[Actor Spotlight] Choi Jin-hyuk
The next actor in our spotlight is Choi Jin-hyuk. He’s starring in An Empress’s Dignity, which is about to premiere as SBS’s latest Wednesday-Thursday drama. Born in Mokpo, South Korea in 1986, Choi Jin-hyuk didn’t get the recognition he deserved until several years into his career. He had already been acting in bit parts for many years when he stole the screen in Gu Family Book and finally got his big break. Following that drama, he quickly advanced to second lead and then leading man status. He has been working steadily ever since, bringing that special Choi Jin-hyuk charm to dramaland. Color me grateful!
Choi Jin-Hyun has a unique gravitas — his grounded and mature presence on screen have won him a nice variety of roles. Partly because he was a bit older when he found success, and partly because his face has “history,” he often plays more mature characters than we’re used to seeing a newbie take on. He’s played the older brother to Lee Min-ho and the father to Lee Seung-gi (even though he’s barely a year older than both of them), a veteran detective, and a clever prosecutor with an appropriate amount of emotional baggage. In addition to his onscreen gravitas, he’s also plain delightful to watch — he’s one of those actors that could make eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich seem interesting.
Here are some of his drama highlights, followed by his full filmography.
Gu Family Book (2013)
Gu, gu, gu. You weren’t particularly strong, and your awful ending left me bitter, but in retrospect I’m content enough since Choi Jin-hyuk’s fantastic performance and grounded screen presence made this show for me (as did Sung-joon, but that’s a story for another day). Choi Jin-hyuk played a gumiho that fell in love with a human, setting the backstory for the rest of the drama — and for a backstory it was remarkably compelling. I almost wished they had lingered a little longer in the gumiho’s Moonlight Garden, which was a kind of Lothlorien with orbs of twinkling light, because what says magical canyon better than that? Luckily for Gu Family Book, Choi Jin-hyuk also made some appearances later in the drama. He played the father of Lee Seung-gi’s character, and in their scenes together they did a great job of expressing the contrast and complexity between their two characters. Choi Jin-hyuk got a lot of (completely warranted) attention for this role, and a lot of casting offers followed.
Wow, Heirs was five years ago already? It feels like just a few months ago I was watching this drama hoping against all hope that it would be better than it was. One thing Heirs did have going for it was an ensemble cast of actors old and new — and regardless of critical reception, it didn’t hurt anyone’s career to be seen in a drama with as much hype (and visibility) as this one. Choi Jin-hyuk was one of these actors: he played leading man Lee Min-ho’s hyung. Thanks to Choi’s capacity as an actor, he took the somewhat boring role of a typical cold and calculating chaebol heir, and humanized him into someone who you could understand, or maybe even pity. He willfully gave up love and happiness for money, and bore his unhappiness with the maturity of someone who knew his choices had created his consequences. Also, why did he sleep in a wool sweater? I’m still wondering about this five years later.
Fated To Love You (2014)
“Fated to love you” is how I pretty much felt about Choi Jin-hyuk in this Jang Nara and Jang Hyuk drama. His character was intelligent, calm, and collected compared to the wacky, unbuttoned character Jang Hyuk played — and he was actually a great foil for him in that respect. He looked after Jang Nara’s character as her “neighborhood oppa,” cared about her future, nurtured her artistic talents… and remains in my ever-growing list of second lead syndrome sufferings. Jang Nara is at her most adorable in this rom-com, which is about the consequences of her one-night-stand with Jang Hyuk’s character, keeping in touch with your girlhood dreams, and so much more.
Pride and Prejudice (2014)
Not the strongest title for a story about prosecutors fighting crime, corruption, and their traumatic past experiences, but Pride and Prejudice was an enjoyable drama. More than anything, it was nice to see Choi Jin-hyuk take on the role of the leading man. He played opposite Baek Jin-hee as prosecutors working for the good of the common people. You know, like they should. One thing this drama did particularly well for me was creating really authentic-feeling relationships and environments. The prosecution team, led by Choi Min-soo (amazing), and made up of Choi Jin-hyuk, Baek Jin-hee, Choi Woo-shik, and Lee Tae-hwan, felt like the real deal. Another authentic setup was the hodgepodge family formed by Choi Jin-hyuk, Lee Tae-hwan, and the halmoni who made sure they ate their three meals a day. I’m not sure why or how the drama was so successful with this — was it the script, the direction, or just really good chemistry with the cast? Maybe it was all of the above. Either way, Pride and Prejudice did its thing and had a good balance of prosecuting and investigating with character and plot development.
