Kim Nam-gil (김남길)
Kim Nam-gil wears multiple hats as actor, producer, director, singer, author, businessman, and philanthropist. With his sheer versatility and courage to try new things, he certainly looks like one to last long in the Korean entertainment industry.
Birthday: March 13, 1980
The lead roles in a drama series are typically determined early on, with writers and producers wary of making significant changes once filming has started. But for the 2009 k-drama The Great Queen Seondeok, Kim Nam-gil’s portrayal of a supporting character, Bi-dam, was so strong that the writers rewrote the script (and ignored history) in order to give him a more prominent role and more romance with the titular queen.
In fact, Kim Nam-gil has been credited with much of why the historical drama topped TV ratings charts almost throughout its entire run, with the show peaking at 44.7 percent. The breakthrough role gave him the Best New Actor award at that year’s Baeksang Arts Awards, and made him a household name.
While the success of the drama changed his life, it didn’t change who he has always been as an actor — charismatic, versatile, and daring. Early in his career, he took on a gay role with intimate scenes in the indie film No Regret (2006) despite South Korea’s conservative attitudes towards homosexuality. Since then, he has appeared in a wide range of genres — action, comedy, romance, period, horror — or even mixed ones like his other wildly successful drama, The Fiery Priest (2019).
Beyond acting, he has also tried his hand at producing a mockumentary and directing a short film, recording soundtracks and releasing a single in Japan. He has even published two books. Amid all this, he found time to set up a non-profit aimed at promoting arts and preserving cultural heritage, and launched his own entertainment company, Gilstory ENT, in February 2021.
In 2019, a message he wrote to a female staff of a film he starred in, The Odd Family went viral on social media. After encouraging the staff to prove that camera directing is not just a job for men, he wrote: “It’s not the strong that lasts long; it is lasting long that makes you strong.” With his sheer versatility and courage to try new things, Kim Nam-gil certainly looks like one to last long in this industry.
His most recent projects are the all-star aviation disaster film Emergency Declaration, the crime thriller Through the Darkness for which he received the Daesang at the SBS Drama Awards, and the OCN fantasy thriller series Island.