Nice to Meet You!
Actress Lee Ji-eun (IU) and actor Yeo Jin-goo, who exchanged their first greeting through their first drama together Hotel Del Luna, are certainly in a different pace compared to before.
Lee Ji-eun as Jang Man-wol, the ill-tempered female CEO of Hotel Del Luna which is open exclusively for ghosts, and Yeo Jin-goo as hotelier Goo Chan-sung, the manager who ends up working at the hotel because of an incident. As strange as Man-wol and Chan-sung’s encounter in the drama itself, the interest on Lee Ji-eun and Yeo Jin-goo’s first encounter onscreen is nothing short of that.
There was neither doubt nor judgment imposed prior to their pairing, but their encounter was different from what was expected, even to both of them. Both tend to take longer time to get close to people and worry about how to approach each other; however, their pace has gotten better with each other in order to fully embrace the bickering cat-and-dog life of Man-wol and Chan-sung. “One of the most frequently asked questions for them related to Hotel Del Luna is about our synergy. But then, our coordination has reached the level that it’s difficult to describe in words because of how great it is.” Yeo Jin-goo, who always gives his answer in his modest, collected manner, answered that with utmost confidence. Perhaps, from that moment (they first encountered each other), the expectation they had for the new meeting had changed. Although Hotel Del Luna is only at the beginning for us, the pair has already cruising comfortably on that ship.
Hotel Del Luna made it into news headlines way before its premiere, thanks to the casting of actor Yeo Jin-goo and actress Lee Ji-eun in your first pairing with each other, ever. Did you prepare anything before you first met each other?
Yeo Jin-goo (YJG): I looked up for the recent projects (of his partner) and watched them. But then, nothing beats actually meeting each other in person to talk and read the lines together. Because of that, I always ask when we would meet in person. I think that it would be good for us to meet and find our synergy as fast as we could.
Lee Ji-eun (IU): Same with me, I would watch the previous works (of her counterpart), but I have watched a lot of Jin-goo’s works. He has a lot of hit works. Be it his recent drama The Crowned Clown or The Moon Embracing the Sun, or the movie Hwayi, he is an actor I have heard a lot about, so I didn’t have to revisit his works again.
How was the first meeting with each other?
IU: I am the type who takes a long time to get closer to someone. There were instances when I couldn’t get close to someone even when we finished the project together. However, this time, I think that there is a need for me to be comfortable with my partner due to the nature of my character. I am grateful that Jin-goo was the one who started the conversation easily and we grew closer in a short time.
YJG: Truth to be told, it wasn’t easy at all. I am an introvert too.
IU: (laughs) You’re right. You really did put in a lot of effort.
When introverts meet each other, it is an important thing as for who will first break the ice.
YJG: You’re right. This time, I was the one who started the conversation. But actually, there is not much significance in who started it first, since there has to be someone who respond to the person who start the conversation. That’s why I feel thankful (towards IU) too. There were times when I felt uncomfortable having people trying to get closer to me in a short time. Hence, at that time, I was reminded of myself and wondered if she would feel uncomfortable too, so I was so grateful that she easily accepted me.
In the making of video, IU said one word that described YJG after working together a few times to find your synergy. “Different.” What does the word imply?
IU: When he read the script, when we had the script reading session, and when we shot the actual scene, he produced different kinds of acting (in each situation). I would read the script and thought of the tone I should carry while acting, like “Oh, I should do it like this.” But then, when Jin-goo suggested a different way of acting out the scene, I would accept it at once and my acting changed as I tried to match with his flow. It is such a fantastic experience. Although we were only in the early stage of filming, Jin-goo seemed to know what kind of person Goo Chan-sung really is, just from one word. At least that was what I felt. Based on that feeling I received, I also managed to get hold of the direction on ho to portray Man-wol. That time, if I were to describe the feeling I had, I suddenly thought of the word “Different”.
Hotel Del Luna‘s setting is not that of reality, but an unknown world. Apart from Chan-sung and Man-wol, most of the characters appearing in the drama are not humans but ghosts. How does it feel to act in reality, when the story itself is set in the background drawn from a fantasy?
YJG: It’s not an easy job at all. I am still astonished when I see the end product after the CG is inserted into the scenes. The scale is indeed bigger than what I initially thought of. That is why I feel more at ease to act after I ask the director on what picture he wants to see as the end product.
IU: Although there are difficult aspects in acting out a story that doesn’t exist in reality, I think of it as the road which shows itself as I walk. There is nothing that is fixed. It is such an interesting project since it is produced through imaginations in lots of ways.
If we are to do a direct comparison, Jang Man-wol is someone who is softhearted with a stern exterior, while Goo Chan-sung is soft outside but tough on the inside. How do both of you understand and approach your respective character?
YJG: Actually, the character Chan-sung is someone who is easy to understand or relate to. Chan-sung is satisfied with what he has achieved himself and doing something he likes as his job, plus he is also good at it and might come off as someone who is pretentious, but those details become the reason for him to exude maturity and appear to be reliable. Just like what you said, he is soft outside but tough on the inside, hence I paid attention to my tone of voice and facial expression to portray that image of him.
IU: When I first read the script, I initially thought that Man-wol would be someone who is extremely confined. But then, the director and the scriptwriters had a slightly different image of her in their minds. Also, after asking the other actors whom I act along with, my interpretation of Man-wol changed. From that moment, I thought that Man-wol could be developed to become a three-dimensional character. Hence, I got rid of the prejudice I had upon the character and made an effort to move along more freely (with the character).
Although it might not be shown in the drama, do you have any speculation on the characters’ past or background in order to better understand your respective character?
