“Emergency Man and Woman” began barely a month after the end of “The Heirs”. Isn’t it working without taking a lot of rest?
I’ve never had any thought of resting. It’s just that my resting time gets longer when I don’t work. When I get a job, I can’t wait to do it.
Are you the busy bee kind?
It’s not like that. In this field, if you don’t work, you get forgotten, so I have the “when I can work, let’s just work” mindset. I want to do as much great projects as I can before I go to the army because I’ll be craving for it again when I’m in the army.
Your birth date was corrected recently on portal sites from 1985 to 1986.
(laugh) I’m an early 86′ liner, so my friends are already 30. My real age is different from the age written on the family register. My mum told me she put me on the family register when I was three. She didn’t tell me the exact reason, I simply heard it was because of family matters.
You must have a lot of stories to share from your school days about the fact you look more mature than your age.
I have many stories. When I was in high school, my friends asked me to buy them cigarettes. When we went to places like a bar, I always stood on the front line, so the owner would quietly let us go in (laugh).
You don’t sound like a model student.
There was nothing to do in this town (Mokpo). Unless studying, there was nothing else to do but play around (laugh).
There were good reactions when you did “I Need Romance”, but the good reactions after “Gu Family Book” seemed quite different. It seems like expectations from the actor Choi Jin Hyuk slowly grew bigger.
Hm… I don’t really care about expectations people have about me. I just want to play various roles. I was happy because what I did in “The Heirs” was a role I had never tried before. It’s the same with “Emergency Man and Woman”. It’s light and cute to the point it’s even ridiculous. I wanted to do this kind of role and I think it turned out well.
How would you describe your character Oh Chang Min in “Emergency Man and Woman”?
He was raised in a wealthy family, he went to medical school. He jokes around a lot, he’s even a fool sometimes. He went against his parents’ opinion to marry Oh Jin Hee (Song Ji Hyo). He stops studying in order to make a living and becomes a salesman in a pharmaceutical company. He fights a lot with Jin Hee and they divorce. But their fight level is really high. When we fight, we destroy the set. That’s why the staff must rebuilt the set when we’re done filming. After the divorce, he gets help from his family and starts studying again. He becomes an intern in the ER unit of a hospital where he meets Jin Hee again. This is where the story starts.
He gave up a lot of things to marry her, so why do they break up?
They were good when they were dating, but there were many things they didn’t agree on when they actually lived together. There are a lot of people like that. Peole like each other, so they date. Then after they got married, they realize they’re not a good match and they divorce. It’s a case like that.
Have you already broke up with someone and got back together afterward?
I have. I’m a simple-minded person, so when I fight with someone, I forget why we fought about a few days later. So if we go out again after breaking up, things are good like before, then we break up again.
The reason behind the break-up was mostly because of personality differences?
We had different personalities, but I have a few standards and I’ve realized that it’s hard for me to date someone when I overlook these standards. By standards, I mean it like it’d be good if her life isn’t messy in the men department, if she’s modest wherever she goes, if she’s polite to elders.
It’s your first time having the lead role in a miniseries, you must be nervous but also impatient about being the drama following “Reply 1994” which gathered good reactions.
It’s the first time indeed. However, I started feeling that filming was fun at some point just a couple of days ago. Meanwhile, I had often felt a sense of responsibility while acting. There were many times when I hated something, when something didn’t match my style, but I still forced myself to do it. However, it’s very entertaining this time. When I was talking with my agency about my next project, I said this was a drama I definitely wanted to do. I think it went well. I feel like it’s worth it when I’m on the set, I feel great while acting.
It starts at the same time as “I Need Romance 3”. You were the masculine charm of “I Need Romance”.
It’s a new feeling. The drama didn’t do well because of me back then. It was because writer Jung Hyun Jung wrote a good script. I think it will also do well this time.
Do you have the eye to choose the right character? You said that when you decided to film “Gu Family Book”, people’s reactions around you were lukewarm, but you had the feeling the drama would do well.
Seems like I do. I usually like what people like. This time, I was completely struck by this character, so I didn’t know how much people would like him. This is something very important to me (when I pick a role), so I thought about this a lot. When I get this kind of thoughts, I become restless, my heart is oppressed. That’s why I seriously intend to work only on projects that I’m convinced will do well.
How do you catch the charm of a character just by reading the script?
First of all, when I can picture him in my head and if I feel like I want to do it, this is how I know. When there’s one scene that grabs me like crazy. For Gu Wol Ryung, it happened with almost every scene. For “The Heirs”, I hadn’t received the scrip or even the synopsis, I did it only because I trusted the writer. In “Emergency Man and Woman”, there are many scenes where people, men and women, can find my character cute.
In the Oh Chang Min teaser for “Emergency Man and Woman”, you can read the words “love is the memory I want to rip up”. Even if it’s not about a previous relationship, when was the dark period of your life that you’d like to erase from your memory?
It’s around the time I did “Pasta”. Before this drama, I had some family problems, so I was drinking a lot. I just didn’t feel good in general. Thinking “I must focus on something that isn’t alcohol”, I started playing online games and that totally ruined me. There was nothing working for me. Work didn’t go well and I had to find work on my own because the contract with my agency was over.
What made you overcome this period?
My parents. Especially my mum. Seeing her so upset really brought me back to my senses. There was also the fact that I managed to loose weight during the hardest time. I would run on the treadmill while thinking about my mother. When I wanted to stop running because it was hard, I told to myself “if you get off here, don’t eat even if you die” and I kept running. I only ate chicken breast with sweet potatos for a year and I lost up to 10 kg. When I think about it, it’s quite amazing. I wouldn’t be able to do it even for a week now (laugh).
