July 31, 2006
Korean actor Bae Yong-joon is a dream come true for many Japanese women who have yearned for a tender, loving man. In Korea, though, Daniel Henney has been the Prince Charming ever since he appeared in the 2005 TV show "My Lovely Sam-soon."
With his impossibly good looks, gentlemanly manner and perfect English, Henney shot to stardom, quite a leap even from his quite successful modeling career, which put him on the runways of the likes of Gucci and Armani.
This year, he has finished shooting his second drama, "Spring Waltz," and is filming "Seducing Mr. Robin," his big-screen debut as well as his first attempt in being a leading actor.
Although he has done some theater work, such as off-Broadway in the United States, he admits that he is just getting his start as an actor.
"It’s a very big change for me, and it’s a lot different from doing dramas, which was extremely difficult, extremely tiring. I mean, it was a lot of fun and both were great dramas, but we were constantly shooting, sometimes for 15 hours straight without sleep," Henney told The Korea Herald. He said he has more time while shooting a movie than a drama.
"The shots are important, so it takes longer to take each shot. There is longer duration of lighting, and sometimes we’ll be standing in front of the camera for hours getting different lights put on us, and waiting," he explained.
His role in the movie, an adaptation of a popular internet fiction, is Mr. Robin, an international businessman who speaks five languages. He seems to have it all, but does not believe in love.
Henney said the role was fun to play, for it was a step away from his previous roles – Mr. Nice Guy or Mr. Perfect.
"I am a nice guy but the characters I’ve played are overly nice," he said smiling. "It’s a part of me, but it’s not all me. There are a lot of different parts that have yet to come out and I’m interested to see how the audience will accept the other side of me."
Henney wants to be seen as a real actor, not just someone who has chiseled looks and good manners.
"When I was growing up in the states, I would read interviews of people that I admire, like actors Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt. And they would say it’s difficult because they are perceived in a certain way because of their looks, and it’s difficult for people to accept them in serious roles, in any roles different than their personality. And I didn’t actually believe that until I started to act seriously," he said.
"People sometimes don’t want to look past it. They have this image of me and they won’t accept me playing a different character, which is part of my job, what I love to do," he said.
"Now it’s okay, but it can be something that concerns you in the future. But I think in time, it will be okay. As I get older and my looks go away, they’ll finally be able to accept me as a bad guy," joked Henney.
One thing for sure is that Henney is serious about acting.
"I’m constantly learning and I know I have a lot of room to improve. But even just from this year, I have made some achievements being more comfortable in front of the camera as well as with myself."
Even when he is touted as the icon of metrosexuality in Korea, he is well aware of the fact that it takes more than good looks to succeed as an actor.
"I love acting because it’s scary. It’s very frightening to put yourself out there and have people watch you and judge you. I think that’s the reason I am sort of addicted to it, like working out, or coffee or alcohol. If I didn’t have it, I think I would probably have withdrawal symptoms."
There have been some difficulties for Henney, son of an American father and a Korean mother. Although Koreans have been generous, they are known to have strong nationalistic sentiments.
"The hardest time for me was when I tried to actually speak Korean, although I was very lucky because when I did ‘Kim Sam-soon,’ even the director, not to mention actresses Jeong Ryeo-won and Kim Sun-ah, spoke English," he said.
"I know I have an accent, and I know my Korean is not perfect. But as long as people understand me, I’m happy. But there are times directors want you to speak really good, and it is a struggle for me, and it can be frustrating sometimes. And sometimes, I cannot hear the subtle difference in the language," admitted Henney.
"But it’s getting better. And I can feel it getting better and the longer I’m here the more comfortable I am," he said.
While his parents still live in the U.S. state of Michigan, he is trying to settle down in Seoul.
"I just got a new house and I’m kind of obsessed with it, spending as much time as I can in my house, decorating, getting things the way I like it," he said.
The walls are red and Henney made sure to install a bar.
He loves to sip on wine and spend time by himself. He said he enjoys being alone.
"It’s very important time for me, as almost everyday I’m working," he said.
Scripts are pouring in for Henney, but he said his sole focus is on finishing the film, which is expected to be released in October.
He is also "trying to figure out a certain way to become more attached to Korea, not necessarily through films and movies, but other ways."
One way could be to help animals.
"I might have the opportunity to help animals more with my position here, and I see a lot of stray animals," said Henney, who as a child wanted to be a veterinarian.
Despite his hectic schedule, he has made appearance for charity events and activities.
After completing the movie, Henney said he will take some time off.
"Just enjoy things, and my house, go shopping. It will be fun and I can’t imagine not having anything to do for two weeks!"
By Hwang You-mee