[May 2017 – Elle] Yeo Jin Gu – Mr. Strong – Interview


Everyone will be surprised when they see this photo shoot. How did you get to build your body like this?
I started working out last year after I finished filming drama “Daebak”. I definitaly wanted to build my
body through working out. Looking strong even without having big muscles.

For instance? I looked at pictures of sunbaes such as Jung Ji Hoon, Park Jae Bum, Jang Hyuk, Lee Byung Hun. As for foreign actors, it was Daniel Craig. I don’t know if I’ll get cast as a superhero. I mean I have no need to be muscular like Chris Hemworth is.

What do you worry about the most? My lower body developed at a young age, so my trainer told me reducing my lower body muscles and developing the upper part of my body would be hard. Fortunately, I’m finding out my body balance while working out.

You like eating. What comes to your mind when you think about managing what you eat? Dwaejangjjigae and jajangmyeon. I thought samgyeopsal and chicken would haunt me, but I usually think about the food I eat on a regular basis. Like the home-made side dishes.

What have changed in your life as you’re working out? My body is definitely light when I wake up in the morning. I think about which work out I will do today to benefit from the workout I did the day before. People who are into working out know what I mean.

Working out aside, what is the thing you do constantly? I practice my facial expressions during my free time. It’s nothing great, it just helps to relax my facial muscles. I usually have a hard expression, so I often hear the word “smile”.

What would you say about your facial features? There’s a big gap between two expressions. Just like I said, there’s a big difference between when I have a blank expression and when I smile. It’s not a good thing to have facial features revealing your emotions easily, but it’s a strong point for an actor. According to what you’re asked to do, it helps. Working out made me lose a bit of fat in the face, so I’m curious to see how it will look on the screen.

The expression you make when you want to look cool? It’s still to smile brightly for now. I must get older and it must show on my face for me to look cool even if I seem detached.

In the movie “the Warriors of Dawn”, you portray Kwang Hae who, instead of his father Seon Jo, leads the negociations during the Japanese Invasion. What can we expect to see from you? I don’t know what I should say precisely, but I think this character is very human. If I say my characters in “Hwayi” or “The Long Way Home” were well-defined from a cinematic point of view, I’d say Kwang Hae is a character that gave me this “I’m alive” feeling. Although he embraces the burden he put on his shoulders, although he can’t let it go, he’s shaken pretty hard. I tried to have a good grasp of his mindset, and the framework to make him composed, but the waves of emotions were so big that it was hard to find the pace. Although I could say in my mind “this is how he is”, I wondered after if it was truly the case.

It’s quite different from the Kwang Hae we’re used to see in movies and dramas. If you say Kwang Hae’s image until now was about authority and dignity, the Kwang Hae in “Warriors of Dawn” is portrayed as a man my age who is similar to me. Maybe that’s why the approach of the situation he faces was boundless and I always had in mind “if I were given this responsibility, what would it look like?”.

Early in your career as you started acting, you received the nickname “the rising star leading Chungmuro”.
I have a blunt personality. The fact that people have many expectations about me is something I’m thankful for, but I tend to forget easily, so I was burdened by that. I’m not sensitive about the title actor. When
there are actors who try to maintain the emotional mood on set, I go “hey hey hey”.

You’ve worked with great actors such as Kim Yoon Suk, Sel Kyung Gu, Jo Jin Woong. In “Warriors of Dawn”, what did you learn by working with Lee Jung Jae? Gaze. When I watched his previous works, I realized there
was just something in his gaze that pulled you in, even when he wasn’t looking at anything in particular. Even in his daily life, when you see his eyes, you get this calm feeling like the waves give you. It’s for real. I want to have the same gaze. That’s why I asked him what I must do.

Which advice did he give you? He said “it’s something you must have yourself”. Hahaha. I said “I understand”, but I really thought hard about what exactly he meant by “what I must have myself”. This is what I call the “frequency of calm acting”. While working with Lee Jung Jae-sunbae, I learned how to modulate and manage my emotions in detail.

