Daniel Henney is an American actor and model who works in both South Korean and American films and TV shows. Born in Michigan, United States, he started his career in modelling in 2001 during his college days as he worked as a model internationally in Italy, France, USA and Taiwan. He ventured into acting with Korean drama ‘My Lovely Sam Soon’ in 2005 and made his film debut in 2006 with ‘Seducing Mr. Perfect’. After getting popular in Korea, his acting chops and handsome looks helped him bag some major roles in Hollywood productions such as ‘X Men Origins: Wolverine’, alongside Hugh Jackman, and ‘The Last Man’, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 2015, he became a part of the popular American police procedural drama series ‘Criminal Minds’. Daniel has been quite a regular at the award functions and many of his performances have managed to score some major Korean awards, such as a Grand Bell Award, a Korean Association of Films and Critics Award, and a People’s Choice Award. He also lent his voice to the animation movie ‘Big Hero 6’, where he became the voice of character Tadashi Hamada.
Childhood & Early Life
Daniel Henney was born Jeom Deok-su in Carson City, Michigan, to a Korean mother and an Irish father. According to him, he had a very rough and difficult childhood.
He was born on 28th November 1979, during a phase when racism was at its very peak in the American culture, especially against the Asians and Africans. Daniel would get beaten up every now and then and face racial slurs from his classmates in school. But as Daniel further describes the experience, he says that everything he has suffered made him stronger as a person and eventually he stopped giving it any attention.
Daniel was a studious kid and performed well in academics and his strong built helped him excel in the athletics as well. Studying in Crystal High School in his hometown, he was a good basketball player and also led his team into the finals of quite a few basketball inter-school tournaments. Proving his worth was something he intended to do after becoming victim of racial abuse as a kid and he did what he intended.
Based on his basketball merits, he got scholarships to study in the Alma College and Albion College, later attending the University of Illinois in Chicago. Modelling happened by chance during his college days and by the time he dropped out of the college, he was already very much knee deep in the world of modelling and toured around France, Italy and Hong Kong.
Modelling landed him a few advertisement stints, and he made his debut with an advertisement for Odyssey Sunrise, an Amore Pacific’s cosmetic. By then, he had very little knowledge of the Korean language and when he was first offered a role in Korean dramas, he was hesitant, but eventually took the leap and started his acting career with South Korean television.
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Daniel Henney got his first acting role as a cameo in ‘Hello Franceska’, a South Korean sitcom in 2005. In the same year, he made his debut with a fully fledged role in ‘My Lovely Sam Soon’, where he was initially criticized because of his ‘not so fluent Korean’, but eventually grew on the audiences owing to his charming looks and acting talent. Daniel played a doctor in the series and although it was a supporting role, the general reception was good.
The series ‘My Lovely Sam Soon’ was one of the most popular Korean dramas and Daniel became a household name, eventually grabbing some more juicy roles in form of ‘Spring Waltz’ in 2006, where he played one of the main cast members and portrayed the role of Philip quite effectively. By then it had become quite obvious that he had mastered Korean and his acting skills had also improved.
He faced a slight controversy in 2006; he had earlier claimed that he had a degree in Economics from the University of Illinois, but there was no record of him ever graduating from the university. This affected his career slightly as he received a lot of flak from media for lying, but somehow, he continued working and appeared in his first film role in 2006 with the film ‘Seducing Mr. Perfect’, a romantic comedy film.
In 2007, he was seen in the most pivotal role of his career up until that time in the South Korean Drama film ‘My Father’, where he played the lead role of a man who sets out in search of his biological parents. The film was a box office success and earned Daniel quite a lot of applauds for his deeply emotional portrayal of a broken young man. He ended up winning a Blue Dragon Film Award and a Korean Association of Film Critics Award for his performance.
Daniel then starred in the 2009 drama ‘Three Rivers’ here he played one of the leading characters as Dr. David Lee, and the same year he appeared in his very first Hollywood project. He was signed on to play the role of Agent Zero in the superhero film ‘X Men Origins: Wolverine’. He played a supporting role next to Hollywood superstar Hugh Jackman. The film performed poorly at the box office, and panned by critics as well.
In 2010, he appeared in ‘The Fugitive: Plan B’, an action series which became extremely popular in South Korea and the rights for the same even got sold in Japan, Thailand and a few other East Asian countries, making it wildly famous, and hence, resulted in more fame for Daniel internationally.
He then did a cameo as a music producer in the series ‘Papa’ in 2012 and in the same year, he appeared in the American romantic comedy film ‘Shanghai Calling’, a film which raised the issue of racism in an endearingly humorous way. The Newport Beach Film Festival and the Shanghai International Film Festival then honoured him with the Best Actor award for his portrayal in the film. -In 2013, he again appeared in another Hollywood mega budget action film ‘The Last Stand’, where he played a supporting role. The high on testosterone film did well on box office and received moderate reviews from the critics, a good thing for an all out action film.
Daniel then appeared playing a cameo role in ‘Revolution’, where his role was three episode long and in 2014, he played the role of an agent in one episode of ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’ and also played the leading role in the South Korean spy thriller ‘The Spy: Undercover Operation’.
In 2015, Daniel joined the cast of the successful American police procedural drama ‘Criminal Minds’. The series was already highly popular and made Daniel a household name in America and in 2016 he played a cameo in Korean drama ‘Dear My Friends’.
Daniel Henney has dated many actresses and models throughout his career, and one of his most talked-about love affairs was with Maggie Q, a Hollywood actress who has appeared in films such as ‘Mission Impossible’ and ‘Live Free or Die Hard’. The couple began dating in 2005 and remained together for some years before breaking up. Daniel has been very secretive about his personal life ever since.
Daniel likes to play basketball in his free time and says that if he wasn’t an actor; he surely would have made a career in basketball.