SINGAPORE - If absence makes the heart grow fonder, fans of South Korean actor Kim Soo-hyun must be eagerly counting down the days to June 20.
That is when the debonair heart-throb - who shot to superstardom after acting in K-dramas such as Moon Embracing The Sun (2012) and My Love From The Star (2013 to 2014) - will make his much anticipated small-screen return as a leading man after completing his military service last July (in 2019).
His last starring role in a television series was in The Producers (2015). In the new romance drama It's Okay To Not Be Okay on Netflix, Kim, 32, plays Moon Gang-tae, a caregiver in a psychiatric ward.
During a recent virtual press conference with Asia-Pacific media, the star said that while serving in the military, he felt a thirst to act and be on screen again. He added: "After my military service, I have become physically stronger, and... a little bit more experienced.
"I think that for anyone who has seen my acting prior to that, I think you will be able to notice that once you see our show."
When he first read the script for the show, he felt his heart ache and decided the show was something he really wanted to challenge himself to do.
"I wanted to be able to express that heartache (in my acting)."
In the 16-episode drama, Kim's character meets a female author of children's books, Ko Mun-yeong, played by South Korean actress Seo Yea-ji. What transpires is an unusual romance between the two, as they end up healing each other's emotional and psychological wounds.
Gang-tae is described as patient, smart and able to empathise with others. But although the character seems strong, when Gang-tae is by himself, he is much weaker.
Kim said: "I really wanted to be able to express all of the hurt that Gang-tae has," and added that he wants this vulnerability to resonate with viewers.
When the character meets Mun-yeong, he lets his guard down. "He is able to complain about things and becomes like a child in front of her. So I think meeting Mun-yeong is like a transitional point in Gang-tae's life."On working with Seo, the actor recalled: "As one tends to be around people you meet for the first time, there was a sense of awkwardness and difficulty between the two of us."
But as they spent a lot of time together and began to get into character, there grew to be "quite a comfortable chemistry" between them.
Seo, 30, who was also at the press conference, said of her co-star: "From my very first day, he has been very considerate of me. I feel like our chemistry started off, and continues to be, quite good.
"And I think I would even go as far as to say that he is probably the best partner that I have had."
She described her character thus: "She lacks the ability to feel empathy towards other people; she is a very cold character. I have to channel this image of a witch to express her."
But the character goes through a significant change after meeting Gang-tae, the actress added.
Seo's credits include the psychological thriller Save Me (2017) and the legal thriller Lawless Lawyer (2018).
Asked what made her decide to take on her latest project, she cited director Park Shin-woo for his "irresistible" talent, writer Jo Yong for the intriguing story and added: "Last but not least, I think any actress would be extremely happy to have Kim Soo-hyun as her partner.
"I had no reason not to do it."
It's Okay To Not Be Okay premieres on Netflix on June 20 at 9.30pm.