The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Kang Ki-young feels his acting career has entered new chapter

Actor feels grateful for opportunities to expand his acting repertoire with "Extraordinary Attorney Woo" and "The Uncanny Counter Season 2," after playing supporting characters for many years

By Lee Si-jin

Published : Sept. 4, 2023 - 09:12

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Kang Ki-young plays vicious evil spirit Hwang Pil-gwang in Kang Ki-young plays vicious evil spirit Hwang Pil-gwang in "The Uncanny Counter Season 2" (tvN)

Many drama fans were closely watching Kang Ki-young -- especially what his next work would be -- after he made a name for himself and won countless drama fans’ hearts in the hit legal drama, “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” (2022).

Some people thought Kang would have a hard time choosing his next project, but the 39-year-old actor said it wasn't difficult.

“‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’ was certainly a turning point in my 14-year acting career. I always had a desire to do something completely different, departing from a friendly image and playing a vicious villain. The chance to play Hwang Pil-gwang in 'The Uncanny Counter’ came up and I seized it,” Kang said, when explaining why he chose to star in “The Uncanny Counter Season 2” in a recent interview with reporters at a cafe in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul.

Before his latest series, “The Uncanny Counter Season 2,” Kang usually played a kind and benevolent colleague -- mostly supporting roles -- in TV series like MBC’s “W” (2016), tvN’s “What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim” (2018) and MBC’s “My Secret Terrius” (2018).

He felt that such an image was the only character that directors wanted from him for a while.

Kang Ki-young (Namoo Actors) Kang Ki-young (Namoo Actors)

“Extraordinary Attorney Woo” was the first project in which Kang played a lead character. But, once again, his character was a warmhearted character -- senior attorney Jung Myeong-seok.

“Some people expressed concerns that I might be under a lot of pressure to continue the success of ‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo.’ And I actually wanted to feel that pressure, believing that it would bring out something new from me,” he said.

Kang expressed huge admiration for his colleagues, who played evil spirits with him in “The Uncanny Counter Season 2.”

He praised his co-stars and continued to show his satisfaction with starring in the fantasy action series, feeling that he was fortunate to be surrounded by talented actors.

“I was in awe of Kim Hieora, Kim Hyun-wook and Jin Sun-kyu while I was playing my character, Pil-gwang. I learned many new ways to express characters’ emotions. They shared their own insights and experiences in playing the villain roles,” he said.

Kim Hieora, a well-known theater actor, became a household name after performing one of the vicious bullies in “The Glory.” Jin is a go-to actor who played a cold-hearted gang member in crime film “The Outlaws” (2017).

Kang Ki-young (left) and Kim Hieora team up as the evil spirits in Kang Ki-young (left) and Kim Hieora team up as the evil spirits in "The Uncanny Counter Season 2" (tvN)

“‘The Uncanny Counter’ really paid off! I had so many chances to learn new things. And I think the recent series -- 'Extraordinary Attorney Woo' and 'The Uncanny Counter' -- really opened a new chapter for actor Kang Ki-young,” he told The Korea Herald.

The actor explained that his greatest concern was to make Pil-gwang an iconic villain in his own right.

“There were some stunning evil spirits in the previous season. We had Hieora, Hyun-wook and Jin playing captivating villains Gelly, Wong and Ma Ju-seok, respectively, in the second season as well. I could not fall behind,” said Kang, who took the role of Pil-gwan, the leader of the evil spirits.

Kang added that he and director Yoo Seon-dong undertook various attempts to make Pil-gwang a unique villain even with the smallest details.

“In the early episodes, Pil-gwang carried a coin to demonstrate his telekinesis ability. The director asked me if I could roll the coin across the knuckles of my fingers,” he said.

“Because I was on a diet for my character, I stressed out for three to four seconds upon hearing that from the director. I initially thought that such minor performance could be made with a body double. But, I soon realized and agreed that such gestures were necessary to make Pil-gwang more mesmerizing.”

While sharing his sense of achievement in performing a villain for the first time, Kang revealed his desire for more changes.

“I really want to play a character with a gun in his hand. A crime thriller series is certainly a project that I'd like to take a part in,” he said, adding he is a big fan of Disney+’s crime series “Big Bet” at the moment.

The actor admitted that he is feeling more satisfaction after playing a character that he has never played before and showing the lesser-known sides of actor Kang Ki-young.

With “The Uncanny Counter” having come to an end on Sunday, Kang is set to make his return to the small screen with “The Great Problem Solver” (unofficial translation), a new JTBC drama, the release date of which is to be determined.