Lee Je-hoon got nervous at the table read for ‘Chief Detective 1958’

Why Lee Je-hoon got nervous at the table read for ‘Chief Detective 1958’

By: - Entertainment Editor
/ 12:25 AM April 24, 2024

Cast of “Chief Detective 1958” (from left): Choi Woo-sung, Lee Je-hoon, Lee Dong-hwi and Yoon Hyun-soo —MBC/ DISNEY+

Cast of “Chief Detective 1958” (from left): Choi Woo-sung, Lee Je-hoon, Lee Dong-hwi and Yoon Hyun-soo —MBC/ DISNEY+

After memorable turns in “Signal” and “Taxi Driver,” Lee Je-hoon is adding another career-boosting role by way of “Chief Detective 1958”—the 10-part K-drama series from MBC that began streaming on Disney+ last Friday and Saturday.

But the 39-year-old boyishly handsome actor knew that bringing lead character Park Young-han to life would entail not just risks but heightened expectations as well, particularly from viewers familiar with the iconic South Korean police procedural series “Chief Detective” that starred Choi Bul-am and aired from 1971 to 1989.“This show is a prequel to the legendary OG drama ‘Chief Inspector,’ in which the chief detective is Park Young-han,” related director Kim Seong-hoon at the press con last week. “For this show, we’re taking it back to 1958, when Young-han was not the chief detective yet. It’s a story about his younger self.”


In the show, the idealistic cop decides to move from his hometown in rural Hwangchun, where he specializes in petty thieves—he has arrested 96 cow thieves, so far—to the corruption-ridden Jongnam Police Station in Seoul.


As he begins to make a name for himself at his new post, Young-han crosses paths with the trio who would eventually become part of his legendary squad, composed of “Mad Dog” Kim Sang-sun (Lee Dong-hwi of “Reply 1988”), the hulking Cho Kyung-hwan (Choi Woo-sung) and wealthy student-turned-new police recruit Seo Ho-jeong (Yoon Hyun-soo). Young-han also meets his love interest, bookstore owner Lee Hye-joo (Seo Eun-soo).

Je-hoon, who’s often seen looking chill or cool as a cucumber, recalled what it was like to come face-to-face with the actor who originated his role. He said, “I met Mr. Choi Bu-lan for the first time when we were doing our first table read. You know, I don’t often get nervous about these things because I prepare a lot for my characters. “But being in front of Mr. Choi while delivering the lines of the young Young-han, I found myself getting very nervous! I don’t even remember how I did or if I did well at that table read because I was losing my mind (laughs).

“After we read the first two episodes, Mr. Choi reminded me that Detective Park is a guy who has a lot of rage inside because he wants to get rid of all the bad guys and protect the weak. He talked to me about the humanistic aspects of the series and the character.

“You know, Mr. Choi did 880 episodes of the show. So instead of trying to look like him, which would have been a difficult task, I wanted to really take after his personality and convey what his inner feelings were. That’s how I approached this character.”

Asked if he also hides a lot of rage inside like his character, Je-hoon answered, “When I was filming, I was feeling so much rage because of the disturbing cases Young-han was made to deal with. You know, there are so many bad guys out there, and all I wanted to do was bust them.

“Mr. Choi’s version of Young-han was that of a competent and experienced detective, but my character couldn’t have been as seasoned as a crime buster when he was young because he was just getting started. So I wanted to be able to track down Young-han’s personal growth in this prequel.


“Sometimes, you’d worry about him because he could be rash and reckless, but he can’t be faulted for his passion and grit to really bring down the bad guys. So, you end up cheering him on and rooting for him. That’s what I had in mind when playing this character.

Je-hoon (right) with Seo Hyun-soo

Je-hoon (right) with Seo Hyun-soo

“We also talked about Young-han’s personal life, not just about his work as a cop. We didn’t see much of that [in the original], and I thought he also would’ve fallen in love. He would have had a family, so perhaps we could show that part of him in this prequel and add more layers to this character … because [knowing more about him] would really make a lot of people happy. “So that’s where his love story with Lee Hye-joo (Hyunsoo) comes in. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for viewers to see how that romance progresses in the show.”

Huge shoes to fill

For his part, Dong-hwi admitted that he knew they had huge shoes to fill.

“I was very little when the original show was on-air,” he explained. “I don’t remember it much because I was young then. But when I became an actor, I knew about this OG drama because it’s legendary in South Korea. Even in the movies, this show is being referenced a lot. “I got even more interested in the original when I was looking to do this project. I watched a lot of clips on YouTube and thought what a cool show it was. When we were filming the documentary, we also talked to Mr. Choi about it. They delivered amazing performances back in the ’70s and ’80s—they were so sophisticated and refined it’s hard to believe that the show came out about 35, 45 years ago.

“You could really feel their charisma oozing out of the screen. So, as Je-hoon said, we wanted to take after the philosophy they lived by and the way those characters were portrayed.”

In Woo-sung’s case, the role of Kyung-hwan came with a physical requirement—which made him wonder if he could pull it off.

Lee Je-hoon at the press con —PHOTOS COURTESY OF MBC

Lee Je-hoon at the press con —PHOTOS COURTESY OF MBC

“I love the role, but landing it made me very nervous,” he shared. “I got curious about who this character was and what made him tick. When I was researching the character, that’s when I learned that he’s supposed to be the big guy of the group.

“But how am I supposed to transform into this huge, larger-than-life character? So, I started eating … until I gained 25 kilograms—and I didn’t mind it because I really wanted to look convincing. I wanted to look like the actor who played him in the original series.”

As for Hyun-soo, his motivation to do well as his character Ho-jeong can be traced closer to home. “The show aired before I was born,” he noted. “But my family was so happy when I got the audition, particularly my grandpa—who turned out to be a big fan of the show!

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“When I told him that I thought I did well at my audition, my grandpa gave me a big hug. It meant a lot to him, so I felt like I was being a good grandson just by landing this role.” INQ

TAGS: K drama, Lee Je-Hoon

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