Park Hae-soo on creating his character

By Lee Gyu-lee



The Korea Times Co.


Actor Park Hae-soo, who rose to prominence in Korea through the 2017 tvN series “Prison Playbook,” found global stardom last year with his role in Netflix’s biggest hit series “Squid Game.” Taking on several of the platform’s original series and films since then, the actor has recently played a National Intelligence Service (NIS) agent named Choi Chang-ho, who goes undercover as a businessman in the new crime thriller series “Narco-Saints.” “When I first got the script, it felt like a movie with a long saga. I got curious how they would bring it to life, and how they would depict (the story),” Park told The Korea Times in an interview held at a cafe in central Seoul, Tuesday. “Choi is a character that can show two different sides, which drew my interest.” Led by filmmaker Yoon Jong-bin, who is known for the 2012 crime film “Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time” and the 2018 drama film “The Spy Gone North,” the series is based on the true story of a civilian carrying out a government mission to capture a Korean drug lord in Suriname. The civilian, an ordinary patriarch named Kang In-gu (Ha Jung-woo) who moved to the South American country to start a fish trading business, gets falsely accused of smuggling drugs. He learns that local priest Jeon Yo-hwan (Hwang Jung-min) is actually the kingpin of the country’s drug cartel and joins Chang-ho (Park), the U.S. branch head of the NIS, to take down Yo-hwan. Park’s character Chang-ho is a straitlaced agent, but as he goes undercover to approach Yo-hwan, he disguises himself as a rough, cunning businessman named Goo Sangman, seeking to supply drugs for Yo-hwan. The actor shared that he didn’t try to separate the two characters completely. “They are both the same person, and it wasn’t like Chang-ho, as an agent, was skillful enough to play a double role (between Chang-ho and Sang-man). I wanted a little bit of cunning to go with the businessman character, rather than making it overwhelmingly spirited or dynamic. I just tried to bring out the playful side of me (when playing Sangman),” he said, adding that he took part in styling Sang-man. “We had a lot of discussions on creating the look on how far we should go to transform him into Sang-man. I didn’t want the character to go overboard (with the outfit) because then he will look suspicious.” Chang-ho had spent years hunting down Yo-hwan. Park said he had to find a justification for his character’s tenacity in capturing the drug lord. “It was difficult to create the character simply based on dedication to the country. I needed more motivation,” he said. “He had to put a civilian into this conflict and I don’t think he would’ve done it with just dedication. I felt he would have a sense of obsession and responsibility to capture Yo-hwan.” Park had recently gotten back from the U.S. after attending this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards last week with the “Squid Game” team, which won a total of six Emmys including Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. The actor said that the hit series’ U.S. campaign in the past year has led him to widen his perspective and set bigger goals for his acting career. “I used to be the type of person who pays whole attention only on the thing I focus. But during my time abroad, meeting new people, I came to have a perspective to see a bigger, wider picture,” he said, adding that he hopes to take on global projects. “I feel very grateful and have earned a great sense of courage.”