Playing a brooding, mysterious character bestowed with a secret superpower, veteran actor Zo In-sung marks his comeback to the small screen in Disney+’s Moving. Zo has not played a major role on television for almost a decade, instead focusing on feature films roles, having appeared in The King (2017), Escape from Mogadishu (2021) and more. But that wasn’t necessarily the actor’s intention, he tells NME over a video call from San Francisco. “It just happened that recent works that I decided to be on are films,” he shares. “Same [with Moving], where I was drawn to this project and it happened to be a series.”
Adapted from a popular webtoon of the same name by writer Kang Full, Moving is an eclectic blend of genres, shifting from nail-biting action, to a sweet school romance, to a political thriller over its 20 episodes. The high-budget series, which cost Disney+ around ₩50billion (about USD37million) to make, premiered August 9 on the streaming service with its first seven episodes, followed by two episodes releasing each week until a three-episode finale. Aside from Zo, the series stars A-listers like Ryu Seung-ryong, Han Hyo-joo and Cha Tae-hyun, alongside up-and-coming actors Lee Jung-ha, Go Youn-jung and Kim Do-hoon.
Spanning three decades, Moving follows a group of teenagers with superpowers who become embroiled in a plot involving some of the world’s most powerful governments. Bong-seok, a boy who is able to float and fly, and Hui-soo, a girl who survived a horrific car crash unscathed, quickly grow close after confiding their secrets in each other and soon discover that there are more people like them. However, a mysterious delivery driver named Frank is given a hit list and begins murdering people with powers across Seoul.
“I was drawn to the characters as they have superpowers, which makes them very extraordinary,” Zo says. “However, they were all leading very ordinary lives.” But beyond the characters, the actor also has a special personal connection to the original webtoon. He grew up in the neighbourhoods around the Gangdong district featured in the original webtoon, like Cheonho-dong and Poongnap-dong, as well as the nearby locales and cities of Godeok-dong, Hanam and Misa.
Zo plays Kim Doo-shik, who is the father of the main character, Bong-seok. “He is someone who works with a very cold head, but inside, he has a very warm heart,” Zo says about his role. “I’m reminded of something that writer Kang Full said to me. He said, ‘I would like for the character to appear as if like Jesus.’”
Moving presented an immense physical challenge as Zo was constantly shooting scenes in the air and would spend extended periods hanging on wire. But contrary to what audiences who have long-followed his career may think, he does not deliberately look for tough roles. “I don’t like to take on challenges, I just focus on what to do next,” Zo says. “It may seem to some people that I am drawn towards challenges but at the end of the day, all that drives me is that I wanted to do it.”
Notably, Moving is one of many webtoons that have been turned into K-dramas in recent years. For example, recent streaming shows like Mask Girl, Hellbound and All of Us Are Dead are all based on webtoons. Although Zo doesn’t read a lot of webtoons himself, the actor spoke about why he thinks webtoon adaptations have become more popular, saying that “studios are more and more drawn to making safer decisions”.
“When you work with a completely original story, there’s a risk factor,” Zo adds. “However, when you work with a webtoon, where the story has been loved by so many people, you can tap into that fandom that has already been built. When you translate that into TV series and films, you are guaranteed a certain level of purchase power.” He also reckons that, as K-drama budgets “grow bigger”, production studios are moving towards “more commercially safe decisions”.
Since beginning his acting career in 1999, Zo has won Best Actor at the Baeksang Arts Awards and SBS Drama Awards, as well as the prestigious Daesang Award (Grand Prize). He has played important roles in highly successful projects like Something Happened in Bali (2004) and A Frozen Flower (2008), while also co-starring in a reality show, Unexpected Business (2021-2022) with close friend, Cha Tae-hyun.
Yet, Zo still feels like he has a long way to go. “I want to continue acting because I haven’t been able to conquer acting. If I were able to conquer it, I may have quit,” Zo says. “I think what drives me is my desire to conquer acting. Obviously, I feel like that’s not something that’s ever going to happen until the end.”
Moving is available to streaming on Disney+, as well as Hulu in the US