12 Idols Who Are Also Excellent Actors
From stage to screen, many idol-turned-actors have proved that they are indeed wholesome entertainers in every sense of the word. They have ruled the charts and hearts. Pushing the boundaries when it comes to their craft, they have constantly reinvented themselves when it comes to their projects. Here’s a look at 12 idols who have proven that they are natural born actors as well.
An actor who can literally speak with his eyes, the multi-hyphenated and talented Lee Junho is a powerhouse when it comes to acting abilities. His drop dead good looks apart, Lee Junho’s magnetic appeal and brilliance as a performer have transcended from stage to screen. A singer, songwriter, composer, dancer (one of the best around!), and member of the popular group 2PM, Lee Junho’s incredible voice with its rich tonal quality has struck a chord with fans. But he has also showcased his versatility on screens by not restricting himself to any genre or format. From playing Joseon’s first male courtesan in “Homme Fatale” to the cool chef who can cook up a storm in the romantic comedy “Wok of Love,” he even showed his gravitas as the avenging son defending his father in “Confession.” He could play the cold and uptight prosecutor-turned-finance director in “Good Manager” but in “Just Between Lovers,” he brought out the anguish of his character as he tried to heal from his traumatic past.
In particular, his captivating performance as the lovelorn and tragic crown prince (later emperor Yi San) in “The Red Sleeve” was so effortlessly intense that it won him the Baeksang Award for Best Actor. He proved his brilliance yet again as he swiftly changed tracks as the suave chaebol Gu Won, who cannot stand smiles in “King The Land,” showcasing his flair for comedy and being a true blue romantic lead. A natural as well as an instinctively dynamic actor, Lee Junho has an innate aptitude to transform into his characters and emerge as a scene stealer.
Start watching “The Red Sleeve”:
An actor who literally cannot be boxed in any category, Im Siwan has made it a habit of surprising audiences with his eclectic project choices. Given his clean features and boyish looks, one may classify him as best suited for the “boy next door” parts, but he has constantly defied stereotypes and emerged as an actor people cannot ignore. Having first debuted as a member of the boy group ZE:A, his supporting gig in “Moon Embracing the Sun” may have got him noticed, but it was his turn as a young student activist in the courtroom drama “The Attorney” which put the spotlight on him. He showcased his maturity as an actor in “Incomplete Life,” playing Jang Geu Rae, a brilliant and aspiring go player who may have lacked the skills in getting a job at a trading company but uses the strategies of the game to tackle everyday challenges. From playing the cunning con man in the film “One Line” to being an undercover cop who takes up working for a drug cartel in “The Merciless,” followed by “Emergency Declaration” and “Unlocked,” his film outings have showcased his immense range.
His natural charisma, which is hard to ignore, comes to the fore in his dramas as well. He played an ambitious crown prince in “The King Loves,” a writer in “Strangers From Hell,” and a sprinter with a strong sense of justice who’d rather be a trainer than on the tracks in “Run On,” and he even portrayed a math genius who takes to a life of solitude in “Summer Strike.” Im Siwan is a class act no matter what role he plays. As he gears up to be part of “Squid Game 2,” I cannot wait to watch what this bright actor has up his sleeve.
Start watching “Summer Strike”:
A reservoir of talent, the mega-talented IU is a force to be reckoned with. As an artist who continues to evoke such strong emotions through her craft, IU has been a role model for not just artists but fans as well. She is a singer/songwriter whose meaningful songs have left an indelible mark on listeners. Her decorated career in music apart, she has also proven her sheer brilliance on screen.
Her performance as the young singer with perfect pitch who is conscious about her weight in “Dream High” was a sharp contrast to the pokerfaced singer and celebrity diva Cindy in “The Producers.” However, it was IU’s heart-rending performance as Ji An, a debt-ridden young woman overwhelmed with her situation in “My Mister,” which won her critical acclaim. She also showcased her range as an actress as the intimidating Jang Man Wol, the resident CEO of the cursed “Hotel Del Luna.” And her performances in movies like “Shades of the Heart,” “Broker,” and “Dream” have only proved the strength of the unmatchable IU.
Start watching “My Mister”:
Don’t be fooled by his innocent school boy looks—D.O. packs in a mean punch when it comes to showcasing his acting chops. Member of the boy band EXO, it is no secret the spell D.O.’s mesmerizing voice can cast over listeners. Making his small screen debut in a supporting role in “It’s Okay, That’s Love,” his chilling performance as the psychopath in “Hello Monster” was also impressive. Playing an aspiring film director in “Be Positive” to a judo athlete in “My Annoying Brother,” D.O. was also absolutely endearing as the straight-faced crown prince struggling with his memory in “100 Days My Prince,” also showcasing his flair for comedy. And playing the bad-mannered and delinquent prosecutor with his strong sense of justice in “Bad Prosecutor,” D.O once again proved his skills through his repertoire.
