You said it’d be good if the interview didn’t last more than 30 minutes I don’t mind if it’s long or if it’s short… Maybe the agency said that?
Anyway, let’s start the interview! You debuted in your mid-20’s after going to college… It’s not that acting gave me a sense of purpose to run and reach this goal. It’s just that this boundary came to me and I debuted as an actor, but I became famous as a model first.
So you debuted as a model before debuting as an actor? I made my acting debut through the movie “Grand Prix”. To be honest, although I talked about it [acting] various times, I still don’t know most of it.
You did more tough roles or shot more action scenes in your latest projects such as “The Suspect” and “Inspiring Generation”. It seems that you got more such roles after shooting “Moon That Embraces The Sun”. I think I got typecast because of “Moon That Embraces The Sun”. I guess we can say it was to play these so-called taciturn and non-talking characters? Back then, my face was thinner, so that made me look even more taciturn and sharp and thanks to the high ratings, it seems that this image left a deep impression on people’s minds.
Still, I think you got more opportunities because “Moon That Embraces The Sun” did so well. But personally, there are various aspects of this project that I feel sad about.
Which aspects? I didn’t have much experience, so it was hard for me to enjoy the moment in front of the camera. The director scolded me sometimes. I was intimidated, I felt that the people on set were bossy.
You don’t look taciturn. More than saying I’m taciturn, I’d say I’m just a bit shy. I actually talk a lot in real life, I express my opinions and I can be insistent.
That’s why your agency said it’d be good if the interview wouldn’t last more than 30 minutes? Is that why? (laugh)
So despite acting not giving you any sense of purpose, you became an actor. And this is how you’re living now. It’s been 7 years now. Didn’t you start being ambitious at some point? I must keep myself down to feel ambitious. If I get fixated on one thing, I get narrow-minded because I get this sense of urgency and impatience. I took many auditions until now and no matter how hard I prepared for roles I wanted, there were so many times when I didn’t get them. It happened that I got roles, but the projects fell flat or were a no-go in the end. It also happened another actor got cast, but I got called back in the end but couldn’t take the role because I was already preparing for another project. I think this year is about getting the roles I’m able to play as if it was meant to be. Of course, if I get more famous and become an actor with investment value, I don’t know if this moment will last longer, but it doesn’t matter if there are little or many opportunities, I think there are a number of roles for each of us. If I select my roles this way and keept it together, my potential will be able to explode, right?
You said you wanted to be prolific this year Even if I’m prolific, I think it’s about the right timing because I don’t have a fixed image. I’m currently shooting the movie “Salmon”. There’s not a lot of time to shoot this movie, so we’re going fast and we’ve already shot many scenes. And I requested projects I could do starting from the middle of August. Right now, I’m putting pressure on my agency, well, more like I’m being insistent(laugh).
You said you started shooting the drama “Surplus Princess”. We’re already done shooting the first episode.
The movie “Tunnel 3D” will premiere first. It’s a horror movie. It’s a first for you. It was so hard. We did post synchronization on Monday, but it’s not easy to reenact indoors and match what we shot. I felt that it is important to make the connection because the story of “Tunnel 3D” takes place in the course of one single night. Horror is a specific genre, so there were many moments when we had to match the lines in this atmosphere of high anxiety, we had to focus on the emotions. Each scene required a great amount of energy. I felt like I wouldn’t have been able to do it twice (laugh).
Sets of horror movie are relatively cheerful. It was cheerful. Until we started shooting (laugh) When we started, we had to go to the bottom of a cave, so it was cold, dark and damp. What I hate the most is the weather. It was to the point my feet were cold when I was just sitting on a chair.
Did you shoot in many real locations? We shot scenes in Namyangju [studios], but most of the movie was shot in a real cave in Gangwondo or in Gwangmyeong.
It feels that you had to be confined a lot… And that’s why the stand-by moments were hard (laugh). When you have to shoot in a confined environment, you need to go out when it’s over, but the time to leave never seems to come (laugh).
There must have been many risks to get injured. I got injured many times. We shot one scene in the cave where I meet Dong Joon (Yeon Woo Jin) and get into a fight with him before escaping and there were many sharp stones. They said to be careful, but we crashed against so many places that we got hit on our sides, the hardships just kept adding up here and there. It’s especially true for the actresses.
In “Tunnel 3D”, you play Ki Chul, a rebellious chaebol of the 2nd generation and he seemed to be an obvious character. He looks a bit boring (laugh). He’s a selfish character who induces the crisis. He’s pushing hard for things to go his way, but efforts are made after that to narrow the gap with him as the situation gets complicated. I tried to think about what would be the most rational thinking from Ki Chul’s point of view.
