[April 2013 – Cuvism] Song Jae Lim – Interview

Song Jae Lim

After being active as a promising top model, it’s through dramas and movies that actor Song Jae Lim stands in front of the audience. As he portrayed the Joseon King’s warrior Woon in the drama “Moon That Embraces The Sun” which highest ratings was 42%, he oozed charisma and imposed himself. Before becoming an actor, he was a model who did photo shoots with countless top stars, he shot CFs and music video. As a Korean model, he was also popular in Japan while he was the main model for famous Japanese magazine “Men’s Non-No” and “Popeye”. The reason Song Jae Lim broadened his activities in the acting field was because of his constant craving about self-insight and acting. Song Jae Lim gives a cold first impression with his fierce gaze, but as he talked, we could feel the warmth and the goofiness within his seriousness. If you’re curious about Song Jae Lim who possess unlimited potential he has yet to show and his elusive multi-colored charm, let’s read the interview below.

Actor Song Jae Lim

Nice to meet you. Please introduce yourself.

Hello. I’m actor Song Jae Lim.

You’ve been quite busy with drama filming these days, so how’s your condition?

I’m currently filming the drama “Nailshop Paris” with MBLAQ’s Thunder and Kara’s Gyuri. It’s common to “dissolve” during filming, but I filmed many of my scenes in pre-production, so I have more free time than the other actors.

I thought your college course would have been related to the entertainment field, but I checked your background and you were actually an engineering student at Chung-Ang University.

Rather than saying I was interested in engineering and college, I made this choice because I wasn’t free to do another one. I was actually scared of repeating my last year of school because I would have had to spend one year as an examinee. At that time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I think I didn’t have one specific vision of how to live my life.

You debuted as a model first. How did that happen?

I took a leave of absence from college and once I was done with my military service, it just happened. To make a living, I was working part-time in a wine bar someone I knew managed. So through the recommendation of a friend, I ended up working as a model little by little.

After working as a top model in Korea, you also worked in Japan. I’m curious to hear about your time over there.

Top model is something journalists call me, but I think it’s exaggerating. It was like the foreign models working in Korea during the fashion week. It wasn’t that I had a big dream to succeed as a model in Japan. Still, working as a model in Japan was a good experience because the fact itself of being in a foreign country was a challenge. I could feel how new it was to experience through my skills a different environment like tasting new food and how fun it was despite not being able to speak the language. And modelling itself allowed me to have great pictures taken during my youth, to understand fashion, how a fashion show backstage works. Modelling itself was fun, so I worked hard. I got to know many people and I was able to gain experience.

How did you turn to acting after being a model?

When I was working as a model, I didn’t have a clear sense of purpose, so I worried a lot about the uncertainty of my future and taking measures about my job. Still, my interest in art such as videos, acting, cinema, was a bit bigger than what the average person feels. While working as a model, I went to acting auditions. Waiting to get called back was such a long process. I wondered if I’d be able to quit with no lingering feeling for this job. As time went by, my interest and my enthusiasm grew. That’s why I’m where I am today.

Your acting ambition grew.

Indeed. Now it feels like it’s my job. I habe the certaintity now that I have a natural will about maintaining a living while doing this job. Now that it’s a job I love and enjoy, I want to do well. When I get asked if I have no regret about choosing to be an actor, I’ll say that I do have regrets, but I enjoy what I do and I have regrets sometimes. Because I have this love-hate relationship with this job.

What was the first video you filmed?

It was early in my modelling career and I shot May Doni’s music video. It was a time when I wasn’t familiar with modelling itself and I knew even less about music videos. I learned a lot about how a set worked and I got used to be on a set.

You made a strong impression in 2NE1’s “Go Away” music video, so how was filming?

It was fun to work with people who enjoy what they do. A music video is about making a song even more interesting and it’s a way of expression. I was playing a bad guy, but I enjoyed filming because this role was about the meaning of the song and the music video.