Start watching “Bad Prosecutor”:
She may have immortalized herself as the spunky school slacker Deok Sun who is caught in a cute love triangle with her childhood besties in the coming of age hit series “Reply 1988,” but as the youngest member of Girl’s Day, Hyeri was also named as the “Nation’s Little Sister” after her appearance on “Real Men.” A live wire on screens, her energetic performances as the vivacious brand manager in “Entertainer,” the fearless reporter in “Two Cops,” the sprightly college student who gets caught in an otherworldly romance with a gumiho in “My Roommate Is a Gumiho,” or the innkeeper and bootlegger in the historical drama “Moonshine,” have all been noteworthy. An out-and-out charmer, Hyeri’s “girl next door” personality is what makes her very likable and relatable.
Start watching “My Roommate Is a Gumiho”:
If one were to describe Park Hyung Sik in one word, it would be easygoing. His boyish charm and stylish screen presence have made him a master of rom-coms. As he confesses to seeking ways to challenge himself, the actor’s recent choices have showcased his range as a performer. Making his debut as a member of the group ZE:A, he has also showcased his immense talents as an actor like his teammate Im Siwan.
Though part of the ensemble cast in “Heirs” and starred as the richie rich who finds the guts to stand up for love in “High Society,” he was in the spotlight for his role as the playful CEO in “Strong Woman Do Bong Soon” as well as for playing the burdened crown prince in “Hwarang,” two dramas which remain a point of recall for many Park Hyung Sik fans. However, over the years, his mature and nuanced performances in the legal drama “Suits” and the detective trying to avert a crisis in the apocalyptic thriller “Happiness” as well as the distressed crown prince under a mysterious curse in “Our Blooming Youth” have won him critical acclaim. Park Hyung Sik had expressed a desire to work in an action noir film, and I can’t wait to see him in one either.
Start watching “Happiness”:
She may have begun her career as a member of I.O.I and gugudan, but Kim Sejeong also went solo and decided to give acting a shot, and thank goodness for that! Her first major role was that of a cheerful teen who aspires to be a webtoon artist but gets caught in a mess up in “School 2017.” She won an appreciative nod for the rom-com “I Wanna Hear Your Song” and was part of the hit “The Uncanny Counter,” but it was the breezy romantic comedy “A Business Proposal” which added to her popularity quotient. Playing Ha Ri, a food researcher who gets entangled in a contractual and full-blown passionate love affair with her boss, played by Ahn Hyo Seop, Kim Sejeong had her comedic as well as romantic timing on point. She also starred in “Today’s Webtoon,” where she endeared as Ma Eum, a woman in search of her true career passion, something many can relate to. Kim Sejeong is one actor people want to see more of, especially as viewers await “The Uncanny Counter 2.”
Start watching “Today’s Webtoon”:
Confident is the word that comes to mind when one observes Taecyeon. His growth as a full-fledged rapper, singer, songwriter, actor, and entrepreneur has been impressive. As a member of 2PM, Taecyeon was the perfect fit as the rebellious yet talented and self-reliant Jin Guk in “Dream High.” From playing the rookie hot-headed cop in “Who Are You,” or the exorcist who has the unique ability to see ghosts in “Bring it on Ghost,” he also made a lasting if not menacing impression as the dangerous and psychotic Jang Joon Woo in “Vincenzo.” As the cold-blooded and corrupt head of a conglomerate, Taecyeon aced the role of his villainous avatar as well as showcased his acting versatility.
Taecyeon also played a man who can predict someone’s time of death in “The Game: Towards Zero,” and he was a delightful public service officer who wants to open a dumpling shop in “Secret Royal Inspector & Joy,” which was followed by the intense mystery crime thriller “Blind.” In his recent show “Heartbeat,” he is doubly funny and romantic as the vampire waiting to turn human. What strikes one about Taecyeon is his easy approach towards his craft—it is unhurried and relaxed, and as he moulds himself into the narrative, it’s obvious he is having fun.
