Man at His Best

Lee Min-Ho: An Actor Who Expresses Himself In The Visceral

Whilst finding his true self.

BY Editors | Apr 24, 2017 | Film & TV

Photographs by Choi Yong Bin

You are awaiting for the release of a new single, “Always”. Even though you are not a singer, we believe that the reason you continue to release music is for your fans. What are your musical ambitions? 

[Laughs] I do not have grand resolutions or aspirations for this single. I continue to release albums as there are more people who don’t know about my albums than those who do. This is one of the ways I communicate with my fans. That is why I continue to release albums. To me, “Always”—as in the topic of the single—means that we will continue to be together.

We discovered that you are operating a donation platform called Promise and have been making contributions and doing volunteer work. Is there a specific reason behind this?

The start of Promise also came from my fans. Even from the beginning, my fan club has always taken the initiative to do good deeds. After many years of making donations in my name, I came to see the people who are marginalised from society and those who are in difficult situations. And I thought more and more about donations, especially when there are huge social issues and accidents. I came to the conclusion that continuous support is better than a one-time cash donation. This was how Promise began.

Cotton jacket, silk shirt and cotton trousers, all by Louis Vuitton

Your acting in The Legend of the Blue Sea is very popular among fans. You used to play quiet and serious characters; this is completely new. Would you say that you are closer to that specific character? 

I think it is correct to say that I am a collection of various characters. When I think about it, sometimes I am childish and other times I act more mature than my age. Because of my childish and playful side, I was able to act naturally and convincingly.

How do you concentrate when you have to say cheesy lines? It might be simple for actors but there are lines that may come off as odd if viewers say it. We are curious as to how you deal with these cringe-worthy lines? 

First, you have to take a deep breath. If you start laughing, it makes the acting more difficult. You would think that I am completely used to saying these lines but I still feel uneasy with cheesy lines and situations. Whenever I have to act in those scenes, I try to focus more on the feelings rather than the lines.

Silk and cashmere jacket and cotton shirt, both by Louis Vuitton

No one can say that your acting spectrum is narrow but it seems like you are missing out because of the lasting impression of your strong characters in romantic comedies. 

It is something I must work on and improve. If an actor starred in many romantic comedies in their 20s, they should be able to show their skills in another genre in their 30s. That is why, nowadays, I am trying to find my actual self. I have been living a very restrained and controlled life until now. Trying to find my true self is an important part of improving myself as an actor.

Then, how will you describe a normal day for the real Lee Min-ho? 

A man-about-town? I think this describes me well. [Laughs]

What does love mean to you? 

To me, ideal love is a relationship that has a positive influence on both sides. A love that creates positive energy in all aspects of their lives through the stability that love provides. But it does not mean that lovers must change or accomplish something through love. It is important to maintain things as they are. I try to accept her as she is, without adding or taking away anything, and I try to show my true self.

Canvas shirt and wool trousers, both by Louis Vuitton.

If you have to sacrifice yourself for love, as the mermaid did in The Legend of the Blue Sea, what will you do? Will you sacrifice yourself? 

Love in TV dramas all have the same context. They consist of protecting values including purity, passion, and sacrifice. In real life, it could be very difficult, but if I was in a similar situation, I think I will try my best to protect my love. 

What kind of person would you like to be? 

I want to be an attractive person in every sense of the word—as an actor and as a person. I want myself and many people to be happy and joyful.

Leather and wool pullover and cotton trousers, both by Louis Vuitton

Are you happy now? What is “now” for Lee Min-ho? 

I think a huge blessing just came and passed by at this time of my life. It made me stronger and allowed me to relax. I am happy now but I am going to try to look for many different kinds of happiness that will make me grow.

If you were given the ability to change just one thing in this world, what would that be? 

I want to create a universal language. I think that would make the world a more connected place.

This article was first published in the print edition of Esquire Singapore, April 2017.