You’ve been on hiatus for a year.
It hasn’t been a full year yet. “Incarnation of Money” finished airing in April last year. It hasn’t premiered yet, but I filmed the movie “Shoot For The Sun” afterward. So, I’ve been resting and not working only for five months.
You were confirmed for the drama “Big Man”. What was appealing about it?
I didn’t know what it would be about when I read the title the first time. However, in front of the synopsis, when I read the main copy with the plot explained in one sentence, I went “OH!” and I just had a good feeling about it.
What was this sentence?
Actually, I took a picture. (He took out his cell phone and as he showed it to me) “The family that I was missing the most only wanted my heart”. Even without reading the full synopsis, is that touching? Something just grabbed my attention here.
The casting is still going on, so there’s not that much you can actually say about the plot.
If you want to talk about the plot, my character is an orphan, the bully of his neighborhood. He has always kept a special place in his heart for his family. One day, the truth about him being the hidden son of a chaebol comes to light. [T/n: I’ll stop here because I think it’s way too much information and details… Let’s just say that when he says “they want the guy’s heart”. It’s not a metaphor as you can guess from what he explains in his next answer.]
There were some comic elements in “Incarnation of Money”, but your character also dreamed of revenge.
I think these two characters are similar according to the “revenge code”. However, if you can say there’s some comedy in “Incarnation of Money”, I think it is entirely different here. To the main character, family is his everything. The heart that they want is also his everything. These people he calls family want to take that away from him. Isn’t it a different form of revenge? I think the difference here is like the difference between being stabbed in the leg and stabbed in the heart.
As you take on comic and dramatic roles, you explore every genre. Do you tell yourself that you must change and show a new image with each project?
Once I moved past the “what must an actor do?”, it’s just about what my heart tells me. When I play a sad role, I only have sad thoughts for a few months. So somehow, it’s like my heart wants to feel light. Being in a sad energy makes everything exhausting. It’s like pulling the kimchi when you’re eating [?], I think it’s a process that happens naturally. I like playing all kind of emotions. Lucky for me, I was offered many roles that allowed me to go back and forth between action, melo and comedy. I don’t automatically choose a melo just because my previous project was a comedy.
During the photo shoot, I realized that you must have felt some pressure about being asked to show a specific expression.
I still feel awkward in front of a camera. I have no confidence about the poses I should take. It doesn’t feel like my clothes. I have these strange butterflies in my stomach. Whenever I shoot a movie or a drama, I’m fine during filming because I’m immersed in my role, but acting in front of a still camera is just awkward to me. Because these pictures are taken, I want to show a good image, I want to do well. That’s why I try my best to find the balance within myself and to make efforts.
I read that you say “acting is my everything”. That was a bit unexpected because you sounded like a rookie actor full of ambitious and not like an actor who debuted 12 years ago.
I’m still amazed when I see a celebrity. When I see a van pass by, I’m really curious to find out who’s inside. It’s a bit of a different story, but my biggest frustration was the hardships I had to go through because of the issue with my agency. I even thought if I shouldn’t just quit acting and do something else with my life. However, I’ve realized that acting is the only thing I know. I spent the time from the second half of my 20’s to the second half of my 30’s just acting. Acting has become my life. This isn’t about doing this because I’m an actor. It’s just that I’ve been living this life for more than 10 years and I know now that acting in front of a camera is what is the best for me. Saying that acting is my everything doesn’t have that much of a big meaning.
Is your approach of acting has changed?
Before, I thought a lot about how I must show a different image. When I was given the lead role, I felt a big sense of responsibilty about the title role. It’s a given that a singer must sing well, an actor must act well, but these words are really hard to hear. Now, my only mindset is “you must do well” with each role.
Didn’t you get a lot of compliments like “crazy acting ability” when you were filming “Incarnation of Money”? That must have been satisfying for you.
It was. Of course, whenever I act, the ratings/the box-office are important, but it’s hard to find a project that I’m satisfied with and that people enjoy as well. Whenever I finish a project, I have some regrets like “I should have done this a little bit better”. I didn’t feel this way with “Incarnation of Money”. It was the first time. I also tried my best for this role, but I was happy because those who watched this drama applauded me. Since I was able to have a taste of this, I’m striving forward to feel this way again.
You probably didn’t feel a lot of regrets about the movie “Runway Cop” because you were committed to that role enough to even show a bad image of your body.
