«Hansu is the starting point for the next ten years of my career»
Hallyu star Lee Minho exclusive interview for Panorama
When Lee Minho first appeared on Zoom, my clock was striking at 11 pm. It was 3 pm in Los Angeles, where Minho and all the Pachinko cast and crew were, preparing for the preview of the most awaited product in the tv industry. Lee Minho appeared on the screen with a really heartwarming Annyeonghaseyo. His hair is longer and curlier than usual. He has a powerful aura surrounding him that leaves you astonished for at least a few seconds. From what we saw during the 8 hours of the show, Pachinko is an epic story that won’t disappoint you (our early review can be found here).
Koh Hansu is a key character in Lee Minho’s career. «First of all, I auditioned for the first time in 13 years,» said the actor smiling at the camera. «I really wanted this role, I worked hard to get casted. Actually, after such a long time, I almost forgot how to undergo an audition process». Soo Hugh, the acclaimed producer/writer and executive producer of Pachinko, confirmed that «Lee Minho wanted to become Hansu so bad. He was able to feel the character and make him alive in the only way we can imagine it». In a story where the only main protagonist is Sunja in all the stages of her life, Koh Hansu plays one of the crucial roles by being able to shape the life of this “simple, innocent Korean girl”. Known as the prince of K-dramas, Lee Minho is one of the most beloved actors of the Hallyu Wave. Known for his roles in some of the most appreciated romantic dramas, from Boys Over Flowers (the adaptation of the Japanese Hana Yori Dango) to Netflix’s hit title The King: Eternal Monarch, Lee Minho is now ready for a change. Koh Hansu is one of the controversial characters of modern literature. In the novel, he’s a 34 years old born Korean, adopted by a Yakuza family - the Japanese mafia. Hansu is a controlling rich man. He meets Sunja when she’s just sixteen and seems to fall in love with her. Hansu’s life has a recurrent motto: “to succeed, you need to know what others don’t”. Lee Minho defined Hansu as «the starting point for the next ten years of his career». When asked about his plans on future roles he would like to portray, the actor said, «it’s not that I have a concrete plan right now on what kind of character I would like to play and when but I am in my thirties now, and as I gain more experience in the business I think I become to appreciate the power of stories and stories that can really send a message to the audience». As Pachinko, he confirmed smiling and brushing his shoulder. By checking his background story, some may think that Koh Hansu is the real villain in this story. But he is? «Pachinko has a very powerful story as if there is such a kind of strong story I’m now willing to take on all kinds of roles, even if it is a villain». But then he added: «if you look at Hansu you may think he really is a villain or has a bad boy type of personality. However, if you try to understand him and go a bit deeper, there is a reason behind his language and his demeanor. He has a much more multi-layered personality than just simply a villain, and that’s why I really tried to express and persuade the viewers through my approach to Hansu».
It has been a long day for Lee Minho and all the cast of Pachinko. Despite being tired - he confirmed it was a really long day while leaving our Zoom room - he kept smiling and laughing during the whole session. Hansu was indeed one of the most complicated characters played by Lee Minho. The Hallyu star was actually cast for it in 2020, «and Hansu was the character that was able to satisfy my thirst of trying something new». «When I read the script, I was really drawn to it,» he admitted, «for me, it was a story of survival, people who were enduring and overcoming hard times». To get ready to play what could be “the role of his life,” Lee Minho said, «I tried to find images of the past. And I also looked up for events of our history that were not significantly represented in the storybooks». «I also watched documentaries that feature people going through hardships and challenges and are trying to overcome them».
Lee Minho is not only a stunning actor, but he also is a really skilled one. One of his signatures is his ability to create some of the most beautiful and passionate kissing scenes in the K-drama industry. And Pachinko won’t be an exception. The “prohibited” love between Hansu and Sunja will gift the fans from all around the globe with a few steamy moments. «I think that the kissing in this series is slightly different from any other romance scenes you can see in other dramas or films,» he admitted smiling and keeping himself from bursting in a laugh. «Normally, when you have this type of scene, everything is perfectly preset so that it looks really beautiful and pretty on-screen,» he continued «you have the perfect angle, The perfect background, to make everything look very romantic». But Pachinko is different. On so many levels. «In this drama, we are kinda thrown in the middle of the nature, we are up in the mountain or by the ocean, and so I think I can say it was a bit more intuitive and instinctive compared to the other romantic scenes you can see in other content» added while moving his hands to explain better the power of this love story and the behind the scene of it.
Since his first appearance on the screen in episode one, on a suspended bridge watching the ocean, you can feel that Hansu has become fully part of Lee Minho’s life. You can catch a glimpse of how this role became a significant side of him during the show tunes where Lee Minho appears wearing a baby blue suit and a fedora hat that he throws to the camera before reappearing holding the young Sunja in his arms. «I didn’t dance during the intro,» he laughed «my fans know that I can’t dance at all». And no one, confirmed the cast and crew, was able to convince him to try. «As for the approach to the character, I don’t think I did something significantly different from my past works,» told Lee Minho. «Hansu is a this a much more comprehensive grounded and realistic character compared to some of the ones I played before». Talking about the past roles, the actor said, «I think in the past my characters were a bit more kinda polished and fantasy-like, so that’s the main difference. So this time I tried to really portray the authenticity and focused on being more authentic». «This experience of playing Hansu was a really freeing emotion to me,» he continued «I felt very free to portray Hansu, and in the process, it was an opportunity for me to learn a lot». «I think this was a really great experience for me as an actor because I was able to try to understand and express emotions that you cannot really feel today,» he concluded «and also all the characters in this story, including Hansu, are just trying to survive and each of them has his own personal surviving method, and it was very inspiring for me».
Wrapping up our interview, I asked Lee Minho to describe in one word Pachinko. «Oh, it’s complicated... You made me a tough question» he laughed while I was apologizing and laughing at the same time. But then he made up his mind: «I think Pachinko’s word could be generation. Generational». And we couldn’t agree more.
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