T/n: The photo shoot for this June cover took place in Paris in March. Later on, the Elle editor met Song Hye Kyo in an Itaewon wine bar to hold the following interview. They talk about things they couldn’t talk about in March, her new drama “Descendants of The Sun” and her new found interest in SNS.
You recently opened an Instagram. It was an unexpected move. I started not long ago. I noticed that everybody was surprised about it because I had never been on any SNS before. The fact that I started an Instagram like this is about how there were misunderstandings because many SNS accounts use my name. That’s why I wanted to communicate more with a lot of people and show them the real me. And there was another reason. When I was in my 20’s, I lived confined and didn’t communicate much with other people, right? I feel like a lot of people had the impression that my life was as if I were trapped in some mysticism. That’s why I thought it wouldn’t be bad to communicate with people before it was too late.
What kind of pictures do you mostly upload? I can’t upload selfies, I’m too shy for that. Pretending to look beautiful all by yourself while taking a picture is too embarrassing, I can’t do it. (laughs) There are some of my longest fans who are afraid that me being on SNS is an open door to get criticized, but a lot of people like that I’m here. It’s not just about my Korean fans, it’s also about my foreign fans. Sometimes I don’t promote overseas or I don’t have time to communicate with them. With my Instagram, they can see what I’m up to and they show me love. I feel like there are more positive reactions than bad ones.
Do you worry about the number of “likes” you get or your number of followers?
I don’t. I don’t look at stuff like this. As for the number of followers, there’s a “K” after the number, so I can’t know precisely the number. However, now that I’m using Instagram, I realize some other stuff can be nice. Like I can see what people around me are doing, where they have fun these days (smiles) because the friends I follow upload their pictures. So there’s no need for me to constantly call them on the phone and ask “what are you doing?”. I think stuff like this is quite fun!
It sounds like you opened the door for the world to see you and it will be fun. I’m kind of cautious about it because everything I upload turns into an article. If it wasn’t the case, I think I’d do it with a little bit more of feedom. Since it turns into news, I’m really being careful. No matter what.
I was suprised when I heard the casting news for KBS drama “Descendants of The Sun”. I was so happy. Even if we only did the photo shoot at that time, the staff had absolutely no suspicion. You were probably already in talks for the role at that time, right? Inddeed. We were talking about the offer a lot and it was a secret. The articles should have been released a little bit later, but I think reporters catch on quite fast. I think it turned out like this because the drama was scheduled for the second half of the year and it was right after Joong Ki was discharged from the army. I heard from the TV station that reporters probably heard the rumors and wrote their articles based on that.
There are big expectations about this first-class star line-up called the “Song Song couple”. I’m curious to hear about the real life chemistry of the Song Song couple. Joong Ki and In Sung (Jo In Sung) are close friends. When we were filming “That Winter, The Wind Blows”, he made a surprise visit to the set. We didn’t talk long that day. And since I’m the sunbae, all he did was to greet me and he left. After that, we ran into each other a few times here and there. Like we’d greet each other after sitting coincidentally in the same coffee shop.
How would you describe Song Joong Ki? Joong Ki has a pretty face. Pale skin. He said he didn’t really care about it at first. His skin is paler than the pale skin women usually hope for. As for his personality, he’s very easygoing. He’s a complete sangnamja! He’s quite viril. Very mature. Has very good manners toward his sunbaes. He wasn’t just nice to me, I saw how nice he treated other people and I thought to myself he’s quite a nice guy. He was born in 1985, I think. I have a lot of friends younger than him, and when I compare them to him, Joong Ki gives off this “dignified” vibe. It had been a long time since I had sensed something like this. And basically, he’s a good actor too.
“Descendants of the Sun” is about a love story between a military captain affiliated to the U.N peacekeeping forces and a troops doctor. There will probably be many scenes shot overseas.
There are many scenes shot overseas. We’re planning to shoot on an island in Greece. There were supposed to be a lot of scenes filmed overseas, so they thought about building outdoors sets in Korea. I think it will take a little bit longer than the time spent shooting overseas for other dramas. I had already been to Santorini and Athens, but this time we’re filming on an island I have never been to. It was really beautiful.
