Shim Eun Kyung never pretended to be beautiful. In the movie “Sunny”, she was a countrified high school student, a maid in “Masquerade”, a short-haired boyish girl in “Bad Guy”. Among the other many roles she played, the beautiful woman” Shim Eun Kyung is hard to find, but her characters are alive. In the movie “Miss Granny” which premieres at the end of January, Shim Eun Kyung appears on the screen with a curly perm like broccolis and a countrified look. As she makes herself smaller with her slouched shoulders and walks splay-footed, uses saturi to say that “a man must do well in bed more than anything”, the “Oh Doo Ri” she portrays isn’t pretty by the audience standards, but there will be no objection that her character is lovable. This is the unseen power of Shim Eun Kyung. Actually, the character of Oh Doo Ri in “Miss Granny” can’t be one an actress must take the risk to choose. The complex character who has the body of a 20-year-old girl but the soul of a grandmother needs extreme acting ability. If not played right, the actress’ image and her acting can be threatened. After the movie was revealed, Shim Eun Kyung received high praises from critics, the director and other actors as she became a blue chip of Chungmuro. Just like she says “I never worry about my image being shattered while acting because I think there will be many opportunities for me to play different roles”, “Oh Doo Ri” of “Miss Granny” led Shim Eun Kyung into a wider world.
There are good reactions about the way you portrayed Oh Doo Ri in “Miss Granny”, how do you feel now that the premiere is right around the corner?
Yes, I’m very thankful. This is the first time of my life I’m this busy. I really enjoy it and every day is a happy day. Being busy doesn’t mean I’m tired or I’m having a hard time. Because I tell myself “the number of people seeing my movie is increasing”, I’m happy and I’m focusing on the promo activities.
Why did you accept to film “Miss Granny”?
I received the scenario while I was studying abroad in the US, I felt burdened at that time because I had no confidence. I told myself “how would I be able to pull this off?”. This role didn’t match my age. If the character has the body of a 20-year old woman but the mind of a grandmother, that means I had to play a grandmother. My first thought was “would I be able to handle it?”. So this was what I was worrying about when I read the scenario a second time. If you see the movie, you’ll know it, but in the last scene [t/n: it’s too spoiler-ish for me to translate]. So I decided to meet the director first before making a decision. I asked to be excused from school and I came back to Korea. While meething the director and the staff, all my worries disappeared. I came to think “if I work with them, I’ll be able to play this difficult role, I will enjoy filming this”.
The fact that this character has the soul of a grandmother and the body of a young woman is similar to the character in the original work “Romantic Heaven”. However, the acting is different.
The set-up is similar to “Romantic Heaven”, but the character is completely different. Besides, the two directors have a different directing style. To be honest, when I thought about this aspect, I was a bit worried. I shared my concern with the director and I told him “there’s already a grandmother in “Romantic Heaven”, is it okay if I also play a grandmother?”. The director replied admantly that ‘this is definitely not a problem. The acting that I want [for this character] is different from “Romantic Heaven”‘. In “Miss Granny”, Oh Doo Ri is real, it was a strong character. This was also a big challenge for me.
Like you said, the grandmother character is real. The highlight is your slouching shoulders and your splay-footed walking.
Thank you. I made a lot of research. In order to find common features with Na Moon Hee [t/n: the real grandmother], I consulted the director a lot before we began filming. I thought it was important that I completely matched Na Moon Hee wether it was about the tone of her voice or the way she speaks, the way she shouts, the way she walks. I wondered if we wouldn’t look like exactly the same person if we walked the same way, so I practiced that a lot. I practiced so much that it became natural, so right now I’m in the opposite process to correct my posture.
It must have been hard to play with veteran actors that are not “sunbaes” but “teachers” [t/n: “sunbae” is the actor who is more experienced than you and “teacher” would be like the highest rank for the oldest and most experienced actors].
To be honest, before we started filming the moving, I thought I’d feel uncomfortable because Oh Doo Ri insults and hits Park In Hwan. Actually, I was very sorry. It’s acting, but it’s not easy to have this behavior toward elders. However, when filming started, I fell into a trance. Park In Hwan told me “you must hit harder. It’s okay because I’m having fun too”, so I was able to do as much as I wanted.
It must have been stressful to be the character leading the movie. What was the hardest part during filming?
There was none. This isn’t PR talk. I did think about the answer if I were asked “what was the hardest part during filming” at the press conference, but I really had no answer. It was the best synergy between the director, the staff and the actors. The director almost didn’t direct us, his directing style is to say “how about you try to do it the way you want to?”. That allowed me to be at ease while I play. What I learned the most through this movie is how to drink. I enjoyed talking and drinking with the director and my sunbaenims at the end of a day of filming.
In the movie, you sang songs like “빗물” (Rainwater), “나성에 가면” (If I go to Naseong). Those are old songs, they’re a bit countrified, but they’re so addictive that you want to sing along. Your clear voice gave such a charm to this song, did you go through vocal training?
