Blazer, tank top and bermudas, AMIRI

It is always interesting acquainting with someone for the first time, celebrity status notwithstanding. Largely because you never know which version of them you're meeting. No one maintains an utterly identical self while meandering through the varied seasons of life.

I would like to believe it's a good moment in Justin H. Min's timeline to meet him. He's not quite a household name yet, but it's more than fair to say he's on the better side of fame. Most would predominantly know him as Ben Hargreeves aka The Horror or his alternate self, Sparrow Number Two from The Umbrella Academy. Hardcore fans may even recognise him from his stint with Wong Fu Productions.

At this juncture, we're discussing his latest release on Disney+, The Greatest Hits. The premise takes relatability quite so literally. Ever felt like listening to a particular song transported you back in time? It actually does for female protagonist Harriett, for whom the act has now become an obsessive plan to potentially undo her lover's ultimate death.

Min plays the new man Harriett encounters, whose existence inevitably forces her to make that fateful decision. A choice (no spoilers!) he still doesn't quite know if he would have made the same way, despite heavy contemplation.

"It's a movie about the exploration of grief, and I was grieving a friend that I lost when I received the script," he shares. "It's amazing that I can do art that resounds with me on a very personal level, often at a very specific time in my life the last few years."

Blazer and shirt, KENZO. Sunglasses, OLIVER PEOPLES

Not one with dream genres in mind, the only litmus test Min has is the emotional connection to the material that comes his way; because why would you put your heart and soul into something you are not passionate about?

One character that naturally surfaces is Ben from Randall Park's Shortcomings. If actors enjoy playing roles vastly apart from themselves to have a distinct divide, the highly-flawed and insecure Ben was terrifying for Min.

"The joke when I talk about him is that's who I was before therapy," he chuckles lightly, "He did feel so close to me in many ways that it was very vulnerable. Other characters I could hide behind different qualities that make up the person, but this felt raw sharing a lot of my own brokenness."

Ben, who finds his source in Adrian Tomine's graphic novel of the same name, feels unnervingly like someone you might know in real life. Which begs the question: exactly which traits did Min see in himself most?

"He has a strong sense of what he likes and doesn't. His taste in movies is very elevated, and yet he is unable to produce the kind of art that he loves because he's paralysed by his own perfectionism," Min says, explaining a similar revelation in his early aspirational phase, "You have to be willing to put yourself out there, do the work required to build a portfolio and hopefully reach where your taste and your art aligns."

Blazer, sweater, shorts and belt, AMI

Experience also puts crappy shows in a new perspective. "We can all watch and say it's so bad but we don't know how many things were needed to work out perfectly for it to be done right."

Min agrees that actors often only have the script—a fraction of the final product—to gauge; the execution you can only hope for the best. "That's why when I see a movie now and dislike it, I have so much more compassion than I used to."

However, one special script did make him cry. Not a cinematic singular-tear-down-the-cheek, but unapologetic sobbing on the plane.

"First of all, I would disclaim that by saying some of that was due to altitude," he clears his throat semi-sheepishly and grins, adding that he's not one to cry much but later discovered that heightened sentimentalism during transit is universal. In his defence, this theory has been widely supported by several psychiatric articles and reported stats.

See, the thing about After Yang (which if anything, you should watch solely for that rad dance break at the beginning) is not your typical robot flick. We don't just mean because it's an A24 starring Colin Farrell.

"Majority of android films and TV is always about the robot wanting to become human, and the thing I was so moved by was that Yang was so content being a robot. So content with serving his family and found so much reverence and dignity in doing his duty."

"It's kind of that Asian immigrant mentality that I think really struck a chord. The idea that my parents have no other joy than to see their kids succeed, you know? That's why a lot of immigrant parents move to America, for their kids to have a better life."

Min trips on his words for a split-second and continues, "I thought about my parents and it broke my heart because I want more for them? My mom owned a [dry cleaning business] for 20 years, my dad worked at a supermarket and they were just perfectly happy doing that. Anything to keep our family afloat; for my brother and I to have a future."

Suit, shirt, tie and boots, CELINE. Sunglasses, OLIVER PEOPLES

It's beyond evident that family and his Asian roots are dear to the actor's heart. Presented the hypothetical chance to access anyone's memories the way Yang's was, there wasn't much hesitation.

"I love my parents and they've been so great, but as much as we try to meet each other where we're at, there's always gonna be a fundamental disconnection because of the difference in where we were born and raised," he muses.

"There's also seeing your parents as this sort of omnipotent superheroes who are always there to take care of you and don't really have ambitions and feelings of their own. I think navigating my mom's world through her eyes could give me that much more empathy for her as a human."

Besides that instance where we as children awaken to the fact that our parents knew us our whole lives, but we perhaps only know them for half of theirs, there were other aspects the movie confronted him to consider more critically.

"The ever-evolving question I'm constantly ruminating on is: If I ever have kids, what part of my Asian identity would I want to pass down? Would I go as far as Korean New Year traditions? I don't even know enough myself to feel like I can accurately teach them… so there's no easy answer."

Blazer, vest, trousers and scarf, GIORGIO ARMANI

Still, it doesn't matter whether his Asian identity is at the forefront of his acting. It's as much fun to deep dive into the dialogue as it is simply left as a subtle nod. Min is content to work with the people he admires, participate in discourses about said work and is at peace with current circumstances.

Witnessing peers that he entered the industry with leave; the opportunity to sustain a decent living post-pandemic post-strikes; doing what he loves without countless side jobs as he used to, is in itself, career success.

It's surely been a roller coaster ride since cutting his teeth on The Umbrella Academy, which sees its culmination this August. To summarise, that's going from recurring character to series regular; from bidding the cast farewell to screaming in his Toronto apartment when he read the secret new script that brought him back.

"And before Netflix, no one was dealt fame in such rapid ascension. Even with the biggest stars, you were watched all around the globe in a gradual rollout. Whereas now you're instantly in 190 countries with millions watching. I don't think enough people talk about how crazy that is."

These days, catching a break between press tours and role-prep, Min has retreated to his happy place—alone in nature.

"I've been slowly ticking national parks off my list," he recounts the most recent being Arches National Park, but Redwoods is one he finds himself returning to. "There's something about the grandeur of those trees that just makes me feel so small in the best way possible; and acknowledge that these ‘huge problems' in my head really aren't that big of a deal."

Success on an individual level though, is something he ponders long to define.

When Colin Farrell called you beautiful, I proffer, gaining a merry burst of laughter.

"Exactly, such a core memory in my life now," he humours, referring to the very first time the two met. On a serious note, he goes, "Sounds cliché but living more authentically. By that I mean figuring out more about myself, my values and hopefully learning to live by them."

Tuxedo jacket, shirt, trousers and cummerbund, BRUNELLO CUCINELLI. Cap, stylist’s own.

Who would the authentic Justin H. Min be?

The man who was once less confident and perchance a little more self-centred, or the one before me; who carries an open, positive energy that you can see why he resonates with crews and audiences alike. Who was previously a photojournalist, but whose fascination with the stories of others persists in his curiosity towards mine through the two-way conversation that the interview eventually became.

The actor who resolved from the onset to have his middle initial be present in his stage name because he feels tethered to his Korean identity. Yet was not aware of what "Hong Kee" means (he's convinced it was a phonetic preference his parents had rather than significant symbolism …but he's going to check with them after this).

The child of immigrants, who recalls Celine Dion's It's All Coming Back To Me Now as one of three albums playing in the car on family road trips. Who abides by the culture that surrounds him, who reflects on essential truths when in the forests and in the air; to imbue its amalgamation in his craft, and one day, in his children who would look back and wonder what the world was like through his eyes.

Photography: Art Streiber
Fashion Direction: Asri Jasman
Art Direction: Joan Tai
Styling: Oretta Corbelli
Producer: Cezar Grief at COOL HUNT INC
Grooming: Aika Flores at EXCLUSIVE ARTISTS using SKIN 1004 and ORIBE
Styling Assistant: Alessandra Mai Vinh
Location: Downtown LA Proper Hotel

Kevin Nixon

I KNOW FOR SURE that many different types of species are operating hyper-advanced aerodynamic platforms, and they’re visiting Earth, coming and going like taxis. As to who these operators are, I don’t know. Are they interdimensional, inter-realm, interplanetary?

I’VE HAD FOUR vivid sightings of craft that were not jets, helicopters, or planes.

I WAS ON MY MOTORCYCLE about eight o’clock at night, and I saw a red beacon flying over the high-tension power lines. There was no sound. It stops right above my motorcycle and shines a light on me. I look up, totally delighted. And the light winks off, and this thing drifts off over the field again.

MY DAD WAS an absolute absurdist. He would go to a grocery store, grab a roll of paper towels, and whip them over to the next aisle to hear the reaction. “Oh, whoa, whoa!” He was wonderful.

I WAS VERY MOUTHY in class all the way through high school because I knew I could get laughs. I was not a good student, but I was an entertaining one.

My parents enrolled me in the St Pius X minor preparatory seminary for boys, which was a priest school in Ottawa. So I went there from grade 9, 10, 11, and I was asked to leave, dismissed in a letter saying, “We believe your son is not a suitable candidate for the priesthood.”

A LITTLE UNDER HALF THE YEAR, I’m at the farm in Ontario. It’s where the family settled in 1826.

WE HAD A FAMILY MEDIUM, and frequent séances took place in the old farmhouse in the 1930s and ’40s, usually on a Sunday morning. The big black Chryslers, Packards, Cadillacs, and Lincolns would come in with the big bosomy matrons and their tiny, skinny little husbands. They’d sit around the table and my great-grandfather Samuel would host.

I WAS STUDYING criminology at Carleton University and expecting that I would go into the corrections service, having worked a summer as a Clerk 5 in the Penitentiary Service of Canada doing inmate catalogues.

I WROTE A MANUAL for deploying weapons in riots for the commissioner. And I thought, “Well, it's an interesting profession.”

BUT I HAD MET A WOMAN named Valri Bromfield in high school, and she said, “You’re not going to be a prison guard. You’re coming with me to Toronto.” And she dragged me off with our audition tape that we’d made on cable TV in Ottawa. It got the attention of Lorne Michaels.

I HAD A PRETTY GOOD LIFE going in Toronto. We were running an after-hours booze can, selling liquor and beer and wine illegally over the counter and making a massive 80 per cent markup. I bought a Harley. I bought a car.

I HAD AN ORIGINAL 1971 Ontario provincial police Harley motorcycle that had been in the display team of the Golden Riders. It went around the world with these stunt riders from the provincial police. Paid USD1,200 for it. And I kept that for a long time.

I RODE THAT BIKE up and down the thruway from the farm to SNL, the entire four years I was on the show. I never flew or took a train or a bus. I never commuted to New York on anything but that bike. Seven hours. Rain or shine. That was my ride.

IT WASN’T SO MUCH my public exposure that I felt in that first year of SNL. It was Chevy’s. I didn’t get much recognition, but Chevy did. I used to walk down the street with him and they were calling his name out, “Hey, Chevy Chase!”

I SAW HOW Chevy was exposed and thought to myself, I don’t want that.

I TRIED COCAINE a couple of times. I didn’t like what it did. It made me speedy. It didn’t help me creatively. But there were others who liked it a lot more.

