Lee Kwang Soo Talks About Balancing Career As An Actor And “Running Man” Star
Lee Kwang Soo talked about his career and more in an interview with Esquire Korea!
At the 56th Baeksang Arts Awards in June, Lee Kwang Soo took home the Best Supporting Actor award for his performance in the film “Inseparable Bros.” Esquire brought up that the judges’ decision had been unanimous, and Lee Kwang Soo replied, “I saw that. I’m so grateful.”
“To be honest, it didn’t feel real until the ceremony ended,” he continued. “It was a meaningful film to me even without that happening, but when I received the award and congratulations and senior actors told me they enjoyed the movie, it made me think about it once again. Even though audience numbers aren’t everything, I thought to myself after the ceremony ended, ‘It would be great if more people watched ‘Inseparable Bros.’ Of course, I’m grateful to those who’ve seen it already too.”
Lee Kwang Soo was asked if he might have chosen the film for reasons other than predicted success at the box office.
He replied, “I’m not sure, to be honest I don’t have the particular skill required to judge whether a film is going to do well at the box office or not. I also can’t afford to think about that kind of thing. I think I take a role if the film moves me and the character is one that seems interesting and that I want to try. Honestly, no one knows what will happen when it comes to audience numbers. Although of course, if a lot of people go see the film then everyone who worked on it will be happy and won’t lose money. Personally, they’re all meaningful to me even if they don’t achieve that kind of result.”
Esquire mentioned that “Inseparable Bros” would be a difficult challenge to take on just because the role seems interesting, as his character Dong Gu is disabled and also based on a living person.
Lee Kwang Soo agreed that there were aspects to be cautious about and that it was not a role that was easy to decide to take. “However, first off the script was interesting and moving,” he said. “The director gave me a lot of confidence. I also thought a lot about how to prepare. At the time, the director said to me, ‘Although this real person exists, it would be good if you portrayed your own character of Dong Gu that’s separate from him.’ We talked about it a lot, and at our first filming he also made me feel sure that this [acting direction] was the right way to go.”
He shared that he’d also talked a lot with co-stars Shin Ha Kyun and Esom, and that he’d been able to film a bit comfortably. “That’s not to say that it was easy,” he said. “However, I was happy while filming and enjoyed it.”
Esquire also shared that Lee Kwang Soo had said in a video interview that his character Yeom Sang Soo from the drama “Live” was the one he loves the most, mentioning that he’d also kept correcting himself by saying all his characters are precious to him.
“I think I related a lot to Yeom Sang Soo,” explained Lee Kwang Soo. “I think I also learned a sense of duty while I was filming. He’s a very sincere character, but that sincerity unintentionally led to mistakes and caused accidents. I really related to the character Yeom Sang Soo’s process of growth.”
The interviewer mentioned to Lee Kwang Soo that they’ve heard him described as having a “fighting spirit.” Writer Noh Hee Kyung, who worked with Lee Kwang Soo on three projects including “Live,” has said that she likes the actor’s fighting spirit.
“I always do my best,” replied Lee Kwang Soo. “I have the feeling that if I don’t do my best, that moment is the end. I think being sincere and doing my best are my strict rules. For example, whether I’m acting or doing ‘Running Man,’ I’ve still never experienced a time when filming has wrapped up and I felt like I hadn’t worked hard that day.”
The interviewer expressed their surprise, asking if he’s really never felt that way over 10 years of working on “Running Man.”
“There are times when I feel disappointed, of course,” said Lee Kwang Soo. “But still, I’ve never once thought to myself, ‘I didn’t try hard today.’ I think that attitude is what Noh Hee Kyung sees as my ‘fighting spirit.'”
Lee Kwang Soo had said in his Baeksang Arts Award speech, “I’m going to make myself someone who can give you healthy laughter and make you feel moved.” The interviewer pointed out that Lee Kwang Soo had not referred to himself as an “actor” who would do those things, which is the phrasing that would more commonly be used in acceptance speeches. They therefore said that it seemed like he was purposely trying to not define himself just as an actor.
“Yes, I think that’s the right feeling of it,” said Lee Kwang Soo. “I want to give people healthy laughter and make them feel moved through my acting, but I want to do it through ‘Running Man’ too. To be honest, calling myself ‘Actor Lee Kwang Soo’ is a bit…” When asked why he hesitated to call himself that, Lee Kwang Soo explained that people look at him in different ways and he doesn’t want to create the impression that he’d prefer it if people to see him as one thing or another.
It was mentioned to Lee Kwang Soo that variety shows are often described as a “double-edged sword” for actors. While they’re good for promoting a project and increasing the actor’s popularity, some people are also scared of becoming limited to one image.
“Of course, such a thing does occur, but ‘Running Man’ was the biggest thing that made people learn who I am,” he said. “Regarding a person’s image becoming set as one thing, people first have to know who I am for me to have an ‘image’ and for that to have an influence on casting. In my case, I started out in a situation where I didn’t even have an image to be set one way before ‘Running Man’ began, so I’m grateful. I do relate to what you said as well, but my feelings of gratitude come first for me before that aspect of it.”
Lee Kwang Soo also spoke about why he doesn’t appear on many other variety shows outside of “Running Man.”
“On ‘Running Man,’ the members guide me well, react to me well, and like that sort of thing, and that’s why I’m able to do it,” he said. “For that reason, doing other variety shows is difficult. If they invite me, then they’re likely expecting what I show on ‘Running Man,’ but it ends up looking a bit different. Since I’ve been working with these members for 10 years. I think it’s not something that’s easy.”
It was pointed out to Lee Kwang Soo that despite only appearing as a regular on one program, he often ranks high on variety show brand reputation rankings (coming in second place for example in July). When asked what makes him so charming when it comes to variety shows, Lee Kwang Soo said he’s really not sure, mentioning how there are many other people who also do their best.
“I think maybe people look positively upon how I seem to be doing it in a relaxed way, enjoying myself, and having fun,” he said. “I think maybe they like me because I appear familiar. I’m a little like a younger brother and also seem immature.”
When Esquire guessed that drama and film directors might also be hoping for the image that Lee Kwang Soo shows on “Running Man,” Lee Kwang Soo agreed. “There are directors who don’t want my ‘Running Man’ image and others who want me to include that a bit,” he said. “I’m not really averse to that kind of thing. It could be seen as an advantage too.”
Watch “Running Man” below!