I did have a lot of regrets. I could have filmed with a body shaping underwear to help me and use special effects. I refused all of this. I think people have prejudices against comedy, so when you use this kind of effects, I think the movie looks even lighter. So it was a challenge for me. I wanted to work on this comedy and show an acting ability that was worth to be praised. At that time, this was what I said in every interview. I wanted “Runway Cop” to be nominated for the best actor award. More than the award itself, I wanted to be acknowledged for a comic role. It didn’t happen, so it’s something I was sad about.
You seem to be greedy when it comes to things like box-office numbers, ratings and awards.
When I’m doing a project, I don’t tell myself “I must receive an award for that”. All I want is for the project to do well. My acting is what the audience, the viewers see. If people don’t watch, the project is meaningless. Sometimes, actors say that they “don’t fixate on ratings” and I always say “yes, I fixate on ratings”. My job is about having people to watch me. The director, the writer, the staff, they all work hard to move the viewers or to make them laugh. Isn’t it very hard to deal with when people don’t watch?
Is the public’s gaze the most important even when you choose a project?
There’s no actor picking up a project thinking that it won’t do well. And I’m like that too. However, after acting for more than ten years, there are things I overlook now. When the ratings didn’t go up, my heart was broken and I thought it was my fault. And it’s something I still care about (laugh). However, when it comes to the box-office, there are many other things that must be taken into consideration. Of course, it’s about having a good story or good acting.
There was a conflict with your agency. Who stayed by your side on the battlefield?
The ones who had always been there for me and never cared if my career was going well or not, if I had money or not. I’ve always liked the word “ildangbaek” [t/n: 일당백 it’s something like “1 person is worth 100 persons] ever since I was young. I prefer having one friend who can make up for 100 friends. I’m not the kind to meet a lot of people. Of course, it’s a bit different when I’m on a filming set. When I’m shooting a drama or a movie, I have to go to many huisiks [t/n: drinking party with your co-workers]. When I’m working, I’m very busy with memorizing my lines and filming, so I’m sorry toward the staff because I’m not quick to move. When we’re holding a huisik, I have a drink with each staff member. When we go karaoke, I’m always the first to get on the table and dance while I sing “Bling Bling”. [t/n: I think he’s talking about the trot song “Bling Bling” by Park Hyun Bin]
I heard you liked cars and motorbikes. Do you like speed?
No. I don’t really like driving. Even if I drive, it’s not for long distances. I have no sense of direction (laugh). I go here and there, just enough to get this impression of riding. Instead of buying expensive cars, I like buying secondhand cars and do some tuning or I buy a car that people usually don’t ride. A few years ago, I bought a Hummer H2. This car was like a tank. Since I had worked hard, I had collected some of my money to buy it. This was how it turned into a hobby. I don’t really like spending my money on masterpieces/designer brands or other stuff and it goes for alcohol too. I like drinking soju in my neighborhood.
Why did you name your dog “Luxury”?
Ah, Luxury? (laugh) It’s a cream-colored Pomeranian. I wanted to raise Xuri to be like the Paris Hilton’s dog of Jayang-dong (laugh). It’s about keeping him and living with him my whole life, so I wanted to convey something fun more than just raising it in an ordinary way. That’s why I chose this name (laugh). My dog is 3 now.
What is Xuri’s special talent?
At first, I wanted to raise an expensive dog like a faithful dog that waits endlessly for its owner like you see it in the TV program “A World Like This”. I had the TV on “Animal Kingdom” to teach me that foreign language. Foreign language as in the language animals speak (laugh). When Xury turned 3 months, I took him to the training school Bae Yong Joon went to for his dog. The school manager said that if he learned fast, my dog could even shoot CFs… I was only able to get his hair to grow. At first, when I said “hand”, he’d unexceptedly give me his paw because I would hand out a snack. Lately, because I’m busy filming, he spends a lot of time at my parents’ home, so we can’t see each other often and I think he doesn’t recognize me anymore. He’s a bit rude (laugh). Since his pictures came out a few times in magazines and there were articles about him before, he became arrogant and cocky.
Why do you like TV program “Half”?
I think it’s more entertaining than the average mini series. It’s fun because it’s real. I think it’s a different perspective from “We Got Married”. I talked with the staff earlier about the participants in the last episode. I won’t do this program, but I told my manager to go when they make a “manager special” episode. I said I’d send the application for him (laugh).
Do you have another “half” right now?
I don’t. That’s why I plan to kill myself with soju today (laugh). Isn’t today February 14th? A day like this should be banned (laugh).
What would you do if you met a woman you like in a crowded place?
I wouldn’t tell the people who organized the gathering “give me her number”, I’d say something like “she’s okay”. I want to be daring and ask women out now. As I get older, I must also think about marriage. In the past, I used to check a woman’s looks first…
And her looks come second now?