I started vocal training in the middle of October in order to record a song in December. The fact that I took singing lessons when I was younger also helped me. My mum wanted to raise me to become a vocalist. Before I received vocal training, I thought singing was just about yelling. But then, I realized it was not. As I was going through the singing lessons, I told myself that I should just focus and work hard on my acting. I’ll only sing when I go karaoke.
You received praises from the director and others actors about your acting. You hear compliments like “blue chip of Chungmuro” [t/n: term used for rookie actors who hit big early in their career], “acting genius”, it seems like your career is reflecting an age older than yours. Are you the type to learn things fast?
What I’ve been getting since I was a kid was slow [?]. Should I say that my understanding fell a bit behind? But my acting comes out and I don’t know how I do it either. To be honest, I have no memory about how I feel when I act. When I start filming, I just act without thinking about it. These days, there are many good actors. All the child actors are very talented. I wasn’t good like them when I was younger. Every time I hear the compliment “your acting is good”, I feel overwhelmed.
“Miss Granny” was a big opportunity for you, but I think you had to give up on your feminity somehow because it wasn’t a sophisticated and beautiful character.
I have absolutely no worry about this aspect. I think being an actor is about showing a new image according to the character you play and it’s natural to give up drastically parts of yourself in order to do that. However, there’s something I feel a bit different about. Compared to when I was younger, I think that my appearance now is something important. I’m not a star, but I think you must have some kind of charm as an actor to broaden your acting. Even worse, I don’t want my acting to be depreciated because of my looks. I think I need to change to do all the roles I want. Please anticipate the image I will show.
What did you do in order to change your appearance?
Since December last year, I’ve been preparing this photoshoot for a month. I went to work out more than 3 times a week, had more than two meridian massages a week, went to the dermatalogist once a week. It’s totally effective. You know, I didn’t pay attention to my appearance. I had many skin problems, my body was a bit fleshy. If I hadn’t followed this method, I think there would have been problems for this photoshoot. Haha.
Are you naturally confident? When I look at your roles in “Sunny”, “Masquerade”, I thought these girls were very shy and bashful.
Living abroad changed me. I changed into an optimistic person. Before going abroad, I was shy. I worried a lot about finding out who I was. It was confusing. I wasn’t able to lead a normal school life, so I felt left out at some point. i felt I was the only one who was disconnected. It was a hard time.
Why did you decide to go study abroad?
It was a break to no longer be a child actress, and I also made this decision because I needed some me time. If I had stayed in Korea, I wouldn’t have been able to stop acting. It’s hard to resist the temptation when you come across a good project. So I made this big decision and decided to leave for three years in order to take a bigger leap.
The premiere of “Miss Granny” is coming, you must be feeling something unusual.
Time is surely going fast. After graduation, as soon I returned in Korea in June last year, I started filming “Miss Granny” around July and we finished in October. I was really happy during the filming. I’m a bit sad about how fast the filming time went. Being able to film this kind of movie really moved me. I spent the year 2013 with a happy and thankful heart. But it’s already another year, this is January 2014. I begin this year with “Miss Granny”. I have many expectations about this year, I have so many thoughts. I think this is the real start for me. I have many things to learn, many mountains I must climb, many processes I must go through. There’s still room for me to grow.
I wonder what is your definition of the “cool woman”.
Tilda Swinton. She isn’t confined in the actress’ mold, she has various activities showing a wide spectrum. When she shows the appearance of an artist, it brings out a real emotion. Then the jazz artist Carla Bley. I was able to know her thanks to director Kang Hyung Chul. The image of her playing is amazing. Her husband is a bass player, the two of them together portray art. I hope to be like Tilda Swinton and Carla Bley when I’m older.
So your love for music seems to be unique. You seem to like old pop artists like Pink Floyd or Toto whereas people your age don’t really listen to them.
Music is an art that I really love. Music inspires me a lot for my acting. When I remember an emotion, if I feel this emotion while listening to music and can picture the acting, I think the emotion is maximized.
What do you think is the most important thing to become a good actor/actress?
It’s common to say this, but the most important thing is to never loose your basics/your initial motivation. As a good actor, you can use the shortcut. When I was young, no matter how small the role was, I would read the script over and over again in order to make myself stand out somehow. I would practice all night long. I think it was difficult for me to be easily satisfied.
I wonder about your life plans. Do you plan to go to college? In Korea or going to study abroad?
I used to think “why should I go to college? what would I get from this?”, but people around me told me “try the college life. The opportunity to experience the campus life won’t come twice”. This advice makes me hesitate. Since you spend four years in college to study, I’m wondering if going to Japan or China to study the language wouldn’t broaden my horizons. I think I must really think it through a bit more.
To finish this interview, I want to hear about your next activities.
I have received a few scenarios, but I haven’t read them yet. When I’m done promoting “Miss Granny”, I’ll have the time to read them. I want to focus on what I’m doing right now and I want to enjoy this time. I’m really happy about my life these days.
Original article: 1st Look