Choi Young-jae first dreamt of becoming a singer when he was a child, but it was watching the 2019 film Joker that excited his interest in acting.
“When I saw the characters that actor Joaquin Phoenix interpreted, I felt it was amazing,” he said. “It was really interesting to see the interpretation with many different vibes even though it was one character.”
Choi, known simply as Youngjae, had his first acting credit in 2015, while performing as the main vocalist of the seven-member k-pop group GOT7. He played himself in the 12-episode web series Dream Knight, which also featured other members of the band. It was not until 2021 that Youngjae’s newly ignited interest in acting led to a cameo in a VLIVE sitcom, a leading role in a musical and a part in the Netflix NFLX sitcom So Not Worth It. Acting proved to be a happy surprise.
“I was amazed to see myself acting,” said Youngjae. “In fact, I never imagined that I would be acting. When I act, I do some things that I don’t usually do, and I like how I look at that time because it’s new and interesting.”
So Not Worth It focuses on a group of students with different backgrounds attending an international college in Seoul. It stars Park Se-wan, Shin Hyun-seung, Han Hyun-min and Thai singer-actress Minnie. Youngjae plays the Korean-Australian second-year student Sam, whose father owns a spicy rice cake (tteokbokki) restaurant chain.
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“I thought I could pull it off well without disturbing other actors,” said Youngjae. “It was amazing that we could get close quickly, even though friends of various nationalities gathered, and the atmosphere on the site was good and it was always fun, as we got close. I am grateful that non-Korean actors were able to speak Korean really well because I think that was the reason why we could get close easily.”
Youngjae’s involvement with dramas also extends to singing for and composing soundtracks. He contributed songs to the soundtracks of the TV dramas Wok of Love, When My Love Blooms, So I Married An Anti Fan, My Roommate Is A Gumiho and So Not Worth It. He also released songs from the musical Midnight Sun, which he starred in.
Midnight Sun is based on the Japanese film A Song To The Sun, about a woman whose rare condition makes exposure to sunlight dangerous. Despite never having acted on stage, Youngjae happily faced the challenge of playing Ha-ram, a leading role in the musical. Movies, musicals or dramas—he’s willing to act in a variety of media.
“I think musicals, movies and dramas all have their own charms,” he said. “I want to appear regardless of the musical, movie, or drama, if there is a role that suits me or if I have a chance.”
Youngjae has composed more than a dozen songs since 2016, writing for GOT7 and other musical artists, including Defsoul and Noday. He composes using the name Ars.
“I wanted to distinguish composer Youngjae from singer Youngjae,” he said.
In 2020 he contributed his warm mellow voice to the song Everything For You, created for an organ donation campaign promoted by the Korean Network for Organ Sharing. He registered as an organ donor the same year.
“I don’t think there would be any better sharing, then if an organ donation could make another person’s life better,” he said. “That’s why I decided to donate my organs and participate in the campaign.”
He is currently working on new music, with plans to release an album this year. “I’ll make it better and come back with a great album, so please look forward to it.”
Although he’s currently pursuing acting and other solo activities, Youngjae retains his enthusiasm about performing with GOT7.
“GOT7 is still together, and we’ll be together forever,” said Youngjae. “Please continue to love GOT7’s activities.”