'Raw' and 'fishy' experience for actor Choi Jin-hyuk in K-drama Zombie Detective

Actor Choi Jin-hyuk is also known for his roles in dramas such as Tunnel (2017) and The Last Empress (2018). PHOTO: VIU

SINGAPORE - To play a zombie who wants to blend into the human world and uncover his backstory, South Korean actor Choi Jin-hyuk, 34, had to not only smear on undead makeup, but also try raw intestines. Here are five things to know about his new role in the comedic K-drama Zombie Detective.

It was awkward at first

For Choi, known for his roles in dramas such as Tunnel (2017) and The Last Empress (2018), Zombie Detective was a new challenge.

He tells The Straits Times over e-mail: "I guess it's because it's a genre I've never taken on before, so I couldn't help but feel awkward with the role in the beginning."

Though the zombie genre is well-trodden and popular in South Korea with films like Train To Busan (2016) and this year's #Alive and Netflix series Kingdom (2019 to present), Choi says he did not refer to other projects for his role.

"I don't think I've seen a movie which features a zombie who wants to be a human just like how my character Kim Moo-young does," he explains.

He scared children

Zombie Detective has had several cameo appearances from celebrities including television host Yoo Jae-suk and Sam Hammington, a South Korea-based New Zealander comedian. His sons William and Bentley - who appear on parenting reality series The Return Of Superman (2013 to present) - visited the set. But the two were not exactly pleased to see Choi in his zombie get-up.

He says: "They were really cute but I was really sorry about how they ended up crying after taking one look at me and got scared. It was a pity that our time filming together was so short, or I could have gotten closer to them."

He chewed raw intestines

One of Choi's many challenges on this series was actually putting in his mouth what his zombie character eats - raw animal parts.

He says: "In order to vividly act out a zombie who has to consume raw food, I did actually put the raw tripe (cow stomach) and chicken in my mouth. I thought that it had a 'fishy' smell. I felt like I should never eat such a thing ever again. I don't think I'll ever be able to forget such a feeling."

He became a K-pop dancer

In an early episode, Choi's character Moo-young does a zombie-like dance to boyband 2PM's Heartbeat (2009), with K-pop boyband A.C.E as background dancers. The actor's sleek body rolls impressed viewers.

Choi says: "I practised dancing for a long time in order to make it look natural. It was great that my efforts could be seen."

New horizons ahead

With roles like a time travelling police detective in Tunnel (2017), a romantic hero in I Need Romance (2011), a revenger seeker in science-fiction tale Rugal (2020) and now a zombie detective, Choi says he is still game to try new genres.

"One of the reasons I took on Zombie Detective was because I wanted to present audiences something new that I've never tried before. If I get a chance, I would like to take on the noir genre, something dark and deep."

- Zombie Detective is available on Viu.

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