Your role of the swordman Woon in “Moon That Embraces The Sun” brought a lot of awareness about you. How did you get the role?

I was casting late as the child actors were filming up to the 4th episode. There were 3 meetings. I talked a lot about my role with the director. He worried a lot and he had many things in mind, so I think I got cast after continuous meetings.

You had a lot of presence as the swordman warrior of King Hwon in “Moon That Embraces The Sun”. Are there things you focused on for your acting?

I tried to be faithful to the feeling. I tried to understand King Hwon. “Moon That Embraces The Sun” is actually a novel. In the novel, the swordman is charismatic, doesn’t speak and has a cold image. However, in the novel, the writer can describe what the character feels inside, but you can’t do that in a drama. A video is about showing through your actions. Because of such difference, I tried my best to combine both aspects.

You got along with Kim Soo Hyun who portrayed Hwon and Jung Eun Pyo who portrayed Hyung Sun. Are you really friends in real life?

Yes. We’re good friends. You can just enjoy relaxing when you get some free time despite a busy schedule, but we used to have a meal together or we went to a resort and we ate churros, we just enjoyed simple things. We still contact each other these days once in a while.

I heard that after Kim Soo Hyun filmed his last scene, the three of you with Jung Eun Pyo hugged and cried a lot. I’m curious to hear why.

We cared for each other and stuck to each other as Woon, Hwon and Hyung Sun and we were close as Jae Lim, Soo Hyun and Hyung Sun. It was Soo Hyun’s last scene, so as soon as we heard the word “cut, we looked at each other and we got overwhelmed. When I think about it now, I wonder if these tears weren’t because we were sad about the fact that we were happy about the good outcome and relied on each other for acting and all of these things we were anticipating were now over.

What does “Moon That Embraces The Sun” mean to you?

It’s my first drama. It’s my first experience, so it’s meaningful to me and I was able to receive feedback about my acting, so it helped me a lot. You can say it was the basis that made the actor Song Jae Lim known. If you want to look at it as a workbook, it was about putting things into practice. It’s a project that made me able to understand the filming set system that I didn’t know about before and the need for change as well as my acting thirst. It’s a project that allowed me to confirm which direction I had to go in the future and what to improve.

What was difficult during filming?

I struggled with the process of getting used to act. I was also intimidated by being in front of the camera. It’s something I had heard about from my sunbaes and from my friends at the agency, but since I hadn’t experienced it beforehand, it was unfamiliar to me. I couldn’t predict which order the filming would follow, so I couldn’t really make a comparison.

Your emotional acting in Nell’s “The Day Before” stood out. You let go of your usual charismatic and serious image and you show us a delicate and soft image.

I think I’m still a learning student. I enjoyed Nell’s music and their music video’s cinematography. There were some lines to say, but they made it silent during the editing. What you only saw was the lips moving and the facial expression. I think it made it more meaningful to make it silent. This is exactly what the directing strength is about. It seems that it was expressed well and it gives it more meaning.

When do you get the feeling that you succeed as an actor?

Because I was an actor since I began my modelling activities, I can say that it’s more about me starting the two at the same time than turning into an actor after being a model. I can’t talk about one specific life turning point because I think acting skills also come from being insightful about life. After each project, I take the time to analyze and meditate and this is what made me learn many things. Every time I finish a project, I feel like I improve a little bit more.

Do you usually enjoy meditation on a regular basis?

Yes. I really enjoy the process. (smiles) I like looking at myself from different perspectives. I can think about my strengths, but doing so isn’t being insightful, I can also fall into some manneurism. I enjoy the process of being critical about my choices and my behavior and to encourage myself.

You doubled your chic charm with this long and wavy hairstyle. Have you thought about breaking away from your usual image?

