Go Joon – GQ July 2018 Interview

Actor Go Joon is not an actor who suddenly appears out of nowhere; he is taking his time slowly but he is getting out into the world with a burning passion.


A lot of things have changed since you starred in the drama Misty, right? Do you have more people out there who recognize you? My mother really loves it, but I don’t really know about the changes. Still, when compared to the days I only appeared in movies, it seems that I have gained female fans, but I still can’t seem to feel it.

We have seen all the movies you have starred in, but honestly, we did not realize that the characters were all portrayed by one single actor. It feels like your face changes with every project you take. We will really change if we put our heart, mind, and soul into becoming a character. Aren’t the facial expressions when we are on the verge of a breakup or when we are in love different from each other? I can make use of it and utilize this very well. I would live as if I am the character itself while I am preparing myself for the role. When I was getting into the role of Young-chun who was a Chinese person of Korean descent in the movie Midnight Runners, I used the dialect even in my real life and was treated coldly by some people. When you get to know the heart (of the character), it will be reflected on your face as well.

If that is the case, then it would not be easy for people to recognize the actor Go Joon. Don’t you feel sad about it? Rather than being recognized for my name, I want to become an actor who can portray the heart of my characters well. I don’t feel the excitement of getting more known through Misty; however, I feel the catharsis when people don’t know my name but recognize me as my characters. I’m a bit on the hardcore side, right?

Your wide range of transformations is your strength. In the drama Misty, you portrayed a pro golfer who conquered the world, but in soon-to-be-released movie Sunset in My Hometown, you become a cute gangster who does his business in the countryside. Actually, I filmed Sunset in My Hometown first before Misty. I started shooting for Misty towards the end of Sunset’s schedule and they overlapped for a while. I did have a hard time going back and forth between the different rhythms of those two characters: the buff country bumpkin who used thick accents and the gentleman who greeted everyone like, “Hello, I am Kevin Lee.” Everything was different, from their ways of walking, talking, and gestures. Should I say that it’s as awkward as putting a tuxedo when we have to switch from hip-hop into doing classical performance all of a sudden? Honestly speaking, at that time, my whole body was overpowered by the character Yong-dae, and to have a character like Kevin Lee suddenly entering my life was extremely awkward; the way of living well as a successful man was something unfamiliar to me at that moment.

But when Kevin Lee said “Did you watch it properly? That is who I am.”, the statement he made in Misty exuded a blood-curdling feeling. Perhaps, could it be that the statement is also what actor Go Joon wanted to say to the world after spending 18 years of obscurity up until now? “Although people said that it would be impossible for me, in the end, I will make it possible.” I held on to that statement and endured everything until I arrived at this point here today.

Kevin Lee was ditched by his lover when he was a nobody and worked his way up in rage to become a world-class sportsman while being a persistent man in a continuous struggle to be acknowledged. Although there are differences, did you find any similarities in both you yourself and Kevin Lee? Was there any moment of strong aspiration actor Go Joon had in his life? In the past, I went through the same situation as Kevin Lee once: I was abandoned by someone because I was incompetent. I wanted to continue with acting but I was getting older; it was around the age for me to get married, yet that person didn’t see any prospect of us being together in the future. That was how I let her go and spent a long time nursing the heartbreak. I am someone who opens up my heart late into the situation and also closes up later; hence, it would take some time for me to get comfortable with someone I’m seeing, and the pain from a break up takes a longer time to heal for me. But then, the difference between Kevin Lee and me is that my passion is stronger for acting compared to romance. Acting is something I strongly wanted for myself, and the feeling has never changed until today. I am 18 years into acting but I still want to become an actor.

What does it mean by wanting to become an actor when you are already one? I want to be a real actor who can deeply understand the role and act out the character with sincerity. When I was younger, I wanted to become a celebrity and started out acting by imitating others. Somehow, while I was acting for an indie movie, I happened to meet a disabled person for an interview to get to know more about the character I was going to portray. Seeing how he was struggling with his discomfort, I was ashamed of myself, who was trying to imitate that person’s pain. I pondered a lot afterward and realized that acting is an act of borrowing and using another person’s life onscreen, so it shouldn’t be carelessly imitated in any way. I realized that I should let the heart does the talk while acting, and it was then I changed my acting goal.

How does actor Go Joon attempt to deeply understand a role or a person? When I want to understand someone, I would start with the person’s wounds and trauma. I try to follow the traces of that person’s pain. I would like to try acting out characters like the movies My Left Foot’s Christy and Oasis’ Gong-ju, both who had cerebral palsy. I have a lot of interest in the underdogs.

You are deeply immersed in a person’s anguish. When you see a character who holds pain in his heart, do you find yourself resonating with the pain you have? Umm…I also went through a lot of difficulties in the past. I was a socially difficult child who could not get along with other people. As you can see during the photo shoot, I had a burn scar. The trauma was severe. I remember staying all by myself at home since I couldn’t attend kindergarten because of that. I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house, so whenever my parents had to go out, I locked the doors and listened to the whole album of classical music on the record player. That’s how I came to listen to classical music whenever I am home alone and turning on the TV to watch movies playing over the weekend.

