Korean actor Seo In Guk has been looking trimmer than ever in his new drama High School King Of Savvy, a far cry from his pudgy physique when he made his showbusiness debut in 2009 as the winner of the reality show Superstar K.
How could he not, after undergoing two months of ice hockey training for his role as a star high-school athlete?
The 26-year-old Seo tells Life! in an e-mail interview: "It wasn't easy to act when dressed in the heavy ice hockey uniform - it was exhausting. But I want to be an actor who fulfils any roles assigned to me.
"At first, I fell down many times and had a hard time, but I grew to love the game as my skills gradually improved. I'm planning to pursue hockey as a personal hobby from now on."
So committed was he to the role, he injured his left shoulder in an ice hockey match scene, according to Korean entertainment news website allKpop.
This is not the first time that he has shed the kilos for his role. To play a competitive swimmer in the 2013 movie No Breathing, he lost 11kg during preparations.
In High School King Of Savvy, he faced another challenge on top of his athletic duties - how to play a dual role convincingly.
His character, high school student Lee Min Suk, has to impersonate his older brother as a high-ranking executive at an IT company.
To play the character who has to shuttle between campus and corporate jungle, Seo says he "studied the script intently".
"I tried to use my imagination and put myself in the shoes of a student trying to navigate the workplace. Playing two roles also meant I had to show audiences the clear distinction between the roles."
He probably had an easier time playing a student, as all he had to do was recall memories of his school days in his hometown of Ulsan. He says: "I miss the times I hung out with my friends. Instead of taking the bus, we would just walk, talk and laugh a lot."
In pursuit of his showbusiness dreams, Seo moved to the capital Seoul in 2006 where he attended audition after audition. He finally got his break when he emerged the winner of the first season of reality TV show Superstar K (2009), scored a recording deal with Jellyfish Entertainment and released albums such as his debut Korean mini album Calling You (2009) and his recent Japanese album, Everlasting (2014).
He topped music charts in South Korea with his latest Korean single Bomtanaba in May this year.
Asked to choose between his first love singing and the acting craft he turned to subsequently, Seo is undecided.
He says: "Each has its own charms. If you make me choose one, it's like asking me to use only one of my hands. I can't pick one out of the two. I will work hard at honing my acting and singing."
Branching out into acting has proved to be the right decision, as Seo's popularity has soared beyond Korean shores since he played a devoted schoolboy in the hit coming-of-age drama Reply 1997 (2012) which made his name as an actor.
He serenaded a 1,000-strong crowd at a fan meet in Taipei, Taiwan, in May.
He will also be holding a fan meet in Japan and Thailand next month.
How about his Singapore fans?
"I don't have specific plans yet, but I would love to visit Singapore if there is a chance. I know that Channel M is going to broadcast High School King Of Savvy and I would definitely like to hear the thoughts of fans in Singapore who watch the drama.
"Please invite me to Singapore. I want to meet all of you."
High School King Of Savvy airs on Channel M (StarHub TV Channel 824 and SingTel mio TV Channel 518) on Monday and Tuesday at 10pm.
This article was first published on July 19, 2014.
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