No. It’s still the first thing I look at (laugh). However, I worry more about things like her personality and “if we get along, how will things turn out?”. There’s something about me that still seems less desperate. The fact that I always look at the physique first. When I’m over 40, I’ll have to be less and less picky, though (laugh).
It seems turning 40 won’t change you (laugh).
I think my world will be shaken a lot when I reach this point (laugh). If I still don’t have a girlfriend when I reach this age, I’ll change my type to someone who would be also like a friend with a matching personality.
Have you been thinking about marriage lately?
A little. I wanted to get married around 35. After that, I wanted to do it whenever I’d the chance to.
Aren’t you okay with living alone?
It’s not like that. Marriage is just a different concept for me. The reason I work isn’t to live well off on my own. Even if I wasn’t an actor and I did another job, there’s only one ultimate goal for me to earn money. It’s to live well and take care of my wife, my kids, my parents and the people around me. If I do get married because I’d become a woman’s man, I think that I must do everything to give this woman everything in the world. I want to give her everything I have without money being a problem. I want to give her everything to make her happy.
Did something happen for you to think that way?
I think this was how my values were established when I was a kid. When I debuted, I had no money. I couldn’t treat my girlfriend to the restaurant and I couldn’t give her proper gifts at that time. It was exactly the same for my parents. As I became an adult, thinking that a man must be capable was something that appeared natural to me.
When women get older, they spare nothing to invest in their skin care. What is the thing the 38-year-old Kang Ji Hwan invest generously in?
Hm, alcohol? Since a year or two, I’m more the one who must buy for their dongsaengs than the one who can get things bought for him. Or travelling with the staff or my friends or my family and pay for the food? I think I don’t look at my expenses at all when it comes to things like things.
You’re one of the actors who are the most active on Twitter.
Just like there are different varieties of food, I think actors, people, everybody has different tendancies. When I see a celebrity, I also want to take a picture with them. I’m also curious about what they do or where they go in their daily lives (laugh). Fans probably feel the same way too, right? Sometimes, I do nothing more but upload a picture and I feel sorry toward my fans. I feel like I must show them a good project fast… When I first started getting fans, there weren’t many members in my fancafé. So I wrote on the main picture, “even brushing past a person is one’s karma, register first” (laugh). And I also told my fans back then “when I don’t work, go have fun in other fanclubs, when I get to work again, let’s all gather again. You must show that you’re here because if there’s no fan, I can’t look cool [?]. Go to the school reunions you usually don’t go to, contact people on Cyworld, go visit your relatives. Go and make them registrer on the site. The number of members in a fanclub is important. When the drama is over, you’re all free to leave.” This is what I used to tell them (laugh).
Is there a fancafé of another celebrity you’re registered to?
None. When I like a celebrity, I just check the articles written about them, I make screen captures of their photos. I use them as a wallpaper for my phone and my computer (laugh).
Is there someone you like these days, a female idol?
Waaa, I love them all (laugh).
When you’re resting at home, do you look your name up on the internet?
I don’t. I have no reason to look my name up because I know there will be no article about me. As soon as I wake up, the things I check in the morning are the drama ratings, the box-office, the entertainment news. It’s a habit.
You check all the popular dramas and movies?
I don’t look those who do well (laugh). Once you get cast, there are different variables, so I experienced a couple of times that the project went to someone else in the end. And it also happened that the project did well. Of course, I didn’t watch it. On the contrary, when I read a scenario and I think “it really won’t work” and it actually turns out well, watching it is also hard for me. When I rest, if I see a drama do well, I feel a little bit jealous because I’m an actor. I think watching on a daily basis all the projects that do well has many bad sides.
Your Twitter name is “Ceo Kang”. You’re the only celebrity of the company you created.
I don’t really have employees working for me. I have to take care of everything (laugh). There’s an advantage to have an one-man company. I like the fact that I can choose the projects I want to do. However, it means I’m the only one taking responsibility for the result. Acting was the only thing I had worry about before. Now, I must think about things I didn’t use to worry about and it goes from salary to my taxes. To be honest, it’s just a title. My director helps me with everything. He/she calls me “Ceo Kang” just for fun when we’re together. When would I hear it again?
Ceo Kang, now that the interview is over, are you going to go out and get some soju right away?
No, because the kids must be fed first… (laugh)
t/n: I had actually started working on this translation the day after it was published online, but I must admit that the first part of the interview spoiled me a little too much about the drama. I usually don’t mind spoilers when I know I’ll be able to check quite soon the real deal. So now that the airing is around the corner, I decided to get back to the translation. He uses slang and metaphores which i’m not comfortable with, but I tried. ^^
Original article: singles