I STARTED TO PLAY harmonica when I went up north as a road surveyor and tundra-crawler mechanic for the federal Department of Public Works, a job my father got me through pure nepotism. I played the harp up there around the campfire. I kept it up enough so when Blues Brothers came along, I was modestly proficient on it, and still am today.

MY MOTHER USED TO type my essays up when I was in college. Sometimes they were unfinished and I’d say, “It’s ok. They’ll accept this.” And she’d say, “No, you have to round this out. You’ve got to ride home on a third act or a conclusion here. I’m not letting you go until you compose that.”

MY STYLE IS basically all black. Black jeans, black shirt, black jacket, black tie, black hat. Sometimes I’ll go with a white shirt. I really don’t care about clothes. I prefer just to have a rack of black stuff to put on every morning that’s clean.

YOU CAN NEVER SPEND enough time with your children. You can never listen to them enough, give them enough focus and attention. Accept their advice and their criticism. You can never do that enough.

IF THEY’RE COMING after you and saying, “Dad, you were a little profane today” or “Dad, don’t smoke cannabis in the house”“You know, Dad, you’re driving a little too fast,” instead of being defensive, I’ve learnt to back off the throttle, take the smoke outside. Just listen to them. And cut back on the profanity if I can.

WRITING IS HARD. Alone, it’s arduous. With a partner, you can play back and forth. So I prefer to work with a partner.

I'VE WRITTEN EIGHT SCREENPLAYS that got produced. And every one of them, at some point I'd be stopped cold. Where am I going to go next? So usually, I would just go to sleep and dream on it and get up in the morning and I go, “Well, I got a solution to go forward. It may not be the best one, but it's a solution.”

OK, I’VE BEEN sentenced to death. They’re saying, “Well, Dan, this is your last meal. What would you like?” Oh, jeez, Warden, thanks. Well, let me see. I will have a T-bone steak with green peas, Yorkshire pudding and gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts with maple syrup, button-cap mushrooms, preceded by a lemon-zest Caesar salad.

AFTER THAT, I’D LIKE to move on to a Black Forest chocolate cake, all washed down with a fine Brane-Cantenac Margaux. I would like a cigar. [And a helicopter.]

This year, Aykroyd appeared in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, the fifth film in the series he helped launch as a cowriter and costar of the 1984 original.

Originally published on Esquire US

With the release of Dune: Part Two right around the corner, the cast has been on a press tour the world over. There's no denying that they're taking the fashion seriously too. From red carpet premieres to photocalls, Timothée Chalamet and Austin Butler—portraying Paul Atreides and newly introduced Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, respectively—have been showcasing a diverse array of looks. Each outfit chosen had been statements in their own right, and are deserving of as much hype as the movie itself.

CinemaCon 2023


At CinemaCon 2023, Chalamet was decked out in a grungy look as he wore an edgy leather vest by Helmut Lang over a white T-shirt and skinny leather motorcycle trousers with built-in knee pads. To finish off the biker aesthetic, a pair of pointed black leather boots was the footwear of choice.

Jimmy Kimmel Live!


At the casts’ appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Chalamet's edgy outfit consisted of a sleeveless black sweatshirt with grommet detailing by Junya Watanabe x Stüssy, leather trousers from Alexander McQueen and black boots. However, he switched things up with a cozy knit from Hermès during the taping.


Butler arrived in a black unbuttoned shirt, wearing a matching black pinstriped suit over, and boots. He also had on a thin silver chain necklace, proving that it's what one needs to complete any suit look.

Mexico City photocall


Chalamet wore a sleeveless calf hair top from Hermès' yet-to-be-released Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear collection, matched with trousers and chunky leather boots. Butler, on the other hand, opted for something a little more relaxed with a simple white T-shirt under a grey unbuttoned three-piece by Givenchy.

Mexico City premiere


The duo kept it smart in Mexico City. Chalamet wore a custom Prada suit and a black poplin v-neck shirt with what is decidedly his more experimental look thus far. The blazer was tucked in and accessorised with a double tour Prada belt.


Butler rocked a striking pinstripe suit from Saint Laurent’s Spring/Summer 2024 ready-to-wear collection with cutting shoulders. Completing the look, he opted for a gold-buckled belt—not too excessive but also not too modest.

Paris photocall


In Paris, the Dune lead stayed rather safe with a black turtleneck and sleek leather pants (notably a recurring trend with the actor) from Bottega Veneta's Spring/Summer 2023 collection. Cartier jewellery and a pair of Oliver Peoples sunglasses completed the easy look.


Butler exuded effortless style in a monochromatic Fear of God ensemble, featuring loose-fit clothing with relaxed shoulders—a departure from his usual tailored suits. He completed the look with understated David Yurman jewellery.

Paris premiere


Chalamet wore a custom shiny metal breastplate from Givenchy with a graphic turtleneck. He had also worn a black wool jacket featuring a notch lapel with matching wool trousers. Cartier accessories such as a platinum Cintrée timepieces from the Rééditions collection and a sizeable silver ring.


Butler dressed smart in yet another Louis Vuitton ensemble, which consisted of a sharply tailored black jacket over a crisp white dress shirt, and a striking pair of flared pants reminiscent of the '70s. He kept it easy with a pair of black dress shoes, and a ring for a little hint of jewellery.

London photocall


Chalamet's fish scale wool sweater was from Bottega Veneta’s women’s collection, reiterating that clothing has no gender. And if his legs looked longer than usual, that's all thanks to the chocolate brown leather pants matched with a set of Ripley Boots by Bottega Veneta as well.


Butler was wearing a custom three-piece double-breasted suit by Louis Vuitton in an offbeat shade of grey. The unusually wide-lapel blazer and waistcoat, once again, blends a sense of timelessness with a contemporary twist that Butler tends to favour.

London premiere


Chalamet reunited with designer Haider Ackermann, donning on metallic trousers that were difficult to not miss, and paired with an oversized black shirt. For accessories, he wore a custom Cartier necklace featuring invert-set diamonds in orange, yellow, brown, and white hues, designed to mimic the desert landscape in Dune.


Butler's penchant for tailoring saw him taking on a black Sabato de Sarno for Gucci overcoat paired with a white vest. It's perhaps simple in execution but sleek and dramatic all the same.

Seoul photocall and press conference


Chalamet was seen sporting powdery blue overalls from South Korean designer Juun.J's Spring/Summer 2024 collection, in a deliberate move to twin with fellow lead Zendaya. He finished off the look with simple silver necklaces and a pair of Chelsea boots in the same exact shade, sticking true to the runway look.


Butler was also dressed in blue, opting for a Valentino suit with a silk shirt of a lighter shade. But instead of keeping to the monochromatic tones of the clothes, the footwear of choice was a black pair of dress shoes. A silver necklace completed the entire look.

Seoul premiere


For Seoul's premiere, Chalamet chose a sleek white suit paired with black leather boots, both courtesy of Gucci. Continuing his partnership with Cartier, he wore a single Cartier diamond necklace for a touch of elegance—just one of his many moments with the luxury brand throughout the press tour.


Butler kept it classic with a black pinstriped double-breasted suit layered over a white dress shirt, matching the entire ensemble with a black tie and black dress shoes.

Dune: Part Two will show in cinemas on 29 February 2024.

Jacket, DANIEL FLETCHER. Cardigan, LOEWE. Jumper, LA GRANNI. Trousers, VOAAOV. Necklace, CARTIER. Shoes, GRENSON

Archie Madekwe doesn’t get enough sleep. A self-professed night owl, he will get up at dawn if work dictates. Like today, for this interview. “Also,” Madekwe adds, “if I do wake up late, I’d feel gross [for wasting the day]. I often don’t but I’m working on getting better at it.”

We caught up with him at his London home, in his bedroom, possibly. He’s attired in a long-sleeved sweater and light blue denim jeans. A five o’clock shadow does little to weather his boyish looks.

His parents named him “Archie” after Archie Bell & The Drells. “My mom and dad are big Motown fans,” Madekwe says. “My mom got really set on that name. If not ‘Archie’, it would have been ‘Art’, and I’m glad that wasn’t the case.

“‘Archie’ is more subtle.”

Jacket and trousers, Y PROJECT. Shoes, GRENSON

Subtlety seems to be the theme of Archie Madekwe’s acting career. His roles, at least the ones that matter, seem to be carefully curated. He may not be a household name but he’s slowly becoming a familiar face on the screens, big and small.

In the early days, his UK agents, Olivia Woodward and Alex Sedgley, worked with Madekwe to be deliberate about the roles he took on. “Our aim was to make sure I’d be considered for the everyman part.

“I’ve been really lucky in that a lot of those initial jobs I took fell under that last category,” Madekwe says. “They could have easily cast a white actor for [Edward Albee’s play, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?], I was in Les Misérables, which could have had an all-white cast.”

It was The Secret Life of Bees that informed him that it was possible for a person of colour to grace the screen. More specifically, Sophie Okonedo. “[She] was so unbelievable in it,” Madekwe had said in a conversation with fellow thespian Josh O’Connor, “I remember looking her up, seeing that she was from London and that she was mixed race—she was a North Star for me. In my mind, she was the validation that I could do it, that there were people like me doing it.”

Years later, Madekwe would join the cast of Albee’s The Goat. Okonedo was in it as well and she played his mom. He told her about how inspirational she was in his formative years. “Sophie remains a really good friend and we actually just worked together again so I remind her about that a lot,” Madekwe says with a smile on his face. “It’s important to remind people of the impact they’ve had on you. Especially in this industry, where it is so easy to feel dismissed. And that happens to some of the biggest actors I’ve worked with.”

Jacket, shirt, jeans and shoes, GIVENCHY. Bracelet, CARTIER

His West End tenure was also where Madekwe cut his teeth. It was an education that years at the BRIT School or The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art could not impart. What drama schools taught him was confidence, especially when auditioning in a room full of strangers. But does that assurance spill over into other aspects of his life? “It’s not a one-size-fits-all,” he says, “but I do try to apply it to most situations. It’s definitely something that I had to learn throughout my career and try to appear confident even in situations where I don’t feel it. You kinda need to trick yourself into feeling that courage.”

He still finds it hard to watch himself in films. By the time we spoke, he’d only recently watched the finished version of Saltburn at a premiere. “I think there was maybe 2,000 in attendance and it was one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to put myself through,” Madekwe says, cringing at the memory. “You become so attuned to the audience’s reaction. ‘Why didn’t they laugh at that? Was that bit not funny? Well, I thought it was funny.’ You become hypercritical and now you’re contesting with your own thoughts as opposed to just watching it with the audience.”

Madekwe is jealous of any actor who can watch something of theirs without feeling judgmental. “Must be a lovely feeling.” He did, however, come close to that. He was privy to an early cut of Saltburn and he lost himself, carried away by the story. “At least for a little bit. There were still a couple of clips of myself that I couldn’t get past, but it was the closest I’d come to feeling like an outsider watching my own work.”

Coat and trousers, LOUIS VUITTON

Madekwe and Ari Aster became friends during the making of Midsommar. In this horror-in-the-daylight film, Madewke plays Simon, one of the unwitting victims of a Scandinavian folk ritual. Madewke subsequently made an appearance in Aster’s follow-up, Beau is Afraid.