You play an elite chef in “Surplus Princess”. That suits you. It seems that this urban feeling is a good match. I have this arrogant and cold image in the beginning, but my character will reveal another side of himself after the 4th episode.
So it seems… The director, the writer, all the actors, we’re about 20 people in our Kakaotalk chatroom. We talk about the drama, we even talk about trivial stuff too. There’s just this great atmosphere.
You have many scars on your knees.Here, it’s when I go hurt while riding my bike. Here, it’s the mark left by the surgery I had to get because I tore my upright ligament. I’m so careless that I handle my body quite roughly (laugh).
Does the tattoo on your forearm have a special meaning? I’m a Christian. It’s a line taken from Philippians 4:13. It means “I can do all this through him who gives me strength”. It used to look like the hands of a boy praying, but it looks like just two hands pressed in prayer now. (laugh)
Even if you’re a convert to Buddhism. (laugh) As long as it doesn’t put pressure on people, any religion is fine because it’s more about sharing words with a good meaning than just believe in God. These are the stories of people who lived before us. To be honest, this tattoo is just something I did for show when I was young (laugh).
Do you read a lot? I used to. Up to two or three years ago, when I was asked in interviews what I did at home, I answered that I read books, so I naturally became someone who did read a lot. I guess it’s because fans often gave me books or cats-related gifts. I don’t have time to read nowadays.
Do you raise cats? Correct. Fans give me gifts such as cats-related books, objects, goods. They even got me sponges to wash my cats’ bowls (laugh).
Your cats got the perfect owner. I like them too. To be honest, I’m not the kind to spend much on myself, so gifts for my cats are even better. The shorts I’m wearing right now are from old jeans I bought a long time ago that I didn’t really wear. I got them shorter for 5,000 wons.
You weren’t a model for a long time. However, seeing how you got recognition in a field you didn’t get specific preparations for, it seems that you were gifted. I got an opportunity. I think this opportunity got me to learn little by little. At that time, I’d think about which pose to take as I checked fashion magazines. To be honest, I’m not tall, there are pros and cons. Even without being a model that would walk the runway often, I hoped to become a good subject. I have the same mindset about acting. I want to become an actor with absorptive power.
Your major was computer engineering and you dropped out. You didn’t seem to have particular thoughts about getting a job related to your major. I was born in Sillim 9-dong. When people talk about Sillim-dong, which image comes to mind?
Gosiwon? First of all, it’s not a wealthy neighborhood, right? It’s also noisy on the day when the exams results are released. Successful people do well, so funny and non-successful people won’t success, they unfairly say. Anyway, I saw many people who prepared the civil servant exam that is not related at all to their college major. And I also put in a lot of money to go to college, but I didn’t feel any particular charm to it. Then I looked outside. Was it thanks to the ignorance you have when you’re young? The saying “walk around like a starving stray dog” was popular back then. I thought it was fascinating, so I wandered outside of school. Of course, it meant working part-time at the very most. After taking a leave of absence, I worked part-time at a BBQ restaurant, carried company partitions, did modeling, was a shopping mall model, worked at a pub. Of course, in terms of income, it was to cover the expenses to buy clothes and to go on dates. Doing this to earn the tuition fee was just an excuse. It was ridiculous. It was nothing but an excuse to have fun. That’s why I had many regrets afterwards, but I feel that I kind of encountered reality when I was young.
So you know the meaning of “eating others’ money isn’t easy”. I totally understand the “880,000 won generation” because times were tough for me too when I was growing up. I have a sister who is 1 year younger than me and my parents couldn’t send us both to college. However, doesn’t our country have this good system called military service (laugh) ? I did the alternative service, so I earned money. My hourly wage was 2,960 won. I’d earn up to 850,000 won a month. My wage increased little by little. If I only slept 4 hours a day and stayed up all night, I could earn up to 1,300,000 won. No matter how hard I worked, I would never get more than 1,400,000 won. I learned how valuable money is.
Didn’t you have any sort of realization but a financial lesson? I think I know at least what’s important. I know how precious people are. I know you can’t face people with the “in the whole universe, only I exist” attitude. I don’t know if it was the time I needed to realize there were many things I made useless efforts to get them but couldn’t gain easily. I think that if you have this kind of belief, things will turn out well, even if you’re taking slow steps.
Have you ever heard of something turning bad because the process was too slow?
It’s something I read in a book. Compared to the speed the world changes, education and law are the two fields that take the most time to change. For instance, this is what happens to Korea’s progressive tax system. The appliances we use change really fast, but the taxation doesn’t get rid of the old standards. There’s no proportional change to today’s standards.
It’s my first time doing an interview and hearing about the tax system. (laugh) Just try to look it up. It’s a serious matter.
Well, it’s been 30 minutes. Did we talk that long?