South Korean actor Kang Ha-neul made time to catch the hit Chinese series Scarlet Heart (2011), though he got only midway through the 35 episodes.
It was not because the 26-year-old actor got bored of the time-travel period epic’s political infighting and romantic entanglements. Instead, Kang says he stopped watching the series because he was playing the dashing Eighth Prince in the Korean adaptation of the show.
“I wanted to get the general feel of the storyline and what the original drama is about. At the end of the day, I wanted to make the Eighth Prince character my own. I took the drama as a reference and invested more time into interpreting the character,” he says in an interview in Singapore.
His version of the Eighth Prince will be a gentler soul, says Kang, compared with the strong character played by Hong Kong actor Kevin Cheng in the original series. The self-deprecating Korean actor professes to be nothing like his exceptional royal character.
Pointing to a larger-than-life poster of the character behind him at an earlier press conference, he says: “I’m pretty much the boy-next-door. If you look at the Eighth Prince in Scarlet Heart, he is totally different from me. He is smart. I’m a very ordinary person in real life.”
If there is one trait he and the character share, it is a go-getting spirit. When Kang was asked what he would do if presented with the same dilemma faced by his on- screen character, he picked work ambition over love.
He says: “If I reach a certain status in my career, I will be able to better provide for my loved one. That is my way of loving someone.”
The hardworking actor has been making a name for himself since debuting in musical theatre a decade ago. He landed roles in popular K- dramas, starring as an overachieving student body president in teenage romance The Inheritors (2013) and a geeky intern in office drama Misaeng (2014).
His turn as a shy college freshman in the coming-of-age movie Twenty (2015) won him the Best New Actor award at the Korean Film Actors’ Guild Awards. The bachelor is focused on his career and is seeking a like-minded soulmate. He says: “There are people out there who fall in love and begin to neglect their work because they place all their attention on love.
“I’m not like that. I hope my future partner will be someone who enjoys and values her work, someone who really diligently pursues her career goal.”
By Gwendolyn Ng
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