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Choi Jin-hyuk interview: “I lost hair stressing about the drama”

It’s safe to say that Gu Family Book turned Choi Jin-hyuk into an overnight star, even though he had steadily been acting for the better part of a decade and had leading roles in other dramas. I know a fair contingent of us here have long been fans of his gentle charisma (Pasta, I Need Romance, It’s Okay Daddy’s Girl, Panda and Hedgehog), but it was Gu Family Book that turned him into a star on the rise.

Choi Jin-hyuk was so winning as the romantic gumiho mountain spirit who suffers a tragic fate after falling in love with a mortal that his fame spiked instantly despite a mere two-episode guest appearance (although he is slated for a reappearance down the line). I’ve long wanted to see him in a role that did him justice (I can only sit through so many subpar dramas just to see him), so I love that he’s finally enjoying his moment in the spotlight and hopefully getting ready to parlay that into bigger and better roles.

In the following interview(s) (cobbled together from several separate articles), Choi Jin-hyuk talks about the role, his acting style, and his struggles getting to where he is now.

About taking the part in Gu Family Book, Choi said: “I read the script with such enjoyment. I decided to take the role no matter what, thinking that I might not get to encounter another role playing a male gumiho. However, I was aware that I was inadequate to the task. As a result, I worried that I might falter, as though being set in front of a beautifully prepared dinner table where all I have to do is dig in, and yet manage not to eat a bite anyway. ‘What if I become a hindrance to a good drama?’ I had a lot of worries, and felt the pressure to set the foundation story for Gu Family Book.”

Although his part spanned two episodes, they were filmed solidly over two months:

“I tend to gradually become absorbed in my roles as I watch myself acting, so it takes a while for me to fall entirely into character. For that reason I felt the pressure of appearing in the early two episodes, and after shooting was over I would go to the editing room to check my performance. I did that again and again, working to become immersed. Even so, I found it quite difficult in the beginning. The worry kept me from sleeping, and in the middle of shooting I even lost hair over it. [Laughs] That’s how keenly I felt the pressure. I think this drama was the one where I suffered the most in all my years of acting. Even more than the physical hardship, it was probably because my liking of the character spurred more ambitions within me to do better.”

“As I was acting the role, I worried that maybe I should quit—it was so difficult. I was afraid of getting that ‘foot-acting’ label slapped on me. The responsibility of starting off the drama smoothly felt quite heavy.”

About his co-star Lee Yeon-hee, who played the human woman he fell for, who betrayed him and bore his half-mortal child (Lee Seung-gi): “It was tough to portray a sincere love within such a short time frame. I had just met Lee Yeon-hee-sshi, so we were still awkward with each other. Fortunately, Yeon-hee-sshi has a very easy-going personality. As we grew more comfortable, our interactions became more natural.”

At least we weren’t the only ones feeling like our hearts got ripped out. Choi said, “Watching my soft-hearted character experience a heartbreaking and unfortunate love felt so much like I was watching my own self, and that made my heart ache all the more. I really want for him to come back alive.”

“As I mentioned, I knew my weaknesses. That was my greatest concern after getting the role. How would I be able to get fully into the character within such a short time frame? How much sincerity could I portray? But everything I’d felt in doubt over disappeared the moment I saw the drama. I was reminded, ‘This is the power of directing.’ I was shocked at how my inadequate acting could be built up so much. To the writer who wrote this beautiful drama, to directors Shin Woo-chul and Kim Jung-hyun, who showed a perfect picture despite my flaws, and to everyone else I’m just so grateful.”

The interview came out after his return to the show was announced, but Choi was a bit coy about the story surrounding it. He said, “I don’t know either, whether Gu Wol-ryung turned into a thousand-year-old demon or what became of him. In my opinion I think a thousand-year-old demon might make an showing… but what I do know is that the producers are well aware that the viewers are looking forward to Gu Wol-ryung’s reappearance. [Laughs]”

Favorite scenes or lines? “I had some really great lines of dialogue. There were scenes that could have come across as cheesy, and there was dialogue that I’m not sure I’d ever have reason to say in real life. Maybe it’s because it was a sageuk, but I was able to speak them naturally. More than trying to deliver them in a cool way, I felt I had to get across an emotional sincerity.”

