Wheeheee. I’m so delighted that Gong Yoo finally has his turn to shine after the Song Joong-ki and Park Bo-gum phenomena earlier in the year. I first chanced upon Gong Yoo in my all-time favourite drama – Coffee Prince, and that drama got me so entrenched in the Gong Yoo camp. For all the right reasons, I’m sure. Not ’cause of those dimples or those boyish good looks.
His first starring role was in Biscuit Teacher and Star Candy, opposite Gong Hyo-jin. I only started watching this show a few years after it aired, after falling in love with Gong Yoo in Coffee Prince. And while I’m usually totally against teacher-student romances, Gong Yoo was reason enough for me to marathon this show. Biscuit did fairly well in Korea and it definitely put Gong Yoo on the list of “Up and coming actors to watch”.
Gong’s style of acting is very natural and sincere and he manages to make his characters relatable to the audience, which is likely what got him casted in Coffee Prince, good looks aside. Coffee Prince did wonders for his career and popularity — It managed to reach 30% ratings during its run, and the Choi Han-gyul craze throughout Asia was very real (similar to the DOTS craze, just rewind 9 years). Everyone wanted a Choi Han-gyul for themselves and it skyrocketed Gong to Korean Wave star status.
Not to put down Gong Yoo, but I think any capable actor who acted Choi Han-gyul would have made it big. It was just Gong’s luck that he hit the jackpot and met this amazing character who that was destined to make girls swoon to the ends of the earth and back. There’s something very addictive about the cross-dressing nature of Coffee Prince that makes it extra romantic. He falls in love even when he think she’s a guy! He’s falling for the real her! This is true love!
Whether you’re a man or an alien, I don’t care anymore. I tried getting rid of my feelings, but I couldn’t. So let’s go, as far as we can go. Let’s give it a try.
It’s hard to really capture what’s so memorable about this iconic scene, goodness knows how many times I replayed it. But it was really Gong Yoo’s heartwrenching portrayal of his rollercoaster emotions though the accumulation of events — his pent-up frustration over his possible gayness, his confusion about his feelings, and his eventual surrender to give in to his feelings without concern for the possible societal insinuations. His hit every emotional moment perfectly, and it’s no wonder his character made the impact on the K-drama the way it did.
Gong had to enlist in the military shortly after his Coffee Prince success. And when he entered back into showbiz two years later, he was understandably conscious about his follow-up project since there was so much hype about how he would follow up his Coffee Prince success. Is he a one-hit wonder, or would be use it as a springboard to further his career?
He filmed a couple of movies (Finding Mr. Destiny, The Crucible), which were his attempts are broadening his acting scope. Crucible is based on actual events that took place at a school for the hearing-impaired, where young deaf students were the victims of repeated sexual assaults by faculty members over a period of five years. His co-star in the movie was Jung Yu-mi, who teamed up with him again in Train to Busan. The film did very well in Korea, and it sparked such public outrage that it resulted in a reopening of the investigation of the incidents. Pretty much the goal for any actor.
In 2012, Gong Yoo eventually chose a body-swapping comedy Big (Freaky Friday style) to star in, and anticipation was sky-high for his follow-up drama after Coffee Prince. It didn’t reach the same craze factor that his previous drama did, but it was still fairly successful. The drama was hilarious and he did a great job of being a nineteen-year old stuck in a thirty-plus year old’s body. Unfortunately, the drama was marred by a not-great ending, which is honestly the one thing all viewers remember from a drama.
He went back to the silver screen with The Suspect, taking on a much grittier role as a North Korea special forces defector. He shot most of his action scenes without the use of a double, and his change in image was very drastic. In fact, he was almost unrecognizable after three months dieting to cut down his body fat for the role.
His next hit was Korea’s first zombie movie Train To Busan. And as you all know, it was incredible popular, inside and outside of Korea. It was a fairly significant risk for Gong to take out this new genre in Korea, and a lot relied on how well the overall effects and editing was handled. Fortunately, it was such a big hit throughout Asia, and it propelled Gong to higher heights of popularity. And 2016 continued to be Gong Yoo’s year with his hit drama Goblin.
Goblin is written by the same writer behind DOTS, and I’m pretty sure that was enough for Gong to sign on to the project. As ridiculous as the premise sounds, the Goblin is actually #husbandgoals, save for his 900+ years of age and his strange abilities. The role requires a fairly versatile actor, injecting comedy whenever the situation requires, but also pulling out the melodramatic chops at the right moments. And save to say, Gong is nailing it. It’s the perfect role he needed to remind people that it can be 9 years on from Coffee Prince, but he’s still one of the rom-com kings out there.
It’s ironic that this Goblin-Grim Reaper pairs seems way more popular than the Goblin and his bride, but one can never get enough of bromance between two handsomegoodlookingtall frenemies (more friends though). The age gap between the Goblin and his bride makes me uncomfortable, but then I remember, he’s actually 900+ years old anyway.
Part of what makes an actor successful is the skill (and perhaps luck) to pick the right projects. Choi Han-gyul is one of K-drama’s iconic characters, and the Goblin looks set to follow suit as one of those #neverforget K-drama characters. Gong’s filmogaphy isn’t as long as some of his counterparts, but what he lacks in quantity, he makes up for it in quality. He could have easily typecasted himself as a typical romantic K-drama lead, but his action-thriller forays have proved that he’s interested in being more than that. Granted that his images fits perfectly with rom-com, I think it’ll be interesting to watch where his directs his career path in the future years.
And he’s also freaking adorable.