Spotlight Feature: Exclusive Interview With OTSM's Actress Of The Month - Hyunri Lee.

by - 12:42:00

Hyunri LEE (well known as "Hyunri" in Japan and Korea )is born in Tokyo, Japan of Korean descent. She is completely bilingual in Japanese and Korean. She lived in Oxford, England when she was a teenager. And she moved to study acting at Shin-Yong Wook Acting academy in Korea at the same time as an exchange student at Yonsei University from Aoyama Gakuin University majoring in law. After college, she returned to Japan and landed acting jobs in many Japanese films as well as top TV shows. In 2016, Her first starring role, she played a Japanese Korean girl living in Tokyo, in "The Voice of Water" which was officially invited to the 65th Berlin International Film Festival. This film received numerous awards including the Rising Star Award in the 29th Takasaki Film Festival. She also received the People choices Asian Star award in Seoul international drama awards 2017. In 2020, she appeared as the support role Hiroko Kusakabe in the movie "Wife of a Spy" directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa won the Silver Lion prize at Venice International Film Festival. Also in 2021, the role of Tsugumi in the movie "The wheel of fortune and fantasy" directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi won the prize of Silver Bear Grand Jury prize at Berlin International Film Festival. She is best well-known for her role in Japan is Saeko Harada in "Mistresses" based on BBC's TV series and the role of Yoon Jian in "Love you as the world ends" on Hulu(2021). Hyunri is also a host on her own radio show for one of the largest radio stations J-WAVE in Tokyo since 2017. She speaks fluent Japanese, Korean and conversational English.
Hi Hyunri, Please fully tell us about yourself and your personal background.
I’m Hyunri Lee. Born and raised in Tokyo. My parents were Korean immigrants so I’m a Korean Japanese.
As for my educational background, I studied Bachelor of Laws at the University in Tokyo but also studied abroad in Oxford, England, and Seoul, Korea during my school days. After I graduated from University, I’ve started my career as an actress mainly in Japan. 
My parents are now based in Korea and my younger brother is a film director in Korea. I live with my small poodle named Momo.
You lived In England as a teenager before moving to study acting at Shin-Yong Wook Acting academy in Korea, Please tell us- When did you realize you had a passion to become an Actress and how did you do it?
I was a kid who really love to read books. I spent most of my time in a library. I loved to imagine all of the characters coming alive in my head, so it was very natural to get interested in acting where I get to play different characters.
I realize I had the passion to become an actress I think in Jr.high? My high school is located in Shibuya, I was scouted a lot on the street by Agent people. However, I was quite confident that Korea had a stronger education and training environment in the entertainment industry compared to Japan, So I decided to study abroad in Korea and go to the acting academy. In Korea, there is a lot of acting teaching, academy, and undergraduate in universities.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of what I do is when people send me love and encouraging messages complimenting me for the roles I play in Movies and Series.
What kind of roles do you like or would like to play and why?
I like playing the part of a strong woman who fights for her faith. Not only psychologically but also physically. Netflix series “My name” is my latest favorite one.
Photographer| Yu Peng
What is your own definition of happiness?
The state without problem? But in reality, there are a lot of problems it's just we don't get to always see the face or recognize the problem until it's right before us. So, I think the most important thing to consider when describing happiness is the state of one's mind.
When you have something in life, people will envy you, to be happy in life you have to be content with what you have even when you don't have enough, Life is not perfect but as long as you can be filled with gratitude for what you have, you will experience happiness and inner peace.
What are some of your latest and upcoming projects? Please tell us about your role as Yoon Jian in "Love you as the world ends" on Hulu.
My latest role as Tsugumi in the movie “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” will be coming to the theaters in Japan on 17th December. This movie is directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi and won The Silver Bear Award in Berlinale 2021. I hope this movie will be released in the UK and other countries. 
And Regarding my ongoing project, I’m currently in the middle of shooting Season 3 of “Love you as the world end” which is the first TV series of ZOMBIE made in Japan. My role is Yoon Jian who is a doctor and a virus researcher from Korea. At the beginning of the series, she is seen as a cold person in any difficult situation. But after she reunited with her younger brother who came to Japan from Korea to find her, she was a changed woman so please stay tuned.
Photography| Yu Peng
Do you remember your first experience as an Actress in front of the Camera?
Yes. I played the role of a lead high school girl for a short film.
How did it feel to be a part of the award-winning film “The Voice of Water”?
That was my very first time winning the award and being invited to Berlinale in 2014. It was soo! exciting.
How big a role does Acting play in your life?
