Min Ho is the Netflix rom-com XO, Kitty’s resident “bad boy,” if you will. He’s rich, he’s good-looking, and he’s cocky. Or, at least, looks cocky. The actor who plays Min Ho, Sang Heon Lee, comes off that way at first, too. He even admits that it was those attributes that drew him to the role. “If I met you for the first time,” Lee says. “I might come off a little bit cold, too, or like I’m not very active [in] the moment.”

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The role was the ultimate leap of faith, given that it marked Lee’s acting debut. Growing up in Hong Kong and South Korea, Lee initially wanted to be a dancer, but a career counselor quickly shut that down, and he remembers her saying, “No, I think that’s a horrible idea.” When she asked what else interested him, he said he enjoyed watching films, and after shooting down the idea of being a movie critic, Lee set his sights on becoming an actor.

Thanks to a suggestion from his sister Gia Kim, the actor who plays the popular Yuri in the series and was recently featured inside the pages of GEN V, Lee’s first-ever audition got him pinned to play the love interest to Anna Cathcart’s Kitty. His character’s more tender moments, though, are expressed in his relationship with Kim. While the two rarely share any scenes on the show, off-screen, Lee notes that they constantly support each other, run lines together, and trade notes. “Just the fact that there’s a familiar face is such a wonderful thing,” says Lee. “Because [we’re] family, [we] have each other’s back.”

As any bad boy in well-written media will attest to, there’s a lot more to it than just being “too cool for school,” both on and off-screen. “[Min Ho is] very fiercely loyal and friendly to his friends,” Lee says with obvious admiration, a reference to one of his character’s quotes. “And that also describes me.” Min Ho may be as sarcastic and quippy as Lee, but he’s also just as complex, just as layered, just as human.

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The success of the spin-off based on the 2018 film To All the Boys I Loved Before, instantly rocketed the 27-year-old to fame. Three million Instagram followers later, Lee is the breakout star from the Americanized K-drama. He quickly followed that up with an appearance in the upcoming Neill Blomkamp-directed sports biopic Gran Turismo, which co-stars Archie Madekwe, Orlando Bloom, David Harbour, and Darren Barnet. This star isn’t just on the rise; it took a Red Bull, sprouted wings, and shot straight to the moon!

“Everything’s happening a bit too fast, but I’m having as much fun as I can,” Lee says matter-of-factly. “Honestly, I thought I was going to do this when I was about to turn 30 or so but to achieve this at such a phenomenal level—I just can’t believe it’s happening right now.”

Min Ho and XO, Kitty may have left us on a cliffhanger with that flight when he confesses his feelings for Kitty, but like Lee’s career ahead, it seems like it’s smooth sailing from here.

A note from the editors of VMAN: The interview and photography in this story predated the SAG-AFTRA strike.

This story appears in the pages of VMAN 51: now available for purchase!

Photography Tyre Thwaites

Fashion Altorrin 

Grooming Riad Azar (The Wall Group)

Photo assistants Tyra Dixon, Sydney Peterson

Stylist assistants Roderick Reyes, Sionan Murtage

Location Blanc Studios 

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