We scheduled the interview before you could take a break. Is having stamina the secret of being able to shoot constantly the hardest dramas?
It might be because I was a dance major, but I used to be in good physical condition indeed. It’s not the case today. I’m over 30, so it’s a little bit hard. I’m already 32. I was born on December 25th in 1984, so my parents were sad I’d turn one five days later and they listed my year of birth as 1985 on our family register. It was also written on my profile, so I think it was a good thing for broadcast (laugh).
Why did you want to come to Istanbul?
I’ve always heard Turkey food was delicious and people around me who already visited this country said it was nice and that I should definitely go one day. More than anything, I picked a place I knew absolutely nothing about.
What’s your traveling style?
I’m either shopping or relaxing. I hate planned things. I don’t find shopping very fun these days. When I started earning money, I bought everything here and there. I still have the desire to get what I want, but it’s less intense than before. To be honest, life isn’t fun these days. I’m a bit unhappy.
In the past, when I came to a nice hotel, I would run everywhere. However, I knew the taste and fun of acting after “Secret”. I became someone different after that. There’s a division between before and after “High Kick”, and another one before and after “Secret”. When I did “High Kick”, I felt a bit entitled.
I think there’s a time for young actors to be high on popularity.
I was a dictator back then (laugh). I was 26, so I was still young and I had a killer schedule. I slept like one or two hours a week, I shot 3 or 4 CFs a day. I didn’t have time to understand others, I didn’t have enough energy to make others understand me. I don’t know if the staff saw a selfish and a mean person when they looked me. Back then, I chose work and gave up on being someone nice. I’m different today. I know I can do well because people around me help me.
If you were to choose between people and work today?
It’s always work (laugh). Life is constantly about choices and this is clearly my standard. It’s more important for me to be happy when I work than living up to the reputation of being a “good person”. If anything, now is it’s the time for me to take a breath in order to get results for my acting.
“Kill Me, Heal Me” had casting problems since the beginning. Did you have no worry when you decided to accept the role?
I didn’t really think about these problems. I knew the director thought of me as the lead girl since the beginning, so I had no concern about other candidates. I don’t worry about other actresses. Even if a role passes through other actresses first, if I’m choosing the project in the end, it means that the role was meant for me.
In the story, Oh Ri Jin (Hwang Jung Eum) is the assistant of Cha Do Hyun (Ji Sung)’s doctor and is an important character related to his trauma. However, from an actor’s point of view, it’s a character that shines relatively less.
If it weren’t for me, this character (Cha Do Hyun) would have been buried (laugh). While shooting this drama, I realized the way to act with wisdom. Before “Kill Me Heal Me”, I thought about everything I would gain or lose with this project. I even wrote a memo. (She picked it out of her purse). I wrote it like this. “The reasons I must do it: I can show a character that I haven’t shown before, the scenario is solid, it’s a Korean-Chinese production, so it’s worth to do it if I think about my future”. And for the cons, I wrote it down like that. “The actor must have the acting skills to play 7 different characters, the drama can also go down and the production can be delayed, casting won’t be easy”.
Oh, everything matched what you wanted. Do you write memos like this every time you start a new project?
No. I had a lot of worries. In the end, I received everything this drama coul have brought me. The producers wondered if I’d be the only one coming through because I’m ambitious, if I’d push the character while making the lead character stand out. Viewers were important, but it was necessary to get the recognition from the producers because of their sharp eyes.
Looking at Oh Ri Jin, I was reminded of the “Jung Eum” who was looking for a job in “High Kick”. It was nice and it felt familiar.
Personally, I felt sad about that. When I was doing “High Kick”, I hated that I felt like I was imitating acting, but the director spent an hour to convince me. He knews that I wouldn’t make a move if I wasn’t convinced. As someone who has no patience, I respected him because I knew how complicated it must have been.
The scene I remember the most is the scene where Oh Ri Jin cries when Yo Seobie, one of Cha Do Hyun’s persona, go on the building rooftop and tries to commit suicide.
4,000~5,000 comments were uploaded after this scene was broadcast. There was no NG for this scene, it was so cold, so we just shot the scene while saying “ah, I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s ruined”, the reactions were unexpectedly good. I think my ability to focus grow without me knowing because my work was prolific. To be honest, I wasn’t satisfied with acting itself because I had to do this much and doing this much can get me good reactions. I think I’m being hopeful about more things that I can do (laugh).
“Kill Me Heal Me” and “Golden Time”, they both received good critics, but is it different when it comes to the personal satisfaction the actor feels?
Indeed. If I can say that I want to forget “Golden Time” because it was very exhausting, “Kill Me Heal Me” is a drama I want to cherish preciously. While I was shooting “Golden Time”, I only felt that acting was difficult and exhausting. I felt like I was in a slump. I overcame this feeling and I’ve reached this point. Acting made me even happier because people recognized me and gave me compliments. I told myself after shooting this drama that I should shoot a project once a year, so I can become a person with more maturity. Still, what I’m sure of is that “Golden Time was definitely the project I needed in my career.
