LEEHAN made eye contact throughout the whole interview. LEEHAN, who understands the joy of conversing with someone while looking into their eyes, has eyes that look like mellow waves inside the fish tanks that he spends hours looking at.
An old hobby of keeping fish
LEEHAN: I loved fish since I was little. I kept some with my parents since I was in elementary school, and I started my own tank when I was in middle school. I like to come up with themes and create scenes in the tank. For example, say I want to create a scene like the Amazon River. I would look it up on the Internet. I would then get rocks or pieces of wood that resemble the images I find online and add them to my tank. There are so many different materials for your tank on the market these days, so you can easily get whatever you need. (laughs) So I put down a layer of yellow sand, and pieces of driftwood that look like mangroves like in the Amazon River. I put on the light and stare at it for two or three hours when I’m done. Time passes by so quickly when I just sit there and wonder about things like, “What could that fish be thinking about?” (laughs) It was a small hobby at first, but I got more and more involved, and now I have three tanks in my room back home. (laughs) Recently, the company bought me a new tank! The members were so kind to let me set it up in our shared home, so now I have cardinal tetras and corydoras. I wanted to have some aquatic plants, so I created a valley aquascape.
Kim Donghyeon, a student
LEEHAN: My family home is in Busan, so that’s where I went to school until I became a trainee. I lived by the beach, so I hung out there a lot and surfed and paddle boarded with my friends. We took swimming lessons together, too. I’m not great at sports involving balls (laughs) so I don’t enjoy them much, but most of my friends like soccer, so I played it with them, too. I’ve known a lot of my friends since we were in kindergarten. So, when I told my friends that I wanted to be an idol, they were like, “You want to be a what?” (laughs) They all laughed a bit when I told them that I was debuting. I liked how they reacted because that’s what they’ve always been like.
A Taekwondo athlete and idol
LEEHAN: I started practicing Taekwondo since I was 5 years old, and my dream was to be a competitive Taekwondo athlete until I was in eighth grade. I won medals at city competitions when I was in elementary school, but when I entered middle school, all my peers at that age were those who were seriously training in Taekwondo. I got worried that I might not be good enough and let that opportunity slide. I regretted that a ton later on. Maybe because of that experience, I started to think a lot about my future career. I wanted to find something I wouldn’t get bored of as soon as possible, so I read a lot of books and tried to get a lot of hands-on experience. I thought that was the way to be sure of myself. And then I got the opportunity to audition. I actually performed a lot in school stages and talent shows and enjoyed it, but I always thought becoming a celebrity or an idol was too far-fetched for me. But now that I was presented with the opportunity, I started to really want it. I felt that I had to make up my mind. I thought long and hard if I would regret it if I didn't do this 10 years down the road, and I thought that I would. That’s how I started to dream of becoming an idol.
“How can she not like me when I look like this?”
LEEHAN: My character in this album is the best-looking guy in the neighborhood. (laughs) In the trailer, I’m done getting dressed up, look in the mirror and think, “There’s no way she won’t like me when I'm this good looking.” In real life, I’ve actually never really thought that I was good looking. (laughs) So I practiced a lot to pull it off as naturally as possible. I recorded myself in selfie mode and practiced saying the line “How can she not like me when I look like this?” in many different versions. I can choose how I'm going to say it, but I thought I should try out different versions first to pick out the best one. I tried out many different versions of the “No?” at the end of “But I Like You” and practiced it hundreds of times. I record myself a lot when I practice, so I delete the ones that I don’t like, keep the ones I do, and watch them on repeat whenever I get bored. (laughs)
LEEHAN: I use movies as references when I express the emotions of a song. I tend to instantly come up with movies that are perfect for certain lyrics or highlights of a song. For example, when I received the script for our trailer, I thought of the scene where Kevin slicks back his hair in front of the mirror in Home Alone. So, I thought that it would look good if I did my mirror scene while I was touching my hair. My part in “Serenade” that goes “Don’t ruin my dawn” reminded me of a young aristocrat in a period film, walking with one hand holding a candle, and the other behind his back. I really wanted to add a warm smile in the album’s music video, and in the songs. I thought of what to reference, and then Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man popped into my head. I watched the movie again, captured all the parts that he smiled in, and practiced smiling like him while looking in the mirror. (laughs) Andrew Garfield is my favorite Spider Man out of the three. The other actors are great too, but I love that Andrew’s eyes are a bit sad but warm at the same time.
