We never know that we all might be able to become a better person. Jang Dong-yoon’s honest, upright eyes seem to radiate that kind of strong belief.
HOLD YOUR BREATH; IT’S JANG DONG YOON’S ONE LAZY AFTERNOON
You got to leave behind the image of you on a pictorial, right after wrapping up your project and before you cut your long hair. Do you like living with long hair?
It’s the first time in my life to grow my hair this long, ever since I was born. I find it amusing that it’s not only about having long hair; my image also becomes different with this hair. I would like to grow it out again later. Of course, it’s much more comfortable to live with short hair.
The word ‘trending’ seems to follow you every time there is a news article about you.
Perhaps, it’s the aftereffect of the drama The Tale of Nokdu, since it has just ended its run recently. It’s true that the drama ranked high on the popularity index and many people know about it. That is the reason why I feel that the drama is special.
Your appearance on a program one year ago, where you were standing in line in front of a pork cutlet restaurant, is becoming a hot topic again. We are curious after hearing that you stood there in line for two days. Do you really love pork cutlet that much?
It’s not that I have a strong love for pork cutlets. (laughs) My mother was visiting and she wanted to go to the restaurant after seeing it on Baek Jong Won’s Alley Restaurant. She went with me on the first day to stand in line but we failed to get in. On the next day, I went alone to try and get the waiting number. That was when they happened to film me waiting in line right there. I really like to eat.
Now that more people recognize you, do you feel any burden with regard to it?
Still, I need to live my life like how I used to. It might be relatively uncomfortable compared to before, but I don’t think I need to change the way I dress up or the place I usually go to.
The hot topic early into your drama was the cross-dressing part, but you did not try to match the so-called ‘ladylike’ standard as you acted out Lady Kim.
It is a matter of meeting the right values and direction. I didn’t want to do the exaggerated or unnatural acting. There’s also the matter of meeting the social value, so when I received the direction to ‘walk like a lady’, I got to express my opinion: ‘there is no such thing as a ladylike stride’.
You did not have any hesitation even when you had to go shirtless. Did Pilates help you in some way?
One thing I’m sure of it is how it helps during acting since I need to make use of my body. Should I say that it helps me to be in control of my muscles and attention? Nokdu is a young man who grows up on an island and he has remarkable martial art skills. In order to portray a character like that, I need to let go of any hesitation in everything, including doing shirtless.
If there are people who want to rewatch the drama, is there any scene you wish that people pay more attention to?
The part starting from the ending of episode 7 until episode 8, where the Widow Village was burning down in flames and the fighting scene. There were a lot of action scenes and I had to pay a lot of attention to making charismatic expression on my face, so I was very nervous at that time. The end product was something I am very satisfied with.
You were not someone who dreamed of becoming an actor; instead, you were approached by an agency and had your debut.
At first, I felt that I was someone without roots. It was like being sent into a battleground without anything while the other actors were armed. Right now, I have gotten over the moment when I was lost and I am getting used to the way of surviving. There are lots of things I learn as I meet with more people on the set.
Where did you get the courage to join the war barehandedly?
I always have a tendency to do so. I will make a daring decision when there is the need to make one, and I won’t hesitate to lunge at something like a bulldozer if I need to tackle it down. When I first started acting, I even had the thought of returning to where I originally belong if it happened to end up terribly. Even if I did go back to prepare for job placement, I wouldn’t think of the time I spent to take up the challenge as a waste. I am the type who will start running towards something first and then doing my best at it.
People can say that it was sheer luck for you, but you have done diverse types of projects like webdrama, drama special, dramas, reality shows, and even a film. It is almost unbelievable to find out that it has only been a little over three years since you debuted.
The roles were relatively open for a rookie, and I think I have made the best choice out of the small range of options I was offered. Even if the role I portray did not meet 100% of the criteria that I wanted, the choice was limited, so I had to make my choice as a strategy to move forward. The range and the offer nowadays have become wider these days.
You have confirmed to be starring in the drama Search, which is set to air in the first half of 2020. Don’t you have any plan of doing another film after Beautiful Days, which was chosen to become the opening film in 2018’s Busan International Film Festival?
It can be mistaken as my strategy, but I am being conscious of it. There are actors who build a name for themselves and become recognized through dramas, but they either fail to shine as bright in the films or lose the right moment to advance into films and end up regretting it. I will start shooting an indie movie soon.
