“Worried about embarrassing the country” Lee Jung-jae enters “Star Wars”: Overcoming linguistic and action challenges is key

Lee Jung-jae has become the first Korean actor to join the "Star Wars" series, appearing as a Jedi Master in the spin-off "The Acolyte"

While other Korean actors have ventured into Hollywood, their roles have often been minor or lacking in impact. Fans are watching with both concern and anticipation to see if Lee Jung-jae will make a difference.

Set at the end of the High Republic era before the events of the main Star Wars films, “The Acolyte”, premiering on Disney+ on June 5th, follows a Jedi investigation into a series of crimes. Lee Jung-jae’s character is Sol, a respected Jedi Master.

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Through JTBC’s “Newsroom”, Lee Jung-jae shared his thoughts on joining “The Acolyte”. He said, “I still can’t believe I’m in the ‘Star Wars’ series. When I first received the offer, I thought it was a prank.

The role of a Jedi Master is significant in “Star Wars”. International media have highlighted the casting of Lee Jung-jae, an Asian actor, in this role. The American film magazine Collider noted that “The Acolyte” would break Star Wars’ tradition with its diverse cast, featuring Asian and black actors in leading roles.

Lee Jung-jae expressed his concerns about acting in English, “As an Asian, playing a Jedi Master was a huge burden. I worried that any mistakes could embarrass my country. The hardest part was English. I practiced with acting and dialogue coaches who are active in the UK.”

Given that the Jedi Master character requires exceptional martial arts skills, Lee Jung-jae underwent intensive action training while filming in the UK. He engaged in strength training, lightsaber practice and combat choreography day and night to ensure high-quality action scenes. His co-star Amandla Stenberg, who plays Mae, a character mentored by Master Sol, said, “Lee Jung-jae executes action scenes incredibly well, almost like dancing.

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The teaser shows Lee Jung-jae delivering his lines in English with a deep, resonant voice. However, previous Hollywood appearances by Korean actors have often failed to meet expectations. For instance, Ma Dong-seok in “Eternals” and Park Seo-joon in “The Marvels” had limited screen time and less impactful performances, leading to disappointment.

Lee Jung-jae gained global recognition by winning “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series” at the Primetime Emmy Awards, the first Korean to do so, for his role in Netflix’s “Squid Game”. This has solidified his international influence. As fans await “The Acolyte”, they are keen to see if Lee Jung-jae can overcome linguistic and action challenges to deliver a compelling performance as the legendary Jedi Master Sol, and whether he can establish his presence as an Asian actor in a leading role without seeming out of place.

Ten Asia
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