[BAEKSANG AND BEYOND] Moon Sang-min sees his dreams come true with Baeksang win

Actor Moon Sang-min, winner of the Best New Actor award at the 59th Baeksang Arts Awards, poses for photos after an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily in central Seoul. [BAEKSANG ARTS AWARDS ORGANIZING COMMITTEE]

The Baeksang Arts Awards is one of the most prestigious award ceremonies in Korea. Held by the JoongAng Group, it has honored excellence in film, television and theater in Korea since its inception in 1965. The 59th edition took place on April 28 in Incheon, with this year’s focus on works that received international acclaim thanks to online streaming platforms. In this interview series, the Korea JoongAng Daily sits down with Baeksang award recipients to talk more about their wins, careers and plans for the future.

For rookie actors, participating in an acclaimed work isn’t just a chance to get a career boost but more a chance to learn and meet people who will change their lives. And for actor Moon Sang-min, tvN’s period drama “Under the Queen’s Umbrella” (2022) was certainly such a show.

The show, his first television debut, not only won him the Best New Actor award at the 59th Baeksang Arts Awards but also allowed him to meet with his newly-found role model, actor Kim Hye-soo.

“'Under the Queen’s Umbrella’ is like a dream to me,” Moon said. “It’s allowed me to get this award, which I had only dreamed of, and also it let me work with other actors, senior actors that I can, again, only say that I had only dreamed of working with."

In “Under the Queen’s Umbrella,” Moon took the role of a seemingly rude but considerate and hard-working Prince Seongnam, who is also a pivotal character in the comical drama centering around heated education competition among the many princes of a fictional Joseon (1392-1910) royal household.

Born in 2000, he made his debut in 2019 with a web drama series and later took part in online content for streaming platforms such as Tving and Netflix. “Under the Queen’s Umbrella” was his first televised series and his biggest role yet. He will take the lead in tvN’s upcoming romantic comedy drama, “Wedding Impossible,” set to air later this year.

Actor Moon Sang-min as Prince Seongnam in tvN drama series, ″Under the Queen's Umbrella″ [TVN]

Acting hadn’t always been his goal. In fact, he had wanted to be a physical education teacher until he was in middle school but turned to modeling after growing much taller than his peers.

“I’ve always wanted to do many things, but I’m glad I chose to become an actor,” he said. “This Baeksang award has reassured me that I’ve made the right choice. I’ll keep on moving forward, believing so. I won’t get tired or sleepy.”

Moon sat down for an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily to discuss his big win at the Baeksang Awards, his career and more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. You looked very nervous on the night of the ceremony. Did you not expect that you would win the award?

A. No, I really didn’t. I was already excited about the event from the day before, thinking I will get to be with the senior actors and stars I had never had the chance to see. I was just so excited to see everyone at the ceremony.

I did imagine what it would be like if I got to be on the stage, but in a way, like, “Could I?” There were so many thoughts in my head. But no, I didn’t expect to win.

Didn’t you prepare a speech?

I did, but I was so nervous. I stuttered my very first word, and then everything went completely blank. I was thinking, “What do I do? Did I even introduce myself right?” I did prepare something the day before, just in case. I had so many people in my mind that I wanted to thank, but I couldn’t remember any of them on the stage.

I forgot to thank my family, and so when I went home, my mom and dad were very happy for me but a little disappointed at the same time. So I told them I mentioned them a lot during other interviews behind the stage, and they searched for those videos.

Actor Moon Sang-min gives a speech after winning the Best New Actor Award at the 59th Baeksang Arts Awards last April. [SCREEN CAPTURE]

Has anything changed for you after the win?

I felt happy after winning, of course. But in a way, it’s given me a sense of responsibility and pressure. But it’s a good kind of pressure. I’m shooting another drama series now, and the staff there congratulated me so much. That’s made me feel like I should try harder, and it’s actually making me feel less tired. It’s only been a positive experience for me, and I’m very grateful.

You mentioned in your previous interviews that actor Kim Hye-soo is your role model. Is that still true?

Yes. It’s still very true. She’s my role model. I think I’m actually talking to her more often on the phone than when I was shooting “Under the Queen’s Umbrella.” Whenever I have something on my mind, which seems to be happening more often as I come to experience more things, I keep going to her to consult.

As a person, you can tell that she’s very pure. She’s got so many years under her belt, but she doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable. Rather, she always tries to think back to her past to talk to me. So she asks me questions like, “I was like this when I was 20 years old,” or “I was this in my late 20s. How about you?"

She really talks to me on my terms, and when she does, time flies so fast. We end up talking for four to five hours over just a cup of coffee. I like talking too, but time flies because she makes me feel like I’m talking to someone my age.

Actor Moon Sang-min, winner of the Best New Actor award at the 59th Baeksang Arts Awards [BAEKSANG ARTS AWARDS ORGANIZING COMMITTEE]

What will you be like in your upcoming work, “Wedding Impossible”?

I think it will be the closest you will see Moon Sang-min as who he is in real life. It’s a contemporary piece, so that’s different from the periodic drama I just did. It will be more comical, more hectic in a way. I’m having a lot of fun while shooting, so I’m sure you can see a lot of different sides of me.

What’s on your mind these days?

My biggest problem these days is trying to keep myself healthy. I can feel my stamina getting worse. I always go to bed at 9 or 10 p.m., even though I am only 23. But this doesn’t work well when I have to shoot at night, so I’m trying to think about how to sleep less but stay just as awake. I think the best way is to work out and eat well, so I’m also trying to cook for myself.

“Wedding Impossible” finishes shooting in September, and if I could be greedy, I’d like to start another work before the end of the year. But as Moon Sang-min, my hope is to just live happily and enjoy every moment like I’m doing now.

What kind of an actor do you strive to be?

I want to be an actor who people wonder about his next steps. If you show yourself too often, then you could become too predictable. But if I could, I want to be unpredictable and always bring something to the viewers they would never have seen coming. That’s my goal.

There are so many things I want in life, but I’m glad I chose to be an actor. The Baeksang win has given me more faith in my choice. I’ll take this award and motivate myself to try harder.