I noticed you talked to yourself between takes. Were you memorizing your lines?
Indeed. The drama has many action scenes, but the dialogues are intense too. My character Bong Sang Pil is slick, but as a lawyer he also has this sharp side to his personality, so I must express differently the way he talks as if pressing on with gravity. That’s why the line delivery aspect is stressful. I always admire my memorizing ability (laughs), and I like memorizing, but these lines have a different rhythm, so there are times when the words get twisted in my mouth. Like a crazy person muttering to myself trying to grow a sith sense.
What kind of drama “Lawless Lawyer” is?
It starts with a personal revenge plot, but in the end it’s a story about a just society. This makes the action scenes more intense and it doubles the thrill. A just society has been the biggest wish of our nation for the past two years and aren’t we currently building a just society step by step ? I think our drama gives something to enjoy in this current situation.
You worked with director Kim Jin Min on “Time Between Dog and Wolf”. You meet again 11 years later. Just the fact itself that the two of you get to be reunited created anticipation.
Even after shooting the drama “Time Between Dog and Wolf”, we remained real close. When I had some worries related to my acting career, he’d always comfort me when we met. One day he contacted me. As he was talking, he said “I’ll be honest with you. When I got offered this drama, every staff member said that you should play Bong Sang Pil, and I said I didn’t want you to”. I asked him why and he said it was because of the burden of the two of us succeeding once already and he felt like we wouldn’t get along anymore if we didn’t manage to get a better succes than the previous one. “Time Between Dog and Wolf” had a high level of completion. It was popuplar even overseas, so I think he felt the pressure too. And that’s something I totally agree on. We left it at that, then he contacted me again. He said “I’ll make a drama with the mindset to give you something to live off for 10 years. Shouldn’t we go for at least this much?” and I really liked his words. I know fully well which responsibility Kim Jin Min has to deal with. Failure aspect aside, I thought there would still be something left from a new collaboration with him. And this perspective made me say yes.
How was it to work again with this director?
It’s always intense as it’s famously known. He has this blunt “push-and-pull” directing style and I like it. More than liking it, I’d say it’s a necessary directing skill. Because I also thought that by working with him, he’d get to see right away my bad acting habits and would help me to get rid of them. Didn’t we get to meet again because of this opportunity? Instead of being moderate, it’s important as a director to pick something and stick with it. I have faith in Director Kim Jin Min when it comes to this aspect. And he’s someone who comes thoroughly prepared and he has great energy.
Doesn’t your energy rub off on other people wherever you go?
You’re right. Every staff member says I make them crazy.
Seo Ye Ji who also worked with you highly praised your energy.
I eat red ginseng. (laughs) I’m given this red ginseng so… However, the problem isn’t what I eat or not. Not long ago, I was having a drink with a dongsaeng. He asked me what I found fun about going on a filming set. In the past, I think my answer was something like “it is what is” when I received questions like this. As I said “I mean, I’m an actor”. I’m becoming more childish these days, so I answer “because I look good on TV”. The staff crew works hard to make me look good, isn’t it something to be happy about?
You portrayed an action role you always wanted to do. And there was also romance thrown into the mix. That’s what makes it more interesting and anticipated. However, I always crave for a pure love story or serious romance. Even if it’s just a little bit, I want to do it when I’m still young. However, when I say that, a martial arts director who is an old friend of mine always replies “what are you talking about? You’re flying around, you should do even more action. You’re too sweet. For a romance, you should have more depth, so it’s not too late”. When I ask how to have more depth when I’m 37, he says “you don’t look mature. You look like a prince.” On the set, Ye Ji also told me I looked very innocent, that I look like a young prince. When I say “I’m rotten inside. It’s all black”, she says “no you’re not. I know what I see and you are truly pure”. So I ask “is it an insult or a compliment?”. (laughs)
Seo Ye Ji and you played with great actors such as Lee Hye Young and Choi Min Soo.
If not for this drama, how else would have you been able to see these two in the same project? I recently shot my first scene with Choi Min Soo-sunbaenim. The interaction was amazing. He was satisfied too. The stress and the pressure right before shooting our first scene were huge. I went to see Choi Min Soo-sunbaenim on the set on a day I wasn’t shooting and I introduced myself by saying “there’s no one else but you in my dreams these days”. And he said “don’t worry. You do what you gotta do and I’ll just accept what you give me.” He strived to broaden my acting spectrum and I took it all in. This kind of toss process like ping pong is fun and refreshing.
Is there something that makes things difficult for you right now as an actor?
Right now I wonder how to get this character right, but there’s nothing particularly hard about it. I’m satisfied on the personal life level. For the first time, I have a hobby. I’m totally crazy about ju-jitsu to the point I don’t even want to leave the gym. If I were to talk about a difficulty, it’d be the fact that I have no space at home to store in all the gifts my fans give me. (laughs) I’m always unwrapping gifts. It’s a happy difficulty.
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