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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.

Via Osen

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and we are joyful every moment we get a glimpse of you
please be well and happy, we will always be on the lookout for you ^^

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I'm not watching Lookout yet (waiting for it to end to marathon it), but I love Shin Dong Wook so much! I'm so happy every time I see fan posts of him by other beanies! After not having seen him for 7 years, he's still as beautiful as ever. I'm so glad he's feeling better and able to return to acting and what a talented actor he is. I love that he met with a real catholic priest to research his role. I really hope he'll be able to get a leading role soon, I loved him in Soulmates so much!

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Trust me, you're smart to wait to marathon it. I intended ONLY to watch the first episode of Lookout and Suspicious Partner just to see if both were my style. Surprise, surprise, both dramas are my style and I've been rationing out the episodes since both dramas end this coming week and I hate cliff hangers.

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Haha I know some shows deserve to be kept until it ends and we marathon it.

Thats why I just start SP this week when it almost over. Will wait for Lookout too.

Shows like : circle, lookout, tunnel, signal, FOS are the ones we need to sweep it in one go !

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I would suggest that you start watching it. Lookout is an excellent show - great writing, a lot of actions, but it deals with intense subject matters - difficult to marathon. Not sure why the low ratings - one of the best drama this year.

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I didnt watch Lookout and no idea who is he, but his profile seems so similiar with Haha's guest friend he brought to Happy Together (the one wearing all white lol)
Or are they the same person? @peichi

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I'm happy for him, even though he doesn't have a lot of scenes in Lookout he has really good screen presence. Hoping Kim Woo-bin pulls through as well.

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Ah, my eyes hurt, he shines too bright.
This smoky ahjussi, I need him anywhere! asap!

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Haven't watching Lookout just yet but it's already in my to-watch list(will start after FMW ends) because of all the good reviews I'm seeing, it's indeed a very long time since I've seen Shin Dong Wook in the small screen. Glad he's back!!!

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I wish he stays healthy always. Although I dropped Lookout but I sometimes checked some scenes including his scenes. Will definitely check his project. ❤

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I had forgotten that he had CPRS (complex regional pain syndrome). So awesome to see him recover from it enough to carry on acting.

It's a terribly debilitating disease if the pain can't be controlled and doesn't really have a specific medicine or treatment technique, making it really hard to cure.

I hope his recovery encourages others with the condition to persevere with their treatment and gives them hope.

Hwaiting!

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The post about his comeback after 7 years was the one that convinced me to watch Lookout.
I have to say he commands the screen very well. If he gets another drama soon I'll happily try it at least 3 episodes :)

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I'm just glad that he is now healthy enough to do what he like, acting.
Just a glimpse is enough for us, so take care of your health because that's what the most important for us fans :')

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I'm already crying. I can't believe Lookout is ending this week

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me too ㅠ.ㅠ

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The #Lookout Priest is a scene stealer

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I think Lookout was a perfect comeback project for him. He really gives off so much presence and even though his scenes are fewer and shorter, there is only love and respect for Shin Dong Wook! His character is a great contrast from Kim Young Kwang's and they are both wonderful in Lookout! Lookout was a very wise choice!

I watched him in Wish upon a star/Stars falling from the sky and loved him then only to read later about his condition. I am glad he is back! Lookout was a small step for his return to acting and it looks like he will be able to do more now. Looking forward to seeing more of Shin Dong Wook!

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I am so happy he is able to come back to the small screen And can I just say that he's only gotten better looking with time. He is so handsome!!

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Lookout is my first drama of Shin Dong-wook and at first I thought he was Park Hae-jin? The priest definitely succeeds in making us us suspecting he's the real Lookout leader. Probs to his great acting.

Looking forward for more of his project in future.

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He has an indescribable aura and delivers his lines with so much gravitas. I really believed that he was the leader of the Lookout gang. I always look forward to his scenes.

Hopefully, his health will remain stable and he can pick up more work in the future.

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Lovely interview. I haven't watched the show at this point, but I hope to be able to fit it in some day.

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I already kim tae hoon but this made me like him even more, he's such a loveable person. Also Kim young kwang's passion for acting is really showing in this character, tbh i didn't like him before this but damn he stands out among other brilliant cast. I think roles like these suit him much better.
I haven't seen any past works of Shin dong wook but he's good here.
Please everyone do watch Lookout, you won't regret it ! It's an amazing drama.

