[November 2013 – Cuvism] Choi Woo Sik – Interview [1/2]

Choi Woo Sik

Like the beautiful butterfly which must overcome the dark and rigid chrysalid time, one must go through this obscure tunnel you can’t foresee to become an adult. Let’s take a close look at actor Choi Woo Sik who is currently in this tunnel. Thanks to his incredible youthful features, Choi Woo Sik mostly played young students, teenage characters. However, each role is a projection of a different side of Choi Woo Sik’s youth. I mean, even one word from him in his debut project “The Duo” made you feel his youth when he spoke with his natural way of speech, and now he’s bringing to life Young Jae in indie movie “Tears”. So the fact he’s willing to go down the indie movie road, even a little, is even more valuable since his peers are only craving for easy roles that can make them popular. If you look at Choi Woo Sik even now and you’re only remembered of the “cute teenager”, you can be sure you haven’t seen half of who Choi Woo Sik is. We hope this Cuvism interview will make you see directly the many sides of his personality. As he describes one day of his future when he’d be flying high once the fever time is gone.

Hello. Please introduce yourself.

Hello. I’m actor Choi Woo Sik. I turned 24 this year. I just finished MBC drama festival one-act “Principal Investigator”.

You’re currently filming “Heart Beats” which is broadcast on SBS. Are you aware of the show’s popularity?

It’s a program in which you can’t just laugh and talk like regular variety programs because it’s about helping people in emergency situations. That’s why it’s lacking an entertaining element for people who were expecting a regular variety program. Still, we’re still getting a lot of interest and people watch it. I think it’s time to grab this spot.

How is the true atmosphere on the set? It seems that last-minute situations keep happening constantly.

When we go on a rescue mission, these are real situations. The medical unit can go, the rescue team can go too, we never know when the bell is going to ring, so I’m taken aback when it rings. And when there’s danger, the sunbaes tell us to stay behind, but I think the fear as we go back and forth always weighs on our minds. And even if we’re here to help others, you have drunk people who cuss you out or hit you. What you see on TV is what we experience for a short amount of time, but for people who are doing this job, these situations happen often. I’m getting to know how much hard work this is.

Experiencing all these tense situations together must have brought you closer.

We really became close because we experienced difficult situations together. I live a long time abroad, so I wasn’t used to the sauna culture in Korea. However, one day Jo Dong Hyuk-hyung told me “let’s go! We must go to be clean fast!”. And since that day, I think we became closer as we even showered together with the mindset that we were now a group. We’re all very busy, so even if we can’t see each other, we talk a lot in our SNS chatroom. And we’re also very close with the rescue team. Especially those we worked with in Busan, they’re real gagmen. (smiles) Like even now if a scandal breaks out, they call me to ask me if it’s true. (smiles)

It would be hard to say goodbye when filming is over.

Yes. The set has become a sea of emotions. I don’t know if it’s because it was in Busan, but what was amazing was that they really loved us. The leader of our rescue team gets married in December. I promised I’d definitely be here.

Did you overcome your needle phobia? (smiles)

I couldn’t. I’m really scared. (smiles) It’s not just needles, I used to be scared of ghosts too. It’s true that I’m scared of needles. However, when you have a phobia, a disorder, you can get rid of it through a process. It’s not the case for me. Seeing the needle going into my skin makes me lose energy, I just hate it because it hurts. Since it aired, people around me were surprised. (smiles) I don’t know how I will overcome it, but I’m really trying my best to confront my fear now. (smiles)

If one can say you looked more like a very scared teenager in the beginning, you could also be seen as a true firefighter as you got upset when there were false alarms.

Haha. Really? (smiles) I couldn’t help it. The emotion was 100% real when I was there. When a fire is reported, you still have to go out there, even on hot days, with your outfit and the equipment that weighs a few kilos, so when you find out it was a false report, it really makes you angry. I experienced it myself, but it must be even worse for those who have been experiencing it for years. You should really not make false fire reports.

