Not your average hero flick, Yoo Ji-tae plays cop in 'Vigilante'

Actor Yoo Ji-tae plays Cho Heon in the Disney+ original series ″Vigilante,″ a cop who chases down Nam Joo-hyuk's character Kim Ji-yong [WALT DISNEY COMPANY KOREA]

A student studying to be a cop doubles as a vigilante who murders criminals by night, all the while an actual cop tries to chase him down and reveal the identity of the vigilante. Who would you root for?

Actor Yoo Ji-tae, who plays the latter of these two men in the Disney+ original series “Vigilante,” believes that his character Cho Heon’s method of justice is the right way.

“There needs to be a structure and a system of law for society, no matter how flawed those laws and systems may be,” Yoo said during an interview with reporters at a cafe in Jung District, central Seoul, on Friday. “My character is someone who firmly believes in the need for that system and tries to hold that up.”

In “Vigilante,” Heon faces off against Kim Ji-yong, played by Nam Joo-hyuk, a vigilante in disguise. Ji-yong is a student at the police academy who harbors a secret agenda to kill off all the bad guys, since the law won’t do it. The central theme of “Vigilante” is whether the lawless form of justice served by Ji-yong should be tolerated.


“I do understand why people would be drawn to the vigilante activities of Ji-yong,” Yoo said. “Often we feel that the legal system doesn’t punish criminals, or those who seem to deserve harsher punishments than what they get, properly. But I agree with my character, that punishment for the bad guys needs to come from within the system and under the law.”

A fan of the original Naver webtoon of the same name on which the series is based, Yoo read the story before “Vigilante” was even being considered to be made into a drama series. He never imagined that the role of Heon would come to him.

“I read all of the webtoon episodes when they came out, and was a fan of the work before I even got the news that this was being adapted,” Yoo said. “When I was offered the role of Heon, I was very surprised but also glad.”

Since Heon is someone who has elements of a character from a comic — being from a special forces background and having extreme physical abilities, such as being able to lift cars — Yoo tried deliberately to play him blandly, the actor said.

A scene from ″Vigilante″ [WALT DISNEY COMPANY KOREA]

“If I accentuated the dramatic characteristics that Heon has, I thought he wouldn’t be very convincing,” Yoo said. “I wanted to make him more approachable as a person, so I delivered his lines without flair and tried to tone down those characteristics.”

Yoo put on nearly 20 kilograms (44 pounds) for his role in “Vigilante,” to fit the bulkier physicality of Heon. He still hasn’t lost that weight, even though filming has wrapped up, because he hopes for a second season.

“I really want a second season to happen — I am not saying that it is in the works right now, the project would still need to be greenlit — but that is why I haven’t shed the weight I put on for ‘Vigilante,’” Yoo said with a laugh. “If a second season is confirmed, I hope that they will focus a lot on the backstory of Heon and how he became the person he is in the first season.”

Although Nam plays the protagonist Ji-yong, he couldn’t participate in most of the promotional events and schedules for “Vigilante” as he began his mandatory military service on March 20 this year. Playing opposite Nam reminded Yoo of his younger days, the actor said.

“It is a shame that Nam couldn’t enjoy being part of the promotional schedule, because, for an actor, basking in that affection and attention from the public after a work wraps up is a huge source of energy that becomes the driving force for the next project,” Yoo said. “Working with Nam made me reminisce about when I was younger and when I still had that twinkle in my eye,” he laughed.

More and more people will start looking for dark-hero genres like “Vigilante” and works that feature characters that they can relate to, Yoo said.

“I think people are getting sick of the classic hero works, where superheroes just save the ordinary people and we can’t find commonalities with them,” Yoo said. “Works like ‘Vigilante,’ featuring dark-heroes with a human quality to them and which deal with the realities we face, will gain more traction in the future, in my opinion.”

To find out more about Yoo Ji-tae, visit Celeb Confirmed!