“Of my top lines, I thought a particularly cool one was, ‘Don’t lay your hands on her, this woman is mine.’ At the time of filming, I had become a lot closer with Lee Yeon-hee, and we had already shot the scene where we were chased and dragged off, so it was easy to get immersed in it. I was invested in the scene as a whole, to the extent that I don’t even remember how I acted it. After we filmed it, the director told me, ‘Good job.’ In the two months of filming, that was the one scene where I received praise. [Laughs]”

His fame is newfound and still takes some getting used to: “Before doing this drama, I might get recognized by a few women. Now, children and adults alike exclaim, ‘Wow, it’s Gu Wol-ryung!’ It feels strange to me too.”

Choi Jin-hyuk spent eight years in no-name actor purgatory, trying to catch his break. During those no-name years, he got by while working on the side. “I wanted to earn money acting, but things didn’t work out that way. I had been puffed up with confidence because people told me I was like Kang Dong-won or Kim Rae-won and I’d make it big. [Laughs]”

He didn’t talk about his previous relationship with actress Sohn Eun-seo (though I have read recent interviews where Choi has said he won’t date publicly anymore), but mentioned working with actresses and getting your signals mixed up: “I tend to get friendly with people pretty easily. However, I’m cautious with actresses. In the past I did ask an actress for her phone number purely intending to become friends, but she told other people that I’d scored her number. It was embarrassing. I realized that with actresses, you have to just let the acquaintance grow naturally over time.”

“Recently, I argued with my mother over something trivial. Even so, when she meets with her friends, she always calls me and asks when I’m going to be [on television] next. I can see that she likes to brag about her son but not show it.”

Via ETO, Sports Donga

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i hope he will not turn into a demon for a thousand year. I just watched the first 2 episodes and the Monk (forgot his name), said that he researched and found the answer for him not to turn into a demon. Then gave him the knife made of certain special wood. I just hope the Monk is not referring to the to just that knife. I can wish, can't i =)

The monk also mentioned that a gumiho can turn into human if after the one he loves accepts him even after seeing his true form. There's still hope between Kang-chi and Suzy then =). I'll hold on to that too =)

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But for him not to turn into a demon, that knife has to be speared through the woman he loves... which was something that didn't happen...

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i'm still hoping there is more, because the Monk said "...in the meantime hold on to this...".which i interpreted that he has researched for more. Unless it got lost in translation..., i can hope =), i want my happy ending =)

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Hello Beng,
I would love a happy ending too, but I don't know if it will happen for him... Hope is a good thing though, and if daddy can't have it, then hopefully KC will, :-)...

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im like u
but this is drama land that were referring
they would add father-son fight each other
makjang u know~~

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Its absolutely perfect act for wol ryung....so natural as in no doubt he can have it more to show for filming movie to comes....just love it....

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He's cute. Can't wait until his storyline comes back

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Thanks for the interview....

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waaaaaaaaaaah, can anyone tell me if he had a good role in any of his past dramas,except I need romance(i already watched that),i really want to watch one of his dramas.

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he is cute in hedgehog and panda, which is a light drama.

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haha panda and hedgehog..laughs* must watch it and feel it and you can laughs hard.. lol .. and you will cry together with hedgehog when he found out about his grandpa! overall this drama more to friendships love not romance.. i totally fall in with this drama but ending not so good but still great drama .. grandpa I LOVE YOU!! haha..omg.. so cute!!!

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he is also in "my Daddy's daughter", one of the handsome trio cook in "pasta", and as Summer mention below: "My daughter the flower", please correct me if I'm wrong here the female lead is also the female lead of Gaksital,

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Panda was super cute; rushed ending as usual with a female lead that's annoying at first but you get used to her.

