Stardom is a tricky thing in any big industry. Depending on where it places its importance, there are different requirements for creating a star. Some actors work hard to get there, some go by popularity alone and without their skills necessarily being worth their success. But as important as all types of stars are, they would not matter without all of the supporting actors that enrich the world of each work. Jo Hee-bong is one of those actors.
Jo has not had a very long career, making his movie debut with "Singles" in 2003 and drama debut with "Hong Gil Dong" in 2008, but he has certainly had a packed one. For actors who mostly play secondary or supporting characters, volume is the way to make a living, with main roles and choice for them being limited. However, he has often been in the main cast, which has given him the opportunity for exposure and trying out interesting characters the writing is also focused on aside from its leads.
The characters that Jo has portrayed are quite varied, ranging from villains to comic relief sidekicks to less cartoonish ones. Likewise, the types of works he has done in both cinema and television cover a wide area of genres. He has been in romantic comedies ('Love Fiction', 'I Do, I Do'), thrillers ("Bestseller", "Blind") and even some very rare ones, such as the musical movie 'The Ghost Theater' and sci-fi mystery series 'Joseon X-Files - Secret Book'.
As a result, he fits in and has chemistry with ensemble casts and he adapts well to different styles, due to that variety in his work and role choices. However, while he has played may kinds of people, a big part of his roles has been mostly focused on a few types. The price of often playing characters who are not as intricately written as main ones means that it is easier becoming typecast. Since he has done a lot of comedy and many comic relief side-characters, this is the case with Jo.
Being often either a villain or a "funny guy", more so in dramas than movies, the repetitive nature that those types of characters have both limit where an actor can go with their portrayal and also perhaps the types of roles offered in the future.
This also occasionally shows in his acting. While generally capable with comedy and drama alike, the comic relief side limits him at times. This is something which can be seen when such comic characters have more dramatic scenes. Because those characters demand consistency in their silliness, the way these dramatic scenes are acted sometimes feels awkward and overdone.
But as limited as his time might be in some works, Jo Hee-bong's greatest strength is his presence and the fact that he is memorable. He is one of those actors who might be in the background, but do not fade in it. Because he chooses roles that are entertaining and because of his energy, he is someone who viewers can rely on to do his part and do it as well as is required every time. It would be great if he were given more opportunities to lead works and expand, but even in the position of a secondary character, consistency and reliability are then most important. Both of which Jo Hee-bong offers viewers.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Actor Spotlight] Jo Hee-bong"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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