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Actor Lee Kwang-soo faces new challenge in career

Korean actor Lee Kwang-soo has had a busy year. Not only has he been on the popular variety show “Running Man,” which propelled him to stardom several years ago, the former model has demonstrated an ability to act in multiple genres from sitcoms to historical dramas.

In the last few months alone, he has played an aspiring cartoonist in the web series-turned-TV sitcom “Sound of Your Heart,” a B-list actor in the tvN series “Entourage,” and the protagonist‘s best friend in the period drama “Hwarang.”

His pan-Asia popularity also continues as the star of SBS TV’s “Running Man,” which he joined in 2010. Thanks to the popularity of the show in China and much of Southeast Asia, he has been called “Prince of Asia” by his fans and currently appears in six different commercials in China.

But the flurry of activity has posed a dilemma for the 31-year-old actor as well.

His image on “Running Man” as the funny guy who is unafraid to take on ridiculous challenges is so strong that producers have cast him in roles with a similar character in dramas.

On the one hand, this has helped him further raise his profile, but on the other, it has made it harder for him to break out of his typecast. We see him as the “guy next door,” who is funny and has a good heart, but in his case, is also awkward with unconventional looks and a lanky frame, at 190 centimeters tall.

Actor Lee Kwang-soo waves at a fan meeting held in Yeouido, Seoul, on Dec. 2. (Yonhap)
Actor Lee Kwang-soo waves at a fan meeting held in Yeouido, Seoul, on Dec. 2. (Yonhap)

“All three dramas were pre-filmed, so we didn‘t know when they would air. Somehow they all ended up airing around the same time, which kind of baffled us, too,” said Lee Jin-sung, CEO of the actor’s management agency KINGKONG Entertainment.

In another unexpected development, the cast and producers of “Running Man” agreed last week to end the show in February after a casting controversy triggered backlash from viewers. The decision was no small matter to the actor because as the CEO put it, the Lee Kwang-soo we know today was “made by” the hit program.

“We‘re sad to see this happen because ‘Running Man’ was so well loved,” the CEO said. “But for (Lee’s) acting career, we‘ve been thinking about when would be a good time to leave the show.”

He added: “Although it’s true that Lee gets a lot of offers for comical roles, he‘s recently been getting some offers for other characters based on the acting abilities he has demonstrated over the years.”

For now, the actor plans to finish the remaining episodes of “Running Man” and a hold a series of fan meets across Asia early next year. (Yonhap)