The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Mephisto is an irresistible role for versatile actor Park Hae-soo

By Park Ga-young

Published : April 12, 2023 - 17:45

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Park Hae-soo plays Mephisto in Park Hae-soo plays Mephisto in "Faust" (LG Art Center/Sem Company)

South Korean actor Park Hae-soo emerged as an international star with his unforgettable performances in "The Squid Game" in 2021 and "The Accidental Narcos" last year. Park is a familiar face on TV now but he’s currently taking the stage at LG Art Center every night in front of some 1,300 people in the audience as Mephisto, the devil, in “Faust.”

Park said the role of Mephisto was too tempting an opportunity to pass up and so he returned to the stage for the first time in five years.

“I was afraid to lose the energy and the passion I have for the stage. More importantly, I really wanted to take the role of Mephisto,” Park told reporters during an interview last week, adding, “Also I was curious about director Yang Jeong-woong’s version.”

Yang's adaptation of the play draws on a story that was written 250 years ago by German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but his version is contemporary. One of the ways he achieves this is by incorporating a massive curved LED screen, which stretches 8 meters high and 28 meters long, as a backdrop.

Park Hae-soo plays Mephisto in Park Hae-soo plays Mephisto in "Faust" (LG Art Center/Sem Company)

In his portrayal of Mephisto, a physically demanding role, having to appear on the stage for most of the play, the actor said he tries to make himself look less diabolical and emphasize the ordinariness of wickedness.

“I thought it wasn’t about Mephisto looking evil but about how he plants the seed of temptation. There are so many bad people in real life and I always wondered about the roots of their evilness,” he said, adding, “I thought that it could be the message of 'Faust' to this age in which the concepts of good and evil are unclear.”

Park came to international fame through Netflix series and TV dramas, but the 41-year-old made his acting debut with a play in 2007 and built up his acting skills through plays and musicals, before his breakthrough TV drama, "Prison Playbook," which aired in 2017.

"I also experience a sense of nervousness when shooting in front of a camera. However, performing on the stage feels like being live in front of an audience, which makes it even more nerve-wracking," Park said.

Despite the nerve-wracking nature of it, Park vowed to return to the stage, and not because he is seeking a specific character or production.

“I would love to perform onstage for any work to which I can devote more than three months, like this time. Even though I don’t have any particular play or character that I want to perform, there are many fellow actors I want to work with,” he said.

Actor Park Hae-soo (BH Entertainment)

Actor Park Hae-soo (BH Entertainment) Actor Park Hae-soo (BH Entertainment)

Overseas fans may find it difficult to see Park perform live onstage, but they can look forward to seeing him in "The Great Flood," a Netflix series he finished filming with actress Kim Da-mi in January. In the long term, Park has a strong desire to keep challenging himself.

Park loves taking one step after another and having new experiences. In that sense, he said he is learning foreign languages as a step for a new stage.

“My desire as an actor is that I want to challenge myself, in many ways,” Park said. “I’d like to have another big stage on which I can communicate and act in another language as freely as I do in my native language,” Park said.

“Faust,” featuring veteran actor Yu In-chon as the older Faust, Park Eun-seok as the younger Faust and Won Jin-a as Gretchen, runs at LG Art Center in Magok, western Seoul, until April 29.