Was there any movie you were fond of during that time? Although I watched The Tin Drum way back then, the image of Oskar beating his drum while protesting against the world still resonates with me since I was different compared to other children. When I think over it again, it was my way of crying for help; wanting to be left alone was a delusion of mine. I wanted to be together with other people, yet I ended up isolating myself. That’s how I watched the movie and realized that I wasn’t alone, and I gained courage from it.  

We have to admit that it is difficult to associate the current bright and energetic image of yours with that time. How did you manage to get through that period? At first, I attended the church to get used to be around people, and I became an altar boy to assist the priest because he was very cool in my eyes. With the sound of the organ pipe playing in the background and everyone listening attentively to the priest’s sermon, it was as if watching an actor doing a monologue. There was a time when I wanted to become a priest. But then, my eyes of reasoning were made open and I eventually gave up on the path to the priesthood; that was also the moment I started to prepare myself to go into acting.

Were you able to break out a bit from the trauma as you started acting? I realize that if I want to act, I’d have to portray a vast amount of personalities instead of showing my own self. Even if it’s not funny, you have to physically smile. That was how I learned about personalities bit by bit. I was hit with the realization that there are different feelings in a person, namely joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure. There are also joy and pleasure inside me, aside from anger and sorrow.

That is how it becomes the driving force behind your acting until now, 18 years later. Of course, there were difficult times as well. There were times when I went through hardships, the future became unclear, and I continued to fail in relationships. I even felt that I won’t be able to get into bright characters. But then, people around me these days would say, “Isn’t it good now that everything has worked out well for you?” I realized that getting bright roles instead of just dark characters these days has proved my worth and added to recognition, bit by bit. I thought to myself, “So, I was sticking to dark roles because I wanted to protect myself. Now, I can also be bright myself.”

From Tazza: The Hidden Card’s Yu-ryeong to Midnight Runner’s Young-chun, you mostly played cold-blooded villains in the movies. This time around, Sunset in My Hometown’s Yong-dae will be a comical gangster. Is this your way of emotionally ventilating yourself? I came to a realization that there is a bright side of me that I have kept hidden inside myself. I was happy and it was healing for me. It was the first time I didn’t feel tormented while doing a project. Director Lee Jun-ik treated me, someone who was like an abandoned puppy, with warmth. (Park) Jung-min and (Kim) Go-eun also got along with me like we were real schoolmates, and that helped me to reset my personality as well as my way of expressing myself. There is rumour still going around that I am a scary, rough person and people have a misconception about me. It was not my intention at all but my heart is hurt to hear that. I’m still keeping in touch closely with the Sunset’s cast, and they would never stop nagging at me, saying things like “Smile! Smile! People might misunderstand.” And “Hyung, people will be scared of you if you do that.” Hahaha.

As you act in a project revolving around old schoolmates who gathered together and spent good time together, you might be reminded of the days in the past but with the ability to think about it in a more comfortable way. I was suddenly and subconsciously reminded of the few good memories I had in the past while I was filming the movie. Before this, it was difficult to recall it even consciously, but I realized that there were also moments in the past when I was joyous, silly, and happy. It’s a project I’m thankful for since it restored the good memories I had of the past.

With Misty getting your name out to the world and the warm experience you had through Sunset in My Hometown, do you think that this year will be the turning point for actor Go Joon? When I think about it, this seems to be God’s plan. Since I was able to endure the hardships well in my early life, the hardships also turned out to be a preparation for me to utilize it in later life. I spent my 30s feeling depressed, all dark and gloomy, but I wanted to feel the excitement all over again. I have never thought that a day like this would come, but there was even a time when I had to choose over a few projects because the schedules happened to be overlapped.

You are currently filming the drama special adapted from Writer Kim Geum-hee’s novel, A Very Midday Romance, where your character is involved in a strange relationship. A continuous encounter gone awry with Yang-hee, an empty, idling woman who seems to have nothing to her. Are you able to understand Yang-hee? I can relate to her. After all, I also used to have a different way of expressing myself when I was young. In my opinion, it’s just that she has a different way of showing her feelings. Choi Kang-hee, who plays the character, is just the personification of Yang-hee herself. Whenever I look into her eyes, I feel that I can understand Yang-hee.

On the other hand, the character acted by actor Go Joon, Pil-yong, is not a character who is out of the bounds of normality, right? You’re right. But still, he’s someone who can’t seem to find himself. 

Do you mean that he is someone who puts himself within the bounds of normality and dissociating him from his own self? That’s right. The act of him searching for Yang-hee is also because he wants to find himself. Right in the middle of being so bright, I lost a lot of weight for the role and feels depressed again.

Do you think that unlike Pil-yong, actor Go Joon is living while finding himself? Perhaps, I think I have found myself today. HAHA. I hope to see more of that person once I finish the project: Kim Joon-ho. That’s my real name. I want to see Kim Joon-ho.


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