“[Ari and I] became really good friends after Midsommar and we’d been talking about working together again in some capacity. I was filming in Canada and Ari was shooting Beau. I’d asked to meet so we could discuss a potential project. That’s when Ari said, ‘Dude, we should just get you into one of these scenes’.”

That scene is something of a chef’s kiss, an Aster egg (sorry, not sorry). Context is needed: In Midsommar, Madekwe’s Simon was frantically screaming for an elderly couple not to leap off a cliff but in Beau is Afraid, Madekwe’s character (the credit lists him simply as “Laughing Man”) is encouraging a man to jump to his death. Other than having fun on the set with Aster and his producers Tyler Campellone and Lars Knudsen, Madekwe even got to watch Joaquin Phoenix act. “Even if it was for a short moment. I mean, it was so cool.”

Shirt and trousers, GUCCI. T-shirt, RAEY. Ring and bracelet, CHOPARD. Shoes, TOGA

Social media is a love-hate affair for him. On one hand, it’s a way to connect with his friends and family; it’s an exposure to other cultures, fashion and art. On the other, he doesn’t like the hold it has on him.

“I hate that I’m not in control of when and how I use it. It’s like muscle memory. I’ve deleted the app before and I’ve found myself tapping my finger on the space where the app used to be.”

Madekwe wishes he had spent less time on it but confesses to enjoying a “weird validation” when people send messages and like his posts. These little interactions become a serotonin boost. “I wish I didn’t rely on that so much. I’m trying to strike a healthy balance with it.”

Being memed is another thing that Madekwe is trying to get used to. The recent one was a Tik-Tok clip of his character, Farleigh Smart, singing Pet Shop Boys’ “Rent” during a karaoke session. It was only six seconds long but it took social media by storm; with fans wanting to see Madekwe sing a cover of it (there won’t be one, Madekwe has confirmed in a separate interview).

“It’s the character Farleigh singing it, so it feels strange when people ask me to sing it again, because I can’t see a context in which recording that would make sense,” Madekwe explains. “I’m still working out my feelings with going viral. There’s something really fun about it and I love that film can have a life of its own, but the exposure is on another level on social media. I’ve really felt that. You feel more eyes on you or people coming over asking for pictures. That’s something that comes with the job, I suppose. No one really teaches you on how to deal with that. It’s something that you had to learn very quickly on your own.”

But Madekwe does have some pipes on him. He loves singing and will be doing so in his next project. “I’m not Ben Platt or an actor that can carry a Broadway show… but singing is something that I’ve always enjoyed.”

Art is another endeavour that Madekwe enjoys as well. Other than the ceramics classes he is taking, Madekwe showcases artists and their work on his Instagram account.

“I have an immense appreciation for art. I love the stories that jump out at me; I love the craft. Over the years, I’ve grown to love it more and I’m excited for it to occupy a larger part of my time.”

He’ll be curating an art show in Atlanta, a project that he’s excited about. As acting can be an all-encompassing force, it sometimes leads Madekwe to neglect and forget about the things that inspire him. “At the end of the day, all those things will feed into the work to make you a better actor, let alone human being.”

There is one particular artwork that left a mark on the actor: Arthur Jafa’s “Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death”. Created in 2016, the seven-minute video essay depicts scenes of the Black Experience. From the elation of Obama singing “Amazing Grace” to the low of police brutality; it’s a kaleidoscope of emotions felt as Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam” plays.

“After I first saw it, I went back, maybe 20 more times,” Madekwe says. “I’d constantly bring friends and force them to watch. It’s one of the most impactful pieces of art I’ve ever seen.”

To hammer the point home, he takes out a slim black hardback book that a friend gifted him recently. He opens to the front cover and points to the inscription on it: it’s addressed to Madekwe and signed by Arthur Jafa.

Sweater, LOEWE

Madekwe's 1.95cm height has become an identifying trait for the actor in articles and interviews. “[My height] has always been an anxiety for me,” Madekwe says. “When I was younger, somebody warned me that my height would get in the way of my acting career and I thought, ‘How the hell can I control how tall I grow?’” His disquietude ballooned until he was consumed with Googling ways to stunt his growth, including but not limited to height reduction surgery.

There have been one or two instances in his life where a casting director explained a lead actor didn’t want to be captured with someone as tall as him. “But overall, I’ve never found a lack of work because of my height.”

However, a lack of work did occur during the SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) strike. When the SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) couldn’t agree on labour, IP rights and compensation, actors working on American productions were asked to refrain from working on or promoting any finished films or TV shows.

“With every kind of fibre of my being, I was in support of the strike,” Madekwe says. “And yet… personally and selfishly, [Gran Turismo] was supposed to be one of the most exciting moments of my career and I was unable to talk about the project at all.”

It was frustrating as this was his first leading role. “If I’m honest, the worst part of it was not being able to laude the crew and cast that worked so hard on the film,” Madekwe says. “But, in the end, it’s a small sacrifice to pay when you’re working towards fair compensation.”

In 2023, Perri Nemiroff, a senior producer for the online entertainment site, Collider, remarked that Madekwe was having the best year with Gran Turismo and Saltburn. And she’s right. To lead a major studio film and be part of an exceptional ensemble, all within the span of a year, that is no small feat.

He’s in the zone now; a flow state. With a slate of projects in development, a new film in the pipeline and exciting forays into fashion and art, it seems that the actor has “miles to go before [he sleeps again]”.

He stands at the threshold, between the past and what-will-happen; a place of possibilities.

Photography: Charlie Gray
Fashion Direction: Asri Jasman
Art Direction: Joan Tai
Styling: Adele Cany
Styling Assistant: Zoe Glanville

Coat, shirt, trousers and boots, CELINE HOMME

ESQUIRE: I watched you in the original musical Let Me Fly. I was surprised. I had thought it would be a science fiction drama after reading the synopsis about a time-travelling female lead, who dreams of becoming a NASA scientist, and a male lead, who wanted to be a fashion designer. Other than that, I didn’t go in with a lot of expectations since I’m not a sci-fi fan. But 40 minutes in, I found myself sobbing.

PARK BO-GUM: (laughs) Thank you so much. I still remember the first time I watched this musical. I personally know Shin Jaebum, who was playing the same Namwon role as I am this season. We were classmates majoring in musical theatre at school. When this musical was playing for the first time last year, he invited me to come see the show. I did, and I was surprised because the production was great. I too wondered if it was a story about space, or about the fashion-designer-wannabe male lead. But it was actually a story about time and love. “It was our journey through time together. Even if I were to be reborn, I will not go back and will choose this path again.” Everything including this line, the numbers, each prop, and stage elements were perfect. On the day I watched it, everyone in the audience cried so much that their masks were wet from tears. I remember leaving the theatre with such happiness and emotions that exceeded whatever I expected before I went in.

Coat, shirt, trousers, tie, belt and boots, CELINE HOMME

ESQ: There were many people in the audience crying loudly on the day I watched it as well. I didn’t want to make a sound, so I clenched my fists like Zo Insung (in the drama Something Happened in Bali). They weren’t tears that emphasised sadness though. They were tears of intense happiness. I enjoyed the show.

PBG: That’s so true. You can hear Namwon’s voice as he sincerely expressed his love to Jungbun despite not remembering anything. This might be a spoiler, but the moment the word “cupcake” is mentioned, the audience realises Sunhee’s true identity.

ESQ: The audience actually knew it before that. But it didn’t matter, we just enjoyed it.

PBG: I’m glad. It makes me so happy to hear that.

ESQ: I’m also surprised that Let Me Fly is playing in such a small theatre with only 300 seats. It’s not every day that we get to see one of Korea’s top drama actors dancing and singing like that. I’m curious about what made you decide to accept this role.

PBG: Productions like this usually cast multiple actors for a role so that they can take turns. As I mentioned earlier, when Shin Jaebum invited me to watch the show last year, Oh Euishik and Kim Jihyun were also playing Namwon. When I met them backstage, they half-jokingly said, “Bo-gum, let’s do this show together next time and bring it to a bigger theatre!” I think that played a big part in my decision to accept the role. I told them at the time that I’d be waiting for the call. I heard that the producers had no intention of casting me, but Jaebum persuaded them to just try reaching out to me. My seniors and batchmates were cheering me on, so I had no reason to turn down the role.

Coat, jacket, shirt and sunglasses, CELINE HOMME

ESQ: Your timing was great. I heard that original Korean musicals and theatre productions were badly hit during, and even after, the Covid shutdowns. At a time like this, staging Let Me Fly and having a superstar like Park Bo-gum in the lead role can bring life back to Daehakro.

PBG: That it’s an original Korean production was the main reason I took the role. I wanted to share the emotions I felt when I watched the show last year. If my being cast can help promote this production to not only Korean fans, but international fans as well, I’d be so thankful.

ESQ: When I watched the show, there were many fans who seemed like they were from North America or Southeast Asia. What’s interesting was that when I went to buy a programme at the merchandise booth, there was a foreigner in front of me who said “Give me one of everything you have.” They must have really liked the show since they wanted to buy everything.

PBG: Really? I had no idea. That makes me so happy!

ESQ: The show I watched had Lee Hyunghoon playing the older Namwon, Hong Jihee as Jungbun, and Bang Jinhee as Sunhee, and the chemistry between them on stage was just remarkable. I can’t imagine that it’s easy achieving the right chemistry, especially when all four characters are played by three different actors. Kudos to them. They made it look and feel so believable.

PBG: That is why I can confidently say that no matter which actors you watch, they all bring their own charm to each of the shows, and they are all great. I also feel a different excitement when I’m on stage with different actors. You are showering me with so much praise that I think I’ll do really well for tonight’s performance.

ESQ: You’re going to perform tonight after this interview?

PBG: Yes. It’s going to be with Kim Dobin, Choi Soojin and Na Hana tonight.

Blouson, cropped top, trousers, belt and Besace Triomphe bag, CELINE HOMME

ESQ: When will Let Me Fly be staged in a large theatre?

PBG: Large theatre... I don’t think it’s time for that yet. The small theatre right now is great. It feels intimate. Expanding to a mid-sized theatre might work, but a large theatre... At the end of the day, that decision is not mine to make. It depends on the production company.

ESQ: That is true. There’s a charm to small theatres because we can see the stage from a closer proximity, and it does feel more intimate.

PBG: That’s right. That is also what I like about this production. I can see and feel the immediate reaction from the audience. Of course, I can’t see their faces or expressions from the stage, but I can feel how engaged the audience is. It truly feels like we’re communicating with the audience because I can feel it when they burst into tears. This is my debut on a theatrical stage, so it’s my first time experiencing this sort of energy.

I mentioned earlier that Jaebum was my classmate from the musical theatre department in college, but I was usually just working behind the scenes as the director or music director.

ESQ: That’s amazing! I was just thinking to myself that you must have had lots of practice since you majored in musical theatre in college. As I look again at your characters Choi Taek in Reply 1988 and Lee Yeong in Love in the Moonlight... those don’t seem like they could dance, and yet you just brought them into action. You were great. You were also great at aegyo (acting cute) with your “bbuing”.

PBG: Not at all! I was getting lots of help from the people around me for the dancing and the singing, so all I really had to do was follow their directions and suggestions. Actually, the aegyo scene came about because we were trying to figure out how to make the characters for young Namwon and older Namwon be more cohesive. Each of the cast members has different charms. So, when you watched Lee Hyunghoon’s older Namwon that day, I had to add more to my acting to match his bubblier version of the character.