I just grit my teeth and said I’d cut my hair for “Moon That Embraces The Sun”. I didn’t give meaning to this changing. I was bored with the long hairstyle I had had for 4 years, so I just cut it. I have thick hair, so it’s heavy and very exhausting. That’s why I understand the struggle of people with long hair. When I worked more as a model, this long hairstyle gave me a chic vibe, so I kept it because it was an advantage when I was doing fashion, but as an actor, I felt that it set many limits for myself. For a model, it can help to give off a certain vibe, but it doesn’t work for an actor. It’s more common to see short-haired guys than long-haired guys. I wanted to break away from this chic or burdensome image and look a little bit more like a regular guy. Personally, I enjoy this short hairstyle more. I welcome changes anytime according to the role I play.

How is it to work with the actors on this project?

It’s nice. Looking at them working hard gives me good energy. I think I will miss this once filming is over. I will support them in their individual activities in the future.

You play a nail artist. Do you usually take care of your nails?

Filming was the first time I cared about my nails. I attended a few classes to practice and it’s actually something hard to do. I used to think that it was just about not cutting your nails short. That’s why now that I learned how to do it, I wouldn’t do it in real life. Because it’s not common for a guy to get everything ready to do his nails. (smiles) I’m just an easygoing and regular guy.

Which improvement do you want to show as an actor?

I want to become an actor who knows how to enjoy. I hope I’ll enjoy working with the staff on set because I’d be more mature and more responsible and committed to my work. I can also talk about being an actor with a wide spectrum, but it’s something hard to accomplish, so it’s not something I’d dare to say right now.

As an actor, do you have someone you look up to as a role model you want to look like?

I love the work of Japanese director Nishikiwa Miwa. Her movies are about human stories through an internal journey. There’s no criticism as they’re stories with dilemmas, contradictions, duality. The stories don’t lose their balance as they maintain a sense of distance about the things that happen to the characters. She’s also good at detailed dialogues. I want to show the acting like her directing shows.

It seems that you’d wish to play in one of Nishikiwa Miwa’s movies.

My answer can sound similar to my role model, but there’s this actor called Kagawa Teruyuki who often appears in her movies. He’s an actor who is good at expressing her directing, who is good at expressing stuff from the inside.

Life goes on – Song Jae Lim’s life style

What do you usually do on your days off?

I’m really not the type to spend my time outside. When I look at my daily schedule, I either drink coffee, I listen to music, I’m on my computer or I read books. I’m reading a lot these days. I’m not the type to push forward when I set up plans to go somewhere, so I spend my time in a very boring way when I’m at home. I watch movies, I read scenarios and stuff about studying. I must move closer to my parents’ home, so whenever I get to steal some free time while filming, I’m preparing to move.

You said you listen to music, so what is your music taste?

I tend to play over again the player from the day before. It’s not about me picking a song and listening to it. Sometimes, I can even listen to the whole top 100 of a music chart. The music I looked up and found recently is by Aerosmith, Radiohead, the album “Kind of Blue”. Sometimes, I also listen to idol music or the daily recommendation. My taste isn’t precisely defined, but songs that are easy to listen to are usually oldies.

What is your fashion style?

I don’t do a lot of shopping and I don’t care about accumulating clothes. I like plain and comfortable clothes. I hate clothes when they’re too tight or too loose. The latest shopping I did recently was for some heattech stuff to wear on set. When I choose clothes, my priority is to be comfortable, to stay warm and to be able to move around freely when I’m going to the set.

What is your daily fashion style?

I don’t want to stand out. I want to go a long way. I’m quite sensitive, but I say to myself “let’s be carefree and full”. My entourage ask me why I worry so much, why I make things so difficult for me, but asking myself “what to do” is a pleasure of mine. I think being productive and getting to know yourself as time goes by is very interesting and fun.

Do you express easily what’s in your heart?

I don’t speak much. I hate talking on the phone. Receiving a phone call itself makes me uncomfortable, so if I have to be on the phone, I use my iPhone. Unless I have an inquiry or I have to call a hotline, I don’t use my phone. Still, I enjoy having deep conversations with people. I’m talking about subjects and stuff that bring something out of me. I can relate to someone if she’s my soulmate and I can accomodate even if we don’t think the same. I talk a lot using mostly emails.

