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[Herald Interview] Kim Jun-su performs last 'Dracula' with signature red hair

Kim looks back on 20 years as K-pop singer and musical actor

By Park Ga-young

Published : Jan. 3, 2024 - 15:03

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Musical actor Kim Jun-su performs as Dracula in the musical Musical actor Kim Jun-su performs as Dracula in the musical "Dracula." (OD Company)

For a decade, whenever Kim Jun-su, the singer-turned-musical actor, has taken the stage as Dracula in the eponymous musical, it has been with his distinctive red hair.

Now his trademark, the red hair was initially a serendipitous decision.

Just a few days before its Korean premiere in 2014, he wanted to depict visually the white-haired Dracula who, drinking blood, became rejuvenated, so he proposed the idea of red hair to the director.

"When I started in musicals, I was focused on faithfully following the director's instructions. My understanding of the musical genre was limited. As I gained experience, I started offering my own opinions on the works. ‘Dracula’ is where my ideas began to be reflected throughout the production," he said. Adding a song called "She" to the production was also his idea.

The weekly ritual of dyeing his hair has taken toll on his scalp, and his pillows and towels are stained red. Despite these inconveniences, the popularity of Kim's red hair among fans made it difficult for him to think about not dyeing it. However, he has promised that the ongoing fifth run of the musical will mark the final occasion he showcases his iconic red hair.

“To be honest, I was reluctant to continue the red hair from the third run. However, its popularity made it difficult to consider quitting, and I wanted to ensure people didn't perceive me as having forgotten my roots. It’s a delightful way to commemorate the 10th anniversary,” Kim said during an interview in December.

The musical "Dracula," based on the original 1897 Victorian novel by Bram Stoker, is a work by composer Frank Wildhorn, with lyrics and a musical book by Don Black and Christopher Hampton.

Musical actor Kim Jun-su performs as Dracula in the musical Musical actor Kim Jun-su performs as Dracula in the musical "Dracula." (OD Company)

The musical, which premiered in 2001 in Los Angeles, was introduced in South Korea in 2014 with Kim as one of the three actors sharing the role. Whenever it was revived -- in 2016, 2020 and 2021 -- Kim consistently remained part of the cast. The fifth production is running Dec. 6 to March 3 at Charlotte Theater in Jamsil, Seoul.

Known for best portraying fictional and eccentric characters like Death in “Elisabeth!” and the detective known only as L in “Death Note,” he attributes these distinctive portrayals to his voice.

“Because the voice itself stands out even without deliberately adding variations, I think it's more convincing when playing non-human roles. Non-human characters often involve a lot of action. I think having a background in dancing as an idol singer helped,” Kim said.

Kim, 36, made his debut as an idol singer 20 years ago as a member of TVXQ, a hugely popular K-pop boy group. After leaving the group in 2009 and forming JYJ with two members of TVXQ, he launched a new career as a musical actor in 2010 with the musical “Mozart!”

Since then, he has appeared in “Death Note,” “Excalibur,” “Elizabeth,” “Mozart!” and more.

Debuting as a musical actor was fortuitous for him when his TV appearances became limited after leaving TVXQ, Kim said. His debut marked the start of K-pop stars being involved in Korean musicals, attracting numerous overseas fans to Korea to watch his performances in person.

Now, he’s more accustomed to identifying himself as a musical actor. In 2021, he established Palmtree Island, a company that specializes in managing musical actors. With the new endeavor, he said he wanted to pay back his musical fans.

Looking back on the past 20 years in the entertainment business, he said everything has been a miracle.

“I’ve been performing without a break for the last 20 years, except during my period of military service. I think it’s a miracle and I feel really grateful that I’ve been able to continue until now."

Musical actor Kim Jun-su (OD Company) Musical actor Kim Jun-su (OD Company)