2011 brought a great varieties of dramas. Usually, I tend to stick to your generic girl loves boy story, but this year, I managed to branch out (might have been one of the best decisions of my life). While exploring different drama genres, I came upon a multitude of great actors and actresses. Check out my top five actors of 2011 below!
Ji Sung as Cha Ji Heon (Protect the Boss)
Ji Sung may be my all-time favorite actor this year. Although I had seen a few episodes of his other dramas (Royal Family, All In, Swallow the Sun), I never felt the connection that I did during Protect the Boss. As the germaphobe man-child prone to panic attacks, Ji Heon brought a new level of fun and comedy to the drama. I loved that Ji Sung really didn’t hold back on his portrayal of Ji Heon; whether he was engaged in a catfight with his cousin, flipping out at his secretary, or back-talking his father, it was highly apparent that no reservations were being made in the acting. Nothing was more entertaining that watching Ji Heon’s impulsive, paranoid, and slightly manic personality clash with his secretary’s.
It was wonderful watching him fall head over heels for someone who defied everything he could possibly stand for. I was happy that for once in a drama, the male lead was able to acknowledge his emotions and actually act on them instead of the stereotypical drawn-out angst we normally get. Another level of Ji Heon’s character that Ji Sung portrayed flawlessly was that of his severe anxiety disorder. The contrast between Ji Heon’s usual arrogant behavior and his virtually paralyzed state was so strong. Viewers really got to empathize with him as he struggled to overcome his self-loathing and stage fright. With the conclusion of Protect the Boss, Ji Sung has proved himself to be an amazingly versatile actor, one that I look forward to seeing in the future.
Lee Min Ho as Lee Yoon Sung (City Hunter)
I don’t think Lee Min Ho could have chosen a better drama after his breakout role as the arrogant Gu Jun Pyo. In a complete reversal of characters, Lee Min Ho’s portrayal of Lee Yoon Sung really allowed for him to showcase of new side of his acting capabilities. Yoon Sung’s character was one that had so much depth; it was amazing that Lee Min Ho was able to portray it all. The guy had to go through some serious daddy problems, false mommy abandonment issues, a pretty messed up love life, a plethora of fake identities, and let’s not forget the fact that he was basically bred as a pawn to murder five men.
Lee Min Ho portrayed Yoon Sung’s complexity in a manner that did not emphasize the large picture, but broke the character down into smaller pieces. He could have totally focused on the whole “woe is me, I was abandonded by so many people” act, but instead, chose to tackle the character by the various issues he had to face. I liked that Lee Min Ho was able to act out Yoon Sung’s hardened and compassionate sides in tandem without compromising one or the other.
Kim Rae Won as Park Ji Hyun (A Thousand Days Promise)
At the start of this drama, I thought that Kim Rae Won’s acting was incredibly wooden and hard to watch. Compared to Soo Ae’s lively and relatable character, I found Ji Hyun to be a boring business man with nothing interesting to offer the viewer. But as the show went on and the tension began to mount, I really came to understand the casting decisions. Kim Rae Won’s acting is not of the showy variety; instead of gesturing and moving about as other actors do to portray their characters, he tends to act with his face and eyes. Even during the scenes when he wasn’t necessarily crying, you could tell that he was doing all he could to hold the tears in (i.e. the scenes where he has to watch his wife losing it bit by bit).
It was amazing how visible his love for his wife was. Although Soo Ae definitely killed it with her portrayal of Lee Seo Yeon, I cried the most in the scenes where Ji Hyun was hurting. By the end of the drama, I gained a newfound appreciation for one of my new favorite actors.
Lee Dong Wook as Kang Ji Wook (Scent of a Woman)
I’m not sure what is up with all of the dramas centering on a terminally ill female lead (49 Days, Scent of a Woman, A Thousand Days’ Promise), but they sure are producing some amazing acting. In the same fashion, Lee Dong Wook’s portrayal of the wry, witty, and world-weary Kang Ji Wook was excellent. Right off the bat, his character caught my attention because he was fully aware of his undeserved position of power at his company, and even made mention of his lack of experience in a board meeting. Until his relationship with Kim Sun Ah’s character was in full bloom, it seemed to me that Ji Wook was somewhat bored with his mundane and predictable life. Lee Dong Wook’s ability to portray that defeatist attitude towards life really stuck with me. His comments were snide and snarcky without necessarily being cruel, and his sarcasm was so perpetual, I couldn’t tell if he was being serious or not. His transformation into a compassionate and selfless lover was so gradual, I still can’t really pinpoint the exact turning point.
I loved how we could visibly witness the manner in which Kim Sun Ah’s character brought out his true self, something that was foreign to even him. A lot of this drama’s appeal is his emotional roller coaster dealing with the ups and downs of falling in love with a terminally ill woman. Although many tears were shed on my part throughout this drama, I truly enjoyed Lee Dong Wook’s acting.
Jang Hyuk as Kim Do Hyun (Midas)
Usually, I’m not one for business dramas. Even though I am enrolled in the business school at my university, I have zero interest in mergers, acquisitions, and any sort of financial blabber. However, I fell in love with Midas for one reason. Jang Hyuk. Although I may be biased because he is somewhat handsome, it is a well-known fact that Jang Hyuk is an actor to look out for (i.e Tree With Deep Roots). What really intrigued me about his character was the gradual transition from an honest law student, to a cold, emotionless businessman. Initially, his character, Kim Do Hyun, was a good-natured, low-income student trying to save up money to marry his sweetheart (played excellently by Lee Min Jung). And he also happens to be an absolute genius. After being bribed by large amounts of money to consult a sketchy looking organization, Do Hyun is sucked into a brutal familial war complete with half-siblings, numerous mothers, and cold-blooded betrayals. Jang Hyuk’s performance was extremely intense all of the time. His character’s inner turmoil was so evident since at every point in time since he was constantly being faced with a decision: be good and live a good life, or be bad and live an extremely wealthy life.
When his employer suddenly betrays him and he lands himself a stint in jail, the plot transforms into a revenge story with him using every ounce of himself to pay his enemy back. Jang Hyuk’s calm tenacity was terrifying. After being betrayed, he had this permenant steely look in his eyes that connected with me through the screen. I won’t spoil the ended for you, but let’s just say Jang Hyuk makes the drama worth the while.