Tears come easy for Lee Jong Suk

Lee Jong Suk.
Lee Jong Suk.PHOTO: SHIN MIN

The South Korean model-turned-actor knows what it is like to feel lonely and harnesses that feeling for his acting

South Korean heart-throb Lee Jong Suk admits that he sometimes "gets jealous" of his best friend, actor Kim Woo Bin.

Speaking to The Straits Times at an interview last Saturday, he says in Korean via a translator: "When I went to the premiere of Woo Bin's movie Twenty (2015), I thought that he did such a great job and the whole event was such a great moment for him. I was rather envious of him at the time."

He quickly laughs and concedes: "But Woo Bin is always the first to call me whenever I have good or bad times. It's not always easy to get by in the entertainment world, but he understands that and he's there for me."

Besides, Lee should have nothing to be envious about, given his own success.

All I have to do is remember how I felt at that time and the tears will flow.

ACTOR LEE JONG SUK on how he taps into the time when he was 25 and felt empty to bring on the tears

After making his acting debut six years ago, the 27-year-old has starred in a number of top-rated television dramas such as I Can Hear Your Voice (2014) and W (2016), quickly shooting to the A-list and garnering popularity award nominations along the way, including at the Baeksang Arts Awards last year.

He has also proven himself as a skilled actor, nabbing the Top Excellent Award (Actor) at the Korean Drama Awards last year for his TV drama, Pinocchio (2015).

Ask him how he decides which roles to accept and he says it is all about whether he thinks he can do a convincing job.

"My standard requirement is: How capable do I think I will be if I play that character? I want to do all my roles well and be as natural as possible onscreen, so that's what I'll think of when I take on roles," he says.

He was in town fielding media queries ahead of his first solo fan meet held later that night at the Megabox Convention Centre at BigBox in Jurong.

Despite his star status now, he says it was not always this way. The model-turned-actor adds: "The thing about going from modelling to acting is that there will always be a bit of prejudice against you. People will always think you won't be able to act before you can even prove yourself.

"I think that kind of prejudice plagues singers-turned-actors too."

He also often felt very "lonely" when he debuted as an actor. "You're living alone and trying out something so new, so you will feel very lonely. But I learnt to harbour those emotions and use them for my performances."

No wonder he has become such a professional when it comes to doing crying scenes. One of the scenes in Pinocchio, for example, where his character openly bawls after he finds out about his father's death, was widely praised for being affecting.

How does he do it? He says with a grin: "I have been able to cry easily since November the year I turned 25. I don't know if it was because I was getting older or the weather was getting colder, but I remember feeling very empty during that period, especially because my drama I Can Hear Your Voice had also just ended.

"From that moment, all I have to do is remember how I felt at that time and the tears will flow."

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2016, with the headline 'Tears come easy for Lee Jong Suk'. Print Edition | Subscribe