That was unexpected. Except for the loud music, Kim Woo Bin’s photoshoot was done in silence. During the test run, he’d monitor himself on the computer screen each time a picture was taken, but he never said a word. Then he would go stand again in front of the camera and stroke the pose matching the angle he had just checked, matching the face angle and finding the right facial expression. Whenever asked “how do you feel?/what do you think?”, he’d smile widely as he answered “I’m/It’s good”. His voice was low, his eyes were bloodshot. The day I met Kim Woo Bin was on the following day “The Heirs” finished filming and also the day where the end of filming party would take place on later that Friday night. Because of that, he was exhausted after filming until dawn. When the 1st Look photshoot started at 2pm, it was his third activity of the day. Of course, he suppressed his exhaustion. When he was alone, his face would be blank, expressionless, but whenever his eyes met someone else’s, Kim Woo Bin would smile at once. There was no rebel here. Good manners, earnest, a warm personality, this was the gentleman Kim Woo Bin.
That was unexpected. I thought you’d be the outgoing type, but you’re very quiet.
I used to be quiet and an introvert. Acting is making me change to the point I even surprise myself. I’m a quiet person, but when a “fighting” cheer is needed or the mood needs to be brighten up, I become outgoing. Of course, when I meet close friends, I’m even more outgoing. I’m a little bit tired today, so I think that’s why I was a little bit quieter. Because I finished filming yesterday, I almost didn’t sleep. I do feel a bit strange.
I think “The Heirs” is a turning point, the drama that will change your life. Compared to how you felt after you were done filming your previous dramas, is there anything different about how you feel now that this drama is over?
When “2013 School” was over, I received a lot of support, but I felt like people were even more supportive and enthusiastic this time around. Choi Young Do was an evil character, yet people loved him and while I’m thankful for that, the pressure coming with it also became bigger. I have sunbaenims also encouraging me. Lim Chang Jung-sunbaenim asked my phone number to Kim Soo Ro-sunbaenim and called me. He told me “You’re doing great, so stay strong just a little bit longer”. There were many times I was exhausted, but this gave me strength.
Filming this drama really drove you to exhaustion, right?
When I was the younger one on the set before, there was less pressure. This time, there were a lot of actors younger than me, so I thought I had to set an example because I wanted to give my hoobaes eveything I had received from the sunbaenims I worked with on other productions and for which I was thankful for. When you’re a younger actor, just the fact of shooting a scene with your sunbaes makes you nervous. It’s just a very complicated and uncomfortable situation. However, if the sunbae talks to you, even if it’s just one word, it’s enough to take away some of your stress. So, with one or two words, they treat you well and even your heart just feels lighter.
So what did you do to take “good” care of your hoobaes?
I often joked around on purpose. First of all, you must feel comfortable enough to look at each other in the eyes. That made acting easier because we’re supposed to be friends of the same age. So I joked around, I shared personal stories, some of my own personal stories. I bought them food.
You must have been happy when scenarist Kim Eun Sook chose you again.
I had really enjoyed filming “A Gentleman’s Dignity”, so when it was over, I hoped she’d call me again. I didn’t think this opportunity would come so fast. I was really thankful, I wanted to repay her for trusting me. That’s why I was very worried every time the new script came out.
It wasn’t just for “Heirs”, I felt it also for the movie “Friend 2”. Your face is very expressive when you act.
I’ve never practiced my facial expressions [for these roles]. In the book called “I’m an actor”, this is what Kim Yoon Suk-sunbaenim says. “If you’re sincere, the right facial expression will naturally come out. Don’t create it.” Since then, I’ve never looked at myself in a mirror when I read a script. When I was a model, I would practice my facial expressions while I was even brushing my teeth. Every time I looked in a mirror, I tried to find the coolest expression. That’s why I totally let go of myself since I started acting. My focus is to find the best emotion to fit the situation.
Did you gain weight on purpose when you were filming “Friend 2”?
Yes. I gained quite some weight. I exercise a lot. It wasn’t a request from the director, I just thought it’d be good if the audience could have more sympathy for my character, even if it was just a little bit. On the days before filming, I’d purposely eat ramyeon before going to sleep so my face would look swollen and to make it seem even more like I’ve put on some weight.
You really don’t care at all about how you look like on screen.
While I was filming the movie, I never told myself “I want people to find me good-looking”. I tried my best to make my facial expressions bigger. The director also told me he liked this about my acting.
Did you watch the interview where Jeon Do Yeon complimented you?
I did. I was so thankful. It was an honor because, although I’ve never met her before, she’s a daesunbae I’ve always been a fan of. I was thankful and I also told myself I should show a better image of myself.
Out of the three things Jeon Do Yeon said about you, what do you think about “as an actor, he has the right attitude”?
During interviews, I’m often asked “what is your goal?”. Every time, I answer “I want to become a good person, a good actor”. I’m still trying to figure out how to be a good actor. I think I found one thing. Being someone who cares about other people or being an actor who is a good person, I think that’s what being a good actor is about. This is something I felt deeply when I saw how veteran actors cared so much about me. And I also found another thing. [Being a good actor is] Treating the staff with a considerate heart. At first, I was so focused on my acting that I wouldn’t look around me. Now I have dongsaengs, when I’m standing in front of the camera, whenever I get the chance, I look at the staff around me. They’re all very tired. When us, actors, aren’t shooting a scene, we can rest in a car, but the staff never sleeps and always works very hard.
You must hear a lot that you’re kind, don’t you? You seem to be a warmhearted person.
I was raised receiving a lot of love from my parents. My family lives in harmony. We have our own Kakaotalk chatroom and talk to each other everyday. My mum is like a teenage girl. She’s a little bit like Kim Sung Ryung in “Heirs”. My mum still calls me “my son, my son” or “my baby”. Even when she’s angry, she’s the kind of person who can say nothing else but “reflect on yourself!”. My father is really funny. [I am how I am because] I grew up in this kind of family.”
Your little sister must be happy to have you as her big brother.
She’s more nonchalant than I am. She’s like a warrior. I’m more sensitive than her, I also cry more often than she does. It’s more like she takes care of me, not the other way around.
If you were to decide today what your next project would be, what kind of character would you like to play?
There are so many… Because there are a lot of characters I haven’t tried yet. I want to play a disabled character and you can sympathize with. And also… I don’t know. There are too many of them.
Is there a particular reason for you picking out first a disabled character?
When I watch the movie “I Am Sam”, I feel thankful once again. I love heart-warming human dramas. I also love family-oriented movies. I was moved by the book “The pursuit of happyness” before and I also cried while watching the movie with Will Smith and his son. I want to do this kind of movie one day.
How are you going to spend the last few days of 2013?
I have scheduled activities until the end of the year. On the last day of the year, I’m scheduled to host a drama awards ceremony. I’m thankful for that. It’s my first time going to a a drama awards ceremony, so I’m nervous and the fact that I’m the MC makes me even more nervous.
Is there anything specific you want to do in 2014?
I don’t even know how this year went by. I’ve almost never had a day off in more than a year. I didn’t think about how I wanted to spend the year. Now that we’re talking about 2014, I should start thinking about it now. First of all, I must choose a good project to show a good image of myself. Please anticipate.
t/n: sunbae = someone who is more experienced than you ; hoobae= someone less experienced than you ; daesunbae = the rank above sunbae ; dongsaeng = little brother/sister, someone younger you are close with