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Can't wait for his return in GFB, especially because he will be a kind of Anakin in his demon form (3rd pic, black costume).

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Thankfully, he's a far better actor than the one playing Anakin, haha

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Lol George Lucas must have been drunk out of mind when he cast Hayden Christensen as Anakin knowing that eventually he would become Darth Vader. He was just weak and the romance was so cheesy.

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I've liked him ever since the drama my precious you.. glad he finally make a break through..

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I really want hot daddy gumiho to have a happy ending together with human mommy.
He should really end up getting the girl in his next drama, I always feel bad for his characters.

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I liked him in I Need Romance!! Only time I had 2nd guy lead syndrome..

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Me too.

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Me three. I'm just ignoring the last few episodes and staying in my bliss...

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Now I am regretting not watching this drama :/

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Unless you're a big fan of the leads, you don't have to be sorry. I watched the first 2 eps only for CJH & will do the same for the others episodes he will be in. Also, the scenes he won't be part of will be FF without any regret...

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Gu FB to me is all about CJH. I watched the first 2eps and will be back when he returns.

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I skipped episodes 1 and 2 honestly. Don't think I missed much.

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Hello Sayuri,

You might want to give it a try, to see if you like it (and it is OK if you don't). There are some interesting characters (we are at ep. 10) and some of the scenes are really funny. Check it out (just a suggestion), so you can decide for yourself...
And if you end up watching it, you can join us in the comments' section of the recaps, FYI.

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Me too! As a fan of LSG, it was the 1st 2 episodes that were the best; after that, I lost interest but ep 6

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Hey Sayuri

You're not really missing much, imo - just watch the first two episodes if you want to see adorable DaddyHo, and if you absolutely HAVE to continue, episode 6 was probably the best. After that, if you don't watch it then it's no loss.

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He's a humble person. A very rare quality!

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I agree!!!!!

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I am soooo glad to see him get his due (finally) and be recognized. That HAS to be gratifying, if he stressed over the drama. I just love how he made such a huge impression in two short episodes. I was rewatching parts of episode 2 this week, and realized yet again, how much I loved everything he did: the way he talked, the sounds he made when he talked (onomatopoeia), the way he stood, his purple lipstick at night, the way he ran, his VOICE, etc... Like LSG in TK2Hs, he totally made WR's character (down to the mannerisms), and I kept wondering if all of it was written on the page or he simply created some of it (I lean towards #2).

I just loved his interpretation of his character: very organic, great chemistry with all his fellow actors and actresses and all around excellent performance. He deserves all the accolades he might get. I hope doors will continue to open for him, wide, really wide.

On a sad note, another one who will have to go the army soon, I think?...

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Thank you for the interview, JB. He was the reason (one of them, at least) why I got sucked in in GFB. Thank you, CJH!

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Can anyone please explain to me what " ‘foot-acting’ label" is/means? Thanks!

He really is a great actor. It was interesting to me to see/read how much he struggled and stressed about how to play his character. Those interviews are so eye-opening and a reminder that acting is not easy, though some actors and actresses make it look like it is...

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"foot acting" is "발연기" in korean.

in korea if you have especially horrible handwriting, people ask if you wrote it with your foot because presumably, you WILL have awful results trying to maneuver a writing utensil with your foot.

or if you wrote a book and it was badly written/received, people will say, "oh i could have written better with my foot." if it's a painting, "i could have drawn better even with just my foot."

"foot acting" sort of comes from there. when an actor's acting is really bad, they call it "foot acting." maybe someone else can help elaborate!

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How would they define a bad playing of a football player? :)

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Good one Kumi... :-)

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you're a handball player maybe??

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Tronco Ese jugador es un tronco..

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Hello saranga,
And thank you. You have helped me understand already. I love the examples you gave first, they helped drive your point across. Thank you again!
If anyone would like to add to her explanations, please do so.

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Thanks also saranga for giving me the Korean writing of the expression.

