I've never been into an actor this much in such a short time. I got to know him more than a month ago and now I've become such a huge fan. I'm highly impressed with his acting skills, his singing voice and his personality. I love how simple, hardworking and sincere he is.
I was lurking around Joo Won's page in a forum when I was struck by an idea for this post. There were newbies there introducing themselves and old members wanting to know how they discovered Joo Won. I asked myself the same question and I realized that my discovery of Joo Won was kind of interesting in its own way.
The thing is, I've met Joo Won (on TV, that is) a couple of times in the past. Baker King, Kim Tak Gu was a huge hit in my country. I didn't follow it but I've seen some episodes. Back then Eugene was one of my favorite actresses (loved her ever since I watched Save The Last Dance For Me) however the drama was shown on another network and in our household, we don't really watch anything from that network. And honestly, the title Baker King didn't perk up my interest that much coz I'm pretty sure it's about people being dramatic over baking and I didn't think that was my cup of tea.
Fast forward to 2014 and the news of a Nodame Cantabile remake made a huge noise all over dramaland. I am a huge fan of Nodame Cantabile (the manga, anime, and especially the Jdorama which is my all time favorite Japanese drama) and when I heard about this, I was surprised and honestly, very, very unwilling.
Though very much unwilling, I was still obviously interested. I kept close watch over the casting announcement. Joo Won was casted first. I didn't know him so rather than comment on his acting skills, I just thought he didn't look 'Chiaki' enough for me BUT since he was unfamiliar to me, I was a bit against with his casting. A little shallow, I know. And then at that time, Yoona's name was also mentioned. I like Yoona as an idol but as an actress, not really. (I've seen some of her dramas though I could never finish them). At the very beginning, I already think that Chiaki and Nodame should only be Tamaki Hiroshi and Ueno Juri, then they go and cast someone that 1) I do not know (JW) and 2) do not trust the acting skills (Y). So, I was really disappointed with the casting announcement at that time.I wanna shout "DON'T YOU DARE TOUCH NODAME CANTABILE!!!!" #obligatorycapslocktweet— Lei (@lei_02) January 28, 2014
Joo Won and Yoona for the leads in the korean version of Nodame Cantabile. MAJOR UGH.— Lei (@lei_02) July 10, 2014
(how sad that this was my very first mention of Joo Won on my Twitter)
But thankfully, they ended up with an actress instead of an idol. I watched the first 5 episodes and I remember thinking that the leads delivered.
I'm now actually a bit excited about Naeil Cantabile. I hope they do Nodame justice.— Lei (@lei_02) September 22, 2014
Naeil's Cantabile Ep1 is out!— Lei (@lei_02) October 14, 2014
However, I wasn't able to finish that drama the first time around. I was too biased to the original and I kept comparing. It also didn't help that the drama was still finding its footing during the first few episodes. I dropped it.Just watched Naeil's Cantabile. It's okay so far. The leads delivered.— Lei (@lei_02) October 14, 2014
In 2015 (latter half), there was so much buzz for Yongpal on my twitter timeline. I was curious about it and I think I've opened Yongpal's wiki page more times that I'd like but in 2015, I was more immersed in watching American TV series (I was watching around 15 series at that time) so I didn't have the time to watch an Asian drama.
Now, here starts my true discovery of Joo Won. I tried to be detailed as I can and it helps that I've got tweets from that time to prove it. It was March 27, 2016 and I was watching Cheese in the Trap fanvids on Youtube when I chanced upon this 'collab collection' video. Perhaps I thought the thumbnail pic was cute (I'm pretty sure it was because of Kim Jae Won) that's why I decided to click it. Sure enough, it was an interesting collection of fanvids for different dramas. I actually made a mental note to check some of them.
This video did it for me. I was already invested and I really want to watch the drama. However, Google informed me that it has 58 episodes and I got intimidated. 58 episodes for an American drama are nothing but 58 episodes for a Korean drama seem like forever.
