Esquire Interview: Sun Never Sets – Lee Seung Gi

A big thanks to the hard working AnnMichelle for translating this long interview article amidst her busy schedule! 😀


One cannot always be the winner in real life. Maybe sometimes having the winning desire itself is beautiful enough. Rain could fall; people could be susceptible. One could get sick from eating convenience food past the expiration date; one could become complacent. Losing well is also a skill. Lee Seung Gi knows the rules of the game. He is a master of winning. Privately, he demonstrates this side of him even better. He doesn’t cross the line of being pleasant and comfortable. “Obeying what needs to be obeyed, that is a real man.” He cherishes and follows this advice from his father. Only Lee Seung Gi can do that – at least among the people that I know. It has been three years since I last saw him, with more well-defined jaw line and more brilliant eyes, this half-man half-beast, no, I should say this ideal man with his superior genes. To a guy like me, the masculine charisma he exudes seems even stronger.

“I often heard that Lee Seung Gi was not manly enough. That comment at one time was stressful for me. But after Gu Famly Book wrapped up, I didn’t have to try and people would say how manly I’ve become. I really did not do anything. Maybe this is a gift from time. Acting with a younger co-star like Suzy allowed me to show an older brother side naturally.”

The aroma of Hawaii is very stimulating. Not sure this is the right way to put it, but his bronze, sun-tanned skin is positively vibrant.

“This is my first time visiting Hawaii. I had heard lots of good things about Hawaii from people around me, so I was very curious. If not for the Esquire photo-shoot, when could I ever visit Hawaii?”

There’s no idle talk. He kindly looks me in the eyes, and also kindly gives a lot of thought to even throwaway questions. In the GFB wrap interviews, sometimes he had to repeat the same comments many times. But he’s just happy that the drama was so popular for the reporters to pay much attention. Nowadays, what with reruns and digital multimedia broadcasting, drama ratings are leveling off or even on a downward trend. GFB was able to gain 19.5% ratings at its conclusion. It’s clearly a successful production.

“Although I would be even happier if the numbers were higher, I feel great that, ratings aside, GFB generated a lot of discussion topics. Through this drama, I’ve become calmer, more humble.”

The Lee Seung Gi I know, no, the Lee Seung Gi the world knows, is the icon of humility!

“In fact if you look at the character set-up of GFB, it is a drama that gives the lead lots of confidence. From screen time to the progression of the story, it all hinged on the role I played, Choi Kang Chi, as One Top. If facing this before, I would only say, ‘Ah, thank you so much for making me the lead in this big drama.’ I would not be thinking about other implications. But now I’ve learned so much. To find the right balance in a drama, everyone has to cooperate. Something has to go, and likewise, other stuff has to be demonstrated. Because I was the lead, my pace could change the atmosphere of the film set. If I felt tired or lost concentration, the filming progress would be affected. GFB made me understand what teamwork was.”

PD of the drama, Shin Woo Chul, praised that Lee Seung Gi did not even complain once. His co-star, Yoo Dong Geun, has become a great mentor.

“Yoo Dong Geun sunbaenim treats me very nicely. After the drama wrapped, he invited me to a meal at his house. It’s such an honor to enjoy the grilled meat prepared by Jun In Hwa sunbaenim. I was very thankful. Frankly in sunbaenim’s eyes I might be doing very well, but, let’s face it, how well could I be doing?! I am grateful that sunbaenim saw the potential of a 20’s actor and gave him so much strength. I’ve gained lots of confidence through his support.”

The way Lee Seung Gi talks is not unlike the maknae in One Night Two Days. Lively expressions and unique innocence galore. He has a gift for drawing people to him, as the public can all feel.

He is the Favorable Impression type.

“That’s a blessing. This kind of image, whether from variety shows or through dramas, making people kindly accept my effort, this is the greatest privilege in my life.” This also implies there are lots of expectations.

“If I could not meet the expectations, perhaps I would get criticized extra harshly. But given that, I still feel happy that I am able to work with nice people to fulfill the expectations.”

Maybe this is a case of the Nice Guy Complex, exerting strict self control in order to live up to the expectations of people by his side?

“Without quite realizing it, this is the tenth year since my debut. During that time, people have formed certain impressions of me. I can’t disregard that. I don’t want to say emotionally, “No, no, it’s not like that,” and try stubbornly to explain myself. If there is something to complain about, rather than thinking about the most subtle way to complain,  now I focus on how to express myself better.”