The rescue moments are probably full of fear and tension, but it must feel like it’s worth it, right?

Every time the rescue team was on a mission, I felt that it was really worth it because we helped saving someone’s life, even if it was not from the beginning to the end and even if it was just a little. When we wear the rescue team outfit and we arrive on the scene, all gazes are on us. When it happened, it felt like the joy an actor feels when he’s on stage. I think it’s really an addictive feeling. (smiles)

I’m curious to hear how you joined the program. I guess it was probably not an easy decision for an actor to do a variety program that is about experiencing the real life of rescue team members.

I wanted to try to be in a variety program, but I thought it would be interesting to do variety while filming a program like “Heart Beats”. And also, I thought it was a good opportunity to learn because it’s nice to try different kind of roles, but when else would I get the chance to experience to be a firefighter in real life. And I also wanted to put on their outfit. (smiles)

You have different nicknames such as “emergency vitamin”, “heodang” [t/n: someone who is book smart but is lost when he’s in real life situations]. Is there a nickame you particularly enjoy? (smiles)

Yes. To be honest, I have many more nicknames. We call each other nicknames when we’re together. You don’t really hear them during broadcast because they can’t be used during programs like this. For me, it’s “Shishamo” [t/n: it’s a fish called “capelin”]. Maybe because I’m tiny and thin. (smiles) I don’t like nicknames like “vitamin”. I think Shishamo is fine. I must turn into another fish since I’m working out a bit more now. (smiles)

The MBC one-episode “Principal Investigator – Save Wang Jo-hyun!” aired this week. Can you talk about your role to those who missed the broadcast?

It takes place in 1989. It’s about a high school student who really wants to be an investigator and he falls in love with a girl. However, this girl is a thief. So while there’s a dilemma of arresting her or not, his mom and his dad get divorced. It’s the first time he experiences that things don’t always go the way we want to. It’s about the growing pains that an 18-year old experiences in the summer.

I think one thing it has in common with the drama “TEN” is that it’s a police drama. You also had action scenes in “TEN”. I think it must have helped you.

Yes. It wasn’t my intention, but it’s similar indeed. From Gwidongie in “The Duo”, Woo Bongie in “Family” to Minho in “TEN”. It’s a character that mixed all of them. I think that’s why I found it very interesting ever since I read the script.

You said you’re about to start filming the movie “Tears” in December. Which role will you play?

It’s also a coming-of-age story. It’s the kind of dark and serious character you see in an indie movie. He’s an high school student who is in a conflict with his parents from the very beginning and who rebels. However, it’s not because it’s an indie movie that it’s depressing. With this movie, we say “no matter how much of a hard time you’re going through right now, if you don’t give up and if you make efforts, you can change your situation”. Until now, I had played bright characters and I was confident about it, but this is a complete different image this time, so I’m nervous. I did a reading session yesterday with the director and I kept wondering “will I be able to pull off this scene?”.

How did you prepare for this dark character that you play for the first time?

When I prepare myself for a role, I think more about how to match the project atmosphere than how I must portray my character. And I think I watch many similar movies and use them as a reference. I look how other actors do it. It hasn’t been long since my debut, my acting is lacking depth, so I’m trying to make any role mine.

I heard you recently attended the funding party for “Tears”. What kind of event was it?

It’s an indie movie, so our finances are lacking a little bit. We invited people from our entourage and we talked about the movie. It was also the first time that all actors were gathering in one place and it was friendly because we’re around the same age. The director was born in 1987. To be honest, indie movie actors often get roles through different means than the regular networking within the cinema industry. And that’s why a lot of them are people you see on stage and not on TV. That’s the reason they all went “you’re a celebrity” when they saw me the first time. That’s why I felt a bit of a pressure at first, but as soon as we met, we had a drink and we got close as we discussed our team work. It felt like going on a school trip. (smiles)

Seemed like your affection and will about doing movies is strong.