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wow, thanks! I was wondering what foot-acting meant as well.

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I hope he'll be cast as lead in a good drama soon and get the chance to shine!

I haven't been keeping up with Gu Family Books (beyond recaps), but I did watch the two episodes he was in, and he was lovely. I actually thought he was the main Gumiho, so that was a let-down when he was (semi-?) killed....

I haven't watched any of his other stuff, might have to do that some time... and might pick up Gu Family Book when he comes back, at least for his scenes.

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I just watched him in IODG and he was great!! I really liked that drama. I kinda thought some characters could do more justice to the actor's abilities but I enjoyed the drama. i've being crossing my fingers for Kim Bum, Joo sang wook, Yeon Jung hoon, Jo jung Suk and Kim ji hoon to land great leading roles and hit daebak and now i'll cross my fingers for Choi jin hyuk too!

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I second that!!! Also crossing my fingers for these actors.

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See a pattern here... Seung-gi seems to be lucky for his male co-stars. JJS and CJH hit it CRAZZZZZY big after working with him.

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But they really have acting ability, JJS has his musical and he already has many fans before ( I check his twitter, some celebrity follow him even before TK2H)

CJH just need to hit it right, I'm glad he fortunately find it :)

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Pretty much need to get lucky and be in one major hit, even if it is for a supporting role.

Even so-so actors/actresses have hit it fairly big (like Yoo In-na) after appearing in a big hit.

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Because his dramas are high profile ones that get a lot of press/attention. Not taking away from the skills of those two actors though because without the skills you aren't getting anywhere, but it helps for the project you are doing get recognized in the first place.

Looking forward to his return to the drama.

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I agree with both of you...

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Beg to differ. Both were good before this. JJS was fantastic in What's Up? And CJH was super cute in Panda and Hedgehog; both dramas that I bet a lot of people did not watch.

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i agree both were good actors even before acting with lsg but it was the high profile media coverage that helped it along and LSG in drama pretty much assures that buzz.... about JJS he was awesome in what's up i loved it but panda and hedgehog it kept pricking me nobody's cuteness could have helped it

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i said this before and iw ould say it again..THE FIRST TWO EPISODES of gu family book were the best..no other episode has touched me so much as those first two episodes..he really was an amazing character

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Yes, he was an amazing character, and he was very well played/acted...

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Totally disagree with you on this. Loved the last 2 episodes the most !! Almost gave up after watching the first 2 episodes, luckily I persisted.

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Javabeans did not mention this drama though, but I enjoyed it so much that I couldn't wait for my cable tv to show 5episodes a week, so I went online to watch instead..

There is a drama called 'My Daughter, The Flower'. Choi Jin Hyuk was the main lead and I think it's more than 130epsidoes(if I did not remember wrongly it's a 45min or so drama type).

I like his character in that drama too because when he likes a girl, his eyes are on her only. But k-drama as it is, has it's usual twists here and there. His biological father didn't know that this son is his real son even though he has been staying with him since he was born... His biological mother is the stepmother of the girl he likes. His real parents were lovers before the grandmother(father's mother) separated them and told his stepmother to take him as an adopted child. The parents later reunited and so does the 2 youngsters(CJH & his co-star).. later when they found out this complicated relationship, the girl decided to break off with him so that her stepmother can be with her first love again.... So CJH character was so fed up with her decision that he went on to accept the 2nd female lead.. More dramas as the 2nd female lead was the one who killed the 1st female lead father and ran away from the accident site in the early episodes...

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WOW!!! That does sound like a Kdrama... :-)

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LOL.. my sisters followed this daily religiously when it was shown on our cable and asked me to download for them. they're not sure of the title and that's how they described the drama.. i was rolling my eyes every 10 sec..

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I've noticed CJH in "Pasta", then find him again in "Daddy's Daughter", tbh, although I love MCW so much, but I can see that HE was the one who pour the emotion.