Start watching “Secret Royal Inspector & Joy”:
Hailed as the “Nation’s First Love,” Suzy is one of those artists whose projects are eagerly anticipated and awaited by fans. A former member of the girl group miss A, Suzy made her acting debut in the musical high school “Dream High” as Go Hye Mi, an aspiring singer who is desperate to succeed. The same year, her role in the film “Architecture 101” won her a nod as Best New Actress and was followed by a supporting role in “Big” starring Gong Yoo.
However, it was “Gu Family Book,” which won her further recognition for her portrayal of Yeo Wool, a swordswoman disguised as a swordsman, showcasing her flair for action. She further impressed as Jin Chae Seon, Korea’s first female master pansori singer who struggles to perform in the movie “The Sound of a Flower.” The singer/actress continued to explore genres from the tear-jerker romantic melodrama “Uncontrollably Fond” to the fantasy thriller ” While You Were Sleeping,” followed by the spy action drama “Vagabond.” After playing an ambitious and aspiring entrepreneur in the hit “Start-Up,” she will next be seen as a retired K-pop idol in “Doona!”
Start watching “Uncontrollably Fond”:
Charming is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Choi Siwon. As member of the group Super Junior, he has had several dramas and shows to his credit. But the one which remains an all-time favorite amongst fans is him as Kim Shin Hyuk in “She Was Pretty.” A reporter at a magazine who takes a liking towards Hye Jin (Hwang Jung Eum), he cheers her on and looks out for her in his own teasing and cocky way. As Shin Hyuk, Choi Siwon gave major second lead syndrome vibes and was absolutely endearing.
In “Revolutionary Love,” he plays the happy-go-lucky son of a wealthy man, who has no qualms when his older sibling usurps his position, until he realizes the rampant corruption in the business. The role gave him plenty of scope for performance. And though his flair for comedy makes him the perfect choice for lighthearted fare such as “Fellow Citizens” and “Love is for Suckers,” one cannot dispute the ease with which he carries himself on screen.
Start watching “Love is for Suckers”:
Most fans of Korean content are probably well familiar with Jinyoung’s repertoire of projects. A singer, songwriter, and composer, GOT7’s Jinyoung has been a familiar face in K-dramas well before he transitioned to playing male leads. Making his debut in “Dream High 2,” he has also played the younger counterpart of male leads in several popular dramas such as “My Love Eun Dong,” “The Legend of the Blue Sea,” and “When My Love Blooms.”
Jinyoung has not restricted himself to any genre, showing a flexible attitude when it comes to taking on roles. His first full series role came in “He Is Psychometric,” playing a man gifted with the ability to read people’s memory, which was followed by a crackling performance as the idealistic judge Kim Ga On in the dystopian drama ” The Devil Judge,” which was followed by the spy thriller “Yasksha, the Ruthless Operations.” But it was his role as the soft-spoken and gentle Babi, the manager and Yumi’s (Kim Go Eun) colleague in “Yumi’s Cells 2,” which sent hearts fluttering, especially in the many romantic scenes. His cameo in “Reborn Rich” followed by his first lead film role in the action thriller “Christmas Carol” showcased his arc as an actor.
Start watching “Yumi’s Cells 2”:
Rowoon seems to have a knack for picking up eye-catching projects. As the main vocalist of SF9, the multi-faceted Rowoon may have had a supporting appearance in “Where Stars Land,” but he sent hearts fluttering and shot to fame as the lovable and reliable Ha Roo in “Extraordinary You.” This was followed by “The King’s Affection,” which saw him play Jung Ji Woon, a physician-turned-teacher, who finds himself locked in palace intrigues and politics in the pursuit to find the woman he loves.
He also played the stubborn yet hopeless romantic Chae Hyun Seung in “She Would Never Know,” and he pushed the envelope yet again with a strong performance in “Tomorrow.” Despite the nature of its heavy subject and dealing with taboo topics, “Tomorrow” struck a chord amongst viewers as it blended humor, fantasy, and adventure. Rowoon as Choi Joon Woong, a grim reaper whose only chance to redeem himself is by helping others from taking drastic steps, endeared with his simplicity.
Start watching “Where Stars Land”:
Hey Soompiers, who is your favorite idol-turned-actor? Let us know in the comments below!
Puja Talwar is a Soompi writer with a strong Yoo Tae Oh and Lee Junho bias. A long time K-drama fan, she loves devising alternate scenarios to the narratives. She has interviewed Lee Min Ho, Gong Yoo, Cha Eun Woo, and Ji Chang Wook to name a few. You can follow her on @puja_talwar7 on Instagram
Currently watching: “King the Land” and “See You in My 19th Life.”