Here’s what I always think. When I play a lead character, it’s not just about me, it’s about leading the other actors as well. When I watched other actors before, I thought to myself “you play the lead character, why do you act this way?”. As I watched Yoo Chun-hyung, Ji Min-nuna whom I shot SBS “Rooftop Prince” with, I learned a lot from them. That’s why it’s not about having the “I’m a celebrity with an agency, I’m an actor” attitude. It’s about how you must also lead the set to make it comfortable for others.

This gathering was arranged because you lacked finances, but it seems that it made your attachement to the movie even more special. What do you think?

Indeed. Let’s say we can produce the movie because we receive a few billion won, I think the pressure will be bigger. I don’t know how high the production fees were, but it’s harder for indie movies to get funding than regular movies. That’s why I try telling myself “don’t get stressed, you’re filming a graduation project”, “stay true to your acting”. After I shot “Ten”, I took a break for a bit. That’s when my mindset changed. It was my first time seeing money entering my bank account and it was my first time having people recognize me, so I became arrogant without noticing and when it was time for me to choose a project, I cared about more about the casting, the character than the story itself. Tha’s why I wanted to care only about the story and not being nipticky about things like that, not caring if it’s an indie movie or a regular movie. That’s the reason I chose “Tears”. It’s a type of character I have never tried before, so it’s a bit stressful, but I wanted to take on this challenge. Ah, I must do a good job. (smiles)

I heard you got cast after you got to know director Kim Tae Yong at the “Mise en Scene” movie festival.

Yes. I’m close with Naul-hyung. And his twin brother Daul is also a movie director. That’s why Naul-hyung offered me to be in director Daul’s movie “Etude, Solo”. So I went to the screening at the Mise en Scene movie festival. We went to the screening and the next movie was Kim Tae Yong’s movie. However, our movie was an heart-warming love story whereas Kim Tae Yong’s “밤벌레” [t/n: bambeolle… “Night Bug”?] was a dark movie. And this is through this occasion that we met and I ended up filming “Tears”. He looked at me and said “your gaze is pure, but you have this iron side too” and this would be good for the role of Young Jae.

Before starting filming, is there something he particularly insisted on?

What the directer wanted was for me to show intense acting as dark as the movie atmosphere. Young Jae grew up unhappy, he talks thoughtlessly to his mom and dad. That’s why the director said it’d be fair that he’d even cuss strongly to portray him strong.

From “Rooftop Prince” to KBS sitcom “Family”, you mostly played bright and lively somehow light characters and your characther in “Ten” was a change. I think it can be seen as a turning point in your career.

You’re right. Since the second season of “Ten”, I told myself that I really wanted to try serious acting. That’s why when people read this interview, it should definitely be written here that I want to do serious acting.

The fact that “Ten” is a crime drama means that there was clearly a difference with everything you had done so far. Wasn’t it anything hard about filming?

My acting motto is “always enjoy working, even if you have a discomfort, let’s always enjoy without worrying about it”. And just like I said earlier, my acting is about getting into the mood. When I was filming “TEN” which was different from a sitcom, my acting was a little bit more serious. However, I feel that my emotional highs and lows are a little bit more severe. Even after smiling brightly and chatting, when I only prepare my “tears”, it makes me depressed. I always enjoy acting and try to make it fun, so if it’s the reason it makes me depressed, it’s a bit problematic. However, I’m not the only one like that. Singers also told me that they feel something different when they sing a dance song or a ballad.

Going the indie path is exciting. It doesn’t seem to be a choice that a young 24-year-old ordinary actor would make.

I think what actors can’t do the most is to know their place. I didn’t know mine either and I’m learning to figure it out. I’m not that good-looking, my acting skills aren’t the best. I’m where I am today because I got lucky, but it won’t work if I just rely on chance. This is what I think. That’s why I think now is the time for me to gain acting experience. I mean, it doesn’t matter if it’s an indie movie or anything else, it will help me later on when I portray different roles in bigger projects.

Were you influenced by the complications you went through when you debuted?