What’s quite funny is that “That Winter, The Wind Blows” was Jo In Sung’s first post-army project and he filmed it with you. This time, Song Joong Ki is the one being discharged from the army and his very first project is also with you! What do you think about that? Really? Seriously? I just find it about it now! Ah, I had never thought about it like this before, but it’s quite funny! (laughs) Well, I should be very sorry in that case, right? I am very sorry! (smiles)
You really didn’t know? It makes it even funnier that you weren’t aware of this. I had forgotten about this fact about In Sung… Of course, I knew back then that I’d be the first actress he’d work with since he was discharged from the army. So that’s how it was back then and that’s how it is for Joong Ki too! (laughs). Here’s what I said to Joong Ki once. “I’m sorry because after being in the army for 2 years, you have to work with me as soon as you’re discharged. You should have been with beautiful and young women. It turns out that you get to work with me, so I’m sorry”. It’s very funny. So doesn’t that make me the post-army expert actress now? (laughs)
I think it’s something than can actually bring more synergy between the two of you. He’s an actor who has been on hiatus for a while. He will probably be very passionate, right? Hm. You’re right. His passion is no joke. Joong Ki’s personality is similar to mine. Especially our work mindset. Being late on set, having filming being delayed or stopped because of me is something that I really hate. The staff must always enjoy working on the set. When people think about me, they must think of me as an interesting and nice character. If I find out that even one person thinks “wow, she’s so annoying!”, I can’t never endure it. Joong Ki and I are exactly the same on this matter. That’s why I think this drama set will be very “proper/upright” (smiles).
How would you describe your character Doctor Kang Mo Yeon in “Descendants of The Sun? Joong Ki is a military guy, I’m a dispatched local doctor. The drama is taking place in a disaster area, so I guess the character will be very serious. Honestly, it’s a bright character for me, the kind of character I come across only once in a while. She’s a strong, smart doctor and recognized for it, but she also has this tomboy mindset, she’s eloquent, she likes alcohol, she’s outgoing… It’s a bright character I haven’t played in a while in Korea. I played a lot of sad characters, so should I call it a grown-up version of the old “Full House” (laughs)? However, there are only sad settings in this drama because it’s taking place in a disaster area, so life and death situations will arise.
Actors who are good at playing bright characters usually say there’s something difficult about it. It’s true. Bright characters are harder to portray. Honestly. Sad acting is about the atmosphere and understanding the feeling and keeping going with it. I think a bright character is very hard to play. Making people laugh is the hardest type of acting. That’s why I met with the writer a few times first. We talked, we went to a bar. She said she made many changes after seeing me back then. She said seeing my true image reminded her of many things.
When you did an interview with Elle for your previous drama “That Winter, The Wind Blows”, you said there was something about writer No Hee Kyung that just pulled you in. What would you say about writer Kim Eun Sook? Teacher No Hee Kyung made me feel like I was constantly learning and being taught to. I think Teacher Kim Eun Sook is looking for freedom. While we were talking, if I did something, she’d say “exactly! what you just did is exactly what Mo Yeon needs to do. Don’t forget this feeling!”. She keeps making me memorize things about my natural behavior. She doesn’t do much during the reading sessions. However, when she thinks a scene doesn’t really bring out the actors’ style, she calculates everything and makes changes. When she does so, the script can come out completely different.
How will Kang Mo Yeon’s style unfold through this drama? Since she’s a doctor dispatched in a disaster area, there’s nothing special she can do. She’ll probably wear her doctor gown almost all the time. It’s definitely not a feminine character, so I wonder if she won’t have a boyish style. Will I have a style I have yet to try?
You play a doctor, so you’ll probably have your share of difficulties with the medical terms. This is what I used to say. I will never play a lawyer or a doctor! (laugh) And I meant it because of the expert terms to use! However, the character was great, the scenario was great, so I accepted the role and now I must definitely work hard like crazy. There’s no other way but work hard (smiles). If there’s an NG scene, I can do nothing but do it again until I get it right. Really. The staff will probably get sick of me (smiles).
Which was the character closest to you that you even felt easily possessed by it? It’s not that it was easy. I think the project that got me completely overwhelmed, the one I felt for 120% was “Autumn in My Heart”. For “Autumn in My Heart”, it was really not easy for me to let go of the project even two years later. I think I lived thinking that I was really Eun Seo and not Song Hye Kyo… Leaving aside the fact if my acting was good or not, I feel like the image of “Song Hye Kyo” completely disappeared when I was playing “Eun Seo”.
