Jang Keun-suk’s meteoric rise to stardom has been swift and marked by a string of rom-com’s that could pigeonhole him as a singing-acting double threat ideal for lighthearted fare.
After gaining a huge overseas fandom as an arrogant boy band leader in SBS’ “He’s Beautiful!” in 2009, the 24-year-old went on to sing and romance his way through “Marry Me, Mary!” and “You’re My Pet.”
But Jang is determined to break out of what might be becoming a pattern.
“The rom-com genre is fun but I think this drama might give me a chance to mature,” Jang said at the press conference for his latest series, “Loverain,” in Seoul, Thursday.
“Doing a traditional drama like this will definitely give me a chance to grow.”
“I thought this might be a challenge for me as an actor,” he said, referring to his current double stint in “Loverain” as both an art student in the 1970s and as his doppelganger son in the 21st century.
In fact, Jang seems to be enjoying the novelty of getting to play two characters in one show.
Hallyu stars Jang Keun-suk (right) and Girls’ Generation member Yoona attend a press conference for KBS’ “Loverain” at Lotte Hotel Seoul in Sogong-dong, Seoul, Thursday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
“I think there is a trend of rom-coms with a fast-moving plot and characters with strong personalities,” said Jang, in essence listing a formula that he has tackled before.
For Jang, “Loverain” affords him the best of both worlds: the slow-moving, melodramatic pace of a 1970s romance contrasted against what he refers to as the full throttle speed of a “sports car” in a modern day rom-com.
“Filming the first four episodes, which are set in the ‘70s, felt like a slow stroll,” he said. “It was a new experience.”
New may be a rarity for Jang.
Having started off his career as a model at the age of 5 before making his small screen debut at 10, Jang has spent most of his childhood and teenage years in the public eye and has had over a decade to accumulate a great deal of acting experience.
Early on he amassed know-how in period pieces ― recall his memorable stint in KBS’ “Hwangjini”― and has even tackled the thriller genre in “The Case of Itaewon Homicide.”
In fact, he has become such a star in his own right that it came as no surprise when hoards of fans lined up outside the door where the press event was taking place Thursday.
Rather than shrink from the limelight, Jang seems to embrace his celebrity status, staying on top of SNS trends, keeping his fans updated on his day-to-day life with Twitter. The danger, of course, with being a major media persona is that it could overshadow work as a bonafide actor.
Now that Jang has become such a big star, is he worried that his celebrity persona will diminish the believability of his characters?
“I think that is my homework,” Jang explained how he felt this was a challenge he must continue to tackle as his fame grows.
“But what is most important is that I started out as an actor before I became a star,” he stressed how he has not lost sight of his thespian roots. “When filming ‘Loverain,’ I put everything else aside and focused on the character.”
“Jang is really a pro,” said co-star and Girls’ Generation member Yoona. “When they call ‘cue’ he slips right into character and when he’s done with the scene he slips right out of character again.”
Jang’s maturity as an actor seems to coincide with work that could further grow his status in the hallyu firmament.
Not only is Jang starring opposite fellow hallyu sensation Yoona, “Loverain” is the collaborative work of the writing-directing duo behind the drama that pretty much started the Korean Wave, “Winter Sonata.”
“Winter Sonata” director Yoon Suk-ho and scriptwriter Oh Su-yeon are teaming up again to spin out a romantic saga that will span four decades.
“We work well together so the story came out strong,” said Yoon.
“Loverain” starts airing March 26, Monday and Tuesday nights at 9:55 p.m. on KBS 2 TV.
By Jean Oh (firstname.lastname@example.org