Glad that he is honest too, watched him very carefully in "Panda", and just like he says, he need time to adjust into his character. It's in the middle of the drama that I finally love his character. But I'm glad he did. Hopefully he makes it hit after this

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To: Summer.... where can I watch " My Daughter, The Flower" online? Are the episodes with english subtitles?

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I watched with Chinese subtitles on tudou.. but I think funshion should have too..If you understand Chinese, you can look for '我的女儿是花儿'

For English sub, you might want to try dramacrazy but i'm not sure if they have it..

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I'm glad this actor is getting his moment in the sun.

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Yayy! Here's to hoping for more awesome roles for him! I only watched the first two episodes of Gu. I felt like the story couldn't get any better, and the beginning was just too hard to top. Truly one of the most moving stories!

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I used to call him "puppy" whenever he appeared on I Need Romance. So glad to see him getting critical praise and limelight.

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i first know him from My Precious You, weekend drama who had Ji Hyun Woo as one of the lead
i was rooting for him to get the girl instead of Ji Hyun Woo because JHW was such a jerk in the drama

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Oh wow 8 years, so glad he is getting know now, since I havent watched any of his previous dramas but he was excellent in gu family book! :)

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Gosh I love the last picture of him! So adorable. I hope someone gives him a lead role soon...he's a fantastic actor!

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This guy is just so underrated. I am happy he has finally gotten a break. Although he is just 2 years older than LSG, he looks more mature. I see lots of potential in him because even though his previous dramas never made it big, his acting has always been good and he makes you root for his character although he may be the second lead or just a 2 episode outing like in Gu Family Book. As this generation of actors go into Military and return, I think we will see the difference between men and boys. For CJH, he is already a man so I can only expect better works from him in the future.

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he played a great Gumiho i have to agree he was awesome even though he doesn't agree that he is but still... if he loves playing a gumiho we can have a Gu Family Book season 2 where after 1000 years in the present day hopefully 2014 ;) he finally gets his girl whether its lee yeon hee or not i don't care..... it would be cool to watch you know he could track his descendants and totally terrify the guy telling him he is great^10 grandpa and he is going to live with him..... and how awesome would it be if his great^10 grandson is a look alike of KC ;)

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His humility and respectfulness are so refreshing.... makes him even more endearing... just like his character in Gu Family Book.....

We MUST see more of this admirable actor !

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He seems like such a sweetie. Humble, honest, dedicated to his craft. I'm wishing him luck.

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I fell in love with him in Its OK Daddys girl im so happy his getting good roles :)

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I hope he will come back with the same hairstyle that he looks so good in.. and not some weird hairstyle like Gon's (see episode 9).. Gon's Suzy's bodyguard.. or if he were to act as a main character in another drama, he dont have hairstyle like Ji Ho, the guy who is currently acting in some Office drama.. curly hair!! yukss!

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Wow, he seems like such a humble guy. I can't wait to see him return to Gu Family Book! He's so great! I wish him all the best in this acting career!

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I agree - throughout the interview I was just so touched by his responses. Cynical me thinks oh they always try to sound humble, and he's had almost a decade to prepare his personal for 'the big break' but I dunno...i see those eyes crinkle up and that huge smile and I think to myself that there goes a very nice person. I understand I could be wrong, but I do hope that he really is as nice as he sounds, so I can enjoy his 'sudden' rise even more for him. After working so hard and keeping that faith, it must be a very sweet moment for him.

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Why does he beat himself up so much? I liked him so much in Panda and Hedgehog and disliked the character he ended up with.

I really hope this leads to bigger and better things for him - he is handsome and talented enough.

Everybody calling him sexy daddy and saying that he hotter than the son.

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How did I miss this adorable interview before!? He really is lovely, and I hope he can get some really excellent roles soon.

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i must say i'm a fan of this korean drama especially choi jin hyuk and lee yeon hee ( perfect chemistry :) ) i love the 1st two episode..
I wish they could be couple in other kdrama (hoping!!)

Leeyeonheeandchoijinhyuk fan!!

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