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October 17, 2019

High Spy

Hyo-Joo Han comes to America through the Bourne universe.

Paula Chin
  • Ahn Jooyoung, Harper's Bazaar, Korea, 2018

Hyo-Joo Han was ready for something completely different.

A superstar in her native South Korea, she began her acting career in 2005 and quickly skyrocketed to fame as a rom-com actress in films and on television. Now she's making the big leap to Hollywood: on the USA Network's Treadstone, she plays a mild-mannered piano teacher in North Korea who is actually a covert CIA agent.

The series, premiering October 15, takes place in the Bourne Identity universe and follows several sleeper spies around the globe, all of whom have been trained by the infamous black ops program to become superhuman assassins.

"I'm a big fan of the Bourne series," says Han, who believes viewers will relate to her character, even though she's a killing machine. "She's a strong, good woman — a normal housewife and mother who is struggling to complete her mission while protecting her family. That could apply to anyone."

Born and raised in Cheongju and discovered at 16 in a local beauty contest, Han finds the physical demands of the role a constant challenge — for example, she has to train daily in hand-to-hand combat.

She notes that working on a TV series, American style, presents other challenges. "It's a very different process for me. I'm used to having one director for a show, so having lots of directors was confusing at first. But now I'm enjoying working with so many talented people," she says.

That includes her costars, including Omar Metwally (The Affair), Brian J. Smith (Sense8) and Jeremy Irvine (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again). The production is based in Budapest, but separate storylines mean the actors aren't together on set that often.

"When we are, we all get together and go out for dinner," Han says. "Everyone is very caring and cheerful, and it's been fantastic."

As exciting as working on Treadstone is, she knows her legions of loyal fans — dubbed "Hyolics" — are waiting for her back home. "It's impossible for me to say how much I appreciate them. I want to keep giving back and continue to do Korean films and TV shows as well." Even so, she admits Hollywood has her hooked. "It's an amazing opportunity, and I want to keep going for more and more. I never want it to stop."


This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 10, 2019

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