King Cheoljong, a character in the tvN drama Mr. Queen, appears to be an easy-going Joseon-era monarch, but hiding his true feelings in order to avoid conflict prevents him from being an effective ruler. The king’s plan to minimize conflict is complicated when a modern-day man named Bong-hwan is mysteriously trapped in the body of Queen Cheorin, played by Shin Hye-sun. The queen is reluctant to fulfill her royal duties but cannot logically explain why, even to her confused husband.
Actor Kim Jung-hyun, who plays the king in this funny fusion drama, describes his character as “a king with two faces, who alternates between playing dumb and maintaining composure.” After appearing in the hit drama Crash Landing On You, Kim chose the king as his next non-cameo role because of the comedic possibilities. He hopes Mr. Queen will provide some comic relief during the pandemic.
“I believe everyone is having a tough and frustrating time due to the pandemic, and I wanted to make a project that can make people laugh even in the midst of this time,” said Kim.
Mr. Queen is not Kim’s first historical drama. His role in Rebel: Thief Who Stole The People won him a Best New Actor Award at the 2017 MBC Drama Awards, yet acting in the genre always involves challenges.
“The vocabulary is different from our everyday language,” said Kim. “I need to act more formally, and I change my form of speech as a device to emphasize the fact that this is a historical drama. I’m putting more attention into my acting so that I can smoothly connect the scenes, even in a sudden situation.”
Kim sees some similarities between his personality and that of his Mr. Queen character.
“King Cheoljong of Mr. Queen is a character of a fusion sageuk (historical) comedy drama, so there are many factors left to the imagination,” he said. “Therefore, he probably resembles the real me more than other characters I played. In terms of ratio, I think it’s about 6:4.”
While enjoying his part in the sageuk, he’s not particular about genres when it comes to choosing a project.
“Rather than what genre I like, the ability to enjoy the process—and whether the viewers can feel something as they watch—define a good project. I don’t have a particular preference for a certain genre.”
He’s acted in a few. Kim’s role as a troubled student in the KBS2 drama School 2017 earned him Best New Actor nominations at the 54th Baeksang Arts Awards, the 2017 KBS Drama Awards and the 1st The Seoul Awards. He played a kind-hearted movie director in the comedy drama Welcome to Waikiki and an aspiring musician in the film Stay With Me, which co-starred Seo Ye-ji. His role as a revenge-driven scam artist in Crash Landing On You expanded his international fanbase.
Crash Landing On You stars Son Ye-jin as a South Korean heiress and Hyun Bin as a North Korean soldier who wears a custom uniform. Kim’s character Gu Seung-jun was once engaged to Son’s character but then falls for Seo Ji-hye’s character. Crash Landing On You became the highest rated tvN drama and is the third-highest-rated Korean drama in cable television history, but it also holds personal significance for Kim.
“Crash Landing on You was a project where I received warm support from many fellow actors, staff, and fans,” said Kim.
He found solace while playing the character of Gu Seung-jun and still reflects on how becoming that character made him feel. “In that context, Crash Landing on You was like a present for me.”
The aspect of acting that Kim most enjoys is the ability to express emotions, especially emotions that may not be easy to share in real life.
“Emotions aren’t easy to exchange, especially if it’s happiness, sadness, anger, or love,” he said. “Even delivering your emotions to someone you’re close with requires a lot of effort. Being able to deliver such emotions, albeit indirectly, through these workpieces is my favorite part of acting.”
Mr. Queen also stars Seol In-ah, playing the king’s favorite concubine, and features actors Bae Jong-ok, Kim Tae-woo and Na In-woo.
“As for the best moments on the set, I would say the moments of sharing these emotions with the actors and the staff and carefully listening to each other’s stories,” said Kim. “Moreover, I think it was more enjoyable when many people could empathize with the stories that were created this way.”
Kim has described acting as having a conversation with his fans. What he wants to say with his new drama is that while life is tough now, all is not bleak.
“We will triumph over this crisis, and I believe today will eventually become something to reminisce on someday in the future. I hope you can entertain yourselves with Mr. Queen and grab a moment to relax watching what happens in the unfamiliar era of the Joseon Dynasty. I think this is an era where we need some comfort rather than a profound message. If you can get a moment to laugh, nothing would delight me more.”
This article was originally published on forbes.com.