Calling Nam Joo-hyuk an actor-model doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head. The South Korean leading man and style icon isn’t just well-established in both areas, in spite of his mere 25 years, but also evidently possesses a mystique that allows him to command a vast fan base and an Instagram following that numbers in excess of 10 million. Not bad at all for a man who never had it in his head to become a model or an actor in the first place.
What Nam originally wanted was to become a professional basketball player, until his ambition got sidetracked by injury. Picking up the shattered pieces of his dream, the strapping lad found he could put his 188-centimetre athletic frame to good use on the runway. He won a modelling contest sponsored by leading South Korean agency YG KPlus and signed on with the company.
Following his debut as a runway model in 2013, Nam also found opportunity to make forays into the entertainment industry. Appearances in music videos led to supporting roles in South Korean dramas, which in turn brought him leading roles in both television and film projects.
Along the way, he also managed to pick up a string of awards. In a poetic twist that brought his career full circle, Nam was appointed brand ambassador for luxury fashion house Dior Men in 2019.
While he may have found success at a young age, Nam remains incredibly grounded and holds tightly to the work ethic that has brought him to where he is. He sees many more peaks to climb, so we are going to have much from him to look forward to.
It’s been an eventful 2019 for you, hasn’t it?
It has. My focus last year had been entirely on acting. I have been lucky to be a part of several great drama series and films. The Light In Your Eyes was a particular highlight for me because I got to work with Kim Hye-ja. At times it didn’t even feel like work at all. Reading lines with her felt like we were simply having a conversation.
Now, I’m both excited and apprehensive about presenting a few upcoming projects to audiences. I wonder especially about what audiences across the world will think about The School Nurse Files, an upcoming Netflix original series. I was really keyed up about working with director Lee Kyung-mi and all my co-stars. It felt like a dream.
What is your plan for 2020?
My resolution on every New Year’s Day hasn’t changed. It’s to be a better person than I was the year before, however marginal the improvement. I try to accomplish this by taking things one step at a time. I believe that little steps do add up over time, so I’m sure I’ll see a better version of myself at the end of 2020.
It’s been said that when a man reaches the age of 30, he would have come to truly understand himself and know what he wants in life. Have you thought about how you want to develop yourself to become such a man when you turn 30 in four years’ time, especially in the context of acting?
I set my goals in 10-year cycles, and when I was 20 I simply wanted to be an actor. I decided then that I’d be happy if I could, by the age of 30, become an actor that people can connect with emotionally, because I wanted to bring both laughter and tears to the audience. I’m now halfway through this 10-year cycle, and I’m still working hard to make this a reality. I think my goal at 30 will be to become a better actor over the following decade.
How have you been working towards this goal?
I believe that all I can do is to simply deliver my best performances as an actor. I love this job very much, so I won’t want to take things easy or have too laid-back an attitude. So, I’ve been doing my best and pushing myself hard to realise my full potential. It’s what I will continue to do too – to keep trying, and to consistently deliver the best that I have to offer.
All images: Kim Hee June; Styling: Megan Jung; Interview and Wardrobe: Dior Men; Editing and Additional Words: Jamie Tan
Continue with Part Two here.