Ok, I can just hear some of you now: “WHO??” Trust me, you want to know who Kwak Jung Wook is. And if you already do, aren’t you glad?
In American cinema, my greatest admiration is for those people who have earned the title of “actor” because they can completely lose themselves in a role. For instance, compare Heath Ledger as Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You versus The Dark Knight as the Joker–definitely does NOT feel like the same person. The same could be said for Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Carribean versus Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as Willy Wonka. Or Cate Blanchett as Galadriel in Lord of the Rings versus Thor: Ragnarok as Hela. It’s more than just costume changes — these actors select roles that are wildly different and play them capably, making them very distinct from each other. They are ACTORS.
Kwak Jung Wook is DEFINITELY an actor. He’s more than capable of losing himself in a role, at one point so far that I didn’t recognize him right away. He’s truly earned the title and not just “pretty face we cast in everything” (I’m looking at Tom Cruise here).
Jung Wook has had a long career already, despite only being 28, acting in more dramas than I’ll ever have time to watch. I’ll just discuss the three roles I’ve watched him perform, with a little confirmation of my opinions from a fantastic article written by Lisa Espinosa for Han Cinema.
For this drama, I wasn’t riveted by just Jung Wook, but the entire cast. The twisting, turning plot was rife with suspense and just enough angst to make it compelling and thought-provoking. Jung Wook’s performance as the partially deaf, somewhat cowardly Yang Kang Mo was adept and strong. His character’s use of a camera to give him distance in the harsh school world and turning it into a tool to give him the advantage when he needed one was well done.
One of my most favorite storytelling constructions in the redemption arc. I loveloveLOVE them, making dramas like Chief Kim and School 2013 and Feel Good to Die rise to the top of my list. I started watching School 2013 for Kim Woo Bin and Lee Jong Suk, but at the end, it was Kwak Jung Wook’s character that I was rooting for.
Kwak Jung Wook’s excellent portrayal of the bully Oh Jung Ho was effective in making me hate the jerk at first. I was pretty sure I was going to hate on him the whole way through, but then the character arc shifted and suddenly I saw a new side to the bullied, broken boy who just needed to be seen. And in Jung Wook’s capable hands, that character arc was played out brilliantly. I felt for him and I wanted him to change and to take the opportunities that were being offered to him, dang it!
Shut Up Flower Boy Band
THIS. This is where Jung Wook’s versatility shines. As Lisa Espinosa says in her post, “Kwak rarely stood out in the role save for when he had a few choice remarks to make as Ma-ro – then he quietly drew all the attention in the scene to himself.”
I still remember, over a year later, paying more attention when Ma Ro spoke — he was riveting. Jung Wook played the laid-back bully with a refined air just right, only standing out exactly when he needed to and for exactly as long as he needed to. He was very skilled in this role, and it actually took me quite a while to put the two roles together — Oh Jung Ho and Jung Ma Ro — as being played by the same person. His performance was perfectly understated and yet showed exactly what kind of a transformation he’s capable of.
Jung Wook has already completed his military service and has been performing in plays and most recently in Life on Mars. I can’t wait to see what drama role he picks next — I know he’ll shine. I would love to see him in something complex with Jang Ki Yong (Na Moo in Come and Hug Me) and Kwak Dong Yeon (hottie bodyguard in Moonlight Drawn by Clouds). Alas, I’m not in charge of casting anything.
What about you, drama fans? Where have you spotted Kwak Jung Wook? What did you think? What kind of role would you like to see him take on next?
Until next time, I remain–
Karie the Maknae
Dramas with a Side of Kimchi