In the Korean fantasy rom-com My Roommate Is A Gumiho, Jang Ki-yong plays a gumiho, a mythical nine-tailed fox that can transform into an irresistibly attractive human. Being attractive helps gumihos seduce humans so they can easily steal their energy, which gumihos need to stop being monsters. Unfortunately, the extraction process usually harms the person involved.
Jang has long dreamed of acting in a fantasy rom-com such as My Roommate Is A Gumiho.
“I was excited that I could act the part of a gumiho,” said Jang. “I was acting a role called Shin Woo-yeo, but I thought it’d be fun to make it my own.”
After 999 years Woo-yeo is very close to becoming human. He needs just a smidgen more human energy. While Woo-yeo has coldly accepted his desired fate involves harming humans, he becomes oddly tenderhearted and overly concerned when he meets Lee Dam, played by Lee Hyeri. He could extract her energy and realize his goal, but he cares for her and wants to protect her. The scary gumiho of horror stories shows a softer side.
Jang is adept at creating layered characters that audiences can believe are both vicious and vulnerable. In 2018 he won a Best New Actor Award at the Apan Star Awards for his role in My Mister, playing a coldhearted loan shark who occasionally betrays his fragility. In 2019, in the drama Kill It, he played a veterinarian by day and a killer at night. In the 2020 drama Born Again, he played a character and his very different reincarnation. Striking the right balance with Woo-yeo took a while.
“It wasn’t easy to understand Woo-yeo’s emotions and situations at first,” said Jang. “But the more difficult it was, the more I wanted to challenge myself. Also, I talked with the director a lot even before the shoot and started to fully understand my character.”
Jang became an actor by chance. His interest in fashion first led to a modeling career that won him a few awards.
“I was working as a model and I got a chance to act in a music video and a web drama,” he said. “It was fascinating and fun to express myself in front of a camera. That’s why I continued my career in acting.”
As well as pursuing a busy acting career he continues to model for high-profile brands such as Estée Lauder and Lancome. Although he is comfortable around cameras, Jang admits to being quite shy. Appearing in films such as Sweet and Sour and dramas such as Come and Hug Me, and Search: WWW helped boost his confidence, yet stardom has not completely changed his personality.
“I’m still very shy and I tend to get nervous most of the time,” said Jang. “But it’s definitely getting easier to express myself. I’ve met really nice people through dramas, so I’m learning a lot from them.”
As well as the film Sweet and Sour and the drama My Roommate Is a Gumiho, Jang has signed on to another drama this year, Now We Are Breaking Up, a romantic story with co-star Song Hye-kyo. His popularity continues to surprise him.
“I got into acting because I liked expressing what I had inside of me and I was sure that I could show various sides of me,” he said. “I have more to show and I have more potential, so I’m really grateful for all the opportunities that come my way.”
Jang is also grateful to his fans for watching the drama.
“Thank you so much for supporting me from afar,” said Jang. “I’m really glad that our drama is doing really well. Everyone, including the actors and staff members, had so much fun while shooting it, so please support it until the end. I hope I can say thank you in person soon. Thank you!”
My Roommate Is A Gumiho is iQIYI’s first original Korean production.
This story was originally published on forbes.com.