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[Herald Interview] Park Bo-gum opens up on two sides of Lee Young

Fresh off his role as an impish prince in ‘Love in the Moonlight,’ Park recalls the fun on set

Actor Song Joong-ki made viewers swoon as a dashing army lieutenant in “Descendants of the Sun” earlier this year, but the latter half of 2016 has seen actor Park Bo-gum stir the hearts of many as Prince Lee Young in “Love in the Moonlight.”

The historical romance series, which began in August and wrapped up last week on KBS, surpassed the 20 percent viewership mark after just three episodes. Park’s portrayal of an impish Joseon era prince, his gradual transformation into a thoughtful ruler, and the youthful chemistry between Park and his love interest, played by Kim Yoo-jung, had viewers glued to their screens.

But it was a challenge to play a “mischievous” character, Park told reporters at a group interview Wednesday in northern Seoul. Having just returned from vacation with the “Love in the Moonlight” cast in Cebu, Philippines, Park was red-eyed but bright, eagerly reminiscing.

Actor Park Bo-gum poses for a photo at a cafe in Samcheong-dong, northern Seoul, Wednesday before a press interview. (Yonhap)
Actor Park Bo-gum poses for a photo at a cafe in Samcheong-dong, northern Seoul, Wednesday before a press interview. (Yonhap)

“I thought it was an unexpected character,” Park said of his role. “You would normally expect a prince to be serious, but he was more than that. Outwardly he was very fun-loving, but inwardly he had vast ambitions for his country and cared deeply about his people.”

Park said he spent hours practicing in front of a mirror and engaging in deep discussions with the show’s director, Kim Sung-yoon, to express that duality.

Acting alongside Kim Yoo-jung, who played Hong Ra-on -- a girl who enters the royal court disguised as a eunuch and eventually falls in love with the prince -- was especially fun, Park said.

“It got to the point where we would burst out laughing just by looking at each other,” he said. “But I learned a lot from (Kim). She’s done lots more period pieces. And she would analyze her scripts really thoroughly and sometimes help me catch on to parts that I missed.”

The energy and connection between the two were palpable while acting, Park noted. “I felt like we would look into each other’s eyes and know what the other was feeling.”

The 23-year-old actor had previously starred as a shy genius in the popular drama series “Reply 1988,” which aired until January. He is known for his wholesome image -- always polite, smiling and saying the right things. When questioned on whether the “good boy” image posed a burden to him, Park replied, “Not at all.”

Park Bo-gum stars as Prince Lee Young in historical romance series “Love in the Moonlight,” which ended its run on KBS last week. (KBS)
Park Bo-gum stars as Prince Lee Young in historical romance series “Love in the Moonlight,” which ended its run on KBS last week. (KBS)

“If it was something I was trying to force, then that would be hard,” Park said. “But I’m just being me. I don’t think it’s good to interact with people with a certain agenda in mind.”

Park confessed, however, that he had recently “done something rebellious.”

“When we were on vacation in the Philippines, (the tour agency) sent us to all these Korean restaurants. I snuck out and went to a local restaurant. I ate my heart out,” Park recalled cheerily.

His squeaky clean image does not hinder him from tackling diverse roles, he added.

“I tried to dig deep into aspects of myself I didn’t even know existed to express (Prince Lee Young’s) mischievousness,” said Park. “People will find that more unexpected, coming from me.”

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com)
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