[Actor Spotlight] Nam Joo-hyuk
Nam Joo-hyuk, the star of JTBC’s drama The Light in Your Eyes, is the subject of this week’s spotlight. The fantasy/time travel drama also stars Han Ji-min, and has seen its ratings steadily climb since the drama premiered in February.
Born in 1994 in Busan, South Korea, Nam Joo-hyuk’s career has been on quite the fast track. He debuted as a runway model in 2013 with YG’s modeling agency YGKPlus (home to many models-turned-actors, like Lee Sung-kyung and Jang Ki-yong, to name a few). In 2014, he made his TV debut with a supporting role in the quirky tvN drama Surplus Princess. Fast forward less than four years later, and he had a major role in the historical action film The Great Battle, and won the Blue Dragon Award for Best New Actor.
Watching a model transition to acting is an interesting experience. Nam Joo-hyuk, and many other models that are finding success breaking into acting these days, are very comfortable in front of the camera. They have a wonderful presence on screen and a firm understanding of the nuances of body language, facial expressions, and the like — but sometimes the rest of their performance needs time to catch up. In Nam Joo-hyuk’s case, his best roles to date have been the ones that leveraged his youth and newbie status, and used it to better build his character (Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo, I’m looking at you!)
Here are some drama highlights from Nam Joo-hyuk, followed by his full filmography.
Surplus Princess (2014)
I first met Nam Joo-hyuk in Surplus Princess, the cheeky tvN drama where he debuted. His side role in this drama was actually quite a sizable one, considering how many prominent actors today started by working on bit parts for years until they made it big. Nam Joo-hyuk had his modeling experience and fanbase working for him when he got into acting, and I have to say, he was a lot of fun in Surplus Princess. The drama was full of wacky characters seeking employment, from the mermaid-turned-human played by Jo Boa, to the mukbang webcaster played by the ever-awesome Kim Seul-gi. Nam Joo-hyuk’s role in this drama successfully played off of his rookie vibes and height (he’s 6’2”) to build a fun somewhat awkward character, and an adorable love line. A word to the wise: this drama was cut short by tvN, so the ending suffered. And speaking of suffering, this drama also featured a painful love triangle where, as usual, I erred on the Song Jae-rim side, which often seems to mean heartbreak.
Who Are You—School 2015 (2015)
I’m a huge fan of the School series, even though I’m probably a little too old to get as emotionally involved in high school loves triangles as I did with this one (sorry, not sorry!). The School series not only tend to have great storytelling, but great casting choices, and they’re now famous for giving breakout roles to young rookie actors. Although this drama wasn’t as critically acclaimed as previous School dramas, it was a fun tale of double identities and high school drama/trauma, with Kim So-hyun in the lead. Part mystery, part high school romance, my predominant memory of this show is Yook Sung-jae escaping through hospital windows, and being awesome. Nam Joo-hyuk, on the other side of the triangle, was sweet here, but, for me, missing the spark that Yook Sung-jae brought to the screen. Another show, another bout of second lead syndrome.
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo (2016)
Has anyone else noticed Nam Joo-hyuk seems to get cast as the young athlete rather often? In Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo, he played opposite Lee Sung-kyung as competitive swimmer to her competitive weightlifter. This show did so many things right, and struck such a nice chord. It captured the atmosphere of college life, a group of friends coming of age and dealing with crushes (requited and not), the pressures of being student athletes, and some touching family dynamics as well. Nam Joo-hyuk and Lee Sung-kyung were so great here, in a warm and fuzzy mix of youthfulness, friendship, and first love. The supporting cast was equally enjoyable, but Lee Jae-yoon as Nam Joo-hyuk’s older brother, and the subject of Lee Sung-kyung’s giant crush, was especially great here. One question remains: “Do you like Messi?”
Nam Joo-hyuk’s full filmography:
- Surplus Princess (2014) [Drama]
Apple butts, mermaids, neck ropes, and the pursuit of happiness and full time employment. Fun, quirky, and cut short by tvN in a fit of evilness (see above).
- Who Are You—School 2015 (2015) [Drama]
Sigh, I love a good (or even mediocre) high school drama (see above).
- Dazzling Temptation (2015) [Drama]
Nam Joo-hyuk played the younger version of this drama’s hero (played by Joo Sang-wook) opposite Kim Sae-ron and got some more notice. Can you hear that? It’s the sound of a revenge melo calling my name.
- Cheese in the Trap (2016) [Drama]
Unlike most, I really enjoyed this manhwa adaptation starring Park Hae-jin and Kim Go-eun. Nam Joo-hyuk had a secondary role here, and lent a nice young energy to the cast, much like his role in Surplus Princess.
- Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016) [Drama]
This Goryeo era drama starred Lee Jun-ki, IU, and quite the supporting cast of handsome princes (if I name them all here I’ll get a nosebleed). Despite high hopes, the drama met with criticism, and mostly mediocre ratings.
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo (2016) [Drama]
Leads Nam Joo-hyuk and Lee Sung-kyung shined in this little gem of a drama about two college athletes. Also possibly both their best roles to date (see above).
- Bride of the Water God 2017 (2017) [Drama]
Nam Joo-hyuk played the water god in this manhwa adaptation, and his “wolf cut” hairdo scared me away from the very start. Wish I was kidding.
- The Great Battle (2018) [Film]
Goryeo-era action film with Jo In-sung, Park Sung-woong, and Sung Dong-il. Nam Joo-hyuk definitely knows how to keep good company!
- The Light in Your Eyes (2019) [Drama]
Nam Joo-hyuk and Han Ji-min are currently starring in this JTBC drama about time travel — or time control, shall we say? As a fun fact, Sohn Ho-joon also stars here, and the two actors have also appeared on the tvN/Na PD variety show Coffee Friends.
- School Nurse Ahn Eun-young (2020) [Drama]
Nam Joo-hyuk will join Jung Yumi in this newly-announced exorcism comedy offering from Netflix.
- Nam Joo-hyuk joins Jung Yumi in Netflix exorcism comedy
- Han Ji-min, Nam Joo-hyuk, Kim Hye-ja up for JTBC time-bending romance
- Bride of the Water God 2017: Episode 1
- Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju: Episode 1
- Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo: Episode 1
- Nam Joo-hyuk joins new season of Three Meals a Day
- Cheese in the Trap: Episode 1