With an unexpectedly low voice and tranquil demeanor, any trace of Kim Bong-seok -- a schoolboy character from the webtoon "Moving" -- was long gone from 25-year-old actor Lee Jung-ha.
At the mention of the webtoon, however, Lee's voice reached a higher pitch, revealing his excitement over the Disney+ action fantasy series.
“I was a long-time fan of webtoon creator Kang Full. It might sound like a lie, but 'Moving' was my favorite webtoon among his projects and Bong-seok was the character I loved the most,” said Lee in an interview with reporters in Jongno-gu, central Seoul, Monday.
When auditioning for “Moving,” Lee did not know which role he would be playing in the series.
“To be honest, I felt that the chances of playing Bong-seok were low, but I wanted to be the lucky actor who would take on the role,” Lee said.
The actor expressed how pleased he was to find out that he would be playing the character.
“I really enjoyed reading the original webtoon series and was certain I had a deep understanding of Bong-seok.”
Trying his best to embody Bong-seok -- a student who gains weight to stop himself from flying and revealing his superpowers to the world -- the actor intentionally put on weight before meeting with production staff. Using makeup and special effects to resemble the character's physique was not an option, said Lee.
“I gained 1 or 2 kilograms every time we had a meeting. I gained a total of 30 kilograms in the end,” he said, revealing that the secret to his weight gain was Korean ramen, including Buldak Spicy Chicken noodles.
Further aiding Lee in his bid to completely transform into Bong-seok was fellow actor Han Hyo-joo, who plays Lee Mi-hyun, Bong-seok's mother.
“I was very nervous to work with Han Hyo-joo ... because she is a superstar and I grew up watching her dramas. I was too shy to speak to her,” Lee said.
“Han insisted that I call her ‘eomma’ (mom). This made me feel more comfortable and allowed me to get closer to her,” Lee added.
While the number of Lee's Instagram followers shot up after the premiere of “Moving,” the actor noted that he was still not used to the love and support of drama fans.
“Moving” has become an important milestone for Lee. Not only did it provide him with the opportunity to star as the lead character in a series for the first time in his seven-year career, but it also helped him to appreciate the value of a challenge.
“From weight gain to wire performances, ‘Moving’ presented me with a series of challenges,” Lee said.
“I felt a huge sense of achievement, especially when both my colleagues and the viewers recognized and spoke highly of my efforts. This experience has motivated me to continue my career as an actor,” Lee told The Korea Herald.
As Kang Full’s superhero universe has expanded with other webtoon projects, including “Timing” (2005) and “Bridge” (2017), Lee shared his desire to star in possible drama adaptations of the other webtoon series.
“Bong-seok makes an appearance in other webtoon projects, too. If the directors choose me to perform Bong-seok once again, I will fly to the shooting location,” Lee said.
“Moving,” which premiered Aug. 8, revolves around high school students with supernatural powers and their parents, who try to conceal these unusual gifts from unknown enemies.
“Moving” releases two new episodes every Tuesday.
A total of 11 episodes are available as of Tuesday on Disney+.