it seems like it takes some time for the character's emotions to disappear.

What was your favorite part about playing Jang Han Seo? Did you know all the twists beforehand? 

Kwak Dong Yeon: What I liked the most about Jang Han-seo was that he was not a cross-sectional figure. In particular, it was fun to act because Jang Han-seo shows various aspects of his relationship with each character. I knew that I would stop obeying my brother, but I didn't know the details of the process, so I was thrilled whenever I received the script.

Were there any funny behind the scenes moments on set that you can tell us about? 

Kwak Dong Yeon: Every day I filmed, it was a fun scene in the episode. Especially, I remember when Vincenzo and Jang Han Seo filmed with our hockey gear. I started filming in the evening and worked until the sun came up. I enjoyed the moment when Song Joong-ki and I cheered for each other while watching the morning sun.

Your charisma, both in real life and on-screen is incomparable and effortless. What do you think makes you so charming? 

Kwak Dong Yeon: While I have a lot of charms (laughs) I think the part that many people like these days is the duality with cute charms. You might have thought I was a cold and charismatic person because of the villain’s appearance in the early stages of "Vincenzo," but I think I'm also a fool, and I think you can find unexpected cuteness in my friendly appearance on SNS.

Besides 'Vincenzo', you were also part of tvN's 2021 Drama Stage alongside Ahn So Hee in 'Attention Seeker'. How was your experience playing another unusual character that is so unique? 

Kwak Dong Yeon: ‘Attention Seeker’ is a work that I personally feel very affectionate towards.  It reflects a lot of the current Korean society, so I acted more carefully. Wearing a mask and acting was fun, and the result was also good, so I enjoyed it.

Out of all the characters you have played so far, which character did you find the most difficult and memorable?

Kwak Dong Yeon: The character named Kim Byung-yeon in ‘Moonlight Drawn By Clouds’ was the most difficult andmemorable for me. At that time, I was younger than I am now, and I was less experienced, and I felt impatient because I wanted to do well. I still have a regret that I could have done better, so I think I want to play Kim Byung-yeon again.

Among all the incredible actors you have worked with in the industry, is there anyone you would like to work with again? 

Kwak Dong Yeon: I want to work with Song Joong Ki sunbae again who I worked with in 'Vincenzo'. I learned so many things from Song Joong-ki sunbae but it's regrettable that we mainly filmed together only in the second half.

You had a very special appearance in the 2020 drama 'It's Okay To Not Be OKay' which was so incredibly touching that fans couldn't help but shed tears over your portrayal of Kwon Gi Do. No one but you would have been able to pull it off this perfectly. What went through your mind when you were acting in those scenes? 

Kwak Dong Yeon: When I first saw the script, I instantly thought that this was mine, and I was greedy to do well. I was filled with affection for the role. I focused as much as I could on the situation and feelings that the person was in, and as the exact name of the disease was mentioned, I met with a specialist and asked for advice so as to be able to express it as if it were real.

Do you have a goal in mind that you strive for when you're acting? What would you say is your method or style of acting? 

 

Kwak Dong Yeon: I always think I want to fool the audience completely. Before the audience realizes that that is actor Kwak Dong-yeon, I want to first be seen as a character in the work. I tend to act spontaneously, using a lot of emotions and reactions that come out naturally at the moment of filming. 

Acting on stage as a theatre actor and acting in front of a camera are understandably quite different. Which one do you like better and why? 

 

Kwak Dong Yeon: Both forms of media are so attractive that it feels impossible to choose between the two. I want to act in various ways in various places.

If you could have any role in any drama or film in the world, which role would you want to play and why? 

Kwak Dong Yeon: I want to play a character between a boy and a young man who is growing up as an adult. This is because I want to express a part of human life that anyone can relate to in any country with Korean sentiment.

You must be incredibly busy these days especially with filming, promotions and more. How do you relax after a long day at work? Are there any K-Pop artists you listen to in your free time? 

Kwak Dong Yeon: I like music, so I listen to a variety of music regardless. I choose music that suits my mood and the weather and enjoy it in various ways.

Your fashion has become a hot topic lately and fans want to know, what is your personal fashion sense like? 

Kwak Dong Yeon: Normally, I absolutely prefer clothes that are active and comfortable. Because I am not very interested in or bothered about what I wear in everyday life, I usually wear black clothes and wide pants.

Do you have any resolutions for 2021 that you're personally trying to fulfil? 

Kwak Dong Yeon: I want to be healthy as I am for the rest of 2021, and I want to work on as many different projects as possible. Also, I want to work on a lot of interesting projects for the fans who are waiting.

Do you have any plans for future projects and can you tell us a little bit about them? 

Kwak Dong Yeon: I'm filming a movie called '6/45' (pronounced: Yook Sa Oh). The movie "Yook Sa Oh" is a comedy film that takes place when a South Korean soldier who accidentally won a lottery prize of 5.7 billion won loses the lottery and it gets picked up by a North Korean soldier. I think it will be a movie where everyone can laugh and enjoy themselves comfortably in difficult times.

You've done both historical dramas and modern day dramas and you look dashing in both your avatars. Which one do you like better? The sageuk drama look or the modern look? Do you prefer acting in modern dramas over historical dramas? 

Kwak Dong Yeon: I think it's fun to spend time with clothes and hairstyles that we don’t usually wear now when doing historical dramas. As many people all over the world know, Korean traditional historical clothes and atmosphere are very attractive, so I think recreating them is very pride-worthy and fun. However, when acting, it is a little more familiar and comfortable to play a character in the present age in which I live.

Finally, do you have anything you want to say to all your fans who love and adore you here in India? 

Kwak Dong Yeon: For me, India is one of the countries I have really wanted to travel to since I was young. I'm so moved by the fans who love my work and support me from far away countries, and I hope there will be a time when I can meet them in person and talk to them. I hope you stay healthy until then!

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What is your favourite work by Kwak Dong Yeon? Share your thoughts with Pinkvilla in the comments section down below!

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