IU: Man-wol’s past will be shown a bit at the beginning of the drama. Man-wol hasn’t been able to die since 1000 years ago and the reason she was tied (to this world) is a result of something that happened in the past. That is also the reason for her endless anger and resentment directed at this world. She also loathes herself. She has done everything in the past 1000 years but nothing has worked according to her wishes. In the present, she only has the image of cranky, sarcastic, and putting up a tough front left to her. Still, deep in her heart, she still yearn for that someone; she still has the regret of the yesteryear, fervently wishing that everything will just end there. I think that Man-wol is a character who hides her weak spot in the deepest part of her heart, where it won’t be visible to anyone.
There are many who are confused, whether Man-wol is a ghost or a human being. Perhaps, through your answer to this question, people might be able to know that Man-wol is a human, after all.
IU: There are lots of people who think that Man-wol is a ghost. There is a crucial line in which Man-wol’s identity is described: “I’m neither dead nor alive; I’m just existing here.” If we’re to be specific, I think that she’s closer to that of a human.
Have you ever imagined Chan-sung’s background?
YJG: Chan-sung is the character who initiate changes after he joins Hotel Del Luna. I have portrayed a lot of characters that faced changes and developed themselves, but Chan-sung is a character on the opposite side of the spectrum. That’s why, instead of looking at him as a character, I think that I need to be confident on portraying ‘what kind of person he is’. Hence, I started from there. ‘What might be the reason he decided to become a hotelier?’ Perhaps, after following his thieving father, running away from one place to another, Chan-sung might naturally felt that the hotels and motels were more comfortable compared to his own house, hence propelling him into walking the path of a hotelier. He might crave for success after living a difficult life with his father, and I started to understand him like that.
Everyone wants to do their best once they start a new project. Do you have any action or demeanor you tend to put on display when you think of doing your best? Or are you the type who doesn’t think too much of it and approach it naturally?
YJG: There are two kinds of thoughts that will come to me. ‘I should do my best’ or ‘If I am too focused and greedy on doing my best, I might be engulfed in that mindset and end up becoming stiff, so let’s get rid of that thought.’ Hence, I would read the script again and again. I am someone who gets anxious when I fail to produce a variety of paths (for my acting) without any restriction. This way, I can control the chaos inside me.
By the look of it, you need a longer time to prepare yourself.
YJG: Yes, you’re right. It’s better if I get a longer time to do so.
IU: As for me, I still have the thought that ‘I should do my best’. I have this habit of not believing in myself. If I get too comfortable while doing something, there will be times that I become idle and lazy. I am the type who needs to feel the pressure (to do something).
By any chance, does pushing yourself like that turn into something like a burden at one time?
IU: There were many instances of it. It was more severe when I was younger. I think the pressure I put on myself has been reduced a lot ever since I turned 25.
Maybe we should find something both of you have in common. Both of you have been mentioned to be ‘mature for your age’ ever since you were both young. Do you still hear this kind of comments these days?
IU: I think it’s been a long time since I last heard those words? I did hear them when I was younger, but to hear it today might imply that I am immature. I think I have grown into my age and become more relaxed.
YJG: I used to hear that due to my appearance, also after having conversations with other people (due to his voice? hehehe) but these days, I don’t really hear that kind of comment anymore.
IU: I think that Jin-goo is very mature. Jin-goo is of the same age as my brother, hence I tend to think of my brother when I meet someone who is born in 1997, but Jin-goo is different from him. I thought to myself, ‘People who is born in 1997 can be this mature, but why can’t him?’ HAHA. Plus, there are many instances where Jin-goo acts more like a matured person compared to me and I continue to be surprised myself. As expected, he IS different.
YJG: I’m the same as others. What’s the difference?
If that’s the case, what kind of response you frequently hear these days?
YJG: It’s either ‘Chan-sung ah~’ or their anticipation for Hotel Del Luna.
Doesn’t the answer sound like a publicity stunt? (laughs)
YJG: I’m not lying. These days, I only hear those from people around me.
IU: Maybe because the teasers came out really well. I was thinking that it might be like spitting on my own face, but I heard people saying that I am really like Man-wol, who is someone that is neither kind nor upright.
YJG: You’re really like Man-wol.
IU: Yah! HAHA.
YJG: That’s a compliment.
IU: When I first started filming the drama, the director himself told me to act like Man-wol, even when I’m resting in between the shoots. It has gotten to the point that my way of talking has turned into Man-wol’s. Perhaps, after hearing how extreme my introvert tendency is and how difficult it is to get close to people over a short period, the directing was given like that to me. Because of that, I’m having fun pulling pranks on the set. The staff is so kind and they are responding well to me, but when I am around people whose jokes know no end and conversations seem never-ending, I think I am really like Man-wol.
What would you consider becoming the marker of your satisfactory index about Hotel Del Luna?
YJG: Although I have to limit myself in considering my favourite aspect of the drama, I have to mention the variety of characters present in each and every episode. Here, the majority of the fun lies in determining who is who and how they come to meet each other. Even with Chan-sung and Man-wol’s relationship, there are various ways it will unfold and develop. As you watch the drama, there are moments that will make you laugh and cry, as well as feeling angry and regretful. I think having people immersing themselves in each and every different character like this is something that will be satisfying.
IU: No matter how much praise I receive from other people who acknowledge my work, everything becomes worthless if I am not satisfied with the work. It all boils down to making myself satisfied first.
YJG: That is a must.
IU: But then, that is the most difficult thing to achieve. You have to continuously keep yourself in check. Be it during the time I love or loathe myself, it is something I have to face head-on. Going through those times and finally arriving at the finishing point to experience the satisfaction yourself, for me, is the best thing ever to me.