ESQ: I didn’t know you had to think of that as well.

PBG: That’s what makes it fun. (laughs) I spoke with and practised a lot with the other actors playing the younger Namwon.

Suit, shirt and necklace, CELINE HOMME
Suit, shirt, belt and boots, CELINE HOMME

ESQ: What was the process like for you during practice? It must not have been easy planning your schedule.

PBG: This is the first musical production that I’m involved in, and one that I love as well. As I practised every day, my desire to put on the best performance grew. After filming for my drama, I would always head straight to the studio to practise late into the night with our choreographer. All the other actors in this show helped me a lot. They stayed late so that we could clean up specific scenes. But the interesting thing is that my footsteps felt light on the way to the studio, and I enjoyed it so much. I was the youngest in this production, so I was just a student to everyone else. Everyone there was my teacher. Especially Shin Jaebum and Na Hana, who taught me the best way to project my voice. I didn’t know how loud I should be, or what’s the best method to deliver my lines since it was my first time on stage. Ah! Especially in the scene with the mirrored choreography, where older Namwon and younger Namwon faced each other and danced as though looking into a mirror. We put in a lot of effort for that scene because all three of us felt that we needed to be as perfect as possible.

ESQ: I remember the scene because it seemed like a mime show. It was perfect!

PBG: Although we should also pay attention to the other scenes, we focused a lot on that particular scene, even right down to the timing of our eyes blinking. We paid so much attention to our breaths, our steps and each movement of our fingers while practising.

Suit, shirt, necklace and boots, CELINE HOMME

ESQ: You’ve mentioned in interviews that you had dreamt of being a singer when you were younger. As I watched you in this show, I didn’t think you meant that as being an idol singer.

PBG: That’s right. I wanted to be a singer-songwriter. I played piano as a kid, so I wanted to comfort others and spread joy through the songs I wrote. Back when I used to audition for entertainment companies, there were not many male contestants who sang while playing the keyboard.

ESQ: You’re right. There weren’t many who could play the keyboard. You were good enough to play one of Lee Seungcheol’s songs on the keyboard for a TV show. This musical plays from September to December, and by the time this interview is published, you would have played this character over 10 times. Is there anything that has changed for you since the first time?

PBG: I also thought that things might become routine as time went by, but every time I perform with a different actor, I experience a new chemistry between us, and I feel new emotions each time. That is why I think this is such a great production. Despite playing the same show, the same character with the same lines, and everything is repeated, it always feels new with every show. Even when I think, “The emotions won’t get to me today,” I end up getting absorbed into the performance and sometimes get overwhelmed by emotions. That’s what makes this so very interesting for me. I’m experiencing things I don’t feel when I do movies or dramas.

ESQ: From the sounds of it, it’s almost as though you’re a first-time jazz improvisation musician.

PBG: That’s exactly what it feels like. Jazz musicians might be looking at a music sheet with the same chords, but they create music by communicating with one another through their emotions. Taking turns to act with different actors fits into that definition of jamming, and there’s a unique joy to it. There’s a term for the delight that musicians feel when they click together during a session, but I suddenly can’t remember it. For example, when someone improvises on stage and I immediately pick up on it and make the scene work, I feel so happy because I knew I was focused on the scene.

ESQ: The image of musicians performing on stage at a jazz club for the first time comes to mind.

PBG: (laughs) You can say that.

ESQ: But why have you been hiding your singing talents all this while?

PBG: I don’t sing well at all. Oh dear, please don’t say that. It’s just that I enjoy it, and the other musical actors are teaching me a lot, so I’m improving slowly.

Coat, jacket, shirt, leather pants, tie and boots, CELINE HOMME

ESQ: What’s the drama you’re currently filming?

PBG: I’m filming a Netflix drama called You’ve Done Well. The screenplay was written by Lim Sangchun (who also wrote Fight for My Way and When the Camelia Blooms), and directed by Kim Wonseok who also directed Misaeng, Signal, and My Mister.

ESQ: There’s no information available online for this drama yet. Can you tell us more about the character you’re playing?

PBG: All I can tell you is that the character is strong as steel and unwavering like an old tree.

ESQ: I’ve always seen you as a youthful star, which is a charm that’s emphasised in the dramas Boyfriend, Love in the Moonlight, and Record of Youth. But through this musical, it feels like you’ve expanded your range.

PBG: I could say that taking this role was a conscious decision to expand my career and roles. I do want to try new genres and characters that I’ve never done before.

ESQ: You’re also waiting for the release of your upcoming movie Wonderland, right? I’ve been telling people for three years now that I’m looking forward to it.

PBG: Wonderland is a thought-provoking movie. It’ll make you think about what is considered precious in value. I actually haven’t seen how they’re piecing the movie together, and we haven’t even done the preview for it yet. I’m also waiting for it to be released. It’ll be a fun watch. I felt it when we were filming.

Coat, shirt and tie, CELINE HOMME

ESQ: I personally want to see you play a serious character that doesn’t smile at all.

PBG: Ah! I know what you mean. Like my character in the movie Seo Bok right?

ESQ: Maybe something a little colder and more terrifying than that.

PBG: As I’ve mentioned earlier, I want to expand the types of characters I play through works that I want to recommend to others. While the characters are important, being able to confidently tell people “This is a really good story,” is more important to me. I want to build my career with projects that I’d even want to recommend to my future kids. I want to be an actor who people have faith in and can say, “Park Bo-gum’s work is great.”

ESQ: Wow! There aren’t many actors with such a filmography. Even if they had acted well, there will be times when the story itself isn’t all that great.

PBG: It’s just something I’m hoping for.

ESQ: I’m curious about Park Bo-gum as a person. You’ve always played characters who are polite, kind and considerate. Even people who’ve worked with you said the same about you. But what is your biggest desire in the depths of your heart?

PBG: Eating.

ESQ: Really? That’s great! I was worried you’d say something like “My desire for acting.”

PBG: I adore good food. There are so many different cuisines in the world that I want to try, and I really enjoy having a good hearty meal. When filming schedules are gruelling, I often don’t have time to eat proper meals. When that happens, I get late night cravings once I get home. I know I shouldn’t eat late at night but I really can’t help it sometimes.

ESQ: Oh, I’m always craving for carbs after 10pm. Like chapaghetti (black bean paste instant noodles).

PBG: Exactly. I should resist those temptations, but there’s so much I want to eat in this world. People who work out can relate: I just crave proteins. It doesn’t matter if it’s pork or beef, I crave different proteins every day. My manager also works out, so we binge on proteins together. I recently had nurungji (scorched rice) ginseng chicken, and I loved it.

ESQ: Nurungji ginseng chicken is the perfect food. It’s interesting that you have this simple side to you as well.

PBG: I’m lucky to be able to enjoy so much delicious food lately, but that’s the first thing that came to mind. There are times when my face puffs up after eating something the night before filming. As an actor, I always regret when that happens.

ESQ: You don’t drink, right?

PBG: I don’t usually drink, but I do enjoy a couple of drinks with friends occasionally. I have never tried soju though.

ESQ: What? Not even once?

PBG: Unbelievable, but it’s true. I’ve never had soju before. I’ve tried sweeter alcohols, but never soju. People who can drink a few bottles of it at a time amaze me.

Suit and shirt, CELINE HOMME
Coat, jacket, shirt, trousers and boots, CELINE HOMME

ESQ: Besides work, how do you usually spend your time? Do you devote it on a hobby, maybe?

PBG: Lately, it’s singing practice.

ESQ: But singing is part of your work. Doesn’t count.

PBG: That’s true, but I’ve honestly never thought of doing musicals, movies, dramas or business travels as work.

ESQ: Oh, stop being so impossibly perfect. (laughs)

PBG: I realised very early on that if I think of it as work, at some point, it becomes something I have to do and I’d start getting stressed about it. Being able to do what I love is happiness in itself and is a huge blessing to me. Even after getting on board this musical, I enjoyed the songs so much that I thought to myself, “Wow, I really should sing these amazing songs well,” and that stopped me from feeling like practice is work.

ESQ: Looking at you while you talk about this, I can feel your sincere happiness and joy. As a fellow professional, I’m envious.

PBG: Really? Even for music, I only listen to numbers from Let Me Fly these days.

ESQ: How was the photoshoot with Celine?

PBG: I’m excited to be able to show a side of me that I’ve never shown before through this shoot with Celine and Esquire. It was fun. To me, fashion photo shoots are like playing a character. My hairstyle, make-up, outfits, and even my expressions and poses come together to create a new character. I really enjoyed it. The pieces from the Winter season this time look great too.

ESQ: Is there an outfit that stood out to you?

PBG: I loved all the coats, especially the ones with Celine’s signature patterns.

Photography: Mok Jungwook
Styling: Kim E Joo
Fashion Editor: Yun Woonghee
Features Editor: Park Sehoi
Hair: Ji Kyoungmi
Make-up: Lee Young
Production: Jang Homin
Assistant: Song Chaeyeon
Art Design: Kim Daesup
Translation: Astrid Ja’afarino

Jacket, sweater and sunglasses, TOD’S

When it comes to profiling an actor like Keita Machida—to talk about how he got here, there’s no better place to start than, well, at the beginning.

In 1990, the Machidas welcomed baby Keita into the world. Little Keita grew up in a household filled with three generations of Machidas. As the only son, he was doted on (he has two sisters).

“I lived my early life running around in the woods,” Machida said. “I grew up with kendo (which is the Japanese martial art of swordfighting), baseball, swimming and many other sports.”

Jacket and sweater, TOD’S

He was a precocious child, a bundle of energy that needed an outlet, and he found release in sports. Motion would be a constant theme in his life. How his body—a machine of blood, bone and flesh—could engage in the science of movement.

After passing the Dai 3kai Gekidan Exile audition, Machida became one of its members. That same year, he kickstarted his acting career on the stage in Rokudenashi Blues.

It was a rather circuitous journey to becoming an actor. “I think I was ultimately led down the acting path. If there wasn’t an opportunity, I would have forged a career on my own.”

When he’s not acting, Machida plays sandlot baseball and trains at the gym. He has also recently taken up golf. “I haven’t played video games for a while but before that, I used to play a lot of the Final Fantasy series and Ghost of Tsushima.”

Jacket, sweater, trousers and belt, TOD’S

Like many others, acting jobs slowed to a stop for Machida during the pandemic. With the country’s borders closed and being stuck indoors, Machida could return to the familiar source of comfort: watching TV programmes and films. “I watched movies and dramas incessantly,” Machida said. “It reminded me of the importance and happiness of the industry that I am in—creating works that people can consume and be entertained by. As a public figure, it’s important to feel gratitude for this and I want to perform as soon as it is possible.”

A youth spent glued to the screen (both big and small) seeded a desire to become an actor. Again, this might be how Machida is fascinated about what his body can do in the face of limitations. In this case, allowing himself to inhabit a character unlike his own.

From dramas to manga adaptations, in his 13-odd years of acting, Machida has amassed a massive portfolio. Regardless of the genre, he is attracted to multi-dimensional roles. To him, each role possesses its own unique difficulty.

One of the bigger productions that he has been involved in was Netflix’s Alice in Borderland. When asked about other manga adaptations that he wants to be part of, Machida said, “I know it’s difficult, both in terms of my age and the greatness of the original work, but I always wanted to play Mitsui from Slam Dunk. I’m always captivated by the charm of the character.