After learning acting through your own experiences on set with directors and veteran actors, you enrolled in the theater and film department last year. Which acting do you study at school? The acting I’ve learned
ever since I was a child was on set and it was about “well, let’s try this”. Things were arranged for me to act in
the way I wanted to do. And the veteran actors always treated me like one of their colleagues and not like a very
young hoobae. They acted without sparing me, I didn’t back down and lunged right back. Getting roper acting lessons in college after going through this kind of training was a shock. It was a very unfamiliar feeling for me to think I must show this “I’m alive” acting on stage. My acting used to lean toward just one aspect. So as I learned, I came to think what acting as fine arts is.

What was the hardest aspect of it? For dramas or movies, you can repeat and try again. A lot of people praised my acting, and many emotions come out from these different attempts. However, when it comes to theater, you can’t tell to those who didn’t like the play “I’m sorry. I will try again”. There’s this fear of showing raw acting, the stress of making a mistake. I talk a lot about it with my classmates. Even if I tell myself “let’s go for it with no stress”, I freeze up even with just one pronunciation mistake. On the other hand, here’s what I think. I worry that it’s something I will never be able to do if I don’t do it now.

Because you met people in a place that wasn’t a filming set. They’re your age and have the same dreams as yours. This is exactly the reason why I decided to go to college. I thought about enrolling in college. I
was curious about which kind of people shared the same dreams as mine, which kind of passion they have, which gaze
they have on life. I think going to college was a nice decision.

You’re currently filming the drama “Circle” in which you portray a college student who tracks a curious incident. Instead of saying this character looks like me, I’d say he’s a guy who definitely blends in. To be more precise, he’s someone who’s busy living his life. His worry is to find a way to survive this incident. It’s heartbreaking to see him like this. So heartbreaking it makes you want to buy him a drink.

If you give us an introduction to this drama, what would you like to talk about? Its genre. It’s very rare to see sci-fi mystery dramas in Korea. So the concept itself makes it special. My character lives in 2017, Kim Kang Woo-sunbae’s character lives in 2037 and there’s one episode when the two eras overlap. It’s not the trendy time-slip genre. The lead characters, the incident are different, but just like the title “Circle” suggests it, the stories are 20 years apart.


How different will you be 20 years from now? I will be 40. I hope I will be comfortable with my acting by then. The sunbaes say you find your balance as you get older and I want to get this free mindset fast.

And from a personal perspective? I hope I will live with wisdom. I want to have the expertise to moderate myself when I should, to be carefree when I should. I want to be able to see my life through a 3rd point of view.

And as for now as you’re 21? Is there something about yourself you believe in? It’s something I feel as I work out. I think I’m strong-minded. I must reach the end to be satisfied about something. If I run into a wall I must overcome, I tell myself “let’s give it a try anyway” and I try to confront myself. Of course, there’s still the easy road. Still, I want to keep living like this and hold onto this kind of mentality. Each time, I’m able to believe that I’m strong-minded.

Do you want to live while having as much fun as possible? Do you want to have a fancy life? When
I hear the question, I’d lean toward the fun side. Fancy stuff and I don’t go well together.

Three things you need to accomplish the life you hope for. Acting must be always one of them. And
no matter how busy I am, I must get some peace of mind. That’s the way for me to enjoy completely my time. And my
people. I tend to be a stay-at-home person, so I worry that I’ll be alone later on when I want to have fun.

What do you enjoy to do, besides acting? Talking. I like talking and doing interviews like we do right now.

What do you talk about with your friends? We talk a lot about stuff like “spring is here, so where should we go?”. Or we talk about when we finally date. All my close friends, including myself, have never dated. That’s why we try to go out and have fun, even if it’s just us.

And you like cooking. The side dish you’re confident about? Gochujangjjigae! It’s my signature menu. My friends who tried it say it’s so good that I should sell it.

You have loyal friends! Did I brag too much?


Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com

One Comment Add yours

  1. weaselking says:

    Thank you for translating this interview! I really like the way he talks about his craft. He sounds so passionate about it and how he keeps on working hard despite how well-praised he already is about his acting. And he’s growing up well-grounded and still humble. I hope all his projects will become a success, he really deserves it!

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