You usually don’t talk a lot, so I wonder if you don’t get very enthusiastic when you get to talk about your thoughts.

When I must pour out my thoughts, I do it. Because I’m an emotional person too. (smiles)

I’m curious to hear about your interests.

I really love cats. I have two cats. They’re Norwegian forest cats and I also sold cats to my family [?]. Among my soulmates, there should be someone who has cats too. I’m also a cat preacher. (smiles) There are two people who started raising cats thanks to me.

How did you name your cats?

One of them is called “Ola” which is the way to say “hello” in Spain. Every cat has a different personality. The other one hates being confined. It might be because I carried him in a bag on the day I got him to bring him to his new house, but he kept crying like “eon, eon”, so I called him “Leon.”

Before you dreamed of being an actor, what was your dream?

There were many things I wanted to become, I wanted to do. I wanted to become a chef, I wanted to be in a band, I wanted to become someone you see on TV, I wanted to be a lawyer. My dream didn’t become my job, so I think people who do their dream job are very lucky.

Your nickname is “abs guy”. How do you maintain your body?

I don’t have that body right now. (smiles) When I got called “abs guy”, I exercised a lot despite the exercising equipment turning into my enemy. I used to do weight exercising and swimming because I had to do a swimming pool ad. I’m not on a specific diet because it’s more difficult for me to put on weight than losing weight. Seven months ago, I had to go through a cruciate ligament transplant surgery. Back then, when I was at the hospital, I thought to myself my body was weak. That’s why I feel right now that I need to exercise again, not to maintain my body, but for rehabilitation and get more stamina.

If you were to choose your recent happiest moment?

I’m happy when I’m on a set. When I rest, I get thirsty. I get the feeling that I’m alive and I belong when I speak with the staff on set. I get this “life goes on” feeling.

Is there a place you’d like to go to have fun when the weather is getting cooler?

I want to go to the Weast Sea because I like the sunset of the West Sea. The way the clouds in the sunset glow cover the sky with a warm color is very romantic. I heard about India from a friend who went there not long ago. That’s why I want to go to India and spend a long time contemplating the Ganges river. (smiles)

I’m curious because people usually have a lot of consideration about themselves. Song Jae Lim, how would you describe yourself?

Anyone love themselves. I’m the same way, but I’m not someone who’s very satisfied about himself. I try to encourage myself a lot, but I confront myself. I’m strict with myself because I feel that I’m lacking. I think I’m an average guy who has nothing special.

Please say a few words to our Cuvism readers.

I hope you’ll get a stroke of good luck in your life. I hope you will have unintentional good luck. Thank you.

Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com


2 Comments Add yours

  1. kfangurl says:

    Woah, you are ON FIRE these days, Sunny! So many translations in just a few days! *wild applause* How do you do it??

    Thanks for this throwback interview.. I feel like he’s come quite a long way in the last couple of years. Not so much in terms of his career or roles, since he’s still getting these quirky type roles, but in terms of getting comfortable in front of the camera, being himself, talking more etc. The way he’s beefed up too, makes him feel like a different person, whereas here he’s talking about how it’s hard for him to put on weight. On random note, I actually like his look in the top 2 pix, with the chin-length hair. He looks more interesting, somehow ^^

    1. 1sunnylady says:

      i really needed that month break, right? in May/April, i was really not enjoying translating, but i think i’m in the right mindset now πŸ˜€ until next time i feel the need to stop again.

      SJL is one of these actors who is like a chamaleon… When he changes his hairstyle, he can really look like a complete different person. I do think he doesn’t get really challenging roles, but I think maybe he wasn’t ready yet. Sounds more like he struggled to love acting itself and not taking it just as a job b/c he has bills to pay. I really feel that it’d be interesting to see him working behind the camera like directing or writing scripts.

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