It’s small wonder that Choi Hee-seo, also credited as Moon Choi, is often mistaken for a Japanese actress. In her most recent feature films, “Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet” and “Anarchist From Colony,” both directed by veteran Lee Joon-ik, she played Japanese characters with linguistic perfection.
Born in Seoul, Choi spent her childhood in Japan, where she developed her passion for acting. She made her debut in sports drama “Lifting King Kong” in 2009 and acted in short films and on stage. Then she was noticed by Shin Yeon-shik, scriptwriter and producer of Lee’s “Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet,” in 2015.
“I was reading the script of a stage play on the subway, while Shin happened to sit opposite me,” the 30-year-old actress recalls. “When I got off, so did he and gave me his card, asking if I was an actress.”
Having learned that Choi is fluent in Japanese, Shin recommended her to Lee for a supporting role in “Dongju,” in which a Japanese woman helps the main character, a Korean poet, publish his poems during the Japanese occupation. “Dongju” won multiple awards. When Lee offered Choi a role in his new film, “Anarchist” — again a Japanese woman, but this time it was the lead — she was more than ready.
“It had to be someone that looks like a Japanese woman. Choi was the only one [who could do that],” Lee says.
“When I first met her, I was thinking ‘if not Choi, who would play this role?’” says Lee Je-hoon, the lead actor of “Anarchist.” Though the film’s Korean title, “Park Yeol,” was named after the male character, critics and audiences’ responses toward Choi’s character were phenomenal. “I would have been just as happy if I had swept awards and achieved such glory with my first film at a tender age,” says Choi. “I am, however, in the middle of a journey that makes me feel more responsibility for what will come next [than just feeling happy].”
Choi has recently wrapped production of her upcoming film, “Our Body.”