I’m in love with acting. It is my passion and I can’t stop loving this never-ending adventure. I would say I am addicted to acting. It's the one thing I don't want to lose and I look forward to doing it for a long time and using my roles to change lives.
Where do you see yourself and your career 5 years from now?
I see myself stepping up in my career with people globally, without boundaries and borderless
What is the most embarrassing or unexpected thing that has happened to you when filming a scene?
OMG! It happened in one of the crying scenes for an IMPORTANT AUDITION at a time in my life when I was crazily into hair waxing including the inside of my nose. This made it difficult for my nose to stop running while doing the crying scene!!,I stopped waxing the inside of my nose since then, lol. 
Photography|Yu Peng
What have been your favorite shoot, campaign, or work to date?
I would say working with various brilliant directors is the best feeling any actor could ask for. Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Shunji Iwai, and other incredible directors I have had the pleasure of working with have greatly influenced my career as an actress. Now, I’m also very interested in working with directors outside of Japan, especially in LA and Korea.
As for my favorite movie, It would be the role I played in 2019 on the BBC TV series called “Mistresses”. My role is married woman, Saeko Harada, who accidentally became pregnant due to having an affair with her colleague. I’ve never experienced marriage or that kind of thing happening in my life, So playing that kind of role was new to me but every scene was so tough but quite intriguing and thrilling.
What’s the best lesson you have learned from a co-star?
Try to be a better person than you were yesterday.
What do you think is most important in this field?
Know yourself. Understand and accept yourself.
Photography| Paul Smith
What, Who or where do you draw your inspiration from?
I get inspired by everyone around me, but the best inspiration is my Mother. I sometimes think I became an actress cause I want to know what my mother thought in her life. She is the first woman I met and love, and I wanted to know strongly what she thinks.
You are also a very proactive and entertaining person, tell us what inspired you to start your own radio show in 2017 hosted on the J-WAVE radio station in Tokyo.
I was excited about starting my own radio show because it gave me the opportunity to meet and talk with diverse background professionals regardless of the industries or countries such as authors, designers, photographers, creators, CEOs, etc. I have learned the importance of having good “listening” skills through this experience and was able to feel a great improvement in my communication skills which has had a positive impact on my career as an actress as well.
Aside from acting, what’s on your mind these days? Could you provide us with some more insight into the other endeavors you are passionate about?
I write short articles regularly on a website managed by one of the biggest newspapers in Japan called YOMIURI. However, Publishing my own book is one of my biggest dreams.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
This is what I would say to Younger Hyunri-“You don’t need to be cocky like that, You don’t need to pretend to be sooo strong, Don’t be afraid, and lastly, love yourself.”
Photography| Yu Peng
This is my favorite question: In your own words, please define "Women Empowerment" and what it means to you personally.
I am a feminist. However I believe that feminism should not be used to attack or enforce something on men or the world, I think it should be aimed at making the world a more comfortable place to live in, freeing our minds from the framework that even we don't know who decided that for all genders.
I suggest to everyone to live their life, let their heart be free from hate, and just treat others how you want to be treated.
What’s your beauty regime? Would you like to share some of your best beauty secrets?
I love to use a face mask in the morning and night every day.
Luck or Hard Work, what do you think weighs more in defining a successful Person?
I would say Luck after Hard Work, I would use the Swan as an example; When we see a swan moving beautifully and gracefully on the lake, it represents a vision of elegance in motion but what is hidden from our eye is the activity going on beneath the water’s surface. We don’t see the hard work conducted by the swan’s webbed feet which creates that graceful movement we so admire. A lot of hard work goes into it, which brings me to why I say Luck after Hard work.
What is your all-time favorite movie and why?
“In the mood for love” by Wang Ka Wai. I was shocked by the beautiful colors, music, actors, and everything else in this movie. This was the movie that my mother recommended when I was a teenager.
“LA LA LAND“, if another favorite movie of mine, I thought I would have the same career decision if I was Mia. And this movie was released when I broke up with my ex, I was crying so hard in a theater.
What advice would you give to aspiring actors and actresses out there?
From Stella Adler’s words—“We're to train your innocence, to preserve it, to polish it. But don’t confuse innocence with adolescence. I want you to be innocent, wise, and ninety-five.”
Anything else you'd like to add?
I'd like to say a huge thank you to OTS Magazine UK for giving me this opportunity to share my story with my supporters, fans, and readers globally.
Photography| Paul Smith
Director & Photographer: Yu Peng
Hair Stylist & Make-Up Artist: Chika Horikawa
Location: Toggle Hotel Suidobashi, Tokyo.
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