More than playing doctor

For his role in The Gang Doctor, South Korean actor Joo Won not only did his own stunts, but also learnt to stitch wounds

 South Korean star Joo Won, 28, is a hands-on actor.

To play a doctor in the medical thriller The Gang Doctor, he learnt how to stitch wounds.

And because the doctor he plays is a physician to gangsters (he needs the money for his sister's medical bills), he also had quite a few action stunts to perform himself, including jumping off a bridge and driving recklessly in a heart-thumping car-chase scene.

In Singapore last Saturday to promote the show, he tells the local media: "Stuntmen are physically fit, while my doctor character Kim Tae Hyun probably doesn't work out in his daily life. I want to play that ordinary person who doesn't work out.

"Viewers these days are a lot sharper and pickier. I don't want them to lose the flow, which could happen if I used a substitute. I want to provide the best viewing experience. I wanted to pull it off myself and not get a substitute."

Viewers these days are a lot sharper and pickier... I want to provide the best viewing experience. I wanted to pull it off myself and not get a substitute.

ACTOR JOO WON on why he performs stunts himself in The Gang Doctor. With him is his co-star, Park Hye Soo

Immediately upon wrapping up filming for the drama in South Korea, the hardworking actor flew to Jakarta and Singapore to promote the show.

"I had a three-day break before coming. I was at home resting a little, cleaning my room. I packed my luggage and kept wondering if I had missed anything, what I needed to bring," says Joo, who went for six days without sleep during the filming of The Gang Doctor.

Instead, he took naps on the set's operating table and ward beds.

He was in town with his on-screen sister, actress Park Hye Soo, to promote the drama, which ended its run on cable channel One earlier this month. They attracted more than 3,000 fans at a meet-and-greet session at Suntec City last Saturday evening.

Joo has become one of the choice leading men in Korean dramas.

He made an impact right from his television debut - his first two shows were hits: King Of Baking (2010), in which he played the anti-hero; and the long-form drama Ojakgyo Family (2011-2012), in which he was a zealous cop.

Playing a brilliant autistic doctor in the 2013 medical drama Good Doctor, he further endeared himself to audiences.

Despite receiving critical acclaim for his portrayal, Joo says he was put off medical drama roles after the show.

"I had so much difficulty with memorising all the medical terms. I swore to myself that I was not going to do any more medical dramas. But here I am, back to acting as a doctor."

He was drawn to The Gang Doctor because the two doctor roles were different. "In the Good Doctor, I was playing an autistic guy. His mental age is that of a 10-year-old, but he is talented in medicine.

"On the other hand, Gang Doctor's Tae Hyun is someone who is very rough, very thick-skinned. He also fights for justice."

In real life, Joo is a mix of both his reel characters - earnest yet bold.

He is awkward at times - the bashful lad finds it hard to maintain eye contact with reporters during the half-hour interview. Yet he is confident enough to override his management's ban on questions about his love life.

Launching into a lengthy answer, he says: "To be honest, I'm not someone who acts impulsively or spontaneously. If I start to like somebody, I tend to take a step back and wonder if this is the right person for me. I will have a lot of thoughts about it.

"Unfortunately before anything can happen, a production starts. That's when the feelings fade away."

But his Miss Right can be assured that he is not fickle. He says: "I'm not a person who sees dating and marriage as different things. If there's one thing I'm looking out for in a partner, it would be that she will be a good daughter to my parents.

"My family has only my brother and me. I hope my other half would be the daughter my parents never had."

The re-run of The Gang Doctor on One (StarHub TV Channels 124, 820 and 823; and Singtel TV channels 513 and 604) starts on Nov 7 at 4.30pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2015, with the headline 'More than playing doctor'. Subscribe