Chanced upon an Ojakyo Brothers fanvid and it was so good that it made me want to watch the drama. Upon checking, it has 58 eps!!!!!!!!!— Lei (@lei_02) March 27, 2016
So I just made a mental note to watch that drama some time and went back to the fanvid. Once again, on the 'Suggestions' column, there was this another fanvid. Thumbnail pic looked interesting and even more so is the content.I'm not sure I can commit to long series like that.— Lei (@lei_02) March 27, 2016
So, once again, I got curious. Are these two the drama's OTP or is this some wishful thinking non-OTP pairing coming from a fan? I checked Wiki and the plot of the drama Gaksital aka Bridal Mask looks interesting. And it's definitely something that I would like. It has 28 episodes. It was still pretty daunting to me but I checked the first episode and was blown away. I ended up binge-watching that drama. When it ended, I was a mess. That's how good that drama was. It was such a rare feat in dramaland for a drama to start off strong and remain strong for 28 episodes. The finale was amazing and the ending scene was particularly powerful and exceptionally moving.
Below are evidences of my gushing about the show.
I've been binge-watching Gaksital and I'm on ep24 and it's still SO DAMN GOOD. I wish someone told me that earlier. #BridalMask— Lei (@lei_02) April 2, 2016
I haven't finished it yet but it already has a place in my top 5 fave kdramas ever. #Gaksital #BridalMask— Lei (@lei_02) April 2, 2016
Majorly crushing on Joo Won right now coz of Gaksital. I think I'm gonna give Cantabile Tomorrow another try just for him. Haha.— Lei (@lei_02) April 2, 2016
Just finished Gaksital. ohmygod, IT WAS SOOOOO GOOD!!!! #BridalMask— Lei (@lei_02) April 3, 2016
It started good and continued to be sooo good until the end. Such a rare feat in dramaland. #Gaksital #BridalMask— Lei (@lei_02) April 3, 2016
I only watched it on a whim coz I saw a compelling MV on youtube but the first episode instantly hooked me. #Gaksital #BridalMask— Lei (@lei_02) April 3, 2016
The final ep was amazing. Every character sendoff was satisfying. And the ending scene was so powerful. #Gaksital #BridalMask— Lei (@lei_02) April 3, 2016
— Lei (@lei_02) April 3, 2016There is romance in this show with the OTP mentioned above. Here's what they look like when they're not hating and trying to kill each other.
(those smiles are so beautiful)
When it ended, I got 2 things from it. One - the drama became my all time favorite Korean drama and two - I had this so much love for the actor who played the main character. That's when I started to research Joo Won. Imagine my surprise when I realized that he's the lead actor in Cantabile Tomorrow and Yong Pal, and he was also in Baker King. I decided then to do a Joo Won drama marathon. After Gaksital, I watched Ojakgyo Brothers. It was a nice family drama with 4 mini love stories but I was into it so much because of Joo Won and his pairing with UEE that got me so in love. They were the main OTP and I like that this drama was long so the romance aspect was super satisfying. I mean, just look at this lovely couple. (And I didn't even have to include the kissing scenes GIFs and there were so many!!!)
(Hwang Tae Hee and Baek Ja Eun have properly earned their spot in my Top 5 OTPs)
After OB, I watched Cantabile Tomorrow next. The show found its footing after the first few episodes and since I watched it with an open mind the second time around, I actually enjoyed it. Good Doctor was my next since every one said Joo Won did such a fine job on his role as an autistic doctor with savant syndrome. It was a bit painful to watch because of the constant belittling and shaming but it was a heartwarming drama with Joo Won indeed showcasing major acting chops. He should've really won a Daesang for this role. After that was Yong Pal. The first 6 episodes were amazing but it slowly went downhill. Although if you watch it with low expectations (which I did coz I've read the reviews), you will enjoy it. Joo Won's acting is still topnotch though not his best- maybe because of the limitations of the role. My next drama was 7th Grade Civil Servant. This one also needed to be watched with even lower expectations. I actually speedwatched the drama. It was a mess and Joo Won had no chemistry with Choi Kang Hee
I'm currently on my last Joo Won drama which is Baker King, Kim Tak Gu. This is his debut drama where he played the antagonist Gu Ma Jun. It's kinda difficult to watch coz Joo Won's playing such a mean guy. Baker King was a huge hit at that time with its highest rating reaching 50.8% (this is unheard of nowadays) and I'm so happy that this was Joo Won's first ever drama and his character was interesting, complicated and more layered. It actually makes me want to root for him but every time he does bad things, it's like I get disappointed time and time again. I chastise him every time on the screen.