You sound like you have a great sense of responsibility toward your parents.
It’s true. When I was going through hard times, I think I could have really made the wrong choices if it weren’t for my parents because I had no feeling about life like other people. Right now, my mum is still my driving force.
Was there something you really wanted to do when you were going to school?
I enjoyed having fun with my friends so much that I never thought about my studies. During the school festival, I went on stage to sing and I thought “this (singing) is what I must do”.
You came to Seoul and you were often advised to start acting. Why do you think people said that?
Maybe because of my personality? There were many stories here and there where my looks don’t match my age. When I was first suggested to try acting, I just overlooked this suggestion thinking I make no sense because people from the countryside have a specific way of speaking. “it was like dis”, “it was like dat”, they speak like this. When I spoke this way with my friends, people would look at us and I’d be like “what? It’s how we speak in my hometown”, so I didn’t want to fix the way I spoke. Then I started acting and I fixed it.
Do you have no desire to do music? You sang for theme songs of three dramas, does this happen often to actors?
Indeed. Some time ago, the drama producers offered me first to do it. Music is something I still hope to do. Because there are many people, I do want to sing, but I think acting should be my priority right now. I want to focus on acting. I’m satisfied with singing OST for now.
You debuted 8 years ago. Have you ever wanted to give up every time you were going through hard times?
Countless times. People knocked me down, I couldn’t adapt to this industry. This is the first reason. The first thing is that I thought I wasn’t good at acting. Ever since I was a kid, my sunbaes had been telling me “you’re good so work hard” and I worried a lot as I replied “when will things actually go well for me?”. What I had done so far was valuable, but since I knew nothing else but acting, I kept doing it. It was fun sometimes, but when things didn’t go well, I got annoyed. In moments like this, I’d think about my parents and get myself together.
You said that you would have been a manager if you hadn’t been an actor, why do you think that?
I think I would have done a good job. I’m not really good at sucking up to people or things like that, but I think I’m good at knowing what people like. I think being a manager would suit me.
Figuring out what people like is an actor’s virtue.
It is. The standards are different when you adjust to yourself. It’s hard to see yourself in an objective way. I don’t think it’s that good for the viewers to know that many things about me as a celebrity to decide what they like about me. Unless you’re a very good actor, everything comes out anyway. I think what people like can change and turn into a bad impression at some point.
I think that when celebrities understand what their own charm is because people compliment them about it. I think you become aware of that…
Except when I’m acting, I never think “if I do this, does that make me look cool?”. Since you must show the charm of your character, you go “if I do this, viewers will like it”. However, when you’re doing something artistic, I don’t tell myself “if I do this, it will be fun, I’ll look cool”. I think it’s dangerous [to think this way].
When stars are humble, people get a better impression.
When I debuted, I shared my discontent with the director and we fought because the way the staff talked to and treated established actors and the way they treated the rookies were very different. I hate to hear that people changed afterwards because you did well, so I wanted to do things my own way from the start, so I told him everything. Here’s what I heard a lot. “You haven’t made it yet, you can’t talk like this”. I didn’t want to be waver by these words. I said everything I wanted to say. I thought it’d be coward of me [to remain quiet]. I couldn’t adapt to this industry mentality. Not being able to talk to the “high” people, talking thoughtlessly to the weak, I really hated that.
Right now, you belong to those “high people” [= the important people on set] category. How do you do when there is a rookie actor in this kind of situation?
Fortunately, there are less staff members acting this way [=praising loudly actors] than before. If I see someone experiencing this kind of situation, I walk up to this person and try to give them words of comfort. I say things like “don’t worry”, “keep a strong heart”, “work hard”.
Do you feel sometimes that you’re not made for this job called “entertainer”?
I can’t hide my emotions. This job means that you must laugh today even if your father died the day before, this doesn’t work for me. I can’t look at someone in the eyes if I don’t like them. Whatever they say, I don’t look at their faces and I look away when I answer. I did think that I wasn’t made for this career because of my personality.
Do you still think the same today?
I don’t think being an entertainer/a celebrity is my calling. I don’t think it’s the job just perfect for me. If you take the time to look at the situation, it’s the same about acting, it’s the same about life, some people are just gifted for this. It’s not like that for me. It’s just something I make efforts for.
You received the “New Star award” at the SBS year-end ceremony and you were only nominated for the “Rookie Award” at the MBC year-end ceremony.
The “New Star” award was embarrassing because there were many winners. You’re not supposed to expect an award, but a small part of me was disappointed because of the MBC award. Nominees were revealed before the ceremony. Because “Gu Family Book” was a hit for me and has a special meaning for me, I hoped it’d be in the spotlight again. So I’m sad I wasn’t able to do it. However, it’s great that Seung Gi and Suzy received many awards.
Will you enlist this year?
I don’t know exactly. All my friends already went to the army. I’m really not scared of being an older recruit. I’m confident it won’t kill my spirit (laugh). I’m comfortable with living around men. I do think not working for two years will be frustrating, though.
Young actors usually fancy the idea of getting older, do you have any craving about the mid-40’s charm?
Not really. I used to think that I wanted to get older fast, but I’m in my 30’s and I think acting at this age is perfect for me. There’s just something satisfying about this. My life as of right now is entertaining.
Original article: Singles
T/n: I didn’t translate the intro because it was just a brief summary of his career and it was nothing we didn’t know yet. Plus, the things said in the intro are also in the interview.