That’s probably why there are still so many people who remember Eun Seo so strongly, right? When I started filming, I did it as Song Hye Kyo in the beginning and I finished it as my character. You can say I went through a process, but I was Eun Seo since the beginning. I thought a lot about the reason and I think it all comes down to the fact I was a complete white page. It was my first mini series and I did it a time when I knew absolutely nothing. It might be because I had only done sitcom acting and it was my first real regular project, so I just absorbed everything. Anything! I didn’t calculate things, I just ended up taking in and absorbing everything. With my next project, I found some technique. I got greedy as I told myself “I must do it this, must do that”. After that, I told myself I shouldn’t let myself be overwhelmed so much. I wonder if me being able to be completely immersed in my role back then wasn’t because I was young, it was my first experience, I was scared, so the only thing I had in mind was “I must start by doing well with this”…
You must have become much closer with other Chinese actors while you were filming the movie “The Crossing”. I became best friends with Huang Xioming who is my partner in the movie. Although he’s a top actor in China, he wasn’t distant and really treated me well. Thankfully, although he’s older than me, he said he had been watching my dramas since he was a kid and grew up as fan as he even went to buy fruits and bought some fruits for me. Takeshi Kaneshiro is my ideal type ever since I was a kid. I thought he’d be a very cold person, but he’s actually someone funny and we became friends. I’ve known Zhang Ziyi-unnie for a long time because of film festivals. Director John Woo is really a nice person. He fell sick right before filming started, but his health is much better now. Each staff member really showed their best efforts in their own field, so that made me work even harder.
It’s been quite some time since your debut. How do you feel when you look back at your career? Do the old days feel distant or does it feel like it was just a couple of days ago? I debuted when I was in my third year of middle school. That was like 17, 19 years ago? It feels like it could have been more. Of course it doesn’t feel like it was just yesterday (smiles). Because many many things happened to me (smiles). Here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. That I want to go back to my early 20’s. I don’t want to go back to have a youthful appearance, but I feel like I spent a lot of time doing useless things. I want to go back and be smarter about my language study, be more diligent. I think to myself “if I had known back then the things I know now, wouldn’t I have gone through a path a little bit better?”.
How is to live as an actress in Korea? Hm… To be honest, it’s a bit hard. Because I’m a woman. There are many things I have to worry about. I’m someone carefree, I’m not someone who stays confined, so there are many things I must be careful about. It would have been nice to live with no problem when you have a “Bangkok-style” personality, but that’s not the case. When I step outside, sometimes I want to have fun, sometimes I want to go to a club… Of course, I can still do all these things now, but if I do and I hear stories about me, it’s hard because I’m the type to torment myself.
As people usually say “this role makes me change the real me. I get the feeling that the real me is becoming stronger”, do you also feel right now that you’re becoming stronger? As I’m getting older and becoming more experienced, I’m becoming stronger as I’m going through these big experiences. I really do feel like I have this side. I received so much criticism that I don’t even pay attention to it now. I mean, it’s because I got criticized so much (smiles). I think I’m much stronger in front of such pain. As a woman, I’m Song Hye Kyo. Except when I’m working, I’m only “Song Hye Kyo” and I think I’m getting slowly more tender-hearted. I think I cry less too. Can you say that I’m becoming more like a kid?
Some people are good at dealing with the pain. Does it happen that you wished your skin was a little bit thicker for stuff like this? But I hope I won’t get thick-skinned. I may sound like a freak, but there are times when I enjoy pain like this. Be it love, work, people or anything related to that. I think there are times when you can enjoy the struggling feelings that being hurt by others can give you. There are times when people hurt me, I can give them a few chances, but if this person hurts me, I properly cut ties with this person. Because I think I gave this person as many chances as I could. Still, if this person hurts me again, it doesn’t matter if it’s a man or a woman and even if this friend is always in my heart, I think to myself that something just doesn’t match between us. I don’t stay struggling with this relationship all by myself, I just stop seeing the person. I spend this time on my own.
When people around you get married, don’t you feel somehow that you want to get married soon too? I don’t. I don’t want to do it more (smiles). My closest friends are people I went to elementary, middle school, high school and college with. Because their husband watch them, because of their babies, we can’t have fun like we want to. I don’t think it’s that great. Marriage… I’ll do it because I have to, but I think less and less about marriage. There are times when I’m freely enjoying the sun while going here and there and I say to myself “I wouldn’t be able to live like this if I had a family to take care of”. What I mean is that right now, I feel good at this point of my life. I think I’m caught by this freedom feeling of feeling dizzy while having a drink in a coffee shop in the daytime.
Once the reports about your casting were confirmed, you must have checked the articles and comments related to the news. I cannot not see. When you scroll down an article, all the other articles are shown. I think it’s just my share anyway. First of all, it’s a project I decided to do and I think there’s nothing else for me to do personally as Song Hye Kyo. I think portraying Kang Mo Yeon and touching people’s hearts with my acting is my only way to approach them. That’s why this drama is more important than anything else I’ve done before. I’ve always worked hard, no matter which project I was doing, but I do think this one will be very meaningful to me.
Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com