I didn’t expect for ELLE to release another batch of pictures for Ji Sung’s pictorial, and they’re being generous this time around. I’m grateful not just because of those shots, but also the second full interview which came along with them! I decided to share the interview because it’s thoughtful and entertaining to read 😉
(Please excuse the spelling mistakes and those weird sentences, but I welcome any corrections and suggestions ^^v)
Ji Sung and his enjoyable 10 years of solitude
I kept watching Ji Sung since 10 years ago, until now, 10 years later. Back then, it was because of his presence as an actor that made me start watching out for him. Defying the notion of choosing only good projects, there were instances where he had to start a project even when people predicted a bad outcome from the get-go. As if he had been slyly planning for it, the same Ji Sung we met through Kill Me, Heal Me had finally drawn his starting line.
“I have to consider it thoroughly to be able to see what kind of opportunity it would be, but it was usually difficult to see the outcome. That’s why, when I was torn in between accepting or rejecting a role, I would ponder on it. No matter how I looked at it, Kill Me, Heal Me was that kind of project”. Actor of 17 years, the 40-year old (born in early 1977) Ji Sung who would become a father this June; the actor experienced a change in his life after wrapping up Kill Me, Heal Me not too long ago. He sincerely talked about his drama in an in-depth interview before, so ELLE was more curious on who Ji Sung was and what was his past like. Hence, we sat together and gave him the book with only questions and blank spaces, Sharon Jones’ Burn After Writing. But then, we had a problem. During the limited time for the interview, there was a question in the first chapter ‘Truth’: “Artist is someone who speaks the truth through the lies. […] For the sake of’Truth’, please answer the question after giving it a deep thought.” It took as long as 30 minutes to complete the two-sentenced question, and between the lines like “Pigs would fly if you become an actor!” and “I am somehow lacking 2% (in everything)”, listening to him made me realize that Ji Sung had not lose his perseverance. “It seemed like I would not reach my peak in my 40s but now that I’m already in my 40s, I had the thought: let’s just pile everything up and see how far I could go,” said the actor, sharing his realistic goal. For the sake of hearing more answers and getting to know more of him while being pressed of time, we decided to keep it simple. Thus, this interview was born from the notes inside the editor’s book, serving as a guide for the Q&A session. In the style of interstellar, the interview to put together the piece of the actor’s life is starting right now!
When I was a little boy, I dreamed of becoming a baseball player. Watching the top star players like Ryu Hyun-jin made me thought , ‘if I did become a baseball player, would I end up just like them?’ and started to imagine it. I have a strong attachment to baseball ball, so I would like to be able to play catch in my role someday. I tried to do that in Royal Family but Tom Cruise had used that trick first in The Firm [he probably meant an attorney playing baseball].
The posters I put on the wall of the room I grew up in were of the movies The Godfather, A Rain Run Through It, and Rain Man. My father didn’t give me the permission to become a baseball player so I chose the second option, that was to become an actor. I thought to myself, ‘Hang in there just for one year and you will be free! Then, you can live your dream.’ Even when I attended the entrance exam for college, I said to my father that I would enter the International Affairs or the Business Administration Department, but I continued to see the exam for Film & Theater Department. As if they knew my feelings, I failed the exam. Although it was late, I eventually got admitted to college.
My first car I don’t have much attachment to cars.
My first play was Hamlet. I didn’t star as Hamlet but I oversaw the planning and production for the play.
When was the last time you did something for the first time in your life? There was something I did for the first time this morning. I was pulling out dead plants when I suddenly had a scary thought: what if they weren’t dead? I tried saving them using various ways but there was no response from them. [Haha! This is so cute!]
The age I became an adult was the marriage. Of course, it was after I got married. Just look at me through my wife(‘s eyes).
The thing I would change if I could turn back the time is too many. There were many times I faced difficulties in the past 17 years of my life as an actor. Thanks to them, I have become the confident me today and without those difficulties back then, it might be harder for me. (Back to the question,) I would like to bring the acting skills I have at this moment with me to the past and have a debut again. ‘This is your first time acting but you’re already this good?”What did you do before this?’ ‘Take the main role for the next project!’ I would like to hear these words once. (laughs)
My collection when I was young was none. Rather than an affinity towards things, I think I have stronger attachment to dreams. I like to get rid of something when I’m done with it. One time I threw away all the books I had finished reading because I want to fill my mind with the new book I read. I am good at emptying things. I also have the ability to erase the bad memories I want to get rid of. (laughs) That is why I have lesser stress. It is a habit I got from the time I was hurting badly.
