[Actor Spotlight] Shin Sung-rok
Shin Sung-rok is the next actor in our spotlight series. He’s currently starring in SBS drama An Empress’s Dignity which is just wrapping up a successful run. It also earned Shin Sung-rok the Top Excellence Award, bestowed mid-production, for his role as the fictional monarch of Korea.
Shin Sung-rok was born in 1982, and debuted in 2002 after a brief career as a basketball player. Through Shin debuted first in TV, he found it difficult to get roles (some blame his height — he’s 6’3″) and began to focus on theatre, particularly musical theatre. This is where Shin Sung-rok found success as a performer, and later when he began to win more roles in TV and film, his background in theater served him well. Shin Sung-rok at his best is absolutely theatrical, and charged with charisma — it makes sense that he believes the stage is “where actors learn life and understand the meaning of acting. It is where I learned how to act and where I gained confidence.”
Here are some highlights from Shin Sung-rok’s drama career, followed by his full filmography.
You From Another Star (2013)
When I think of Shin Sung-rok in You From Another Star, the first thing that comes to mind is the nail ring. The ultimate signifier of plotting, deceiving, and calculating evil plans, Shin Sung-rok’s character fiddled with his ring constantly. It was obvious and funny, and almost unfair to Shin Sung-rok. He’s so good, he doesn’t need a prop to convince us that there is way more going underneath his blinding, artificial smiles. In You From Another Star, Shin Sung-rok played the hidden baddie to Jun Ji-hyun and her neighbor from the stars, Kim Soo-hyun. The drama’s huge success catapulted the entire casts’ career (even if they didn’t need it), and this role was definitely Shin Sung-rok’s making. The only downside to being a fantastic villain is that you’re a fantastic villain, and it’s hard to be seen as anything but.
Liar Game (2014)
If you haven’t seen Liar Game yet, this is the perfect time to stop reading this article — and anything else you are doing — and start marathoning it. Adapted from the Japanese manga, Liar Game told the story of a real-life game show where contestants had to solve puzzles, riddles, and other challenges in order to advance to the next round and win reward money. The drama kept you guessing, round after round, as Shin Sung-rok engaged in a battle of wits with Lee Sang-yoon, Kim So-eun, and other contestants. Liar Game capitalized on contrasting the glittery world of the game show with the gritty struggles and a psychologically dense stories occurring behind the scenes. Shin Sung-rok played the MC of the game show for whom there was more at stake than you’d think, and this role was a perfect fit for his dynamic screen presence and his game show host character had that underbelly of cheesiness that he often deploys.
On the Way to the Airport (2016)
This beautiful drama completely captured me and was one of those special dramas that has stayed with me long after it ended. In On the Way to the Airport, Kim Haneul played a flight attendant in a completely stifling marriage to the jerkface pilot played by Shin Sung-rok. Being married to a controlling, cheating, and pretty unlikeable man such as Shin Sung-rok’s character in this drama is no reason to cheat back — but On the Way to the Airport spares no expense drawing a parallel between Shin Sung-rok’s character, and the soulful dreamboat played by Lee Sang-yoon. Kim Haneul, understandably, is caught between these two. The story is subtly and beautifully told, and Shin Sung-rok shows off the strong and domineering side of his usual baddie. This drama also reunited him with Lee Sang-yoon as competitor/nemesis, though they didn’t face off quite to the same extent as in Liar Game.
An Empress’s Dignity (2018)
I hate to see Shin Sung-rok typecast as the baddie… But he’s so good at it! I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed him more than in An Empress’s Dignity. I might have come to the show because of Choi Jin-hyuk, but his performance has nothing on Shin Sung-rok’s (it’s not his fault, he just has a lot less to work with). In his role as the fictional Emperor of Korea, Shin Sung-rok has pretty much the perfect platform for everything he does best: that balance of conniving, creepy, and controlling, to the most cheesy and comedic. Starring opposite Shin Sung-rok is Jang Nara as the commoner he gets strong-armed into marrying, and Choi Jin-hyuk, his trusted bodyguard who’s secretly plotting (and slooooowly carrying out) revenge. This drama is action-packed and holds your interest while covering a ton of territory in a single episode. I feel like I’m getting the experience of watching a makjang weekend show, without actually having to commit to 100+ episodes (or admit to myself that I’m watching one).
Shin Sung-rok’s full filmography:
- Shoot for the Stars (2002) [Drama]
Early drama starring Jo In-sung as the hero who struggles to become an actor, and Jeon Do-yeon as the manager who helps him get there. Shin Sung-rok has a supporting role in this, his TV debut.
