With the title “romance manhwa lead character” attached to his name, Hong Jong Hyun makes an attempt at doing comedy. In the movie “Enemies In-Law 2”, he portrays a nerdy student preparing to take the police exam. Still, where does his charismatic image not go?
Last year, you were busy shooting the drama “Her Lovely Heels”, then you started filming drama “Mama” right away, when did you find time to even shoot a movie?
Hahaha. Fortunately, the filming schedules didn’t overlap. To be honest, I was thinking about turning down “Enemies In-Law 2” because I had to start filming right after finishing “Mama”. There are times when it’s just too much no matter how hard you try while you’re physically exhausting. I even think not doing something is better when you feel this way. However, I changed my mind once I read the scenario. The movie had everything I’ve always wanted to try.
Did you want to try comedy?
I wanted to try to play a bright character that would ease the tension a little, even if it wasn’t a complete wreck. The style I’m craving for as much I was craving for comedy is action. I got to try to play a short action scene in the past, but the joy I had felt wasn’t easy to forget. I like doing energic stuff.
So did you get to be a wreck?
It’s actually not as easy as I thought it would be. (laugh) I tried my best. I spent a lot of energy and and I really tried not to pretend to look cool. I think going further with it would have worked, but there were times when the director stopped me. I’m a bit sad about those times.
The comedy genre, a character that is a mess, weren’t you scared of this new challenge?
I’m not afraid of new things. I enjoy taking on challenges. When I eat, I’m not scared either to try a new restaurant. (laugh) However, it takes time for me to get close to people. The cold impression I give created many misunderstandings. There are times when it’s upsetting.
Are you much closer with Jin Se Yeon you worked with for this movie?
The first scene I shot with Se Yeon was the scene where we’re roasting some meat and there’s a lot of aegyo and we kiss. This isn’t my usual behavior, so it was hard to do while we were still awkward around each other. It might be because we had to overcome this big obstacle from the very beginning, but we were able to face each other and be comfortable for our next scene. I think it was the director’s intention. (laugh) Se Yeon laughs a lot. Even if I said a stupid joke, she’d laugh and that made me more comfortable to face her. It’s not just in comedy, being in harmony with someone is important in general. Doing ad-libs isn’t about being the only one who is quick to react. Your partner must understand you in order to create mutual reactions and be able to improvise. This is what we call “chemistry”. Thanks to Se Yeon, we really had great chemistry. And that even create a good atmosphere on the set.
Jin Se Yeon is 4 years younger than you. And on the other hand, Song Yoona whom you filmed “Mama” with is 17 years older than you. Does the age difference influence the acting with your partner?
Age isn’t important. You know people often say “this one is young but is very mature.” This is what you can say about Se Yeon. She’s so mature that you wouldn’t even know she’s 4 years younger than me. It’s the same in the opposite situation. When I was filming “Mama” with Song Yoona, I never had a hard time. The first person to greet me on the set was Song Yoona-sunbae. Even when filming was running late and we were all tired, she cared for each one of her hoobae and monitored them. My dream is to become a sunbae like that.
In “Enemies In-Law 2”, Chul Soo goes against his family’s wish in order to live his love and he even tries to become a cop. He even goes to take this exam while covered with trash. Do you have a similar personality?
I’m the type to go for what I want. If I have worries like “am I missing something? Am I making a mistake?”, I’ll have long discussions about it with the people around me or my agency. In the end, I do as I want. (laugh) My parents always trusted me and they were never against anything I wanted to do. It was the same when I started modelling. They told me “do as you please, be it studying or modelling, it doesn’t matter”. I was able to start working, thanks to them having my back.
Did you dream to be a model when you were a kid?
I wanted to be a vet when I was in school. I was short back then. I sat around the 5th row. My dream was to become a vet, earn a lot of money and move to the countryside to build a big farm and help out abandoned dogs or cats.
And yet you ended up working as a model.
Around my third year of high school, I grew a lot. It’s a time of your life when you are very interested in your physical appearance, so I became naturally interested in models. I was very influenced by a play I saw when I was in high school. I had a teacher who worked as a play director in college. One day, my friends and I attended one of his plays. I was overwhelmed by the presence of the actors on stage. I don’t remember the title or the plot, but the image of them acting is still vivid in my mind.