The things I am addicted to are acting, baseball,and all the things I like to do. I like to jog before the sun rises. It keeps the body warm by sweating and that feeling is wonderful. The habit of waking up early in the morning has provided a great help to me. During the filming of Kill Me, Heal Me, I asked the director, ‘Can you go on with the second and third scene first? I will run a bit and come back.’ It was to that extent [of being addicted to running?] and when I was shooting Secret, instead of spending the 2-hour free time to catch up sleep, I chose to run [yeah, he’s addicted]. I think I am drawn to running because of the positive view it offers and its ability to clear my head a bit. Thus, it will be helpful in ensuring that I won’t lose the pace. President Obama runs 8km every morning. Reading the essay about him, I feel that he’s similar to me. Last year, during his trip here (South Korea), he stayed at the hotel, where the gym I went to was also located. I thought that he won’t possibly exercise in the morning, but he did. I said ‘Good Morning’ to him. He was exercising diligently without being conscious on his surrounding.
The most dramatic choice I made in front of the crossroads in my life was to live my life as an actor. There was no time I have ever thought, ‘Should I stop doing this?’ ‘Will it work out?’ Even when I was being scolded, I thought that I would make it.
Five favourite moments of my life Should we make it as five projects which made me into what I am today as stated here (in the note)? Since we’re considering the past, I’ll cross out Kill Me, Heal Me. The first one was New Heart, because it was my first drama comeback after my military service and there’s another meaning behind it. Looks like I can’t cross out Save Your Last Dance for Me, All In, and KAIST. As for the last one, I’d like to choose between Delicious Proposal and King’s Woman. Um, I’ll pick King’s Woman. It was my first historical drama. To tell the truth, I got my breakthrough project through All In, 10 years after I debuted. It was because of Lee Byung-hun that the ratings reached 50% for that drama, but I received many offers for modern dramas because of the drama. It was my chance to turn my life into a leading actor. But then, I was aware of what I couldn’t do well. For the sake of learning more about acting, King’s Woman was the project I chose. I would like to learn from the late Chief Kim Jae-hyung. I also wanted to gain new confidence through historical dramas.
If there’s something I feel guilty of or someone was hurt because of me…I am sorry.
My top three movies are Rain Man, The Godfather, and the movie with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton…ah, Fight Club. I can’t even count how many times I watched them, to the point of memorizing them by heart.
To what extend would your 16-year old self think of how cool you are at this moment? To the point of saying,’You did well!’ and giving praises.
Three achievements in the past 12 months that you’re proud of Kill Me, Heal Me is one. My return to the kitchen is another achievement. It’s never easy to do something you have never done before, but I see the need for husband and wife to be equal so that happy marriage can be achieved, as well as maintaining the balance of life. It’s the same with acting. It’s necessary to be fair towards the acting partner. That’s why I don’t really like actors who use foul. If there’s someone who does that, I will stop filming and ask him, ‘Why did you do that?’ I have done that before.
The biggest turn point in your life up until now was the military service. Before that, I would run towards my dream without giving proper thoughts about it and realized belatedly that the burden was too much to handle, because I was impatient. Ah, before I entered the army, I had never tidied up my desk, so I cleared up everything that had piled up in the past 4 years. Then, I threw the desk the morning before I leave the house. It was the first time I came to realize the pleasant feeling of clearing and organizing things.
The thing I’m pursuing right now is to become a good daddy, but it’s not an easy thing to do. I’m not really sure about it even after reading books about it. Since my wife’s due date is near the end of June, there are several things to be careful of and times to concentrate on. (Did you experience any nausea or similar symptoms with your wife during the pregnancy?) My tummy grew as much as my wife’s. (laughs) I am a deep sleeper but nowadays, I try to have a light sleep. I usually sleep at 12 and wake up at 6 in the morning but my wife is having frequent leg cramps, so I set up alarms around 2 and 4 before I go to sleep. (Are you giving her massages during those time?) Yes. Please don’t write this one. (Sorry, we have to include this for the sake of Korean men’s growth!) I am happy to do that. It’s the least I can do for my significant other. It’s give and take.