It feels like Lee Seung Gi has a good grasp of the instruction manual called Lee Seung Gi, so to speak. [It means he knows himself well.] No matter what, how is it possible that someone at the top of his profession can exert such self-control?

“I work very hard on it, and I am influenced a lot by the people around me. My parents, of course. Also, one tends to behave more roughly while with men and more attentively while with women, right? In the latter case, before causing any trouble, I would realize it myself quickly.”

For a better understanding, a lot of people, including the representative, in his management company are female. And so is singer Lee Sun Hee who is his music teacher. Another thing I’ve noticed about Lee SeungGi is that he’s very sensitive about exposure. So I was very surprised to see him exposing his upper body in The King 2 Hearts and Gu Family Book. I can feel there’s more to it than his passion for acting.

“Everything else is okay but exposing my upper body… However, neither of the directors is someone you can just push around. If I could not persuade them with good reasons, it would make me look like an overly cautious kid. During GFB I sent a text message to the writer jokingly, ‘Ah, writer-nim, since you like undressing scenes, how about one in ep. 20?’ In most dramas, because actors usually manage their figures carefully, exposure at the beginning is okay; but toward the end the shape is all but gone.”

From Han Hyo Joo, Shin Min Ah, Ha Ji Won, to Bae Suzy, all his co-stars are famed beauty but there has never been any scandal.

“What I realized was that to fall for the characters those actresses played, I had to have good feelings toward the actresses themselves as well. Liking a character while hating the actress? That doesn’t make any sense. On the set of GFB, I called Suzy by her real name maybe once or twice. She was always Yeo Wool to me. On my cell phone she’s Yeo Wool too.”

Since he’s developed a passion for acting, maybe he will next challenge a movie role?

“I would like to work with great directors, because a director has the biggest influence over a movie. I talked a LOT in earlier interviews that ‘I ‘totally’ like directors Bong Joon Ho, Choi Dong Hoon, and Kim Yong Hwa’, but none of it showed up (in the interview articles). It would be even better if I could add here that I’d like to work with Song Kang Ho, Kim Yoon Seok, Choi Min Sik, and Han Seok Kyu sunbaenims!”

But Lee Seung Gi can’t be tied to acting alone. It’s obvious he possesses a charm that makes people happy without burdens. He revealed in an interview that he would like to do variety shows with a ‘season’ system.

“I think I’ve accumulated enough energy for variety shows. And I have a great desire to try new things myself. If I do a fixed, long term show I would likely show the same Lee Seung Gi again. But with a ‘season’ system, as new things are added in I would be able to show different sides of me.”

But that is Lee Seung Gi. Always careful and deliberate. The same is true of his singer activity. So far all the songs released in his busy career have been hits. In my case, for some time now, my 18th song in noraebang (karaoke) has been Lee Seung Gi’s songs. ‘Will You Marry Me’ when I am in love, ‘Erase’ when I say good-bye, and so  on.

“I think I was being selfish with GFB OST. While I wanted to present good music to the audience, I was greedy for the ‘title’ of the first song written, composed, and sung by the lead actor. More time should have been given to creating the song, but I just wanted so much to try my hand. I’ve learned a lot from this.”

Self-reflection without warning or prompting. This is how Lee Seung Gi is. The GFB OST, Lee Seung Gi’s self-composed song, ‘Last Words,’ climbed to No. 1 on music charts, and generated lots of interest and popularity. The moment I was going to say its praises, he came out with the reflection first. I don’t know anything else, but I felt his sincerity. Just like this, the Lee Seung Gi we know is changing; and just like that, he has grown 10 years older. He’s been spending his teen years and 20s smoothly with us.

“My family and agency holds me tightly so that I don’t get lost in popularity or somehow wander into the wrong way. The next 10 years may not be any easier. Maybe I should be more careful precisely because I’ve been so happy so far. Lately I sense the importance of choice. If there is something I want to do but cannot do it, there is likely no going back. The timing for doing that thing might exist only at that moment.”

In Lee Seung Gi’s world, there is no ‘Lee Seung Gi.’ There is only our ‘Seung Gi’ who just by showing up in the TV screen is able to make us very happy. Seung Gi is a real master of winning.*

*The original Korean term for ‘master of winning’ has a lot of connotations: someone with a strong will to win, someone with a high winning probability, someone who’s determined and bold, etc…

English translation by AnnMichelle, special contributor to Everything Lee Seung Gi
Based on Chinese translation by dlww1234 @ baidu tieba
Special thanks to iGo, my Korean consultant, and to asqdd for providing the original Korean article.
Please do not plagiarize or repost without a link back to my original post.

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