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Yess! I've never liked Kim Young Kwang but he truly excelled in this role and I think this is his best performance to date

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Aww, I love that he's such a sweet guy in real life! And I'm always for actors who study for their roles to make sure they're portraying them accurately. I love his dedication and deep understanding of his character. We have not yet been treated to seeing Priest-nim's backstory unfold in the drama, but hopefully we'll finally get it in finale week. Can't wait! It'd be a shame to let that interesting history go to waste.

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im paused Lookout to avoid the twists but will marathon it once it ends. it's my 1st time seeing Shin Dong Wook & he looks goooooooooood. let's pray for his health & hope to see him in dramas more often in future!

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awcoconuts, thanks for this wonderful peek behind the scenes at LOOKOUT. And thanks for translating the interview with Shin Dong-wook.

It's fascinating to learn how he developed his interpretation of the character. This is the first I've heard of a history of rebelliousness in high school, which is an interesting touch. In the wake of his mother's murder, having a spiritual advisor made all the difference for him, whereas his brother was left adrift.

SDW certainly fooled me into thinking that the enigmatic Father Lee was the leader of the Lookouts. He emanates a believable priestly vibe. In fact, his demeanor reminds me of the younger priests who served my parish when I was a kid -- and one handsome college chaplain, too. He really did his homework, and the result is a memorable character whose presence is felt even when he is off screen.

"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."

His limited screen time makes me wistful, too. On the other hand, I'm grateful that he has been able to return to acting, and that it is a joyous experience for him. It sounds as if he's having a blast with the rest of the cast and crew.

SDW certainly picked a terrific vehicle for his comeback. I'll be on the lookout for his future projects.

Costume trivia: The ankle-length cassock (which can be black or white) is based on the tunic that was worn under the toga. Think of it as a descendant of the ancient Roman equivalent of hanbok. ;-)

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I'm really glad that he was able to come back!! I can't imagine Lookout without him ^^ He perfectly portrays his character and keeps the audience on their toes trying to figure out who he really is.

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I'm so happy he's back, and that his illness seems to be under control. I hope we get to see him in many more dramas after this! Oppa, fighting!

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"There have been many comments that priest’s robes suit you." -- seems like the positive reactions to SDW in priest robes are universal. :) I'm glad he's back and I enjoy learning how he prepped for this role! I love how he had us considering he could have been the Lookout leader.

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I'm not too familiar with actor Shin Dong wook, for only have watched him in A Wish Upon a Star--and my memory of his role is blurry, but am happy for his long-awaited return. He's quite a scene stealer in Lookout; a shady priest with switched identity and dark past, I am all in. Be well and healthy...

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My jaw literally dropped when I saw this on the blog view. I'm praying for a miraculous healing for him and because se he's Catholic in real life, what an amazing opportunity for him to play a priest! And now, I'm staring to re-evaluate if I should convert. ???

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omg if that happens: k-drama made me converted to Catholic

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His acting is better than the male lead

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As much as I adore his portrayal as the priest, acting wise Kim Young-kwang still is the leader of the pack of actors in Lookout with his bordeline crazed Prosecutor Jang Do-han.

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OMG welcome back! I've missed you.

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Im so happy!! Its being a long time indeed... ill wait to marathon the show cuz the few things ive read about it sound like my cup of tea.. and even if it wasnt, id seat through it just to stare at SDW! Hes as beautiful as ever and I bet his charminh acting style is intact!

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If you haven't seen SOULMATE, do yourself a favor and watch it. It's one of my all-time favorite Kdramas. SDW is as terrific as the music, which is phenomenal. ;-)

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So glad for him!!! I remember watching soulmate last year and I discovered him there then when I searched for him I was sad that he was on break and that he has an illness which has no medication ? so glad for you oppa! Fighting!!! Gonna add lookout to watch list ✌

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Oh, I remember him from Wish Upon A Star, I think he was the younger cousin to the main lead. That was both a funny and endearing show. I sometimes watch it again, just to see some of the reactions of the second female lead, they're hilarious. Plus the kids are all adorable :)

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I'm actually not familiar with Shin Dong-wook. However, I've just started Lookout. I've heard quite a few positive things regarding his portrayal as the priest in this drama, so it'll be a nice introduction to this actor.

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Always be well and happy.

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i am so happy for this long awaited comeback. very happy that he is healthy enough to work again. we missed you so much Shin Dong Wook!

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