[June 2013 – Arena] Song Chang Ui – Always Building and Bringing Down Castles – Interview

Arena - Song Chang Ui

The stage gets emptied and gets filled. Three years later, Song Chang Ui who has been acting in 11 years is coming back as Hedwig for the third time, three years after the last time. He calls it a “challenge”. He destroyed his castle and builds it again. I mean actors are worth talking about only through their projects. Right after finishing 35-episode drama “The Great Seer”, Song Chang Ui went back on stage right away. While he was in the final phase of the drama in the middle of April, he chose his next project right away. It was a musical. It’s “Hedwig”, the musical he did in 2006 and in 2009. The countless actors who played Hedwig meanwhile said “I will never be able to play perfectly Hedwig even until the day I die”.
It’s impossible for one actor to express in such a short amount of time this Hedwig which is entangled between the contradiction, the ambition and the hurt in this world. The only way to express it was up to the skills and the life the actor had. So Hedwig is a complicated and complex character which makes it even more interesting. Playing since 2005, this musical is in its 8th season and countless Hedwigs were created through it. These imperfect pieces are great and are brought together to create the perfect Hedwig. The Song Chang Ui preparing a different Hedwig in 2013 appeared with pressed lips and sharp gaze. It was clear he’s going through a period of deep thinking, but the fact that he’s able to come back on the same stage and to play the same role after some time is clearly a blessing for an actor. Because he’s being able to be on stage as a character that matured because he covered the understanding life brought him.

I know you’ve been playing baseball a lot since the end of “Joseph and The Amazing”.

Baseball is my favorite sport ever since I was a kid. You focus on just one ball and team work is important too. You must go to the end to know if you won, the situation can get reversed at some point. This is something similar to what life is.

It’s unexpected. You seem to be someone calm.

It’s because serious roles like Tae Sub in drama “Life is Beautiful” left a deep impression on people. When I’m on stage for a musical, I must convey directly my energy to the audience, so I may look a bit different.

Is there a reason for you to play Hedwig for the third time, three years after the last time you did it?

I wanted to verify something about myself. Houw would the person I am today express “Hedwig”? It’s a monodrama that is close to two hours, so the actor himself can’t help but showing his own influence. From what he understands about the role or the depth he goes into to how freely he can play with the audience, everything is revealed. When I played Hedwig in season 2 in 2006, I was only full of energy. I didn’t know much and I screamed. Now that I’m in my mid-30’s, how would be the “Hedwig” that I’d portray now? I was curious. That’s why I decided to take on this challenge.

You keep doing one project after the other without taking a break. You don’t take this “time to recharge” that actors usually talk about. (laugh)

I’ve never thought I needed a break once I was done with a project. My major in college was Theater and Cinema, so the only thing I have in mind once I’m on stage is that I “must come back again”. When someone who stands on stage takes a break, this person loses his sense. An actor must stay on stage and keep trying out various different roles.

Don’t musicals require more energy than dramas or movies? Since you also have to dance and sing…

That’s an overasked question. (laugh) Musicals are about feeling something different with each show, so it’s a very difficult genre. Honestly, I do it because I enjoy it.

That’s an overused answer. (laugh) Isn’t it only fair that you do it because you enjoy it?

The emotions I feel on stage, what I share with the audience, this is the difference with dramas and movies. It’s not just about acting. Adding this music force is interesting. This is what I felt when I saw my first musical when I was a kid. It’s like the feeling I had when I saw my first musical when I was a kid.

Wasn’t it?

How did you know? The content itself was heavy and serious, but the music brought out an amazing energy. This is what I wanted to personally express and sing on stage. Honestly, if a musical is done completely only through acting, then it’s no different from theater. When I act, if I don’t resolve the dramatic parts, I think I have a tendancy to be thirsty for it. Trying to do so means there’s clearly something in the musical that I’m confronting myself against with. However, an actor shouldn’t focus too much on something like this because musicals aren’t done through scenes editings like dramas or movies are done. The genre itself is different. However, even if the method is different, the message coming across in the end is the same.

Each actor playing Hedwig had a nickname. Yours is “Jjangwig” [t/n: like Hedwig The Best]. Because your looks are the most exceptional. To be honest, I think a bit differently. The character itself is imperfect, unnatural, and can even be disgusting, but “Jjangwig” made it look beautiful.

That’s why I’m thinking about going with another approach this time. Talking with the audience… I exaggerated Hedwig’s gestures to keep a sense of heaviness, so the thing would be to turn it down a little and put the focus on the music this time… I’m really thinking it over. “Hedwig” is a show you can’t pull off if the audience isn’t with you from the beginning to the end. I must understand the project with precision in order to do so. Especially the part about the lost half… This time, I’ll ask directly to the audience. Did you find your lost half, did your get married, so are you happy? Becoming one in this world is only what’s being human is about… The “half” I’m talking about here can be the relationship with a lover, with a friend, the relationship between society and politics. I mean, let’s think about it together.

