by Lily Alice, June 6, 2024
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If one wonders whether a drama with a peak 5% rating can propel an actor to global stardom, Lovely Runner canAnd Byeon Woo Seok is the proof of this. 

Everyone in the K-dramaland is talking about Byeon Woo Seok, as he starred for the role of Ryu Seon Jae in the tvN series Lovely Runner. The model-turned-actor has been topping popularity rankings in Korea and has also built a strong fan base overseas.  

Byeon Woo Seok, who debuted with the 2016 tvN drama Dear My Friends, took on his first leading role in 8 years. He perfectly portrayed an ace swimmer, a band member, and a superstar actor — a challenging role.  

Talking about his experience of transitioning from a model to an actor, Byeon Woo Seok said he "experienced some trauma in the process," and added, "It seems I naturally overcame it as people began to recognize my hard work and compliment me."

Read on to know more such stories and the actor's thoughts on his explosive fame.


Do you realize how popular you are these days?

Many people show up at interview locations and events. Every time that happens, I feel like I realize it a little bit more. Seeing so many people enjoying events like the group viewing of the final episode makes me feel it. Especially, seeing the drama ad put up in Times Square and 'Sudden Shower' by Eclipse ranking fifth [now fourth] on Melon feels unreal. I check my name and song rankings every day (laughs).


You had a challenging character to portray, but many say you did it perfectly. Your comment. 

I put special effort into swimming and singing. I believed it was crucial to show that Seon Jae was a professional swimmer for the viewers to relate to his sadness and emotions. For the concert scenes, which appear early on, I practiced a lot to capture the right ambiance and Seon Jae's essence. Even though they were short scenes, we prepared for 3-4 months. I even rehearsed specific gestures to avoid looking awkward on stage.


You sang all the songs for Eclipse. How did you prepare for them?

I practiced singing a lot. I listened to songs frequently as well. Most importantly, during the recording, the music director meticulously guided me through each syllable. We worked on the details, including the emphasis on sounds and breathing.

You had many scenes that required taking care of your physique. Was there anything particularly challenging during filming? 

There was a lot to prepare, and it was challenging to convey the required professionalism. We filmed scenes set in summer during the winter, including scenes in the water, which I had never done before, so it was difficult. There were so many shirtless scenes, and since it was my first time being the lead in a drama, I wasn't sure how to manage my body while filming five or six times a week. So, I used to exercise whenever I had a break. Because I filmed using [a lot of] my physical and mental strength, I lost 3-4kg, so I made sure to eat well.


How did you feel about the positive response to the show right after the first week of conclusion?

It's my favorite work and my favorite character, so I hoped everyone would like it. Throughout the filming, I felt that it was good, so I thought, 'How great would it be if people liked it too?'

It felt so good to see people empathizing with me on this point. A particularly memorable comment was, 'It was comforting.' Many people said they watched the drama during tough times in their lives and found solace in it, which made me really happy. Additionally, when people said, 'The character Seon Jae is perfect and cool, but it's even better because Byeon Woo Seok played him,' it gave me strength and made me feel that all the hard work was worth it.


How did people around you react?

What I was grateful for was that everyone congratulated me on my success. All the directors and writers I have worked with so far contacted me, and that felt really good. I was thankful that they said they were genuinely happy for my success. 

Also, I have a friend who I have known in this industry for a long time, and when he met me, he said he was 'moved to tears'.

You've been working consistently in the industry for a long time. Do you think the attention came sooner than expected, or was it the right time?

It doesn't seem fast, but it's been less than 10 years. (Laughs) When I first started acting, my mindset was 'Let's give it at least 10 years, whatever happens.' So, it's been 8 years now, which means I'm 2 years ahead. If it wouldn't have worked out after 10 years, I was thinking of trying something else. 

Being a model wasn't easy either, but it was a profession that I chose, so I thought I would have something to show for it after 10 years. I didn't have a specific plan for what I would do after 10 years, but I had a vague feeling of wanting to open a store.


Many have commented on how you have lived a very hard life.

I'm glad people appreciate it. Starting as a model, I've been working for 13 years. Isn't it like they've watched every moment [of my life] since I started working? It's nice to see people recognizing my efforts.


With fame, you've also faced rumors and gossip. How did you feel about it?

At first, my heart ached. I realized people around me could be hurt by such noise. I realized this is what getting attention feels like. If I start analyzing everything, my work in the future might become difficult. So, I decided not to think about it at all.

If I'm right, I'm right, and if I'm not, then I'm not. There are things people talk about, and I thought that if I paid attention to each and everything, I would be swayed. Thinking about how to live my life from now on, I think I should go with my own judgment.

People say your acting and interviews have improved significantly. Many are wondering how you have changed a lot. 

I lacked confidence before. I had a lot of trauma. I had difficulty speaking in front of people because of that. As a result, I was cut out during the script reading. Now, many of those aspects are gone. I say to myself, 'It's OK. It happens.' I used to believe I needed to be a good person in the eyes of the industry people, but now I realize I need to express what I think and feel. I'm pretty sure that's why it seems like I've changed.


What was your trauma?

actually liked photos and videos very much. When I was thinking about what to do next while modeling, I considered acting for that reason. However, while modeling, I was lucky enough to go to the set, but I didn't know where to stand, and what to do.

From there, the feeling of 'I'm not doing it right,' people's feedback, etc., led me to thoughts like 'I'm scared of the camera' and 'I just want to get out quickly,' which led to trauma.

That's why I had a hard time during script readings. That period lasted quite a long time. It took me a long time to break free from that.


How did you overcome the trauma?

It started with tvN's Search: WWW. I had a hard time when there were many people around, so I found 1-on-1 interactions easier. 

I showed them what I had prepared, and it was the first time someone said to me, 'No one has ever done this before, so thank you.'

I felt respected and felt like they were asking me for a favor. Gradually, as I naturally overcame the trauma, the filming became enjoyable.

Do you have any guiding principles as an actor and as a person?

When it comes to relationships, I believe in being sincere. Even if it's just for a moment, I try to be genuine. It has caused me hurt at times, and I've tried to change because of it, but I guess I'm just that kind of person. I express my gratitude well to those I am thankful for. And I'm good at greetings (laughs). 


What's next for you? Do you feel pressure about your next project? 

For now, I am focusing on the fan meetings. What surprised me a lot was that it was my first fan meeting in Japan, and the tickets were so expensive. I thought, 'People are spending this kind of amount for me?' So, I'm thinking about how I can make the events fun for them. I also plan to enjoy it because I hope that it becomes a memory for the fans who come to see me.

As for my work, I have my own standard, which is [giving] empathy. There are worries and pressure about the next project, but isn't that something for the future? In a nutshell, this is not an easy task. No matter how well you think it will go, everything needs to align perfectly — the circumstances, society, psychology, filming, director, and everything else.

I want to improve my acting with each project, and I think that living like that is a plus as Byeon Woo Seok.


The actor also expressed gratitude to his co-star Kim Hye Yoon, saying, "I learned a lot from Hye Yoon. She has a lot of strength. Even on tough filming days, I saw her taking care of the staff around her, and it made me realize that I have a lot to learn from her. I respect her. Above all, she acts really well. She cried a lot throughout the filming [for the scenes], which must not have been easy. Thanks to her acting, I got a lot of help. I think Seon Jae's emotions were portrayed better thanks to the emotions she gave me."

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