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[Herald Interview] Lee Dong-hwi adds realism to unlikely scenario

Actor Lee Dong-hwi (Photo courtesy of Ahn Sung-jin)
Actor Lee Dong-hwi (Photo courtesy of Ahn Sung-jin)

Since his debut in 2013, actor Lee Dong-hwi has played indispensable roles in TV dramas and films, including 2015 TVN series “Reply 1988” and 2019 comedy film “Extreme Job."

From his short cameo appearance in director Hirokazu Koreeda’s “Broker” to Disney+ hit series “Big Bet,” Lee has impressed audiences with his witty but down-to-earth acting.

In director Hyung Seul-woo’s feature film debut, “Maybe We Broke Up,” Lee plays Jun-ho, a man in this mid-30s who lives off his girlfriend Ah-young (Jung Eun-chae) while he prepares for the civil service exam.

Jun-ho is depicted as an idle, good-for-nothing person while Ah-young is an assiduous young woman, a once promising artist who now works as a real estate agent. The two have been in a relationship since their university days and now live together.

“To be honest, Jun-ho is a character who doesn’t know how fortunate he is. I could not understand why he is like that, at first. But I’m sure that Jun-ho has changed into such a person, facing tough reality and unclear future. I have some friends around me who have changed like that, I guess they are still learning about life,” Lee told reporters during an interview held in Samcheong-dong, Seoul, Friday.

His first film with actor Jung Eun-chae had him somewhat worried about how the audience would view them as a couple.

“Many would question how it is possible for a person like Jung to date a person like me. Just by our looks, it appears unrealistic, because Jung is very fancy looking, like a person who has walked out of a portrait, and her aura and energy is great. But I believe the story itself is a very realistic one that many would agree with,” Lee said.

To make his character more realistic, Lee appears in the film without makeup.

“I personally like actor Frances McDormand, and her appearance in ‘Nomadland’ was so impressive, because she just looks like a person who works at an Amazon warehouse. I’m quite obsessed with how I look in the film, to make sure that audience can view me as a person who really lives and moves like the character in the story,” Lee added.

“I just can’t stand it when actors wear lipstick or appear with tinted lips in a period film or drama.”

Unlike typical romance dramas, “Maybe We Broke Up” starts with the story of a couple’s breaking up.

“When I received the scenario, director Hyung Seul-woo said that it was about a story of a man and a woman who hadn’t met in a long time, and encounter each other in the woman’s art studio. The man suddenly gets a muscle cramp in his neck and he can only look to his left side while talking to her. So the woman has to look to the right -- this setting did not make any sense at all for me at first,” Lee said.

“But Hyung said it was based on his real experience and I figured out the irony of such unrealistic situation between a couple can arouse the audience’s interest,” he added.

“Maybe We Broke Up” opens in local cinemas Wednesday.

Lee Dong-hwi stars in “Maybe We Broke Up” (Special Movie City)
Lee Dong-hwi stars in “Maybe We Broke Up” (Special Movie City)

By Kim Da-sol (
catch table
Korea Herald daum