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[Herald Interview] Joo Won pursues endless change

A-list actor says thriller ‘Fatal Intuition’ is his turning point

Actor Joo Won is one of the hottest rising stars in Korea today, having built an impressive repertoire crossing the stage, TV and the silver screen.

He is best known for his roles as a doctor suffering from autism in the drama “Good Doctor” and his current role across actress Kim Tae-hee in the drama “Yong-pal.”

The Korea Herald sat down with the 28-year-old actor for an interview at a restaurant in Seoul to talk about his acting goals and his first thriller film, “Fatal Intuition.”

Joo Won (Yonhap)
Joo Won (Yonhap)

Joo Won was acutely aware of the different responses he has received for his TV and film work.

“Why don‘t I do well with films? I choose them the same way I choose my (TV) dramas,” he said with a sheepish laugh.

The criteria for choosing his work, according to him, has been the opportunity for change.

“I’m an actor who loves change. It‘s been that way since I was in arts high school,” he said. “I never wanted to do the same thing twice. I wanted to play the perverted old man, rather than the main character.”

He said he found that goal harder to reach once he broke into the TV and film scene.

“I never had to play similar characters again in plays or musicals, but in (TV and film) there seems to be a lot that’s decided for you,” he said. “I chose works that a lot of people had rejected, or been afraid to do. I always evolved. And I decided that at (Korean age) 29, I would bring a big change to my image.”

That change came in the form of Jang-woo, the distraught orphaned young man who tries desperately to find an elusive killer that murdered his younger sister in “Fatal Intuition.” In the film Jang-woo becomes obsessive, stalking and chasing a suspect despite having no evidence to support his accusations, derided by police all the while.

Joo Won (Sim Entertainment)
Joo Won (Sim Entertainment)

Moviegoers may be surprised to see Joo Won, known for his clean-cut heartthrob image, change into a gruff, rough-and-tumble laborer in the film.

“It was a character that I needed. It was even better because I know that change should never feel too forced. The director needed my image. He said, rather than having a tough actor play Jang-woo, it would be better to have a nicer, perhaps weaker-looking actor play Jang-woo in order to play to the audience‘s emotions.”

“That’s what I loved about this character. It was a character that had something that was already a part of me.”

Joo Won knew that the shift in his image was a gamble, but he believed that a sincere performance would bring the skeptics around to his side.

“My fans seem to like it when I do things like this. They like me as an actor, not just me as a pretty face. If I stick to my principles, and perform well, my fans support me.”

Joo Won (Sim Entertainment)
Joo Won (Sim Entertainment)

For Joo Won, “Fatal Intuition” is one step towards an ultimate goal.

“In the end -- even though this may be far off -- I want to be an actor like those Hollywood actors who can completely change,” he said.

“An actor‘s job is to make audiences relate to a variety of characters ... I want to be an actor who is warm, who is trustworthy, who instills faith.”

He also acknowledged that in order to reach this goal, he would need to selectively focus on important works in the future, rather than doing multiple projects back-to-back as he has been doing so far.

“I realized that I need rest, whether it’s physical or mental. But as of right now, I still feel anxious if I‘m not working,” he said. “I think I’ll be more comfortable in a few years. I‘ll work hard right now and be more cautious about the works I choose a few years later. I’ll invest more time in choosing my works.”

By Won Ho-jung (
Korea Herald Youtube