Overshirt, sweater, trousers, belt and shoes, TOD’S

“In adapting an original work, I try to reflect the image of the original work as much as possible,” Machida said. In playing Karube in Alice in Borderland, Machida tapped on his character’s penchant for patterned shirts and chain necklaces. “Fashion is a very important tool of expression because it can be effective in bringing out a character’s inner self and personality.”

So what does it say about Machida’s own place in the fashion scene?

You can’t box Machida into a particular taste. It’s ever-evolving as he constantly gets fresh exposure to many different styles. He relies on his stylist Ishikawa Eiji for sartorial counsel.

“I’m always indebted to Ishikawa as he teaches me about the world of fashion.”

It’s paying off. Last year, Machida was appointed as a Friend of the Italian fashion house Tod’s. He didn’t think that Tod’s would approach him for the campaign. “I’ve always been interested in the brand but it inhabits a glamorous world in which I never thought I could be included.” But since his appointment, he likened it to an expedition to the museum: “I’m completely intrigued by it all.”

Jacket, shirt, sweater and trousers, TOD’S

If there is a fashion accessory that he’s excited about it would be his Tod’s shoes. “I feel it’s important to have a good pair of shoes. The beautiful quality and comfort are wonderful,” Machida said, excitement hanging over every syllable. “Tod’s shoes give me confidence and are the key to any outfit.”

It’s a perfect summary. In the end, wherever you are, as long as you’re comfortable, that is a good place to be.

Photography: Chee Wei
Creative Direction and Styling: Izwan Abdullah
Hair and Makeup: Kohey
On-set Stylist: Eiji Ishikawa at TableRockStudio

Jacket, shirt and trousers, DIOR MEN

To healthily live every day

Like many other actors when they debuted, Jung Hae-In played the lead character's brother or friend. It was not till 2018 when he paired with Son Ye-Jin in the romance drama, Something In The Rain, his role as a "warm boy" caught the public's attention and he was conferred the title of "National Cougler", that Jung's career reached its turning point.

During this interview, Jung's leading role in D.P. season 2 was about to be aired, his part as a soldier is a stark departure from his previous "warm boy" roles in romance dramas, which can be said to be another breakthrough for Jung's career.

During D.P.'s first season, it had already triggered social discussion in its native country as the drama explores the South Korean military's hierarchical practice and the associated bullying. Jung's role of a private assigned to a team, tracking down military deserters, endured various experiences in the process. Likewise after the series aired, not only did it ignite many heated discussions, it also evoked memories of people's own experiences during their military service. The drama received critical acclaim and went on to win "The Best Drama" at South Korea's Baeksang Arts Awards, so naturally all eyes are on the new season's plot. "The characters in the second season are explored more in-depth than the first season, delving into the characters' inner contradictions and battles. The second season will also add new characters to enrich the plot," shares Jung.

Jacket, vest, trousers, brooch and shoes, DIOR MEN

He will be promoted in the new season, and the series will continue to explore why the dark side of the military is deliberately ignored, and why bullying and discrimination are daily military occurrences that are not taken seriously.

Coincidentally, D.P. season 2's airing marks Jung's 10th anniversary since his debut. Jung's childhood dream was to become a bioengineer. That is until after his college entrance examinations, and he was on the way to the movie theatre, when he was discovered by a talent scout. Thereafter the idea of becoming an actor began to germinate, and he subsequently enrolled himself in acting courses. 

His parents were initially opposed to the switch, but Jung managed to win their approval and support through his persistence and enthusiasm for acting. "Since then, I have enjoyed acting very much. Different works and roles have also allowed me to accumulate rich performing experience, and I believe my acting skills will change and evolve with age. My goal in life is to be able to continue to act, but I will not say that I have achieved my goal yet. I'm continuously moving toward my dream. My dream is actually quite simple: to be healthy and to live every day and with a grateful heart," says Jung.

Jacket, shirt, hat, DIOR MEN


Having been in the industry for a decade, it's logical to sort out and summarise Jung's performance over the years. "If I had to choose my proudest work, it would be difficult. Put it this way, I would think D.P. brought me a breakthrough in my acting career, because the character and plot are completely different from all my previous work.

"The thing is, I have never deliberately counted how long I have been in the industry. Whether it is five or 10 years, it's just a number. The most important thing is that I hope I will not regret my past performances if I were to watch them in the future. In the past 10 years, I have acted in more than 20 dramas and movies, and I have enjoyed satisfaction from these works, regardless of how tough the process was, or the challenges I faced. I still find it very interesting.

"Of course, I will want to take a vacation and have a good rest. If my body sends a signal, I will definitely take a vacation to recharge and clean the slate of my previous roles, so I can absorb new subject matters and perspectives. I think this kind of treatment is applicable to everyone, energy can only be added if there is an offloading."

Jacket, shirt, trousers and shoes, DIOR MEN

Apart from acting, Jung also likes to sing. He fell in love with South Korean singer Lee Moon Se's song when it was included in the original soundtrack of the drama he acted in.

"I fell in love with his song when I heard it, I listened to it on repeat. I generally pay attention to lyrics when I listen to songs as well as the emotions carried in them. Recently, I've taken a liking to sports too and I really enjoy playing golf. Contrary to how it appears, golf is not an easy sport, and I'm attracted to overcoming unique challenges," shares Jung.

Barbeque expert

Jung has always been stereotyped as a "warm boy" or a "National Cougler" in his career thus far. The truth is that his persona also falls in line with the "warm boy". When he is not working, he enjoys dinner with his friends. He particularly enjoys barbequing and would volunteer to grill food for others to enjoy, so much so that he is fondly hailed "barbeque expert".

"I like to help others barbeque meat because I'm confident of my skills, and I feel that I'm very good at controlling the heat and taste. But I'm not a master chef and I usually cook simple dishes like stew or fried rice at home," says Jung.

Sweater, shirt, skirt, Dior Oblique Saddle Boxy bag, DIOR MEN

Looking forward to the future, Jung doesn't have too many thoughts, he just hopes to do his best for every role. "If I hadn't become an actor, I think I would still work hard to equip myself to become an actor eventually. To be honest, if I'm not an actor, I can't think of what else I would like to do. Every time I watch the work of my seniors, it reinvigorates and motivates me. I respect the two seniors, Han Suk-Kyu and Lee Byung-Hun, and I appreciate that they can perfectly present different images and characters in each role. If I had to choose my favourite movie, I would say it's About Time, the portrayal of people and time in it is quite beautiful," says Jung.

There's a spark in Jung's eyes whenever he talks about acting. With his hard work and determination, becoming the next best actor could just be around the corner.

Jacket, vest, trousers, necklace and shoes, DIOR MEN

Photography: Choi Moon Hyuk
Art Direction: Paddy Chan
Styling: Yoon Seul Ki
Photography Assistants: Kim Dong June, Seo Hye Yoon, and Jeon Sung Woo
Makeup: Soon Yeol
Hair: Sung Chan

Top, GIVENCHY. Octo Originale, 41mm white gold case with diamond on white gold strap with diamond, BVLGARI

Ayden Sng appears in the oblong box. It is a Friday evening and he has carved out a rare pocket of free time to do this interview.

Through the middling-resolution of the screen, he appears fresh-faced, beaming; even as he is in the throes of filming the Channel 8 series All That Glitters (née Road to Riches).

The Mandarin drama series begins with a murder before it flashes back to the past, where we follow the journey of three friends and the events that led to the tragedy. Starring Desmond Tan, Jeremy Chan and Sng, it was shot in Alor Setar, Malaysia; Hat Yai, Thailand; and Singapore.

Sng plays one of the three friends, but his character offers the bonus of being the series' antagonist; a role that he states that he “had been waiting for a long time.”

“Well, not necessarily waiting to play the ‘villain’,” Sng specifies, “but the thing about bad guys is that they usually aren’t one-dimensional. That’s the sort of role with depth that I have been wanting to play.”

The key is not to think of them as villains. Sng cites the Joker (played by Joaquin Phoenix) as someone you would empathise with and root for. “In some sense, I felt a lot of the self-rationalising, self-justification that the character goes through.” Sng wants to bring an authenticity to his character. There’s a backstory to his role, where his ambition is primarily driven by self-preservation; when all is said and done, Sng hopes to deliver something relatable to the audience, regardless of his character’s alignments.

High Jewelry Serpenti necklace in yellow gold set with onyx, brilliant tourmaline, fancy cabochon beryls and diamonds, BVLGARI

And if the audience were to perceive him differently when they see him on screen, Sng takes it as a win. “If you act sufficiently well that people think that’s you in real life, it’s a testament to your performance.”

There’s another reason for Sng’s willingness to take on this role, and it parallels the same motivation of his character: self-preservation. And by that, Sng is looking to prolong his career as an actor by not being typecast.

In any industry, a role is ascribed to you because you have traits that fit into the stereotype. Cast your eye at the median boy band and you’ll notice the typecasts: the wild one; the bad boy; the leader. These are formulaic functionary, easy pop-culture digestible, accessible and charming.

“It’s the same for actors,” Sng says. “When you begin, right off the bat, they’ll try to figure out what your general vibe is. Then they will label you regardless of whether it is your identity or not. Even for the show I’m doing now, the executive producers met with a lot of resistance when they announced their intention to cast me because the character is someone uneducated, uncouth; who sells satay at the hawker centre.”

Ayden is too educated, he’s too polished for this role. Ayden Sng can play someone who works in a nine-to-five white-collar job. Ayden Sng can play one of the bros or the boy next door. The good son; the good son-in-law. That’s the box he is put in. Except it’s a comfortable casket. It limits his potential to see how far he can stretch his acting wings. For All That Glitters, his role is a complete departure from the ones he’d done before. This is a part that requires him to be—in his own words—“beng”. 

“To be in that persona took a lot out of me than with previous roles,” Sng explains. “And because this is a melodrama, there are tons of emotional and violent scenes so the difficulty index for this is probably 10 out of 10.

But despite the stress, it is a much-needed invigoration. It’s this venture into uncharted territory that he rediscovers his love for acting.

If only more people were to see him that way.

Top, shorts and sandals, LORO PIANA. High Jewelry Serpenti earrings in yellow and white gold with diamonds, Octo Roma, 41mm gold case on alligator strap, BVLGARI

“My interest and commitment to this craft is sometimes eclipsed by the fact that I work with a lot of brands.” By that merit, he can be viewed as a male huāpíng (Mandarin for “vase” but it’s also slang for a “pretty but useless person”). It’s a frustrating perception but Sng understands it is not an easy thing to dispel. “It’s not something that I can demand. It’ll take time and a body of good work to justify that.

That’s usually the first impression people will have of Sng when they encounter his Instagram account. It’s understandable. His feed is filled with images of him posing with brands; film and TV announcements; some behind-the-scene stills. But Sng is proud of his interest in fashion and grooming; it opens him to a lot of brand collaborations. “This allows me to continue acting. Good roles after good roles that will hopefully lead to good performances and eventually people will see me as a good actor.”

Sng wants more opportunities to branch outside of Singapore. He wants to add a regional or even a global stage to his oeuvre. He had a chance to do so with a film called Seven Days, which is about a ghost possessing her grown-up younger brother’s body for seven days to resolve any regrets before moving on.

