Among the many singer-turned-actors that pervade screens today, there are few that have been as willing to climb up from the bottom or are as serious about their newfound craft as Yoon Kye-sang.
Unlike most idol singers who foray into acting with an already-established fanbase, Yoon -- who debuted in 1999 with boy band g.o.d, dropped out in 2004 amid much controversy, and rejoined the group a decade later in 2014 -- did not shoot to immediate on-screen stardom or land lead roles in big-budget projects.
But by steadily piling up an eclectic filmography ranging from art house romance "Come Closer" to the war period TV series "Road No. 1," the 36-year-old former singer has now achieved a full transition into a versatile and weighty actor, many say.
Yoon etched a significant place for himself in Korean cinema during this past year. His semi-breakthrough roles -- the jaded pornography director Jung-woo in "Red Carpet" and the principled public attorney Jin-won in "Minority Opinion" -- were described as nuanced, thoughtful and neither overemotional nor too dry, and shed a new spotlight on his potential.
Most recently, Yoon has taken the lead in the JTBC action noir TV series "Last" -- which began airing July 24 -- as Kang Tae-ho, a former hedge fund manager who, upon becoming penniless after a failed stock fraud scheme, takes to the streets for survival. Yoon contorts his face in desperation, jumps through glass windows and engages in mass fist-fighting, taking command of both the drama and the action in what has been called a dynamic "one-man-show" by local news outlets.
Yoon first fell in love with acting due to an "accidental opportunity," he said in an interview. This initial captivation soon developed into a passion, engulfing him to the point where "I felt I couldn't live if I didn't act," he said. He began to frequent theatres, sought out actors to learn from them and centred his life on honing his newfound craft.
The journey to the current point in his career has been bumpy, Yoon has said numerous times. Intent on recognition and initially thinking that only dark, tortured roles constituted "real" acting, Yoon specifically opted for brooding characters such as the aggrieved high school student Min-jae in his 2004 debut film "Flying Boys," or the dejected prison guard Jae-kyung in "Executor."
Throughout the course of his filmography and personal growth, however, Yoon has widened his spectrum of acting to include romantic and wholesome roles as well, such as that of Pil-joo in the 2011 MBC show "The Greatest Love."
In the process, Yoon has redefined what "success" means to him.
"I thought success meant getting the award for best male lead and gaining huge commercial success. ... Once I let go of that desire, my way of looking at projects changed." Yoon said in an interview.
Now, it seems, he is less intent on proving himself and more focused on telling a compelling human story through his characters -- a shift which has, ultimately, cemented his voice as an actor.