Who is Lee Do-hyun, star of K-dramas The Glory and Sweet Home with an alluring voice, air of mystery and a keen intelligence? His rise to the top

Who is Lee Do-hyun, star of K-dramas The Glory and Sweet Home with an alluring voice, air of mystery and a keen intelligence? His rise to the top
  • Lee Do-hyun, currently on our screens in The Glory alongside Song Hye-kyo, has come a long way from his dream in middle school of being a basketball player
  • The actor debuted in Prison Playbook, drew praise for Hotel Del Luna, was handed his first lead role in 18 Again and became a global star with Sweet Home

Lee Do-hyun, currently starring as a romantic plastic surgeon with a dark secret in Netflix’s The Glory, is one of the newest Korean faces on our screens, and one of the most popular.

While he’s not an actor we immediately recall for his physique – his deep gaze, air of mystery and intelligence come to mind first – Lee was a keen basketball player in middle school.

Around the same time, he became a huge fan of the 2006 Korean gangster film Sunflower with Kim Rae-won, which he claims to have seen dozens of times. By the time he started high school, his passion had switched from sport to acting.

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Lee went on to study in the department of film and theatre at Chung-Ang University in Seoul.

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Why we love him

Lee has very distinctive looks and, without saying anything, comes across as someone wise beyond his years – no wonder, then, that he played a 37-year-old man in an 18-year-old’s body in the hit drama 18 Again.

Behind his eyes is a keen intelligence, and he can also look as if he is hiding something – a quality which makes him uniquely suited to playing handsome but mysterious characters with potentially sinister sides, such as in Beyond Evil or The Glory.

Lee’s qualities do not end there – his voice, marked by soothing bass tones and a distinctive diction, draws the viewer to what his character is saying.

The star-making roles

Lee made his debut as the younger Lee Joon-ho, a character played by Jung Kyung-ho in the hit drama Prison Playbook. Lee portrays the character in the days before he became a prison guard, when he was a star baseball player guiding his high-school team to victory.

His smiling and fresh-faced Joon-ho is kind and, thanks to his skills on the field, appears to have a bright future ahead. Sadly, life does not go the way he expects.

Lee’s true star-making turn was in the smash hit Hotel Del Luna. He plays Go Chung-myung, a royal guard from the ancient Silla kingdom whose ghost becomes friendly with IU’s modern-day hotelier. Lee shares terrific chemistry with his K-pop idol co-star and many viewers took note of his performance.

The iconic parts

A year later, Lee was handed his first leading role, in 18 Again, a remake of the 2009 American film 17 Again starring Zac Efron. Lee plays Go Woo-young, the Efron character, a high-school student who winds up hosting the spirit of 37-year-old Hong Dae-young.

Netflix monster series Sweet Home launched Lee to global stardom. In it, he plays Lee Eun-hyuk, a medical student who becomes the leader of a group of survivors stranded in their building at the outset of a monster apocalypse.

Eun-hyuk is a young but level-headed man who becomes a leader despite his young age, and Lee, only 24 at the time of filming, is completely believable in the role.

Lee reunited with his Sweet Home on-screen sibling Go Min-si a year later, this time as romantic partners in the 1980s student protest romantic drama Youth of May.

These days, Lee is more known for playing Joo Yeo-jeong, the plastic surgeon in The Glory who teaches Song Hye-kyo’s Moon Dong-eun to play go – an ancient board game also known as weiqi – and who is let in on her grand revenge scheme. The soft-spoken Joo is hiding his own demons, we learn.

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The unheralded performance

While Beyond Evil is anything but an unheralded drama, given its strong ratings and critical acclaim, Lee Do-hyun’s role in the show does not always get due credit.

Lee plays the younger version of detective Lee Dong-sik, the lead protagonist played by Shin Ha-kyun. Given Shin’s manic and memorable turn, Lee had his work cut out for him ushering us through Dong-sik’s difficult younger years.

Yet his calm but intense performance, in which he expresses so much by saying so little, is the perfect gateway into the character’s complex psyche.

Tomorrow’s turns

Sweet Home will return later this year, but without Lee, whose character was not destined for a multi-season arc. Fear not – the young star has several exciting projects on the way.

Next up after The Glory Part 2 will be drama The Good Bad Mother, a heartwarming series in which he plays a prosecutor who becomes childlike after an unfortunate incident. The drama will see him co-star with Ra Mi-ran and will reunite him with Beyond Evil director Sim Na-yeon.

Also on the way is his first major movie role, in occult thriller Pamyo, from The Priests director Jung Jae-hyun, which will see him share the screen with Choi Min-sik and Kim Go-eun.

Lee may fit in some more roles after those, but his deadline to perform mandatory military service in South Korea is looming – so do not be surprised if he chooses to enlist soon.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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