His first feature opened doors to other film projects that Sng is in discussion with. “As an actor, that’s something you look forward to,” Sng says. “Not because you want that regional recognition but with that level of production, you’re exposed to a whole set of different experiences.”

Last year, Sng filmed Hungry Soul in Batam. Co-produced by CJ Entertainment (the company behind Parasite), Sng saw how the production operates, which was vastly different from his experiences in Mediacorp. “It’s not necessary about who is better. It’s about being exposed to how things are done in different countries. I feel that a Taiwanese production focuses a lot more on improvisation. Whereas in Singapore, things are less fluid but that also means you do get a lot more quality control.

Citing an example of his experience shooting in Taiwan, Sng claims that each take is different but in some of those takes, Sng saw something brilliant that’s birthed from improvisation. It’s different and that’s the sort of variety that you’d want to have as an actor.

For the immediate future, Sng wants to work on more films (“Because film acting is different from TV,”) and also to take part in co-productions overseas.

It’s a promising prospect, one that Sng is optimistic about. It would be a platform where he can manifest himself into the kind of actor that he wants to be.

Top, trousers and shoes, LOUIS VUITTON. Octo Finissimo, 40mm titanium case on rubber strap, BVLGARI
Top, trousers and shoes, LOUIS VUITTON. Octo Finissimo, 40mm titanium case on rubber strap, BVLGARI

This sort of mentality shapes his identity: he eschews the blown chances, the what-could-have-beens and instead is hyperfocused on looking forward. The industry that he’s in sometimes feels like a game that he has to play, always having to prove himself according to their terms. Not many actors get to chisel out their own niche (look at Yeo Yann Yann and Anjana Vasan).

But Sng is pragmatic. This is a long game, one that you need to play well at. You can either hate the game or continue to build yourself and be certain of your identity.

“Being in this industry forces you to mature quickly. Because if you don’t, you might lose yourself.”

As he grows into himself,Sng finds that he doesn’t need to explain himself to people the way he did before. When the pandemic happened and lock-down was in effect, it didn’t impact Sng all that much, other than not being able to work for several months. His lifestyle remained the same—Sng was pretty happy about staying indoors.

“I don’t like spending time outside of my home much, but it’s not that I’m antisocial,” Sng explains. “I still talk to people online, via Zoom or whatever. You don’t have to go to a social setting to have meaningful conversations. I got to experience those types of things at home, and with my pets, and I felt content.”

People who hear this tell him that he sounds old.

“I don’t think of it as any form of judgment, to be honest. I’m ok being known for that. In the last interview that I did, I used this term called ‘the joy of missing out’. That’s one way that I live my life. If you don’t ask me out, great. I’m happy to focus on the things that I truly want in my life.”

This, according to Sng, is like creating his own joy machine. To seek out happiness in your loved ones or pets; even in the hobbies you engage in. Sng collects colognes and perfumes so whenever he has visitors, he’ll introduce them to his home-based fragrance bar. “I’ll ask them to try something that they have never had before. Are you into daytime scents, fresh scents? Are you into floral and citrusy stuff? Why not opt for amber or oud?"

Top and trousers, LOEWE. Octo Finissimo, 43mm gold case on gold strap, BVLGARI

Another source of joy comes from his cats. Growing up, his family had a German Shepherd. “But that wasn’t the most pleasant experience for me,” Sng says. “The reason I’m drawn to cats is, perhaps, my personality is a bit like theirs. I’m a huge homebody. I love to stay indoors. The thought of walking a dog outside doesn’t sit well with an introvert and a germaphobe. “Cats are really clean. They groom themselves all the time.

He’d wanted to own a cat since he was studying at Duke University (“But I didn’t want to deal with the process of bringing it back to Singapore.”) One of his best friends from university, who was also his neighbour had a cat that he would volunteer to look after. When he returned to Singapore, he planned to get a cat once he got his own place.

With that checked off, he now has three Bengals, and quite possibly more in the months to come. A pair of Maine Coons are expected to arrive at his doorstep this year.

“I don’t mind being branded that crazy cat uncle. Having cats give me a sense of fulfilment and it doesn’t matter what others think; at the end of the day, I’m obligated to myself and nobody else.”

Photography: Joel Low
Fashion Direction: Asri Jasman
Art Direction: Joan Tai
Styling: Wilson Lim
Make-Up: Peter Khor using ESTÉE LAUDER
Hair: Christvian Goh using REVLON PROFESSIONAL
Photography Assistant: Eddie Teo
Location: Bulgari Resort Bali

Shirt, NANUSHKA. Trousers and shoes, ERDEM. Socks, FALKE.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

In the acting world, Corey Mylchreest is considered to be in the throes of infancy. He is a relative unknown as far as actors go, but his portrayal as King George III on Queen Charlotte has got him newfound fans and acclaim. 

The spin-off from Bridgerton, Queen Charlotte follows the titular queen in two phases of her life. The elder Queen Charlotte is still played by Golda Rosheuvel from the original series, with the younger queen portrayed by India Amarteifio. Cast opposite her is Mylchreest, as the young King George III. The series focuses on their marriage and the effects of King George III's ailment. 

Still reeling off from junkets and interviews, Mylchreest has to contend with one more: ours. Thus, a day before his photo shoot with Esquire Singapore, we meet over a Zoom video call for his turn on the hot seat. Mylchreest's hair has grown out, which softens the angles of his mien. He's relaxed, his posture slants, favouring his right, as he sits in what appears to be the nondescript room beneath the attic. 

I congratulate Mylchreest on the success of Queen Charlotte and his performance in it and ask, not certain if the question puts him in a spot, because Queen Charlotte is a Bridgerton spin-off, how he feels about the hype around the sex in the series overshadowing the drama, the complex human nature and acting

"In the eyes of the beholder, that's where the story lies," Mylchreest says. "But that is the point of all storytelling—it is for the audience, not for us. It doesn't really matter what I think; whatever the audience chose to focus on, that is success for the show."

Jacket, CANALI. Santos de Cartier 39.8mm steel case on steel strap, Clash de Cartier white gold ring and Juste un Clou white gold ring, CARTIER.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

While there were challenges in filming Queen Charlotte's intimate scenes, Mylchreest sees more difficulty in accurately portraying George's mental affliction without bordering on caricature. 

"That was something that I was really worried about. We wouldn't be diagnosing King George and that brought a heightened importance to what I think is the antidote to caricature: specificity and detail." 

For his role, Mylchreest dives deep into the sea of research. He spoke to a specialist about the script; on whether he was going in the right direction to highlight the moments where George transitioned from confusion to lucidity. 

"There was a doctor's report," Mylchreest adds. "A sort of daily report that was sent to Charlotte. They were delivered later in his life but it was still useful to read. It was so factual, so black-and-white. It'd describe the days when George would talk non-stop for 12 hours and would start to foam at the mouth because he has been speaking for so long. Then, there was an entry that said, though his mind was still ravaged, George seemed physically at peace. 

"It's very clinical, without emotions, these documents, but the pain of that moment seemed to scream out. By then I'd done a lot of research and it was then that my empathy peaked. I just wanted to hug him. He didn't have an easy life by any means."

Jumpsuit and beaded scarf, SIMONE ROCHA.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

Like Mylcreest's research into KingGeorge III, I've embarked on my own into Corey Mylcreest. 

Search results on him reveal myriad interviews of him doing press for Queen Charlotte. There is only one social media platform that he's on—Instagram—and on his feed, his first post is dated 7 April 2022. The casting of Queen Charlotte was announced the day before, 6 April 2022. For a Gen Z, you'd think that he would be more active on social media. 

"I have a private account," Mylchreest says, "but the last time I was on it was maybe four months ago, and before that, I wasn't on it for about three or four years. I think I jumped off it in 2019 because I find Instagram, or social media in general, a hotbed for procrastination. I don't think it's necessarily the healthiest place for people's mental health."

But Mylchreest sees benefits in getting on social media. It's a fantastic vehicle for getting the word of Queen Charlotte and any other projects he's part of out there. "If I was going to be on it, I'd want to make it limited in some way. Not only to protect my own privacy and the people around me that I love, but also to protect my own work ethic." 

Is that part of the reason for privacy? That if the public were to know more about your personal life it would affect how you'd portray other lives on screen. 

"That's a really good question," Mylchreest says. He thinks about this for a while. "I think that there's an inherent usefulness in the mystery of someone. Especially when you use your appearance like an instrument. Sometimes the less someone knows of you, the more powerful your character portrayal can be."

Jacket, shirt and trousers, LOUIS VUITTON.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

He highlights an example: people who have known him all his life, would watch a film that he is on, and then in the slivers of the act points out, That's Corey! I saw a glimpse of him. "For people who aren't initiated into my private life, I think those kinds of moments can pull you out of the story. To tell a story requires the audience to suspend disbelief. A forensic knowledge of the actor can break that." 

But this is what he is willing to reveal about his life: he can't remember when it started but, as that old saw with any origin story of many actors, Mylchreest has always been interested in acting since young. "I remember doing plays at school and it was the most fun I'd have in that week. I gladly stayed on even when it was time to go home." 

There's a quote from a composer that his mom used to tell Mylchreest: the thing that you should do in your life is the thing that makes the hours feel like seconds. 

Time's steady beat quickens as Mylchreest enrolled into Guildhall [School of Music and Drama]. Each Saturday, he would spent five hours learning advanced lessons like Stanislavski's acting techniques; discovering that there was method behind what you see on stage. It soon dawned on Mylchreest that drama school was a possibility. That there will be no half-measures in pursuing an acting career. "I didn't even try to go to the university. I knew this was going to be something that I wanted to do and I did for four years of training at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts)."

Shirt and trousers, NANUSHKA. Grain de Café necklace and brooch in yellow gold and diamonds, CARTIER.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

While incredibly supportive, his father professed concerns and suggested that he get a vocational degree as a backup. "That came from a place of love and concern," Mylchreest is quick to add. "I understand where he was coming from. Maybe if I were to have children, I'd do what my dad did." 

His mother, on the other hand, championed his decision. She grew up in a working-class environment in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, and escaped on a full music scholarship. "She understood what it was like to have such love for the creative and the need and hunger to dive into it." 

"I think that there's an inherent usefulness in the mystery of someone. Especially when you use your appearance like an instrument. Sometimes the less someone knows of you, the more powerful your character portrayal can be."

Corey Mylchreest on keeping a private life

Mylchreest graduated from RADA in spring 2020: not the best time for launching an entertainment career when the world was ground to a halt. All things considered, the young actor was lucky; he already had an agent before the lockdown. The Sandman would pass his way. Mylchreest never read the comic series the show is based on but he met with casting director Lucinda Seisen and auditioned for the lead, Dream. After a few callbacks, Mylchreest was about to go in for a chemistry test when the decision came down the line that "he was too young". They had him read for other parts.

"And then, about four months later, I got an email offering me the role of Adonis," Mylcreest says. "I think it was a pity hire because they knew that I had auditioned many times and didn't get anything."

It was a role so small that if the character wasn't in it, it wouldn't have any ramifications on the story. But there are no small roles, Mylcreest reminds me. Only small actors. Mylcreest came up with a whole backstory for Adonis—why he was there that evening, why he needed to be admitted to see the Magus. 

