Shin Dong-wook: “I’m joyful every moment at being able to act again”
Each time he appears, he’s shrouded in mystery. He knows the truth, but he is silent. Shin Dong-wook (Wish Upon a Star, Soulmate) plays the stoic priest Lee Kwan-woo in MBC’s Monday-Tuesday drama Lookout. The drama marks Shin’s return to television after seven long years, and his comeback has been both tense and thrilling.
(Warning: This post is rife with spoilers for Lookout. Although with this show, it’s possible the spoilers aren’t spoilers so much as red herrings.)
Shin suffers from a rare disease, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, that has no discernible cause. He’s been receiving treatment for the syndrome since his diagnosis in 2011, and thankfully, his condition has improved to the point that he’s been able to dip his toes into drama waters again.
He chose for his first comeback project Lookout, which is about people who have lost their loved ones to criminals and corruption and whose lives have been shattered to pieces. In the show, victims band together to overcome their pain and to fight for justice, and Shin’s participation has intensified the drama’s edge. Is it because we’ve waited so long for his return? Or because his priestly garments suit him so well? Or maybe it’s his exacting performance in collaboration with Lee Shi-young, Kim Young-kwang, Kim Tae-hoon and the rest of the ensemble? Maybe it’s a combination of all three.
Shin sat down with reporters recently to answer questions about his Lookout character and what it’s like to act again.
Q: It’s been seven years since 2010’s Wish Upon a Star. How does it feel to be on set again?
A: I still have to take medicine but my health has gotten much better. I’m joyful every moment because I’m able to act again. Since the director is so talented and the staff is so kind, I’m not experiencing any difficulty and I am having a great time filming. Only, I play a character that quietly disappears whenever I want to try to do something, which means I’m not on set for very long, and that makes me a bit wistful.
Q: You made viewers curious and confused in many ways: You were a mysterious priest with an unknown connection to Kim Young-kwang, and you were thought to be the leader of the Lookout gang.
A: The director asked me to maintain an aura of mystery. I knew heading into the drama that I was the stepbrother of Kim Young-kwang’s character. In analyzing my character, I wrote about 30 pages of copy. In the beginning I acted with the intent to convince viewers that I was the head of the lookouts, so if I confused viewers, then I somewhat succeeded.
Q: How did you digest the character of Lee Kwan-woo? How did he become a priest, and how did you imagine his stepbrother became a prosecutor?
A: In the drama, Kim Young-kwang’s father chokes my mother to death. As a result of the murder, one person dreams of revenge and lives with the purpose of slowly carrying that plan out. In high school, [my character] Lee Kwan-woo went through a terribly rebellious stage but happened to meet a priest who set me on the path to priesthood. One person became the incarnation of revenge while the other overcame his dark past through faith. I had these thoughts as I was digesting and trying to imagine Lee Kwan-woo’s past.
Q: There have been many comments that priest’s robes suit you.
A: Priest robes are actually very warm. It was to the point where I actually joked to the stylist, could you make a linen version? The fabric isn’t breathable. I asked a priest how the robes should fit and he said that priests have the freedom to choose a fit that’s to their liking. Except most priests are thin when they are young, and as they grow older they put on weight. Since they plan on wearing these garments their whole lives, they order them big, he told me. Since there weren’t any regulations regarding the fit, we had them made to fit my frame.
Q: We heard that you sought out a real priest and studied him [in preparation for the role].
A: Yes, I blindly sought out a Catholic church in the vicinity of where I live. After I sought it out, I learned how to preside over Mass and how to act, how to position my body, the type of accent to use—I learned them all one by one. The priest there even recommended a book, so I read it. Thankfully I am also of the Catholic faith, so it wasn’t difficult to learn.
Q: In the drama, you mostly work with male actors, like Kim Young-kwang and Kim Tae-hoon.
A: I have many scenes in which I engage with Young-kwang-shi, and I sense his intense passion for acting. And Tae-hoon hyung is too kind. He’s really incredibly kind and he tells me very wise things. He discovers and tells me positive things about myself that I had never been aware of.
Q: How do you think Lookout will end? Do you think Lee Kwan-woo will be able to return to living as Jang Do-han?
A: I’m curious too. About the next script. Please look forward to it.
Q: Lastly, please say a few words to the drama’s fans and your fans.
A: It’s been a long time; thank you for having interest in the show. On set, the staff and director are working incredibly hard and I hope the strength from the set translates into a good project worthy of your love. I’m deeply thankful for the production staff who run around on set sweating, and for the viewers.
- Rude Miss Young-ae returns for Season 16, Shin Dong-wook offered leading role
- Lookout: Episodes 1-2
- Shin Dong-wook makes acting comeback with Lookout
- Shin Dong-wook publishes novel, still no comeback plans
- Shin Dong-wook hopes for a comeback
- Shin Dong-wook contracts rare illness, discharged from army
- Army enlistment day for Shin Dong-wook
- Wish Upon a Star: Episodes 1-2