Dance practice “timetable”
LEEHAN: I learned to dance at the academy for the first time, and I honestly think I'm a terrible dancer. (laughs) I thought that I was standing at a completely different starting point from the other members. It wasn’t going to work if I didn’t do anything about it, so I drew up a timetable. I’d get about six hours that I can block out for dance practice when I go to the dance academy after school, but I thought so much time got wasted without a plan. I made a timetable like, “1 to 2 p.m. - dance lesson, 2:30 to 3 p.m. - lesson review, 3 to 3:30 p.m. - video record my practice dances.” I got the best results when I didn’t waste any time and used every minute to the fullest. I set a goal, and there was no need to think about anything else. I just went ahead and practiced even if I got tired.
LEEHAN: There's a part that I really like in “One and Only.” It's the opening to the second verse that goes, “My reflection on the display window.” The members walk by, and when I make a ‘Tap!’ to the beat, the members switch directions with a ‘Swish!’ That part’s really satisfying every time we do it. I love finding the tiniest sounds between the beats. You’ll be able to see me moving to the beat even when we're making gestures in between the set choreography.
LEEHAN: When I first heard our team name, I looked at our members, and played the name in my head. The more I replayed it, the more I thought it was perfect for us! Kind of like, “Jackpot.” (laughs) When I think of the boy next door, I think of a friendly person reaching out, and connecting with his friends on an emotional level. But when you knock on our door and the door opens, we won’t be there. (laughs) We're always really friendly, and we're really relatable, but there’s only one of us just like our song “One and Only.” I think BOYNEXTDOOR is the perfect description for us, and I’m becoming more and more sure of it.
Having dinner together
LEEHAN: When I first joined the company, the other guys had already been training for a while. I didn’t have much experience training, and I wasn’t especially talented, so I thought the guys wouldn’t like me very much. (laughs) But I was wrong. Everyone was so welcoming and super friendly! The first trainee I met was RIWOO. If there was something I couldn’t work out when I practiced, I could go to RIWOO, and he would come up with these magical solutions. The members would always practice from morning till evening, then have dinner together. Having dinner with the guys, those moments are some of my happiest memories. I like ordering interesting food off the menu (laughs) and when I first joined the company, none of the guys had ever ordered dishes like hwangtae tang, flying fish, or dolsot bibimbap! So, I ordered them. Also, I introduced them to the legendary Busan dish dweji gukbap (laughs) and visited some of the gukbap places nearby. I was a bit disappointed by the gukbap in Seoul when I first came here. (laughs) I still love it when we have a great time over a meal together at home and grill some meat.
“It’s been a while, should we all gather around and talk?”
LEEHAN: We talk a lot among ourselves. Even when we don’t have specific plans to meet up or talk, someone would just say, “It’s been a while, should we all gather around and talk?” Then all six of us would gather round and share what we are grateful for or get stuff off our chest. When we were in Los Angeles shooting our music video, we talked a lot on the bus, giving feedback to one another. Or if someone says they’re not sure how they should express the lyrics to a part, then we would all brainstorm together. We would joke around and say, “You’re driving me crazy, but I like you” like we're actually filming, before we practiced “But I Like You.” We don’t get to do it as often as before, though. (laughs)
Mobile phone lock screen
LEEHAN: I actually have a favor I’d like to ask our fans. I would love it if they could set our photographs as their phone’s lock screen. (laughs) A lot of my friends at school were fans of other senior idols when I was in school, and they would set their favorite artist on their lock screen. They’d look at it regularly, and show it to their friends, and I thought it was great. I'd be really happy if I ended up on someone's lock screen too.
LEEHAN: Just like you can receive and send letters through your mailbox, I hope to communicate and connect with the fans. That’s why I added a picture of a mailbox in “LEEHAN’s DOOR.” I like listening to people, I think I’m a good listener. I’ve consoled a lot of people. Being an idol means being able to provide comfort and receive comfort from not only the people closet to me but also everyone else, and I find that really beautiful. It's also one of the biggest reasons I had confidence in my dream. I’m feeling a lot of emotions that I’ve never felt before, with our debut right around the corner. I don’t know what sort of world will await after the debut, so I’m a bit worried, and I’m getting all these different feelings. But I don’t feel fear, it’s more of a curiosity. I just can’t wait to share everything with our fans. My personality, my habits, who I act, how I speak – everything.
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