SEOUL—Nothing can really prepare you for a face-to-face encounter with Lee Seung-gi.
He was on a short break when I entered the interview room at the Imperial Palace Seoul on Sept. 11. We were going to talk about his latest action drama, the Netflix Original “Vagabond.” He walked into the interview area to sit on his chair. The cameras were not yet rolling as I sat across him.
He flew in from Bali, Indonesia, the day before for the shoot of his upcoming Netflix variety series with Taiwanese actor Jasper Liu. I searched his handsome face for traces of weariness. I found none. His skin was clear and smooth. He looked well-rested. Not a crease on his coat over his white T-shirt. When he caught me staring at him, he gave me a big smile.
This was what I would soon discover about him during the interview. He likes meeting people’s eyes with his own intense gaze, the kind of look that makes you fall for him twenty times
When I greeted him “Annyeonghaseyo,” he slightly bowed his head and then greeted me back. And because my time with him was ticking away while I melted in his gaze, I took the opportunity to tell him what I wanted to say the moment I saw him.
“I am your fan,” I told him in my broken Korean. His smile got bigger.
“Oh, jinja (really)?” he said.
“I already have a ticket for your fanmeet,” I continued, doing my best to prolong the unfilmed conversation.
“Next month? In Manila? Thank you,” he said in English, looking surprised and pleased.
I was impressed. First, he deduced where I was from even when I didn’t tell him. I was the second journalist from the Philippines to talk to him and he remembered that it was the Philippines’ turn. Second, despite his heavy schedule, he has not lost track of time when his next fanmeet will be.
Smart with ‘hoedang charm’
The flawlessly beautiful Suzy Bae joined us and in a few minutes, the camera started rolling. I handed him a stuffed toy version of Inquirer’s mascot Guyito first. He took it and started moving to hand it to Suzy Bae. I told him, “no” and quickly handed another plush doll to his leading lady.
He was once described as “someone raised properly by his parents.” It’s in the small gestures that you find support for statements like this. He wanted his partner to get a gift first as the true gentleman that he is.
I asked him what he prepared for his PH Airen (Seung-gi’s fandom) attending the “Vagabond Voyage in Manila” fanmeet on Oct. 12 at the New Frontier Theater in Cubao. The event is organized by CDM Entertainment and ABS-CBN events.
“I’m visiting the Philippines for the first time next month. By then, around eight episodes of ‘Vagabond’ have been aired. I will be able to hear about their (PH Airen) reaction to the show,” said Seung-gi. “I will share with them some behind-the-scenes stories that I have to keep for now. I am very excited.”
Seung-gi knowing exactly how many episodes of his drama will have been aired by the time he visits Manila is very, very Seung-gi. He is hardworking and meticulous about his work. He once washed his hair outdoors during winter because he was going to perform onstage as part of a variety show challenge. He said he wanted to present his best to whoever is watching him, and that included senior citizens.
He is very smart especially about his career. He’s known for having “Hoedang charms” or in Filipino slang, “sabaw.” That came to be because his zeal often makes him look confused and lost in some ways. His mistakes make side-splitting comedy and memorable television moments. It balances out his otherwise perfect persona.
In “All the Butlers,” he said that he wanted to be the first Korean actor to have 1,000 projects. I asked him where exactly “Vagabond” is among his goals. He gave a small laugh and shook his head.
“This is why I didn’t want to say that while shooting ‘All the Butlers,’ but they insisted. So I gave them the number 1,000. If we say 1,000 episodes, I’ve worked on seven drama series so far. So I think the number of episodes goes well beyond 100 already,” he said. “I don’t know where ‘Vagabond’ stands in terms of numbers off the top of my head. But I am convinced that this is a show that helped me make the greatest leap in my acting career.”
He would later say that playing the lead role in “Vagabond” will be one of the biggest achievements for him. Super K’s video interview can be viewed on its Facebook account.
After eight minutes, we finally said our goodbyes. I walked outside and I sank on a chair trying to calm my beating heart. Good, I thought. At least, I didn’t forget to breathe while chatting with the Triple Threat Entertainer, Lee Seung-gi.
New episodes of “Vagabond” stream on Netflix every Friday and Saturday.