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Ahn Hyo-seop: ‘The only thing I collect are fan letters’

I told Ahn Hyo-seop during my one-on-one interview with him that he should write a book. He laughed at my suggestion, but I was dead serious. Ahn was very sharp. He took time answering questions because he gave substantial answers. And that was refreshing.

“I was very boring,” he said worriedly. He was referring to his answers at the press conference held earlier at the ballroom of Grand Hyatt hosted by lifestyle brand Bench. I objected emphatically. He wasn’t boring at all. It was the opposite. The ballroom was quiet because everybody was listening intently. He answered intelligently.

He didn’t give quick but safe answers. Ahn considered the questions, weighing them before giving his thoughts. He had a way of making his words beautiful, like poetry.

The latest ambassador of Bench chose to wear a white T-shirt, jeans and white sneakers for the press conference. The tee had the words “Better Made” on it, which is also the name of Bench’s collection of consciously made products.

Romantic doctor

The actor debuted in 2015 and took on supporting roles before getting his break in “Abyss.” It was his role as Dr. Seo Woo-jin in “Dr. Romantic 2” that made him a household name. Filipinos fell in love with him in the romantic comedy “Business Proposal.” They’re still in love with him in the web series “A Time Called You.”

It’s unfortunate but I need to confess that the first two minutes I spent with him was a disaster. As I was settling in my chair, I placed my laptop on the coffee table, and suddenly the screen went black. My battery ran out! I cried in horror. He looked at me and then at the laptop and asked what was wrong. I explained what happened and took out my spare laptop. I was visibly panicked.

“Calm down. It’s okay,” he said. It was not. My allotted eight minutes were running out right before my eyes. “Don’t worry about it! We’re not taking your minutes away from you,” he reassured me.

That was that. I chose to use the laptop over pen and notebook because I type faster than I write. It was essential that I get everything he said correctly in a no-voice-recording interview.

Ahn Hyo-seop
Simple, comfortable and effortless style with Bench. That’s Ahn Hyo-seop for you. Photos by Eugene Araneta

Effortless

But I guess it served as a weird ice-breaker of sorts because the atmosphere became friendly and comfortable. We conversed entirely in English, but every once in a while, he would turn to the translator for a few words.

The word comfortable is apt because that’s also how Ahn styles himself. The clothes he wore for the press con was a reflection of who he is outside of work.

“I have a lot of hoodies,” he confessed. “When I buy clothes, I think about the sizes and the material used in the product.”

He ran his hand along the sleeve of his Bench tee as if to show me an example of what he is referring to. He added, “I want my style to look effortless.”

I was asked if it was okay if Ahn recorded the interview. The camera was placed behind my head. Was he starting a vlog, I asked. He said no.

“This is for my family so I could show them,” he said.

His family moved to Canada when he was 7 years old. He was street scouted and he returned to Korea when he was 16; he had just finished Grade 10. But Ahn was never scared of being on his own.

“I’ve always had a dream of coming back to Korea to sing and act and do stuff. I didn’t have a choice. I wanted to go back. Of course, I was scared, but it was more exciting for me than scary,” he said. “I am not the type of person who feels lonely alone. I am pretty independent.”

Big adventure

Ahn treated the entire process of moving back and training as one big adventure. He watched a lot of movies with his family and wanting to be an actor grew on him. But if things didn’t go his way, he would probably be a pencil pusher and be happy about it.

“I would be an accountant, a consultant for firms. I liked Math and Science growing up,” he said. The actor has a degree in International Business.

“I was into Math,” he repeated.

“Did you compete? ” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Did you win medals?”

“Yes.”

“How many?”

“It wasn’t special. A lot of my friends got it, too. It wasn’t like a big competition,” he said humbly. I looked at him astounded. Of course, it’s special. He just chooses to not make a big deal out of it.

Ahn Hyo-seop
Handsome and intelligent. Ahn Hyo-seop is one sharp actor.

Heart pounding

After some prodding, he revealed that he really worked hard to be a good student who got high grades.

“I was pretty hard on myself.”

I told him that he’s a role model and he said no and looked at me with his beautiful big doe eyes, seemingly embarrassed.

We continued the conversation.

“YouTube by far is my favorite phone app. I watch many things like a lot of mukbang. I like watching people eat what I cannot eat when I’m on a diet. Then I also like to watch animal videos and a lot of documentaries,” he said.

Ahn has a knack for choosing dramas with good stories. He spends the entire day reading the script, imagining himself and how he would play a character. You can trust him to choose a good title.

“Whenever I choose my script the only thing I think about is if the story would make my heart pound. Does this make me breathe or excited? The project that I am in at the moment would be my dream role,” he said.

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Living in the moment

In the press con, he did say that there are still many roles that he wants to take on. We asked him to name an actor or actress that he would love to work with, not considering nationalities, age or time period.

“It’s not like I want to be in the same project as the guy, but I was a huge fan of Heath Ledger. And not only because of ‘Dark Knight’. I watched him in ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and that’s like one of my favorite movies. I just wanted to meet the guy and talk to him,” he said.

Ahn grew up listening to Jason Mraz. He was also into K-pop and watched a lot of 2PM.

“I am a huge fan of a band called 1975. I am a fan of the song ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes),” he said. Ahn said naming a few songs is hard because he has a lot. This includes the classic “Claire de Lune” by Debussy and Mraz’s “Love for a Child.”

He performed Mraz’s “Lucky” at his fan meet the following day. Ahn said that he had forgotten about Mraz for 10 years, but picked him up again recently.

 

 

“It’s kinda nostalgic to me because I listened to him when I was in school and living in Canada,” he said.

Ahn Hyoseop
We’re obsessed at how gorgeous he looks!

Here, now

The best advice he ever got came from a book about Alfred Adler’s belief on how life must be dealt with.

“Because I feel like life shouldn’t be overstimulated. Imagine myself living life like I’m slow dancing. It kinda gives me the impression of living my life in peace (and taking my time). Live the moment. Here. Now,” he said.

In between answering, he would drink his beverage. He pondered before he responded. I believe he didn’t want to be impolite and drank while I was talking. But I was curious about what he was drinking that I couldn’t resist  asking, “ Is that Ah-Ah?”  It’s the Korean slang of iced americano. He was so surprised by my question that we had a short discussion about how I learned the expression.

For my final question, I asked if he collects anything.

“I don’t collect anything,” he said.  His tone was matter-of-factly.  “I am in the process of removing things in my life. I am not a minimalist, but I don’t want to hold on to things. The only thing I collect are fan letters.”

Ahn Hyo-seop only keeps words from his fans. With that, he just won us all over again.

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