Daniel Henney: From Kim Sam Soon to Hawaii Five-O

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - March 11, 2013 - 12:00am

Mention Daniel Henney and the first thing that comes to mind is, you guessed it, My Name Is Kim Sam Soon. But there’s more to him than the hit Koreanovela that got Filipino fans glued to the TV sets when it aired in the Philippines.

Research revealed that he was born Daniel Phillip Henney on Nov. 28, 1979, in Carson City, Michigan, USA, to an adoptee Korean mother and an American father of Irish descent. Daniel started modeling in the US in 2001 and he has worked in Europe (France and Italy, etc.) and around Asia (Hong Kong and Taiwan, etc.) while in college. As an actor, he had his debut in South Korea as endorser of a cosmetic brand and became a spokesperson for other products (Olympus cameras, etc.). It was Sam Soon that made him a household name not only in Korea and other parts of Asia but in some parts of the world, playing Dr. Henry Kim, a surgeon in love with a character played by Jung Ryu Won.

Then, hello Hollywood! In 2009, he played Agent Zero in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and, that same year, Dr. David Lee in the CBS teledrama Three Rivers. In 2010, Daniel returned to South Korea for KBS2’s The Fugitive Plan B along with Rain, which was partly shot in the Philippines. He was last seen with Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Last Stand, shown in the Philippines last January. Daniel came back after the Fugitive shoot to do a pictorial as endorser of Bench.

He’s currently appearing as a “mysterious man” in Hawaii Five-O, aired in the Philippines Tuesday nights at 10 o’clock on AXN, cast as the brother of Ian Anthony Dale.

Funfare recently did an exclusive phone interview with Daniel (again, The STAR was the only paper granted that chance). Daniel speaks very good English. He’s very witty and very articulate, exuding warmth and immediate friendliness and familiarity a few seconds into the interview.

You’ve worked with some members of the Hawaii Five-O cast. It must be a happy reunion for all of you.

“It feels really good. It’s been a long time since I acted on TV in the States and it’s always good to reconnect with people that you’ve worked with before — you know, you have a lot of things to talk about and you’re like just hanging out on the set. It’s lots of fun.”

You’re playing a mysterious character in the series. How many episodes are you doing and how do you usually prepare for a role like that?

“Well, I’m not very sure yet how many episodes I’m gonna do. I can possibly do more but it all depends on my schedule. You see, it’s hard when you’re a guest star because you are kind of just on-call, like a doctor on-call.

“To prepare for the role, well, I got the script and I just imagined how the character should act and talk. You know, you got to look inside yourself and find out if you have a dark side, hehehehe! And when you do, you’ve got to explore it.”

Does your role require you to speak Japanese?

“Uhm, I think I will have to — that is, if we continue with the further episodes. I’m sure that’s something that the writers would want to explore. But for me, right now the character is pretty straightforward. My character and Michael’s father passed away and Michael (played by Ian Anthony Dale) is much closer to their father in terms of personality traits, and he’s trying to right the family’s business and to get on the right track. Having just come out of prison, my character is not like Michael; he doesn’t want to hear that, all he wants is to make money and do things in the old-school way. And so they bump heads.”

Does it make any difference if you play lead or cameo?

“You know, it really doesn’t matter to me whether I play a lead role or a cameo role. It’s fun to play cameos but it’s hard on television because when you do a small character like that, you are joining a pre-existing family, and so you go in and there’s expectation for you to perform, they’ve already got their work style down and you jump in and it’s a bit nerve-wracking at first. But as long as you do well, like I do in Hawaii Five-O, everybody is happy with my performance and it puts me at ease.

“But it’s somewhat different when you’re playing the lead role because it’s more your project, so you’re in it from the beginning to the end. You participate in forming a family unit as you go together. But in both lead and cameo, I take my character to heart; I try to be close to my character.”

What’s the difference between working in the US and Hollywood and working in your native Korea?