Between “Secret” and “Kill Me Heal Me”, you did “Endless Love”.
When I did “Secret”, my heart softened. I wanted to keep this feeling, so I started a new project right away. However, “Endless Love” totally consumed me. The communication didn’t work well with the writer and the director. There were many unfortunate things about the filming set.
One of the actor virtues is being able to recognize a good project. If you were a baseball player, you’d be a hitter with a high batting average.
I don’t know how things will turn out, but my instinct hit it right so far (laugh). However, I was offered so many good projects that I had no hesitation when I made my choice. I think it’s truly luck.
Is there any of the projects that you rejected that did well?
None. However, there are quite a few I can say “I did well by not doing it” (laugh).
Thinking back to my school days, my friends who developed a good instinct were usually good at last-minute studying.
I cheated. Why study? I was friends with the good students (laugh). [t/n: the way she phrases can also be taken as “I was dating the good students”] If I was determined and studied, I could raise my grade by more than 10 points, but I hated studying. If studying would have been reading a scenario, I would have been crowned with honors even with half effort.
Do you check comments on the internet?
I’m not really good at surfing on the internet, so the only thing I can do to check the comments about me is to look up my name. In the past, even the negative comments made me laugh, but it’s been different these days. When I read comments catching the feeling that my acting is lacking, I tell myself that people have sharp eyes.
I’m sure the enthusiasm or the tension must disappear once you’ve been dating someone for over 9 years. Isn’t it a bit sad?
I’m realistic so I’m not chasing after some illusions. I think that’s why I’m able to be with (Kim) Yong Joonie. Of course, at the beginning of the relationship, I was a pretty woman asking this and that from her boyfriend. However, I think he’s just okay now. It’s one of the downside of a long-terme relationship. My boyfriend is like family, so there’s no need to look good. That’s why I don’t worry about my body (laugh). The fact there’s no reversal to my looks, it’s because of Kim Yong Joon!
I could relate to the fact of calling your boyfriend your “best friend”.
Yong Joonie sulked for a while because of this expression. Every time I said something, he’d be like “oh really, I get it, my friend”. What I meant was that our relationship is precious and we can’t be inseparable like best friends can’t. Saying that he isn’t the man I love but a friend… Now that I think about it, it can be hurtful indeed.
You’ll get a lot of questions about marriage.
I have many concerns. Is being married means a new life? When it comes to work, will I be striving harder? It’s a crossroad. I have many friends who either got married or are currently pregnant. I’m not ready for this yet, but won’t I do it soon? What’s sad is the fact that I didn’t get the perfect results I wanted as an actress. After “Secret”, I felt a happiness that words couldn’t describe. I feel emptier now because I felt that feeling.
Marriage can be a turning point for an actress.
I want to reach a peak before getting married and once I’m married, I want to set new goals for myself. If something I was sad about is settled, I think I’ll be able to get married with a light mindset. 2% that doesn’t get filled, I don’t know what it means.
Compared to your number of dramas, you didn’t do many movies.
Most of the good projets I got were dramas. When I shot the movie “Death Bell”, my acting was on a sitcom level. I thought the filming speed or the system weren’t for me. On the contrary, it’s more interesting for dramas to get fast feedback after the episode got broadcast. And objectively speaking, my face is better for dramas, my face is a better match for sitcoms. I was scared that such elements would stand out in movies, but I want to do movies now.
You seem to have an objective vision of yourself.
I don’t go hard on myself. I almost do no diet or taking care of myself. I’m the “why do a diet? Just cover it up with clothes” style, but I consider it as something important. Especially when it comes to acting.
Is your next project still in the air?
I think I won’t do another drama this year. I have already shot two dramas a year, a 60-episode drama, but one thing I haven’t tried yet is sageuk. I asked around me and they said it’s very hard, so I can’t even consider it right now.
You have a strong sense of challenge, so I think we will see you in a sageuk.
Right. I must do it… Don’t you build up experience to make you handle it up until you’re 35?
How does an actress approach the age of 32?
I think the best age for actresses is from 30 to 36. I’m at this time of my life. I’m going to rest first, then I must bloom like a flower in my next project.
I think if you’re offered a project you want after taking a break like this, you’ll do it right away.
Still, I will endure it this time.. I still don’t know what it is, but I feel like I must save my energy for something precious that will come.
What kind of books are you reading these days?
My father has been telling me “if you don’t know something, read about it in books”. He said books always have the answer. I’m reading “Search Inside Yourself” which is a book “Kill Me, Heal Me” director gave me.
So what is the thing you’re searching for the most?
What do I want? Who am I? What am I running for?
I think you should study philosophy.
I don’t study. Still, I should study English. I think it’s definitely necessary if you want to travel. I want to advance in China, but to be honest I don’t know one single word of Chinese (laugh). I think my face would work in China. My thought is simply “who is like me?” (laugh).
Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com