With chiseled features and deep dark eyes, Go Soo has earned himself the nickname "the statue of David" among Korean fans -- but his identity as an actor has been less defined.
Now nearing 20 years since his debut, the actor had a busy but less-than-noticeable 2016, starring in the TV period drama "The Flower in the Prison" as a mysterious tradesman and making a brief appearance in the film "The Age of Shadows."
Go returns to the big screen as the lost, confused, tired but determined lead in the psychological thriller "Lucid Dream," hitting local theatres Wednesday. In the film, which straddles reality and dreams, Go plays Dae-ho, a journalist and a father whose son has been kidnapped.
After three years of painful waiting, Dae-ho decides to visit a prominent sleep research lab and probe his memory using an induced lucid dream state, which, according to the film, will allow him to retrieve from his subconscious details from the day of the kidnapping.
Himself a father of two, Go says his focus was to "communicate the state of a tortured parent," at an interview Friday at a cafe in Samcheong-dong, Seoul.
On choosing this film, Go said he was attracted to the subject matter of dreaming and the visual spectacle the dream state setup could offer on screen.
"I read the script. There's a part where (Dae-ho) opens a door and is walking in the middle of the ocean as the sun is going down. And a scene where it's raining fireworks," he said. "I became curious about what would happen in this movie."
But the actor admitted he wasn't entirely satisfied with the turnout of his performance.
"It was a challenge to maintain Dae-ho's state of emotions throughout the film," he said. "If things were too intense in the beginning, then the catharsis at the end would decrease."
In many ways, Go's career has followed an unpredictable path. He debuted in a soft drink TV commercial, then appeared as an extra in a music video. His breakout role came in the 2001 TV drama "Piano," where he portrayed a tabooed romance between stepsiblings.
Since then, Go's roles have varied from melodrama leads on TV series such as the 2009 "Will it Snow for Christmas?" to a scrapyard worker with hidden powers in the 2010 film "Haunters," never quite achieving the same acclaim, both critically and in terms of popularity, as he had done in "Piano."
"There seems to be no right answer to acting," he said. "It's not a matter of knowing techniques or theories. When I first started, I stood in front of the camera knowing absolutely nothing."
Has he learned much over the years? "It's all a process," Go answered after a pause.
The actor hinted at a desire to play different characters, but was reluctant to define his career, his goals, or even his personal life in any way.
"You make mistakes and learn. I just try to be sincere in my approach. You have to have different experiences. It's a way of finding myself."
One thing is certain: the 38-year-old actor still keeps himself busy. He is filming a new movie, tentatively titled "South Castle" alongside heavyweight actors Lee Byung-hun, Kim Yun-seok and Park Hae-il. Vague as usual, Go declined to offer details on his role.
Rubbing his face with his hands at the end of the interview, he said, "I'm still always embarrassed about my performances. Every set feels new and I get nervous."