K-drama star Nam Joo-hyuk set for new drama 'Vigilante'.
K-drama star Nam Joo-hyuk set for new drama 'Vigilante'. Image Credit: Disney+

South Korean actor Nam Joo-hyuk is currently serving in the military, but that hasn’t stopped him from creating waves among K-drama fans – we will soon see his first action thriller series.

Yesterday, the OTT (over-the-top) platform Disney+ dropped new stills from the original series ‘Vigilante’, which shows Nam Joo-hyuk in character. With a huge fan following across the globe, the teasers showing Joo-hyuk have gone viral on social media.

The 29-year-old, who impressed fans in multiple hit Korean dramas like Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo, Twenty-Five Twenty-One, and Start-Up, is currently undergoing his mandatory military enlistment, serving as a police officer in the South Korean military. He is expected to be discharged on September 19, 2024.

‘Vigilante’ was the last project he finished filming for in December 2022, before he enlisted in March 2023.

Based on a webtoon of the same name, the series follows the story of Kim Ji-yong (played by Joo-hyuk), an exemplary police university student who upholds the law by day but becomes a vigilante by night, taking the law into his own hands and punishing criminals who escaped justice.

The trigger for Ji-yong’s vigilantism was the tragic demise of his mother during his childhood. Ji-yong is the son of a woman who was beaten to death by a gangster when he was a child. The perpetrator received only a light sentence for the crime.

Consequently, as Ji-yong grows up, he embarks on a mission to get revenge while concealing his dual identity as an aspiring policeman.

“Exhausted of seeing the legal system fail and offenders being set free, Ji-yong spends his formative years becoming a star student at the police academy,” Disney+ said in a press release.

"A martial arts master and bookish academic, [Ji-yong] uses his inside knowledge to pursue non-repentant repeat offenders and deliver his own violent form of justice," it added.

Reportedly, from weight training to boxing, judo, and martial arts, Joo-hyuk underwent rigorous training for the role to ensure the action was vividly brought to life.

When Kim Ji-yong is a police university student, Nam Joo-hyuk portrays him as an average student in his twenties, blending in with his peers in both appearance and attitude. But, when he transforms into a vigilante, he conveys the character’s intricate psychology through a slightly darker portrayal.

According to an article on soompi.com, Joo-hyuk said: “Since it’s my first action project, I had many discussions with the martial arts team about the details throughout filming. I believed that my character should exhibit a distinct vibe when in a police uniform compared to his vigilante persona. When portraying the character in his vigilante role, I focused on presenting a somewhat darker and more solemn figure. Instead of overtly displaying emotions, I tried to act by internalising those emotions.”

Speaking about casting Joo-hyuk for the role, director Choi Jeong-yeol said: “For the main character Kim Ji-yong, I had hoped to find an actor who could depict the fine line between good and evil, with a spark in his eyes but also sadness in his gaze. Nam Joo-hyuk portrayed those aspects very well, and there were many moments when I was in awe [while watching his performance].”

‘Vigilante’ is set to premiere on November 8, with two new episodes released every Wednesday for a total of eight episodes.

From the ramp to the screen

Born in 1994, Joo-hyuk began his career as a model. Much before he entered the Korean entertainment industry, he wanted to be a basketball player. During his schooling years at Gyeongnam Middle School, Nam dreamed of becoming a professional basketball player. He played on the school basketball team for three years, but his dreams were cut short after a ligament injury and later undergoing an operation.

The star got his big break after moving to Seoul and winning a modelling contest in 2013, which led him to debut as a model under the Korean brand Songzio.

He went on to walk runways for many Korean brands. In 2014, he won the Male Fashion Model of the Year Award at the Council of Fashion Designers of Korea Awards.

He also appeared in several music videos before making his screen debut in 2014 with ‘The Idle Mermaid’.

Joo-hyuk rose to prominence with his role in the television series ‘Who Are You: School 2015’ and ‘Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo’ in 2016.

In the latter series, Joo-Hyuk played the love interest of South Korean actress Lee Sung-kyung. The two, who had been friends since their early modelling days, had also appeared in the K-drama ‘Cheese in the Trap’ together. Their on-screen chemistry and off-screen friendship had fans speculating whether the two were dating.

In April 2017, the duo finally confirmed that they were in a relationship. However, just months later in August, they announced that they were splitting.

Meanwhile, though Joo-hyuk didn't end up becoming an athlete, he did get to meet his basketball idol Stephen Curry in 2017. The two participated in a celebrity basketball game on an episode of the Korean variety show, ‘Infinite Challenge’, and Joo-hyuk won the game.

Joo-hyuk went on to act in ‘The Bride of Habaek’ in 2017, ‘The Light in Your Eyes’ in 2019, ‘The School Nurse Files’ in 2020, ‘Start Up’ in 2020, and ‘Twenty-Five Twenty-One’ in 2022.

In 2021, he was featured in the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 owing to his successful acting and modelling career. Currently, he is the brand ambassador for luxury fashion brand Dior and has been featured on the cover of major magazines like Esquire and Marie Claire.

In 2022, Joo-hyuk proved that he could also sing, when he and his ‘Twenty Five Twenty One’ co-stars dropped a song together on March 13, titled ‘With’.

Fans are eagerly waiting for his new show and his return to K-drama in 2024.