His appearance as Adonis lasted less than 30 seconds. He had two lines—"Oh, the Magus insists, does he?" and "Can we still come back tomorrow?"—which he captioned on his Instagram: "'Best two lines delivered on screen'—my mum". 

Jokes aside, this foray into a multi-million dollar production would prove useful. In the past, Mylchreest acted on intimate sets of short films. For The Sandman, he is awed by the hugeness of it all. The scene was filmed at Joyce Grove, a Jacobethan-style mansion that Mylchreest pointed out was where Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, spent most of his childhood at. 

"There was a rumour at the time that Harry Styles was going to buy the place, which everyone seemed excited by, but I just remember being completely racked with nerves." He was a speck in the grand scheme of things; surrounded by 60-70 extras, all dressed in 1920s ball gowns and three-piece suits. Restored cars from the era criss-cross in the background. Massive lights bathed the expanse of the set; cranes with attached expensive cameras swept and swivelled. A hubbub of different departments; cogs in the film machine, setting up for the shoot. 

"But to be honest, by the time the camera started rolling, I was so nervous that all the backstory just flew out my head." Sheepishness creeps into the edges of his face. "I was just glad that I knew the lines. I was told to, at a certain point, turn and deliver my line but I could never quite see where the camera was and we had to do it a few times. I felt really bad for the director and everyone because we had to reset everything." 

Regardless, this experience prepared him for his first day at Queen Charlotte. "I was incredibly nervous when I started filming Queen Charlotte but I'd have been even more so if I hadn't filmed The Sandman.

But his roles in The Sandman and Queen Charlotte are vastly different and the necessity for preparation and research into the latter warranted more attention.

Shirt, shorts, cardigan and loafers, PRADA. Socks, FALKE.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

On the set of Queen Charlotte, before shooting commenced each day, Mylchreest would run through scenes and ideas with India Amarteifio to make sure that they are on the same page. They would run the scene in the hotel they stayed at or over the phone or Zoom but what's important to Mylchreest is the preparation needed for a shoot.

"I say this with acknowledgement that I am just starting my career, so I know very little in comparison to others who have been acting far longer. On Queen Charlotte, I found it useful to know the scene inside and out. I would record the lines of the other person and run through a slew of questions for the scene." 

This allows Mylchreest to figure out the "points of concentration". The process could determine his character's intention; where he might go to and come from; what the relationship with the other player is like. "What this [preparedness] allowed me was once to earn my own trust in the moments that matter. Once I got onto set I have this whole host of possibilities in front of me that I could then let go of because I've done them a million times. I don't have to worry about lines or where it sits in the story. 

"There is only the way forward."

Shirt, NANUSHKA. Santos de Cartier 39.8mm steel case on steel strap and Clash de Cartier white gold ring, CARTIER.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

Mylchreest tasked himself to read Andre Roberts' bio on King George III and accessed 20,000 of the king's personal writings. There was another avenue of exploration into King George III that Mylchreest could venture into and that is the portrayal of the king by other actors before him.

The depictions of King George III are many and mostly unkind. He's been played by Jonathan Groff in the musical Hamilton; Nigel Hawthorne in The Madness of King George; Tom Hollander in the mini-series John Adams... the list, albeit short, goes on. 

"I wasn't sure whether [watching another actor's portrayal] will be a good idea because sometimes you can start overthinking your own performance. I saw some clips of Lin Manuel's Hamilton and The Madness of King George and both of those depictions feel like they exist in completely different worlds to the George that we see in Queen Charlotte. If anything, it gave me confidence because I knew that I was going in a different direction with him. There would be almost no comparison." 

Queen Charlotte delves more into the king's hobbies of gardening and science, with a focus on astronomy. He's known as Farmer George; the king has an assemblage of scientific equipment and wax lyrical about the constellated wilderness. 

A crown too heavy for his head; his head full of stars, the mind of King George III belies more than just "madness".

Still, his mental health is a lightning rod which provides conflict to Queen Charlotte's narrative. There are swaths of text about King George III's manic episodes—he would often repeat himself; his vocabulary became more florid and complex; he shook hands with a tree because he believed it to be the King of Prussia—these and other instances baffled doctors of the time. Ranging from bipolar disorder to porphyria, there wasn't a conclusive diagnosis of the nature of the king's malady. 

Jacket and shorts, CANALI. Socks, FALKE. Sandals, CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

In Queen Charlotte, the character experiences bouts of lunacy and the show is careful not to define it. Near the end of episode three, taken by mania, George removes his clothing in the silence of his garden. A smattering of stars lights the night sky. Arms raised and eyes bright with awe, George calls out to Venus, "I knew you would come." We do not see what George saw that evening but his frenzy is evident. 

In another interview, Mylcreest mentioned that before his scene, he'd listened to the theme song from Succession to get into the role of King George III. Given his familiarity with the HBO drama, how did he find the finale? 

"I haven't watched it. I started watching [the series] about a year and a half, two years ago... which is already very late, I know. It was the final episode of season one where [Jeremy Strong's] character (Kendall Roy) had this look of resignation where he realised that he has to return to be under his father's wing. There was an immense sense of claustrophobia; this feeling of being trapped and then this track came on. 

"I paused the scene, screenshotted it and taped that image on my character book." Mylcreest picked a notebook off-screen of the Zoom call and brings it into frame. He points to an affixed image of a crestfallen Kendell Roy. "I saw that and I thought that's George or, at least, that's an element of George." 

And because Mylcreest's process was to listen to his playlist on repeat when he does his research, he's unable to watch any more episodes of Succession. "It's very important for me that the song didn't remind me of anything else if I was preparing for a scene. I needed to subconsciously make that song be just for that." So, he stepped away from further updating himself on the Roys' shenanigans until recently, after Queen Charlotte wrapped, Mylcreest resumed catching up on Succession. He's halfway through season two if you must know, so no, he doesn't have a take on the finale but he sums up the series in a word: "phenomenal". 

Suit and neck scarf, AMI PARIS. Santos de Cartier 39.8mm steel case on steel strap, CARTIER.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

In any project that Mylchreest takes on, the result is a collaborative effort. "It takes a village to raise a child and every piece of art is a collective baby. If I feel invalidated for my work, then that's not a great feeling but I don't feel that way at all. I understand that the actors are the face of the show but there are hundreds, if not, thousands of people who work on it—remove a few of them and the entire thing falls apart." 

He recounts a piece of advice that his acting teacher imparted: "When you're in a scene, be selfish to be generous". It is an old game of improv, the basic tenets of creation between two parties, where, via generous contribution and its genial acceptances, a scene blossoms. 

This give-and-take makes for a stronger scene. To paraphrase a certain quartet of musical scousers—"the love you take is equal to the love you make." 

And these exchanges in Queen Charlotte are what gave the series its chewy centre—relationship dynamics worthy of viewers' investments; rapports that even spill over into the cast's personal lives after production has ended. 

"I'm so proud of everyone's work in Queen Charlotte and, truly I mean, this from the bottom of my heart, I have friends for life."

Suit, neck scarf and sneakers, AMI PARIS.
Photo by Zoe McConnell

It's not every day that you see this level of graciousness. If there was ever a show of congeniality, it was usually virtue signalling. But in interviews and in behind-the-scenes videos, Mylcreest is a mensch. He is effusive about his co-stars and what they bring to the table, he's self-deprecating. 

Needless to say, the landscape of Mylcreest's auditioning process has completely changed for him. Queen Charlotte has opened up doors that would have been very firmly shut to him. Mylcreest knows how indebted he is to the show. 

As to what is next for Mylcreest? At the time of the interview, he empathically says that he doesn't know. He is, as he calls it, "in a state of unknown" at the moment. 

"There are some things in the pipeline that I'm waiting to hear updates on," Mylcreest says. "I'm meeting people for something incredibly exciting." Then he adds this bit that catches me off-guard. "And even if the project moves on without me, the world will have some brilliant pieces of art coming their way." 

This period of unknowability is a terrifying prospect but while others see only the damning absence; Mylcreest sees a space of possibilities, as countless as the stars above.

Photographer: Zoe McConnell 
Agency: JOON
Photo Assistant: Carissa Harrod
Digi tech: Nick Graham
Stylist: Thea Lewis-Yates
Styling assistant: Jamie Fernandez
Groomer: Stefan Bertin c/o The Wall Group using 111 SKIN
Producer & Casting Director: Even Yu @ APEX Communications
Production Manager: Guoran Yu @ APEX Communications
Production Coordinator (UK): Kate Zhu
Post: Frisian
Location: Lordship Park
Watch: Cartier

Instead of a rooftop shoot that we had planned, we’re indoors at Dune Studios on Water Street. Outside, the weather is every writer’s dream: “It is an ash-streaked sky that portents a downpour.” “Like a warning, steel wool hangs overhead.” “A dishevelled blanket of grey that drifts languidly like detritus in a muddied pond.” A wet weather doth not a good shoot make.

When Joel Kinnaman arrives, the first thing you notice is how large he is. Bigger than life, broad-chested, he sometimes stands astride, like he’s about to break the spirit of a wild stallion. Then, there’s that presence; a sort of aura that’s quiet but still strong-arms you for your attention.

Just as the fashion shoot is about to start, Kinnaman asks if he could put on his own playlist for the shoot. He brings up his Spotify playlist, titled ‘For some of mankind’. "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" by Jimmy Ruffin plays.

“The playlists are just for fun,” Kinnaman tells me. “I’ve made a playlist for every project that I’ve been in.”

The project that this particular playlist was made for is For All Mankind, now playing on Apple TV+. It’s a show that puts forth the idea: what if America lost the space race to Russia?

Created and written by Ronald D Moore, the visionary behind the reimagined Battlestar Galactica and Outlander, For All Mankind stars Kinnaman as Edward Baldwin, a NASA astronaut who works alongside Buzz Aldrin (Chris Agos) and Neil Armstrong (Jeff Branson). Kinnaman’s character isn’t based on a particular historical figure, instead he is a composite or a representative of the ‘all-American’ astronauts of that era.

“I’m half-American and half-Swedish,” Kinnaman says. “I’ve lived in Sweden and America so, in a way, I’ve a split identity. My favourite part of the American spirit is not giving up. If they get knocked down, it is a national honour in getting back up and continuing the fight. In reality, when the US got to the moon, it concluded the space race. We didn’t get the continuation in space exploration that everyone was promised.”

Kinnaman is drawn to the science-fiction genre, fantasising of what could have been (though it can be said that the broad field of fiction can also put forward, ‘ what if’). Growing up, he watched the Star Wars movies, he loved the cyberpunk feel when he shot Altered Carbon. He is a fan of Blade Runner due to its dystopian future.

Do you think that sci-fi’s dystopian trope is becoming a reality? Kinnaman muses on that. “We’ve a president who is a national and international embarrassment. He’s immoral, a compulsive liar, a narcissist who doesn’t respect or appreciate democracy. I pray and hope that this nightmare would soon come to an end.

“But I believe we have the potential to overcome this. If we change paths and realign our focus in coming together as a human family, we can solve whatever problems that come our way together.”

This sentiment is echoed in For All Mankind, although the loss wasn’t the be-all and end-all for America. According to Moore, in losing the space race, America ends up the winner in the long run because of the continual effort into space exploration.

