Daniel Henney -- Seoul Man

Daniel Henney -- Seoul Man

As the hunky star of films, television dramas and commercials, Daniel Henney is an icon in Korea and beyond. Now he scrubs into a new role, playing a smooth-talking surgical resident in the American TV series Three Rivers.
Daniel Henney
Daniel Henney strikes a pose.

Daniel Henney, who wooed a nation as the charming American physician in Korea’s 2005 TV phenomenon My Lovely Kim Sam Soon, is playing doctor once again -- this time in Hollywood.

The Michigan-born model-turned-actor makes his American small screen debut as a womanizing surgical intern on CBS’ organ transplant drama Three Rivers, which premiered on Oct. 4. He chats with CNNGo about his new life overseas.

CNNGo: You lived in Korea for six years. Why’d you decide to move back to the States?

Daniel Henney: Everything in Korea happened so fast and was so surreal. I started in a small role on a sitcom, and before I knew it, I was doing films and I don’t know -- everything was happening in the moment and I didn’t have time to think about the next month. But in the back of my mind, I always kind of hoped I would come back here. I wanted my family [who lives in Michigan] to see me in the theater. For me, that’s really rewarding.

CNNGo: Your first U.S. role was playing bad-guy Agent Zero in the summer blockbuster X-Men Origins: Wolverine. What was it like working with actor Hugh Jackman?

I’m definitely a Korean actor until the day I die. Korea gave me my career.
— Daniel Henney

Daniel Henney: He’s the nicest guy I’ve ever met, the epitome of all that is good about big-time stars. He restored my faith that someone can reach the top of their game and still be a humble guy to the core. Each week, he’d spend $4,000 on lottery tickets for the whole crew. He’d go around the set, asking people, “Did you win?” He created a sense of camaraderie. I have a man-crush on Hugh, it’s ridiculous.

CNNGo: Now you’re in a show about organ transplants. How did you prepare for the role?

Daniel Henney: I sat through a heart transplant operation. A 44-year-old man had been on the waiting list for a heart and was about two weeks away from dying. Finally, they called him while he was eating breakfast one morning, saying, “We have a heart for you.” A 22-year-old kid had overdosed on heroine.

I watched everything. I watched them pry open his chest and literally rip his heart out and put the new heart in. It was the most incredible experience.

CNNGo: What’s your goal in Hollywood?

Daniel Henney: I want to establish a role model for young Asian Americans to look up to and be proud of. For me, it’s just about being a good actor. As far as being a sex symbol, I have no interest in that.

CNNGo: Are you currently dating anyone?

Henney: No, I wish I was. I think I’m gonna start. I don’t know how.

CNNGo: What do you look for in a woman?

Henney: Someone with a good sense of humor, who’s game to go out and do anything, who doesn’t mind just hanging out and drinking a beer. She has to be laidback if she’s going to date someone with a job like mine.

CNNGo: Do you consider yourself a Korean actor or an American actor?

Henney: I’m definitely a Korean actor until the day I die. Korea gave me my career. Korea is where I made my mistakes, where I had my highs, my lows. It’s where I learned the ropes. If it wasn’t for Korea, I wouldn’t be here.


Michelle Woo is a journalist and blogger, whose work has appeared in USA Today, The Arizona Republic, Detroit Free Press, Orange County Register and on CNN.com.
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