[Interview Part I] The Pretty Boy Lee Jong Seok Takes a Turn with ‘R2B’
He has a small face, white skin, a tall height and a skinny body, and he’s already acted in front of the public for years but still blushes at the more daring questions. This actor named Lee Jong Seok was just like a character from a well-drawn manga.
In the drama Secret Garden and the sitcom High Kick: The Short Legs Strike Back, he appeared in characters that fit his looks.
On the big screen, however, he went for the opposite; he’s been taking up roles that aren’t easy, and this shows how serious he is about acting. In Korea, he talked with a North Korean dialect as the North Korean table tennis player Choi Kyung Sub, and in R2B: Return to Base, which was filmed before Korea but premiered much later, he appeared as the rookie pilot Ji Seok Hyun, who faints whenever he gets on a jet.
Most of Lee Jong Seok’s back story was edited out when the film started leaning more toward emphasizing its visuals, but he still shone in the few scenes that were left in the film. He even became a manlier figure as a soldier in the Air Force. The actor said he took on a lot of cute roles, but his real personality is similar to that of Choi Kyung Sub in Korea.
You must be sad the scenes showing your ‘deep friendship’ with Jung Seok Won were edited out of ‘R2B: Return to Base’. They said you even had a kiss scene.
“It was more like a peck than a kiss. (Laugh) We got drunk and then pecked each other on the lips. Seok Hyun actually has a long story behind him, but it was all edited out. He misses his mother because he was adopted, and he debates many things after coming to Korea. Jung Seok Won protects the fragile Seok Hyun. Seok Hyun then becomes manlier as the film continues.”
A lot of your scenes were edited because the film aimed toward showing off more visuals.
“That’s okay. R2B is a visual shock. It was great to think that Korea can come up with films like this now. I understand since it’ll be for the good of the film.”
How did you come to be cast for this film?
“I hadn’t been in that many pieces, but most of my roles were serious and rough or bright and awkward. I wanted to try it out because it was a type of role I had never tried. Director Kim Dong Won seemed to think my image fit the role, so he didn’t even have me read out the script for him. I asked him why he cast me, and he said I fit Seok Hyun perfectly. I don’t know whether that’s supposed to be good or bad. I shot this film before Korea. [R2B] was a burden on me because it was my first full commercial film.”
There were explosions, and at times you were isolated. Filming those scenes wouldn’t have been easy.
“I was lonely because I had so many scenes alone. There were also a lot of scenes in which I could’ve gotten hurt if I didn’t concentrate. In the scene where I run away in the mountains, I hurt the ligament in my ankle."
"Getting surgery would take too long, so I just put braces on. I almost didn’t make it into Korea because I got hurt while filming this film. I even got scars on my face in explosion scenes. I didn’t know then, but watching the scenes now makes me tear up. It feels like I’ve been through my military services."
"It was also hard on me because I had to film more than one piece at once. High Kick: The Short Legs Strike Back overlapped with R2B, and near the end of R2B I had to film Korea."
"I’m not that seasoned in acting, so I got confused about my character as I tried to film three pieces at once. I would act like a high school student, then become a soldier, and then again become a North Korean table tennis player. That was hard.”
Photo credit: Hea Jung Min