“Art can be a little lazy in pointing out the negatives. In many instances, the role that art and the artist play is showing us what’s wrong: that’s important but showcasing the positives is equally important. For All Mankind shows us how we should be operating if we are guided by our better angels.”

Physicist and theoretical biologist, Erwin Schrödinger, came up with a thought experiment. Imagine, if you will, a cat that’s sealed in a box. And inside that box is a device that might or might not kill the cat. Quantum theory states that quantum particles can exist in a superposition of states at the same time. Some even theorise that the quantum particles will collapse to a single state when it’s observed. When applied to Schrödinger’s cat, the feline is both dead and alive until you open the box.

Schrödinger came up with this thought experiment to explain that “misinterpreted simplification of quantum theory can lead to absurd results which don’t match real world quantum physics”. In the real world, it’s absurd that the cat is both dead and alive at the same time.

But one can also see this as an example of how the scientific theory works. Nobody really knows if a theory is right or wrong until it can be tested and proved. It’s like asking someone out on a date, you don’t know if that cute girl or guy will go out with you until you ask; the possibilities of rejection and acceptance remain in co-existence.

That is before you open the box.

Observe: Joel Kinnaman wouldn’t have existed if his father, Steve, had not defected from the US Army. An Indianapolis native, the elder Kinnaman was drafted and stationed in Bangkok, Thailand during the Vietnam War. While he was there, he started spending time with European backpackers, who have a different perspective of the war. A seed was planted. It finally blossomed when he attended a friend’s wedding in Laos. “It turned out that the woman’s family was half Laotian and half Vietnamese,” Kinnaman says. “It was an emotional moment for my dad. He asked himself if these were the people that he was going to kill.”

Still reeling from the love he had witnessed, the elder Kinnaman returned to his base. It was then that he was given the news that he was being reassigned to the battlefront in Vietnam.

In the history of war, the common punishment for desertion is death. According to the US Uniform Code of Military Justice, Article 85, it is meted out “by death of other such punishment as a court-martial may direct”. (Since the Civil War, only one American serviceman was executed for desertion: Private Eddie Slovik in 1945.)

Knowing the penalties for desertion, the elder Kinnaman made the decision that night to leave camp. He hitchhiked his way up into northern Thailand and into Laos. He burned his passport, changed his name and passed off as Canadian. For the next four years, he lived life among the Laotians doing odd jobs. Then, he found out that Sweden grants asylum to Vietnam deserters. Since moving to Sweden, President Jimmy Carter eventually issued an amnesty in 1977. The elder Kinnaman continues to reside in Sweden. After his first marriage ended, he was involved with Bitte, a therapist. This relationship yielded Joel.

“I’ve been working on the script about his life,” Kinnaman says. “The idea would be that I’d play my dad but I’m getting a little old.” It’s a story to be told, one about the dangers of blind patriotism; a tool that’s often exploited by governments. “We need to be critical individuals who should make up our own minds.”

Observe: Kinnaman had his first taste of acting when he was 10. He played Felix Lundström on Storstad, a soap opera that looks at the lives of the residents living in the fictional town of Malmtorget. Back then, Sweden had only two TV channels so even if it’s a secondary or even tertiary role on an ensemble piece, people will recognise you. “I didn’t understand it,” Kinnaman says. “There was something thrilling about being famous but there was something I didn’t like about it either.” His whole experience as a child actor was underwhelming.

In fact, taking a page from ‘history repeating itself ’, observe as Kinnaman could have been a soldier in the Swedish army.

“It was mandatory for the men to be conscripted for a year in the army and it was during my time when the rules for enlistment started to relax,” Kinnaman says. “If you didn’t want to enlist, all you have to do is purposely fail the proficiency tests.”

Alas, Kinnaman was so caught up in the competition that he aced it. His results showed potential to be a company leader. He was enlisted and assigned to an 18-month tour in the Arctic Circle but Kinnaman plum forgot about it. When he moved to Oslo, Norway, to be a bartender, he received a call from his mother, informing him that there was a government notice stating that he was supposed to enlist in three days.

He called the army to tell them that he was no longer in the country. “They said, this is a serious offence and I could get prison time for this. But if I were to write a letter to explain the situation, I could get out of this.” And then he forgot to write the letter. Kinnaman continued working odd jobs but he was always haunted by the thought that if he were ever to be arrested by the police for anything, they might discover his draft dodge from his records and he would be sent to prison.

“I ended up at this fight outside a night club and got taken in by the police.” Kinnaman says. Observe: Kinnaman could have ended up serving his sentence for draft dodging but nothing came of it.

Acting was calling out to him once more. His friend, Gustaf Skarsgård (famously known for his role as Floki in History Channel’s Vikings), was on track to becoming an actor and advised Kinnaman to apply for theatre school. After several applications, Kinnaman finally got into what he describes as “Sweden’s second-best acting school” and would go on to film two movies during his enrolment.

After graduation, he continued acting in Sweden before moving to America. He kept himself busy. He made an appearance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; starred as Governor Will Conway in House of Cards; made people notice with his portrayal as the homicide detective, Stephen Holder; scored the lead role in the Robocop remake; was cast as Rick Flag in Suicide Squad.

The one genre that Kinnaman can’t seem to appear in is comedy. Yes, he has a stern demeanour but the man is also funny. “Sometimes, Hollywood sees you in a certain way and it’s much easier to get cast for it. And the next is similar to that and so on. I haven’t made an effort to dissuade people’s opinion. The lighter side is probably more me.”

The closest he has gotten to doing comedy is the shooting of the Suicide Squad sequel. Helmed by James Gunn, Kinnaman said in another interview that it feels like he’s “shooting his first comedy”.

“I’ve been around tough people with issues before,” Kinnaman continues. “I’ve had some bad times so those kind of environments were natural to be in. It’s a survival mechanism too. A way for me to cope as I grew up. At the time, you’re figuring out about your identity. I felt insecure, powerless and didn’t know what to do in life.

“It was a period of my life that was pretty negative. But one of the beauties of acting is that those dark periods become a mother lode that you can mine from. Maybe I’ve drawn a little bit too much from it by playing too many tough guys.”

In May 2016, Kinnaman was one of the delegates and personalities from Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Sweden who was invited to one of President Obama’s final state dinners. Kinnaman, dressed in a sharp tuxedo, attended the dinner with his then-wife, Cleo Wattenström.

He overheard that the Obamas were fans of House of Cards and was looking forward to being introduced to them. At the reception, he and the other representatives stood in a row as President Obama made his way down the line, shaking hands and posing for a photo op. By Kinnaman’s admission, his mind wandered as he imagined what he’d say when President Obama came up to him. “Maybe I’d say, ‘Mr President’, and then he’ll say ‘Governor Conway’, and then we’ll laugh. And we’ll end it with a cool handshake.”

And all of a sudden, the president stood before him and Kinnaman muttered, “Mr President…” There was an awkward pause. Kinnaman would recount that it’s very possible that either the Obamas hadn’t watched the episode that he was in or if they did, his presence made zero impact. Before the silence could prolong, Kinnaman ended with, “thanks… for everything”. President Obama said something along the lines of, “Surely but surely, we cannot lose hope” and Kinnaman was ushered off.

He would retell this story when he introduced President Obama at Brilliant Minds, a conference of creative individuals who embody the forward-thinking spirit of Sweden, in June 2019. After the introduction, he returned backstage, where President Obama was waiting for his cue to go up. “He had this huge smile on his face and he said to me, ‘bring it in for a cool handshake.’ We hugged, we talked for about five minutes. He was super friendly. I’ll always remember that moment.”

Kinnaman isn’t shy about his politics. He voiced support for the #metoo movement; he had championed the environmental cause by one of his fellow Swedes, Greta Thunberg; he does not hide his disdain for the Trump administration.

“I think the last UN report stated that we have about eight years to turn back our carbon expenditure into the atmosphere,” Kinnaman says about where we’re heading as a species. “You don’t have to be a prophet to see that the world is heading towards the wrong direction. The oceans are heating up, the glaciers are melting. These natural disasters will be more frequent and that’s gonna lead to more tensions among countries.

“Politically, we’re moving towards a more nativist direction; people are pulling away from international cooperation. There’s the rise in disinformation campaigns, which will threaten democracy.”

But Kinnaman, ever the optimist, still believes in the human spirit, that we can innovate our way out of this quagmire.

Observe: Kinnaman, who was born with pectus excavatum, chose to correct the disorder instead of living with it.

Pectus excavatum is a chest-wall deformity that affects roughly one in 400. Instead of the breastbone being flush against the chest, it sinks in. Measured on a scale called the Haller index, anything above an index of 3.2 is considered severe. Kinnaman’s index was a seven or an eight.

“It’s something that’s survivable,” Kinnaman explains. “But it’s a condition that grows worse over time: your posture becomes worse; your stamina worsens as your heart is not given room to pump. By correcting it you can add years to your life.”

For a condition this severe, doctors had to insert two curved metal bars across his chest. Then the bars are turned to force the chest out and then the bars are wired to his ribs. The operation changed his life for the better. He doesn’t feel self-conscious whenever he removes his top. Six weeks after his surgery, he had to do reshoots for Suicide Squad. It was a fight sequence but Kinnaman sucked it up. “Would you like to feel it?” He asked.

He raised his arm like an invitation. I reached out and felt the spot, where the metal bars are, beneath the fabric and skin.

That’s an interesting party trick, I say. Kinnaman could only chuckle in response.

“It’s funny, if you ask me to say a line from a movie that I’ve been in before, I can’t. Not one line from any movie that I’ve done but I once did a monologue that was one hour and 30 minutes and I knew it by heart after 10 days.”

Kinnaman used to opine that as a Swedish-American, growing up with dual cultures gives him a better perspective of the world but that also left him feeling like he doesn’t belong. He jumps from place to place, leading a nomadic existence.

“But I think,” he says as though he had stumbled upon some great truth a long time back, “I don’t wanna travel so much any more. Home. That’s where I’d like to be. I have two bases: one in Venice, LA and the other, an hour outside Stockholm.

“Growing up, my family didn’t have any money. We lived in this tiny little cottage that was in the middle of the woods. Now, I have this piece of land, where my family lives. This past midsummer was the first midsummer that we all spent together.

“That’s my new happy place.”

Joel Kinnaman looks like a man who has placed the final piece in that mystery of his life. He has stopped worrying about how he’s perceived by the public. He has exorcised people who have “struggled with jealousy, who don’t have a natural inclination towards generosity”. He has zero tolerance against bullshit. He likes how his career is shaping up—aside from Suicide Squad 2, For All Mankind is now filming a second season, and Kinnaman has three films coming out: The Informer; The Sound of Philadelphia and The Secrets We Keep; the last two, he avers, are his best work. “People who have watched me for a long time, it will remind them of my early career and for people who recently followed me, they will see a new side of me.

“I have goals that I’d like to achieve. Actor awards are such bullshit… until you get one. But yeah, that would be great. In future, I’d definitely want to be in a producing role and at some point, I’d like to also direct.

“I’ve said that I’d direct in five years time for about 10 years now.” That might change. His life is still a long and open road ahead.

Schrodinger’s cat posits two states that the creature can be in—dead or alive. But what if there’s a third option. That within the confines of the box, the cat is not there. It’s escaped. Unburdened from the stipulations of a thought experiment, free to do what it wants.

Originally published in the December 2019 issue