[INTERVIEW] Yoo Ah-in on his portrayal of cult leader in 'Hellbound'

[INTERVIEW] Yoo Ah-in on his portrayal of cult leader in 'Hellbound'

Yoo Ah-in plays the leader of a cult-like organization in the Netflix series ‘Hellbound.’ / Courtesy of Netflix

By Lee Gyu-leeAfter debuting as a teen actor in 2004, actor Yoo Ah-in has made remarkable impressions on the public with his performance in each role he has taken on, such as the misfortunate crown prince in the period film, “The Throne,” and a ruthless young heir in the action film, “Veteran.”In director Yeon Sang-ho’s new Netflix hit series, “Hellbound,” released on Nov. 19, the actor has proven himself once again, putting on a compelling performance as a subtle, charismatic leader of a cult-like organization. “There were a few pieces of information already established about the character: that he is a cult leader, goes through a certain incident at a young age, and is a mysterious person. And taking those keywords, the director and I exchanged ideas and discussed establishing the details of the character,” Yoo said in an interview with The Korea Times, Friday. “The important part in building my character was that I didn’t want to portray him in a way we usually think of a cult leader. I thought this character should be unique and distant.”

[INTERVIEW] Yoo Ah-in on his portrayal of cult leader in 'Hellbound'

A scene from the series ‘Hellbound’ / Courtesy of Netflix

Based on the webcomic series by Yeon and cartoonist Choi Gyu-seok, the series revolves around a fictional society, where certain individuals are delivered a specific date and time of their death before they are condemned to hell by demonic creatures. Amid the chaos, a religious group called the New Truth rises to power by preaching divine justice, while an opposing group fights the group’s twisted belief.Yoo plays the founder and leader of the group, Jeong Jin-soo, who claims that those who were handpicked for condemnation are sinners. He offers a divine justification and reason behind an inexplicable supernatural phenomenon for people consumed by fear and mass hysteria. The actor added that he studied real-life cult leaders.”When I saw videos and audios of actual cult leaders, none of them had the features that we normally thought they would have,” he said. “They are subtle and talk softly which allures the audiences. And I thought that aligns with the character Jeong Jin-soo and used that as a reference.”Despite feedback about the complexity of the story, Yoo said he did not feel the concept behind the series was that difficult. “I think the concept of hell and heaven will always be a trendy issue to cover,” he said. “I didn’t think of this piece as being difficult, because this phenomenon is always happening around us.”

[INTERVIEW] Yoo Ah-in on his portrayal of cult leader in 'Hellbound'

A scene from the series ‘Hellbound’ / Courtesy of Netflix

The actor noted that underneath the supernatural, cosmic horror elements, the underlying message of the series is very relevant to our society. “The fictional part of the story, like demonic creatures and decrees from angels, might make the story unrealistic and brutal… but if you take a look at it from a slightly different angle, it’s not much different from what goes around in the world we are living in,” he said. “The series touches on such heavy issues through entertaining elements and a concise message.”The actor has garnered global praise for his portrayal of Jeong Jin-soo. He responded that it has given him mixed feelings. “I’m very happy (to receive praises) but it’s also a lot to take. Acting has become more and more difficult for me. As more people compliment my acting, I feel more pressure that I need to meet higher standards,” he said. “But the important thing that I always try to keep in mind is that I’m just delivering a character which is already developed. So I try my best to understand and put myself into the character as close as I can.”

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