There are a lot of people who are interested in your pre-debut story. Of course, there is the famous debut story where you caught a robber before receiving a love call because of your news appearance. Apart from that, there are also people wondering about the content of your poems you used to write in high school, and also the behind story of your nickname Wangsimni’s Detective Jang, after you helped to catch the high schoolers who used to smoke behind your boarding house.
There are a lot of TMIs about me. (laughs)
Among those many episodes of your past, which one has the most effect on making the person you are today?
I think of my high school years as the most crucial time for making who am I today. It was the first time I made an effort in my own accord in order to achieve something. Have you ever heard of ‘Jeongsecheongse’? (정세청세: 정의로운 세상을 꿈꾸는 청소년, 세계와 소통하다 – The youth who dreams of a fair world, communicates with the world) It starts out as a debate club and sometimes organizes discussions. There was a debate about a case handled by the late Jo Young-rae, a human rights attorney and I still remember it. It was during high school that I write the most for my poetry, and it was the most innocent stage of my life.
You are someone with a lot of interest in the world.
Perhaps, it was due to the influence that even now, I draw a clear line between right and wrong. Perhaps, it can be considered a weakness too. I can’t seem to get over such things easily just like that. When I was in university, someone did something that was wrong and posted on the group chatting room, asking for opinions on it. It was something close to a crime, but people’s reaction was like, ‘Why are you making a big fuss about it?’ Be it on the campus or in the military camp, people would always try to bury or get over the things they had done. It was shocking to me.
How was the response from the people around you?
There were some who would distance themselves from me since they don’t want to have people talking behind their backs. I was always a class president and acted as an insider, but I would be lying if I say that I didn’t feel any sense of betrayal when I saw what they did. It was up to the point there were only 10 names in the list of my phone contacts.
Don’t you think that there would be someone among those people who are having this thought now: ‘I was a coward back then’?
Just like how the sexual assault cases continued to happen even after the #MeToo movement, someone who couldn’t see the magnitude of the problem is the same as the person committing the act. I know that nothing much will change if there is only one person pushing through it. However, now that I am in this line of work where I can influence more people, I hope to have a good influence on others and put my effort into it.
We really need that kind of ethical sense in this era. Are you someone who is good at lending your ears to the problems of people around you?
There aren’t a lot of people who want to share their problems with me, but there were two high school boys I met while I was filming Just Dance. They were both dreaming of becoming actors. Sometimes I would meet them and we would talk about career paths over a meal. As someone who has lived the life 10 years longer compared to them, I would always advise them with something like, ‘Don’t do bad things. Just make so effort.’
You will turn 29 soon. Do you have something you want to accomplish before your 20s end?
I want to do well in this job as an actor. I think that there’s no use of being good at something else when you can’t devote yourself to your main job. It is a job where I can give happiness to the public who watches over me, so to think of doing better at something other than that seems like a luxury to me. But then, I am still a human being after all. After I wrapped up filming for The Tale of Nokdu, I started playing games after a long while, and I even played until the next morning. (laughs)
Don’t you feel like you gained some freedom after completing a project?
It’s more or less living like a jobless person while waiting for the next project to start. But then, isn’t it the best time to prepare yourself for whatever that is coming for you? I want to add more diversity into my roles when I enter my 30s, so I need to widen my acting spectrum as a preparation for that.
Since you have many things you are good at, we can’t help but wonder if you also have a high standard when it comes to people.
It’s fine to have someone whom I can talk to. It would be even better if it’s someone who loves animals and kids as much as I am, also someone who is respectful towards others. If the person has a good character, it will be even more attractive, don’t you think so? That’s what I think.
Is there anyone who wouldn’t want to be like that?
Now that my project is well-received, I would hear people telling me this from time to time, ‘You can’t change!’ I am very much aware of the context and the significance of that remark. It’s a remark made with the assumption that I will change somehow, but I think that there is room for me to work towards it. In the past, if I was someone who didn’t do something because I found it troublesome, or I had a different attitude towards something, people would think that it was just my nature. I don’t want to be someone who doesn’t make an effort or someone who is lazy.
Looking back at it, everything began on the day you went to the convenience store to buy a lottery ticket. What happened to that lottery ticket at that time?
I went to the police station and gave a statement as the witness, but later, I did go back to buy the lottery ticket. That was the first and last lottery ticket in my life. It turned out to be a losing ticket, but it doesn’t matter to me. After all, I embarked on a new path because of it. And come to think of it, isn’t that a pretty good content for a prologue to my story?