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INTERVIEWActor Lee Bum-soo talks about bringing comedy to screen during pandemic

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Actor Lee Bum-soo in a scene from the film,
Actor Lee Bum-soo in a scene from the film, "Hometown" / Courtesy of JNC Media Group

By Kwak Yeon-soo

With "Honest Candidate 2," "Life is Beautiful" and the upcoming "Hometown," the comedy genre is making waves with audiences these days. Actor Lee Bum-soo said he felt a lot of responsibility in wanting to make a comedy to help people get through these uncertain times.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, there were not many reasons to laugh. I also needed a break from reality at a difficult time," he said during a recent interview with The Korea Times.

"Hometown" tells the story of Ki-sae (Song Sae-byeok), a failed comedian and son of a crime boss who returns to his hometown where he unexpectedly inherits his father's position as the ringleader. In the film, Lee plays the role of Kang-don, the underboss who kills Ki-sae's father and wants to send Ki-sae away from the town so he can inherit the throne.

Lee said of the comedy genre, "This is a genre that I love. It allows me to relax and just be myself. It also offers plenty of creative freedom."

When asked if he found Kang-don's character similar to Pil-ho from the 2006 film "The City of Violence," the veteran actor said, "Although they both speak Chungcheong Province dialects, Kang-don is much smarter than Pil-ho."

Actor Lee Bum-soo / Courtesy of JNC Media Group
Actor Lee Bum-soo / Courtesy of JNC Media Group

Lee revealed he is always wary of being typecast. "After starring in the SBS drama 'Doctor Bong' (2007), I was offered to play the same type of character in MBC's 2010 drama 'Pasta.' However, I turned it down because I feared that I might get stuck playing the same role over and over again," he said.

"Despite my efforts, I feel like it's nearly impossible to avoid being typecast after playing more than four or five different roles."

"Hometown" includes many underlying themes on family, love and nostalgia. Lee said he became emotional after seeing Ki-sae endure hardships to pursue his dream and then belatedly acknowledge his father's love.

Lee recalled that his passion for acting started at a young age. "For me, acting is fun ― like playing and traveling. One day in the 1980s, I saw a group of young office workers coming out of a building to grab lunch. I imagined myself in their shoes and thought to myself, 'I can't picture myself sitting in an office all day.' I'm happy being an actor," he said.

The 52-year-old actor dropped hints about his next project currently being filmed, "The Roundup: No Way Out," the third installment of 2017 crime action film "The Outlaws," alongside Don Lee and Lee Jun-hyuk. "We will wrap up filming in November. I'm sure audiences will love the third film because it maintains the original's strengths and succeeds in mixing laughs with thrills," he said.

"Hometown" will hit local theaters, Oct. 5.
Kwak Yeon-soo


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