An Empress’s Dignity (2018)
For those like me who suffered through a painful bout of second lead syndrome in Fated to Love You, well, Choi Jin-hyuk and Jang Nara are reunited as leads in the upcoming SBS drama An Empress’s Dignity. Not only that, but the show sounds like a fun one: an alternative-reality Korea is ruled by a monarchy, and the emperor is none other than Shin Sung-rok. Jang Nara is a musical actress and his new wife/empress; Choi Jin-hyuk is an elite imperial bodyguard. There’s a revenge scheme, subterfuge, and hopefully some romance awaiting us.
Choi Jin-hyuk’s full filmography:
- Beautiful Days (2007) [Drama]
- My Precious Child (2008) [Drama]
- Korean Ghost Stories (2008 and 2009) [Drama]
- Pasta (2010) [Drama]
- It’s Okay, Daddy’s Girl (2010) [Drama]
- My Daughter the Flower (2011) [Drama]
- I Need Romance (2011) [Drama]
- Panda and Hedgehog (2012) [Drama]
- Tone-Deaf Clinic (2012) [Film]
- Gu Family Book (2013) [Drama]
- The Heirs (2013) [Drama]
- Fated To Love You (2014) [Drama]
- Pride and Prejudice (2014) [Drama]
- Grandpas Over Flowers Investigation Team (2014) [Drama/Cameo]
- Emergency Couple (2014) [Drama]
- The Divine Move (2014) [Film]
- Vampire in Love (2015) [Film]
- Tunnel (2017) [Drama]
- Devilish Joy (2018) [Drama]
- Empress’s Dignity (2018) [Drama]
Daily drama about four siblings growing up poor but hopeful in 1970s Korea.
Small role in this family/romance weekend drama about a radio PD and a singer.
Choi Jin-hyuk acted in two separate episodes of this long-running episodic series on horror folklore, myths, ghosts, gumihos, and the like.
Supporting role in this Gong Hyo-jin show about the drama in an Italian restaurant’s kitchen that I should have seen but haven’t yet.
Moon Chae-won is forced to grow up from her sheltered life and step into the real world.
Supporting role in the daily mother/daughter drama starring Jin Se-yeon and Jo Min-soo.
Supporting role in the first of the very cable-y I Need Romance series where various single women navigate (and need) romance.
Pastry shop rom-com with Yoon Seung-ha and Donghae in the lead, and Choi Jin-hyuk as the rival.
Singing lessons for the tone deaf in this Yoon Sang-hyun and Park Ha-sun rom-com.
Supporting/backstory role as Lee Seung-gi’s gumiho father, and this role is a thing of beauty (see above).
Lee Min-ho’s older brother in this much-hyped Kim Eun-sook drama (see above).
Choi Jin-hyuk + second lead syndrome in this fun (and slightly wild) Jang Nara and Jang Hyuk drama (see above).
Prosecutor alongside Baek Jin-hee. The cast was great, and I regret nothing (see above).
Cameo as the younger version of Lee Soon-jae in this drama that tried to mimic the awesomeness of the tvN variety show.
Bickering divorced couple Choi Jin-hyuk and Song Ji-hyo work together in the ER. Sounded great on paper but was pretty unwatchable for me.
Side role in a dark Jung Woo-sung movie about baduk, gambling, murder, revenge, and light things like that.
Japanese film about vampires (in love?). Choi Jin-hyuk plays the right-hand man of the lead, and is notably the only Korean actor in the cast.
Choi Jin-hyuk and Yoon Hyun-min as cops in this time-jump drama awesomeness. Too bad I’m too scared to actually watch it.
A romantic take on memory loss (I guess that’s possible in dramaland?) starring Choi Jin-hyuk and Song Ha-yoon.
Upcoming alternate-reality drama reuniting Choi Jin-hyuk and Jang Nara in a Korea governed by a monarch. Look and sounds fun.
- [Actor Spotlight] Lee Min-ki
- Mailman Choi Jin-hyuk and Christmas-fairy Jang Nara for An Empress’s Dignity
- Choi Jin-hyuk to costar opposite Jang Nara in An Empress’s Dignity
- Devilish Joy: Episode 1
- Choi Jin-hyuk up to headline MBC rom-com Devilish Joy
- Tunnel: Episode 1
- Choi Jin-hyuk runs like crazy to solve a serial murder case in Tunnel
- Choi Jin-hyuk discharged from army early due to knee injury