“In Korea and a lot of Asian countries, there are no unions so you work much longer hours and the circumstances, I think, can be much more difficult and more demanding, whereas in the States, you know, you have your trailer, you have your lunchtime, you have your break and you are guaranteed to have a rest. That being said, I should say that in Asia, there are much closer connections among the actors and the crew, you become like family on the set. In the States, it’s kind of like just punching in and doing your job. But I like working in both; I don’t prefer one or the other. I‘d love to go back and do another Asian series if I have the opportunity.”

You have lots of fans here in the Philippines. Your Koreanovela titled My Name Is Kim Sam Soon was very popular in the Philippines. You were in the Philippines to shoot for Bench. Any fond memories from that visit?

“Yes, I’m aware of that. My Name Is Kim Sam Soon has been a juggernaut; it’s been one of the most-loved Korean dramas and it’s one of the best things that happened to my career. It’s amazing how much people love that show. I’m also very aware of my following in the Philippines; I love my Filipino fans. Actually, I’ve been to Manila many times. A couple of years ago, I was in Manila to shoot Fugitive Plan B with Rain. I stayed in Manila Hotel. I always have fun in Manila. The people are so nice. I love going back and forth there. It’s a great place to visit.”

Are you coming back to Manila soon?

(Laughs) “If you guys would let me, just let me know and I’ll be back there.”

Which was tougher to shoot, Hawaii Five-O or your latest movie The Last Stand?

“I think Hawaii Five-O was tougher to shoot because, you know, the character is much different from what I played in The Last Stand. My character in that movie is basically just a right-hand man of an FBI agent, with a lot of expository dialogue. He explains the whole movie; he’s very straight-laced and he’s got a lot of emotional ups and downs. In Hawaii Five-O, it’s a bit difficult because I didn’t know an ex-con who has been in prison for 10 years and for that character I really have nothing to draw from. But it was a challenge for me and it was a fun challenge.”

You’ve played in all kinds of movies…action, drama, romance and comedy. In what genre are you most comfortable in?

“Well, I think that I love them all for different reasons. Action movies are difficult for me because, you know, you’re playing a superhero or other-worldly beings and it’s kind of difficult for me to connect to that because they’re not real. When I do romantic-comedies, you’re saying sweet things to a woman and it feels very normal to me. The situations are something that I’m used to in real life. So, doing romance-comedies is so relaxing and so much fun because the stakes are not so high.”

Can you still live a normal life now that you’re popular?

“Uhm, I don’t know. You know, I live generally in the States now and I try to live as normally as possible. Stardom can do strange things to your mind. When I’m in Asia, I’m in work mode and even if everyone knows me there, it’s a different situation. I think when it first happened to me after Sam Soon, it was wonderful at first but then you can also lose yourself in that. You have to remember to stick to who you are and keep yourself grounded. That’s why I try to come home as much as possible and just recharge my batteries. You know, you can spin out of control like a lot of actors and actresses do, because they are so busy and their schedules are crazy, and whoever loves you one day hates you the next day. I love what showbiz has done for me and I’m very grateful, and at the same time, I’m just a guy from Michigan who loves to play basketball and catch fish.”

How do you maintain that gorgeous look? What kind of diet do you have and what workout do you do?

“Oh, that’s very sweet of you to describe me as ‘gorgeous.’ But had you seen me after Christmas in Michigan, I don’t think my body was the same as it was before the holiday. You know, it’s my rule to sweat out every day. Throughout the past 15 years, I have worked out every day. It’s not a vanity thing, but more of the therapeutic thing. I have to get my mind right. I eat as well as I can, I drink a lot of water and I try to get a lot of sleep, which is very important, and I never forget to have fun. I do everything in moderation.”

Oh by the way, do you dance Gangnam Style?

“Hahahahahaha! You know, I was at a party in Michigan recently, of all places, and there was this little kid dancing Gangnam Style and it made me so proud. I know Psy personally and he deserves every bit of what he’s getting.”

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)


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