While watching Baker King, I also watched a few episodes of 1 Night 2 Days. I’ve seen some clips and I like how the program showcases his shy personality which is also full of aegyoness (cuteness). I also like that he is strong and competitive in some games. As of the moment, I’m enjoying 1N2D so much that I’ve put Baker King on a short hiatus. Well, not really, I still watch it like an episode or two a day but I’m no longer binge-watching it. To be honest, I’ve watched all Joo Won’s scenes and I know basically how the story goes and how it ends. I don’t want to speedwatch it like I did with 7th Grade Civil Servant because Baker King, even with all its makjang glory, actually has an engaging story.
1N2D is giving me so much joy every time I watch it. Sure there are some boring episodes but I love the casts and their bromance so much that it is actually the highlight. During the time Gaksital was airing, Joo Won was already in 1N2D. I love it when I read old recaps and how everyone (audience, netizens) was having whiplash because of his character. It's like they cannot comprehend that the cute maknae who aegyos around his hyungs and scared of bugs is the badass, masked vigilante Lee Kang To in Gaksital. It impressed everyone and made them appreciate his acting talent even more.
In between watching his dramas, I've also watched his interviews and guestings. I personally love his Win Win and Healing Camp interviews, and his guestings on Happy Together. The story of the way he got to debut and casted was like a story from a drama. He got to debut as a lead in the musical, Altar Boyz, when his university senior heard him singing while he was cleaning the stage and recommended him to audition. He was the understudy for the lead in Spring Awakening but he prepared so much (memorizing the songs and dances, taking notes of the lead actor’s acting, reading the script twice every day) that when the lead actor injured himself during the first full rehearsal, they made him perform and he got through it successfully. He got double casted for Spring Awakening and was given 150 of the total 250 performances. During the audition for Baker King, the producers and directors didn't like him to play Gu Ma Jun coz he was a novice but the writer liked him so much that she didn't want to do the drama unless Joo Won was casted.
I like how each time he gets interviewed, it further shows how much of a non-celebrity he is. During his Healing Camp interview, he revealed that he was asked by the media as to why he seemed different from other actors his age. He said, at the moment, it seems that he's only walking towards the path of acting. Fellow actor Jung Woong In (in a video interview) said that people may think he is boring because he has caused no event incidents, has no scandals and no mishaps on set (has never even been late). His attitude hasn't changed (still humble) and he only thinks of acting. Personally, I like how simple he is. He doesn't even have extravagant hobbies. He considers drinking coffee at a cafe with friends, going for a drive and walking for long hours (8-9hours) his hobbies.
When you read and watch his interviews, the word "sincere" gets thrown around a lot. Almost everyone who gets to interview Joo Won had remarked that he is such a sincere guy. He listens to questions intently and answers them earnestly. He is known for his lack of pretense. One article from OSEN recently dubbed him as an "Icon of Integrity" and "Icon of Sincerity."
CLEO interview, August 2015
I haven’t started his movies yet but I’m looking forward to (some of) them. (Honestly, I checked Fashion King and it doesn’t look like my cup of tea). I’m excited for his new dramas although I’m really skeptical of a sageuk My Sassy Girl and Chinese drama means dubbed voices. But I trust Joo Won and even if I don’t enjoy the story, I always enjoy his acting.
He’ll be enlisting for military this year and as a new fan, that saddens me coz I’ve been devouring all his shows one after another and after I’m done with them, that means for 2 years, I will have no regular dose of Joo Won. I really regret the fact that I just learned about him this year. Oh well, better late than never.
Miscellaneous stuff: Joo Won singing!!! (I love his voice so much.)
Song: Instinctively (Win Win)
Song: Two People (Baker King Special)
Song: This is the Moment | Korean ver.
(Lee Seung-yeon and 100 Women)
Song: Snow Flower (1 Night 2 Days)
Song: If I Were (Yoo Hee Yeol's Sketchbook)
Song: Judgement Day (KBS Drama Awards 2012)
Song: Honey (Happy Together)