Yes. Let me say it again, but I kept working and got to film sageuk, weekend dramas, mini series and even sitcoms because I was very lucky. That’s why I think I ended up doing this movie. When I was in Canada, I wanted to do acting and I came to Korea for that. That’s why I have never learned acting in an academy way like those who majored in theater and cinema. I think I might not have been here if I had actually learned acting this way. When I filmed “The Duo”, it was right after I had arrived in Korea, so I was awkward when it came to the saguk tone. That’s why director Oh Di Oh criticized me and that’s why my acting was a mix between my own way of speech and the saguk tone and from that moment, he complimented me. I think this is the way for me to show an acting that no one else but me can do and to walk down my own path.

Just like the pressure and the struggle you felt when you were filming “The Duo”, you’re probably feeling the same way as you’re about to film “Tears”, but I think this project will probably be a big stepping stone for you.

I hope so. I had a discussion with the director yesterday and we were like “if we don’t get this scene right, people will probably remember it for 3 years”. I must do well. That’s the only thing I have in mind. (smiles)

Thanks to your baby face, you played a lot of memorable students. Don’t you feel any dissatisfaction?

You’re right. For instance, Seo Joon-hyung and I played exactly the same type of high school student, but Seo Joonie-hyung is playing adult roles now. That’s why I want to slip out of this high school student image and there are times when I tell myself “do I still give off the child actor vibe”. You know, I was playing the young Gwi Dong in “The Duo”. That’s why I think this image is strong in people’s minds. I mean, what’s even worse is that I was actually 21 at that time. That’s why I’m trying to make myself look older these days, like by wearing my hair up. (smiles)

I heard that you did a lot of efforts to fix your pronunciation after your debut because you had lived in Canada.

It’s still the case these days too. My pronunciation is much better, but when I’m nervous or when I have many lines to say, it gets all twisted. When I speak English after speaking Korean for a while, it gets all mixed up and then when I speak Korean after speaking English for a while, it gets all mixed up too. (smiles) I just came back from Canada, so I’m all confused again. (smiles)

You’re taking on various roles that surprise the fans and the viewers, there must be a role you’d like to challenge yourself with?

I’m itching for a role like Ryu Seung Bum-sunbaenim played in the movie “No Manners”. Ah, but come to think of it, it’s also a student role. (smiles) I really like the acting that gives off this raw feeling like the acting Ryu Seung Bum-sunbaenim displayed. I want my acting to be natural and not forced. And I also want to play a love story with a beautiful cinematography like the movie “Late Autumn”. “Unfamiliar Day” is a webdrama I did and it kind of gives this feeling. Compared to “Late Autumn”, the dialogues were a bit cheesy, though. (smiles)

It seems that you like emotional movies.

Yes. When I watch movies at home, I usually watch fresh love stories with a beautiful cinematography. Personally, I really enjoy movies with a Japanese style.

If you were to praise yourself, what is unique about you and other actors of your age don’t have?

These days, they all have big and bright faces. Isn’t my Korean-like flat face refreshing to see? (laughs)

Shouldn’t you give off a masculine vibe in order to attract directors or casting directors who are reading this interview? (smiles)

Ah, indeed! I am muscular too. It’s no joke. I can even juice an apple. (smiles) There’s a scene in “Heart Beats” where we go on a mission after taking a shower. I monitored myself and said “my muscles do show a little”. Haha.

I want to hear about the plans and goals of actor Choi Woo Shik who will ooze a masculine vibe in the future.

Right now, I’m in the process of preparing myself to run even further. I’m in a “looking at the forest rather than looking at a tree” mindset. It’s a time for me to prepare myself physically and to polish my acting. That’s why I’m planning to be stubborn. Aside from acting, I want to try to do everything like I want to. And right now, I want to pour everything into my project “Tears”.

Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com


One Comment Add yours

  1. zeamays says:

    Aw, this is a really nice interview. Thanks for translating! I hope subs show up for Set Me Free soon. This interview made me want to watch it even more than I already did.

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