When you did “Hedwig” in 2006, you couldn’t think about such things?

I definitely couldn’t. In 2006, my only thought was that I had to show Hedwig as a woman. Everything was about exaggerated way of speaking, gestures. In 2009, I had my own worries, so I didn’t pull it off easily. This time, I’m really trying not to make it complicated. It’s harder if I force myself to become Hedwig. I’m going for an easy relationship between Hedwig and I and the audience.

With less burden on your shoulders, we’ll meet a mature Hedwig.

You can think so, but it won’t be easy. Don’t people leave their lives focused on themselves? It’s not about the Hedwig I see, it’s about how much I can make people care when a character like this is around. I think I will pull it off if I broaden and objectify my gaze. I’m not a woman, so I can’t understand perfectly what Hedwig feels for Tommy, right? However, if you go back to the basics, isn’t it the basic emotion of a human deprived of affection? It’s about how she doesn’t have someone sincere to be by her side. And her being a woman or a man isn’t what’s important here. In the end, the emotion “Hedwig” felt wasn’t about the essential loneliness, hate anyone can feel. However, my acting was full of anger based on the hate Hedwig felt. I didn’t know back then. I didn’t know that when Hedwig was portrayed through fakeness, everything was ruined. I didn’t know that Hedwig was a role an actor has to be emotionally mature for in order to play it right.

Going back and forth constantly between TV and the stage isn’t easy.

There are still many things I’m lacking in when it comes to musicals. It means that I can move forward. I won’t be complacent with myself and I will keep doing musicals.

You debuted in 2002. Theater, dramas, movies, you did countless projects. As you lived the inconsistent life of an actor, you kept working steadily as you must have experienced countless setbacks. How does being an actor for 10 years feel?

Even in my eyes, there are times when the pattern of my acting career is very apparent. Is it because I acquired my own style? At some point, I realized that I was the one destroying myself. I thought to myself that an actor shouldn’t be like that. There were times when dramas reinforced one image of me and I had to strive harder and work harder. And good projects came to me. Still, I chose to be on stage for musicals. Many people tried to dissuade me. When I think about it now, if I had gone for it properly back then, I might have been given only similar roles today. What I realized back then was that an actor must always “reset”. No matter what your next project is, no matter which good or bad critics you get, no matter how popular you became, no matter how much love you received, each project is a new start, and you must start everything over as an actor.

I remember what you said in one interview. You said “I don’t think acting opportunities will always keep coming to me”. Do you always think of your current project as your last?

The thing I’m the most afraid of isn’t that people don’t look for me, that they don’t look at me. What really scares me is to lose the passion I have. I’m only trying my best so it doesn’t happen. I made my choices because I felt pulled into it, but when I think about it now, I wonder if it’s not what I wanted, if I wasn’t just following my path. There were times when I met obstacles, when I struggled, but I wonder if it’s not because I’m satisfied with watching myself walking down that path.

I can’t wait to see the mature “Hedwig”.

And what do we do if she’s not mature?

The actor should take responsibility for it.

Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com


7 Comments Add yours

  1. kfangurl says:

    Even though I’ve no real clue about the musical that he’s talking about in this interview, I get the sense that SCU is really serious and dedicated to his craft. I like that quality in an actor, it makes me feel that they really are passionate about acting, and it’s not just a day job to them, or a means to become popular. I do think he should consider taking some breaks tho – burnout is not pretty! 😛

    1. 1sunnylady says:

      it’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”. There’s actually a movie. I remember watching it on Youtube a couple of years ago if you want to watch it.

      and yaaaaas to everything you say about SCU. I also hope that he doesn’t work himself too much… But in the meantime, I feel like he loves what he does too much not to preserve himself in order to keep going as much as he wants…. If that makes sense? I was rewatching a couple of Dr. Frost episodes. Every time he walks, it’s like he’s a model walking down the runway. so stylisth ❤

      1. kfangurl says:

        Well I hope he has to good sense to pace himself like you said! Sometimes people get so caught up in what they love that they don’t actually notice that they’re running themselves into the ground 😛

        Also, thanks for the tip on finding the movie on youtube. Will keep it in mind! 🙂

      2. 1sunnylady says:

        no problem 🙂 i know i struggled to watch it in one setting b/c I found the story so so sad and i was much younger, so it was too overwhelming for my young mind.

      3. kfangurl says:

        Eek. Ok then, NOW thanks for the warning me on how sad it is! XD

      4. 1sunnylady says:

        Lol. It’s not my fault. The story is very tragic, BUT Hedwig is such a fierce character that she doesn’t make it pitiful. That’s what makes the musical so powerful and so successul, I think? lol you have to watch it to let me know what you think xD

      5. kfangurl says:

        Haha! Ok.. If I do get to it I’ll be sure to let you know! It’s just, that never-ending list of stuff I want to check out – it never actually gets shorter, y’know? XD

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