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[Herald Interview] Yeong-shin has own story to tell in ‘Kingdom’

Actor Kim Sung-kyu talks about second season of Netflix series

Kim Sung-kyu in
Kim Sung-kyu in "Kingdom" Season 2 (Netflix)

Just more than a week after global streaming giant Netflix released the second season of its original series “Kingdom,” actor Kim Sung-kyu sat down to talk about the smash-hit zombie show, his character Yeong-shin and the possibility of another batch of episodes to come.

Yeong-shin is a common-class fighter in the Joseon era who joins Crown Prince Lee Chang and his team of men to save the kingdom that has been invaded by a sudden outbreak of a zombie plague.

“He seems like a lonely character who doesn’t develop relationships with other protagonists in the drama, but in the second season, he changes a little, becoming less cynical of the people in power, and especially gains more faith in Prince Lee Chang,” Kim said during a joint interview conducted online on Monday.

Although his role may not be as significant as Ju Ji-hoon’s Prince Lee Chang or Ryu Seung-ryong’s Minister Jo Hak-joo in unraveling the story, Kim says Yeong-shin is a key player in the show who may have more stories to tell.

“Not all the untold stories of Yeong-shin are revealed in the second season, but I tried to show some of the nuances through the actions and the passing conversations with other characters,” he said.

Kim Sung-kyu (Netflix)
Kim Sung-kyu (Netflix)

In the first season of the series, Yeong-shin unintentionally sped up the spread of the zombie disease by feeding infected flesh to a group of impoverished, sick people. 

“Although Yeong-shin is portrayed as a figure who would do anything to achieve his personal vengeance, he tries to save lives and help the starving people. That’s why in the second season -- although he doesn’t put it into words -- he becomes more desperate to take responsibility and help Chang thwart the disease. He throws himself into the war, not for the sake of his own life, but to save others.”

With the second season yet again ending with still more mysteries and questions to be answered, the writer has hinted at another follow-up in season two’s preview press conference and other interviews with local media outlets, hinting more at what role Yeong-shin will have to play in coming episodes.

“I’ve seen the reports. Although I’m very satisfied with how the second season has turned out, as Yeong-shin is a commoner whose family had been sacrificed in the past, I think he’ll also have much to tell. As a cast member and viewer of the show, Yeong-shin seems like a realistic and relatable character, and I have high hopes for the third season.”

Season two picked up exactly where the previous season left off, as the protagonists realize that zombies could move in the broad daylight with the falling temperature, as the sun was not what stopped the zombies from running, but the warmth.

This means more running, more fighting and more action.

“Whereas I mostly ran alone in the first season, the characters all ran together in the second season,” Kim said. “For the actions, I tried to make them seem more desperate and raw, rather than polished and showy. Coming from my small and average physique, I had to maximize my actions and put in all the energy to make them seem dynamic.”

Kim, with his distinctively sharp face with strong lines that made him the perfect match for Yeong-shin in “Kingdom,” has made most of his acting career in the crime and action genres.

While officially kicking off his acting career in small theaters around 2011, Kim made himself known through a supporting role in 2017 film “The Outlaws.” Becoming popular among the general audience with season one of “Kingdom,” he took on his first lead role in 2019 as the serial killer in thriller “The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil.”

Kim also stars as a depressed yet talented classical pianist in TV romance drama “A Piece of Your Mind,” currently airing on tvN.

By Choi Ji-won (