Have you ever had regrets about giving up on your dream of being a vet?
Not one single time. When I want something, I just do everything to get it, so even if I had been in college, I would have definitely tried to become a model or an actor. I think it’s a good thing to finish fast what you have already started. Besides, building facilities to protect animals… Succeeding as an actor instead of a vet will make my old dream come true much faster. (laugh)
It seems that you were talented since you were a kid.
No. It’s actually the opposite. I usually don’t like talking and I like being by myself. It was the same when I was a kid. I think I usually overcame my personality when I clearly wanted to do something.
As someone who likes being quiet and can’t easily get close to people, isn’t acting difficult?
I didn’t know when I was a model. However, when I started acting, I told myself that it wouldn’t work if I was like that. I need a lot of time to be comfortable with people I meet for the first time, so when I finally felt I was a little bit close with people I worked with, filming was over. There were many times when I was upset about it. I think adapting to the set atmosphere and fitting in are also necessary for acting. And the biggest unfortunate thing is that I missed out on a lot of good people that I met on a set and whom I could have been close with. That’s why I’m constantly making efforts to work on that. Once I approached them first, I’m affectionate when I greet them and I try my best to talk a lot with the other actors. I’m not perfect, but I’m working very hard on that.
Model turned actors have been receiving a lot of attention lately. Why so?
Models are also very popular these days. Thanks to people who are being more interested in fashion. If they branch out and get into acting, they can start with a firm support, so it will become an advantage. You cannot not miss on sunbaes like Cha Seung Won and Kang Dong Won who debuted as models first and reached fame as actors. I’m able to work like that today because they paved the way. Of course, you can’t leave out the fact of having a nice body. (laugh)
Kim Woo Bin, Lee Soo Hyuk, Sung Joon, Kim Young Kwang, they’re all model turned actors who are receiving attention these days and all of you are friends.
We became friends because we started working as models around the same time and we have nearly the same age. We still see each other once in a while these days, but we’re all so busy that it’s hard to gather all the five of us at the same time, but we try to meet by a group of two or three when we have free time.
What do you do when you are together?
The same things people of our age do. We work out together or we play video games, we eat together or we have a cup of coffee and we talk. Sometimes, we also have a drink. There are also times when we enjoy just being together and riding a bike [t/n: a bike bike, not a motorcyle] or going for a drive in the suburbs.
Y’all are probably friends who can understand each other the most.
Indeed. Can I find other people who have so many things in common with me?. This is what I wonder. I’m the youngest, so the hyungs tell me many good things. And I can talk to them easily about my worries without feeling burdened.
What’s your biggest worry right now?
Doing well as an actor. Everything can’t be satisfying, but if I keep working constantly and trying different things, people will recognize my acting, right?
Are you looking for a solution?
There’s no solution outside of the scenario. I read it over and over again. I feel the importance of having experience. I think experience completes good acting.
You said in your previous interviews that you often felt bored. How do you feel about acting?
I’ve never found acting boring. Many things always change with each project. I enjoy being in new situations like the actors I’m working with, the staff, the role, the character, the location. Of course, I’m going through a hard time every time I prepare for a new role. However, when I go on the set, I usually forget right away the loneliness I felt right before getting into filming.
What was the most interesting thing about “Enemies In-Law 2”?
The fact that Chul Soo was a bright character and the complete opposite of most of the “cold guy” roles I had played until now. He’s also different from my image in real life. I tried my best to stay in character even when I was on the set in order to get used to it. I joked around a lot with people. Fortunately, even the atmosphere on the set was nice. I was even anticipating going on set. (laugh)
When will we be able to see you in your second comic role?
Lately, I’ve been talking about with people around me about the possibility of doing a romantic comedy next. To be honest, I wondered in the past how on Earth do you find a way to act so sweet and cheesy. That’s how I felt when I started filming “We Got Married”. However, I actually thought it had its charm once I actually tried it. I want to try a comedy style different from “Enemies In-Law 2”. People usually say they want to try a role completely different from the one they just did. I’m still not in a situation when I can look just at a project or a role and be greedy. If I portray well each role I’m given one by one, I think the characters I feel are too good for me today will come to me naturally. What’s important is seizing the right opportunity when it comes along and being able to make the role mine, right?
Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com