The thing you have learned up until now is concentration. Now I know what I should concentrate on, so that I won’t be swayed and provided the same answer even after 10 years have passed.
From this question onwards, it will be about the ‘Present’. ‘In order to answer this question, imagine yourself walking out of your present time. You have to be outside of your present to see your present clearly. You’re right. I’ll do that.
The thing I should put down is being persistent. For example, making it a must for myself to go out for a jog at 6 in the morning is persistence. Thus, when I don’t feel like doing it, I’d rather not go out. ‘Today, should I eat something I haven’t eaten all this while?’ ‘Today, should I try out a new activity?’ I try not to restrain myself.
The thing I should learn today is I am not the only person to undervalue myself, and it’s a good thing. That’s what I thought.
Three things which make me angry right now I don’t have any. It’s a slightly different thing, but I always think that there’s a camera beside my partner. It was an advice I got from the first person who taught me how to act. After I heard it, I asked him,’Do you mean I have to act even on my normal days?’ But the person told me that I had to do it. It was about seeing myself even after I depart from my own self. That was what made it possible for me to make a quick decision.
The thing I secretly envy (other people for having it) ..there are a few random things I can recall. The first one is height. The young actors nowadays are really, really tall. While doing Kill Me, Heal Me, I had to look up this much to see (Park) Seo-joon properly. I would say, ‘Seo-joon ah, don’t you think you’re being too tall?’ and he would bend his knees. I used to wonder how many of ‘that thing’ (referring to insoles) should I put inside my shoes. (laughs). Another one is this: while I was starring in All In, the director was close with Lee Byung-hun. Director Jo and him first met through Asphalt Man and they grew closer while working together in All In. I could only look at them, wishing to have the pleasure of working with a partner like that in my life as an actor. 10 years ago, I worked under PD Kim Jin-man for Beating Hearts and we met again for Kill Me, Heal Me. We did have a promise to work together again back then but I have never imagined that it would take us 10 years to do so. Since I have got the thing I once envied, I’m no longer envious. I am happy to be able to complete the drama with him.
If can go anywhere, the place I want to visit is Paris. I want to jog along Seine River. When the sun rises, it would be nice to jog near the Notre Dame Cathedral or the Eiffel Tower. Then I can find out why the city is so beautiful.
If there’s a chance for me to stop aging at a particular age, the age would be 50 years old. My soon-to-be-born child will be growing up and I have to be healthy from a parent’s perspective.
If I can change my name, the new name would be..Well, I have changed my name. From Kwak Tae-geun to Ji Sung. I really like it. The name Kwak Tae-geun is nice but when I take a look at my fortune, the tree and fire elements are strong but it’s lacking the element of earth. I asked about the thing that should be done and it was suggested that I choose a new name for myself. Using the character ‘ji’ from earth, it became Ji Sung. But then, the character couldn’t be used in China [probably together with the character of ‘sung’?] since it will have the meaning of a thing. [Anyone can provide an explanation for this?]
If you have a machine that can brainwash people..Where should it be used? I don’t think I need it.
Three greatest dishes you have personally made..there’s not much dishes I’ve made. Birthday seaweed soup, cream sauce spaghetti, and what’s the other one..ah, thick ground-soybean stew.
It will be about the future this time. For the sake of predicting your future, you need to have a vague imagination of yourself. Pick one answer only. The most thrilling thing to you..is my presence I felt after Kill Me, Heal Me. ‘I’m really living as an actor,’ I said, and I grew excited. (Please read the last page of the book) In a society where where we share our everything, Burn After Writing goes against the norm and politely asks you to share nothing. Ah, I’ve been fooled, then. (laughs) Still, it’s nice to recall some things and I enjoyed it.
There was another set of question prepared and one of the questions was:
A play writer from German said this, ‘Woman sees deeper, and man sees afar.’ If you’re a man with the ability to see up to a point, what do you think about it?
After watching out for Ji Sung in the past 10 years, he’s starting again. ‘Again’ is not really an apt word; in fact, this is the beginning for him. It’s at this point we could give him some courage. We learned again that a man’s thought become an important motivation for him to live. Kill Me, Heal Me alone received a good response, earning Ji Sung some brownie points, so it felt like a good beginning for him. That is the reason why it is worth anticipating how the actor will fare in his 40s.