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'Brown-eyed Brad Pitt' attacks TV screen

2005/11/24 | Permalink | Source

As if one wasn't enough, a second "Brad Pitt" with brown eyes and jet black hair has appeared without notice, luring viewers every Monday and Tuesday nights through the MBC primetime drama "Sweet Spy".

Not only does this "new" heartthrob have everything of the original, he is younger, taller and broader.

For the 24-year-old Korean-American actor Dennis Joseph O'Neil, better known to viewers as Dennis Oh, his "predecessor" Daniel Henney's overwhelming popularity was both a chance and a risk.

As a Korean actor carrying an exotic aura of the West, Henney, 26, had immediately grabbed the hearts of female viewers of the popular TV series "My Lovely Sam-soon" - "My Name is Kim Sam-soon", which ended in July.

Although Henney's successful start of an acting career broadened the chance for O'Neil to make his way through the Korean TV land - now familiar with these Korean-American Adonises - it also meant that he had to exceed Henney in some way to prove that he wasn't a mere "copycat". O'Neil seemed to have known from start that it would take twice as much effort for him to earn as much popularity and approval as Henney with people often comparing the two actors.

"Don't compare me with Henney. My goal is not to follow someone else's footsteps to earn popularity", he said in a recent interview with a monthly magazine. "People are bound to compare me with Henney since we come from similar backgrounds. But watch and see. In a few years, he and I will have become so different that no one will remember the times when we were compared to each other".

Apart from both being Korean-American actors quickly becoming the rising stars of Korean TV screens, O'Neil and Henney have a lot in common.

The two actors were both born of an American father and a Korean mother.

Despite the heavy stammers when they speak Korean, audiences immediately felt attached to these brown-eyed actors who claimed to love Kimchi from their mothers' homeland.

The two actors seem to have grown up feeling their mothers' homeland Korea as a close country to them. O'Neil once said in an interview that being able to eat Korean food everyday was what made him the happiest about starting an acting career in Korea.

Due to the language barrier and the risk of audience indifference, O'Neil and Henney started off their careers by first appearing on TV commercials. As audiences' curiosity grew larger, they then moved on to TV dramas, aiming to broaden their territories to acting.

In "My Lovely Sam-soon" - "My Name is Kim Sam-soon", Henney played the role of a Korean-American doctor who has a heart of gold to match his striking looks.

In the drama the doctor, who barely knew a few words of Korean, came to Korea not only to look after his love who was suffering from an illness, but also with hopes of seeing his mother's homeland for the very first time.

O'Neil's role in "Sweet Spy", on the other hand, is kept pretty much in the shadows until the sixth episode, which aired Tuesday. But as the handsome millionaire later falls in love with the heroine, he is to play an important part as the story unfolds.

The public's interest in O'Neil so far, is not due to his qualities as a good actor, but rather to his appealing mask. Because the actor does not have any Korean lines in the drama, speaking only in fluent English, it is hard for Korean viewers to evaluate his acting skills - which may even be beneficial for O'Neil under the circumstances.

But as seen in past cases of "pretty" celebrities who quickly disappeared after gaining an overwhelming popularity for a short while, good looks and temporary public interest do not let the actor hold fame through the end.

True, the boom for the Korean-American actors is going strong, and appears to have staying power.

But difficult tasks lie ahead for O'Neil - and also Henney - in becoming "permanent" stars in the Korean TV land. To pin their names down firmly, these actors must first overcome the language barrier to broaden acting territories and come up with a special tool to match the capricious tastes of today's TV audiences.

By Shin Hae-in

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