- A Problem at My Younger Brother’s House (2003) [Drama]
Shin Sung-rok has a small side role in this daily drama based on a Korean folktale that stars Yeon Jung-hoon, Kim Tae-hee, Lee Dong-gun, and Kim Ji-hoon.
- All for Love (2005) [Film]
Box office hit and romance ensemble (including Uhm Jung-hwa) wherein Shin Sung-rok has a supporting role as a basketball player.
- Hyena (2006) [Drama]
Shin Sung-rok has a supporting role in this story of four single men in their 30’s.
- Thank You (2007) [Drama]
Shin Sung-rok plays the second lead role in this drama where Jang Hyuk‘s life is changed when he meets a single mother (Gong Hyo-jin) and her daughter.
- I’m a Very Special Lover (2007) [Drama]
Shin Sung-rok had a role in this one-episode KBS drama special.
- The Worst Guy Ever (2007) [Film]
Yeom Jung-ah and Tak Jae-hoon are best friends who wind up marrying, only to be lured apart by new love interests in their lives.
- Lovers of Six Years (2008) [Film]
Long-term but noncommittal lead couple played by Kim Haneul and Yoon Kye-sang are tempted by Shin Sung-rok and Cha Hyun-jung, respectively.
- The Art of Seduction (2008) [Drama]
OCN romance drama short (really?) with Shin Sung-rok, Park Soo-jin, and more.
- One Mom and Three Dads (2008) [Drama]
Eugene is the mom, and Shin Sung-rok is one of the possible dads.
- My Life’s Golden Age (2008) [Drama]
Weekend family drama about three siblings and their love lives.
- Definitely Neighbors (2010) [Drama]
Hit weekend family drama about a divorced couple who meet again as neighbors. Shin Sung-rok plays the second lead.
- Bloody Innocent (2010) [Film]
Kim Da-hyun and Shin Sung-rok star in this mystery thriller about high school friends whose mutual crush is murdered.
- Finding Mr. Destiny (2010) [Film]
Gong Yoo and Im Soo-jung star in this rom-com about re-finding first loves (or not).
- Pitch High (2011) [Film]
Baseball drama, on and off the field, with Kim Joo-hyuk and Kim Sun-ah.
- You From Another Star (2013) [Drama]
The ring-twisting villain role that’s considered his big break (see above).
- Trot Lovers (2014) [Drama]
Shin Sung-rok’s first project post-You From Another Star craziness that also stars Ji Hyun-woo and Jung Eun-ji.
- Liar Game (2014) [Drama]
Mind games, more mind games, and awesome actors (see above).
- The King’s Face (2014) [Drama]
Shin Sung-rok plays the face reader and power behind the throne to Seo In-gook‘s Prince Gwanghae.
- On the Way to the Airport (2016) [Drama]
Beautiful drama in which Shin Sung-rok plays the completely unlikeable husband who enjoys shipping his daughter off to foreign countries so he doesn’t have to deal with her (see above).
- The Age of Shadows (2016) [Film]
Period action thriller about the Japanese resistance starring Song Kang-ho, Gong Yoo, Lee Byung-heon, and more.
- Man Who Dies to Live (2017) [Drama]
Choi Min-soo plays a South Korean returning home from the Middle East to reconnect with his daughter (played by Kang Ye-won) and his son-in-law (played by Shin Sung-rok).
- The Prison (2017) [Film]
Kim Rae-won enters an incredibly corrupt prison to find out the truth behind a crime.
- Return (2018) [Drama]
Shin Sung-rok stars with Lee Jin-wook in this drama that was successful and well-received, but mostly remembered for the blowout, and then bow out, of Go Hyun-jung in the lead.
- An Empress’s Dignity (2018) [Drama]
Shin Sung-rok is currently tearing it up as the Emperor from your worst nightmares, but he can’t hide how much fun he’s having with the role, and it makes him a pleasure to watch (see above).
- Vagabond (2019) [Drama]
Shin Sung-rok is in the new Lee Seung-gi and Suzy drama! I knew it, but I also forgot it in my initial round of anticipation for this action thriller. Wonder what the chances are that he plays the baddie?
- Vagabond releases first action-packed teaser trailer
- An Empress’s Dignity: Episodes 1-2
- Shin Sung-rok, Lee Jin-wook up for legal thriller Return
- Man Who Dies to Live: Episodes 1-2
- On the Way to the Airport: Episode 1
- Shin Sung-rok cast as Kim Haneul’s husband in On the Way to the Airport
- Han Ji-min, Shin Sung-rok join occupation-era blockbuster
- Liar Game: Episode 1