Whenever he was asked a question, Kim Jung-hyun would close his eyes and fall deep into his thoughts. It was a short silence right before he gets exactly to what he was trying to say. He chose his words carefully, like the flower petals falling one by one onto the ground. The only answer he did not hesitate about was, “Acting enables me to become a better person.” His love that blooms for acting is precise and unwavering.
Kim Jung-hyun’s Love for Acting
What did you think about the photo shoot today?
I don’t have the chance to go on flower sightseeing these days since we can’t go out much, but thanks to this photo shoot, I get to have a cherry blossom viewing indoors today. I really liked it.
It’s still clear in our memory how you looked like in your debut movie Overman as a gymnast with your thin, unripe apple-like face. Now, you have turned into such a cheeky person in Crash Landing on You. How do you feel about your increasing popularity?
Haha. I’m not sure about it since I can’t go out much these days. Actually, I haven’t changed much. It’s the environment and the situation around me that has changed. Back then, I was still a student; now I’m working with a company while getting fans and receiving love and attention from them. But I am still the same; my heart and mind are still the same as what I had during Overman.
You are full of wit that drives people crazy when you act, but now that we have met you in person today, you seem like a quiet and careful man.
I’m the type who is shy and quiet. Even when I’m in the middle of a conversation, I’m not the talkative one. If it’s a relationship that is built because of the comfort we find in shared silence, then I see it as a way of displaying your consideration and respect towards each other. I’m making an effort to not think or worry too much, but it seems like a package that comes with being an introvert.
You close your eyes and get lost in your thoughts for a moment after you hear the question.
I need to organize my thoughts since I am not good at expressing myself and keep wondering if it is okay to say what comes to my mind at that moment. I work hard to differentiate things I should and shouldn’t say. Plus, if I happen to provide too many additional details, then it might only diverge further from what I am talking about. It’s something I do in order to convey my exact intention.
Do you tend to have long, deep thought?
I can’t provide an answer immediately or give a decision at once. Back then, I just had too much to worry and be concerned about, but things just won’t flow according to what I thought about when I tried to take something as it was. Maybe I was being difficult on my own self. These days, I think of doing things as they are and worry about something when I’m doing it.
Are there moments when you question yourself?
I do it from time to time. Why am I acting, what is acting, what is there to life, what is a relationship, those kinds of questions. Although it’s just an unnecessary concern going on, I dwell on questions that have an influence on life.
What does Kim Jung-hyun really want?
Um…the thing that I want is not something I can find outside. The thing that I want is something that I need to make myself inside me. In the movie Memories of Matsuko, Matsuko desperately yearns for love, but I wonder if the love she gains after everything she sacrifices might really be budding inside her own self. After all, isn’t love something you find within yourself instead of somewhere outside there? There are times when we aren’t sure of what we really want. Just when you finally gain love, money, and honour, holding them in your hands, you will realize that they aren’t what you truly wish for. Jim Carrey said this: “I hope everybody could get rich and famous and will have everything they ever dreamed of, so they will know that it’s not the answer.” We were not born into this world according to our own will in the first place, but we live our lives according to our own plan; even if that’s the case, there are times when we feel that our lives aren’t ours. There was a time when I yearned to be able to do an interview and shoot a pictorial like this, but now that I’m sitting here, it’s ironic that I’m feeling a different kind of yearning. No matter what I wish for, it is still unable to satisfy myself. I feel that it’s important to be able to fill your inner self. Only then you will be able to love someone and recognize that feeling.
What does Kim Jung-hyun fill himself with?
It’s also the reason why I started acting. Although my life is deeply personal, it is also deeply connected with someone else’s at the same time. When someone watches me act, they would interpret the character I’m portraying and then reflecting their own self on the character. It’s such a worthy thing to be able to receive feedback on how my acting has touched that person. To me, being able to share this kind of life is a way to show my worth as a human being. I think of how my life affects that of someone else and what I can give through that connection.
You mentioned in an interview before that ‘acting is some sort of a communication method’. Whom do you want to communicate with? Your acting partner? Your viewers? Or your own self?
All of above. In a project, it’s possible for me to communicate with anyone because I believe that acting itself is a way to communicate. That is also the reason why I act.
How does acting shape you as a person?
Acting enables me to become a better person.
This is the first time today for you to answer a question immediately.
Haha. Acting makes it possible for me to take one step after another while preventing me from staying at one place for too long. When I get to understand someone, something that I initially thought to be right might be wrong, and something wrong might turn out to be right after all.
Did you grow up in Busan?
In Yongho-dong. I also lived in Pohang. I lived in a place where there was sea no matter where I looked. I remember thinking about the reason I live and what is meaning behind death as I looked at the sea. Winter sea has its own charms: bleak, majestic, and relieving. I grew up without realizing that it was such a special experience; it was only after I moved to Seoul that I had a realization about it.
We heard that you found a theater club named Narcissus while you were in high school.
I attended a newly established high school at that time. Together with several other seniors who had a passion for acting, we made a theater club. There were few suggested names but everyone happened to agree with it when we were talking about narcissism, hence the name was decided. It wasn’t entirely my decision. Haha. I even wrote the script and put up the show myself. It was a story about my mom. I sat down for 7 hours and it was the first time I wrote something for a long time. If I were to look at it now, it might make me feel embarrassed.
How was it when you came to Seoul after spending your younger days there?
It was purely a forest made of concrete buildings. It was really amazing and new to me. But now it’s just a neighbourhood I live in.
This is our first time seeing someone of Busan native who has fixed his accent perfectly like you.
It will be great if using dialect during acting can be one’s weapon, but it won’t be so if it is just an extension of your personal life. Hence, I made a huge effort to fix it. Maybe I just wanted to be better at acting.
You even call yourself an ambitious blob. What kind of ambition is able to move Kim Jung-hyun?
Maybe I could say that it is derived from a sense of inferiority. I just worry about everything, thinking about what it takes to become a better person and how to act in a more sensible manner. I think I might be driven by the thirst for those things, close to that of an idealist.
Do you have anything that you lack?
Of course, I do. Even when I’m spending time with my friends, I would always feel lonely despite the good time we have together. Before this, I avoided spending time alone because I was in denial regarding this fact; but recently, I have spent a lot of time accepting it. My heart actually feels more at ease once I have accepted the fact that loneliness can be experienced by anyone.
You are being hard on yourself as an idealist.
You’re right. Right now, I’m making an effort to love myself. Haha.
You seem to be someone who loves literature. Do you have any favourite books?
Thérèse Raquin, and also books by Albert Camus. I read a lot of them in my early to mid-20s. I started reading while thinking that it might help me in my acting, but it seems to have helped me in growing my thinking muscles. My favourite work of Camus is L’Étranger (The Outsider).
Have you ever feel like an outsider yourself?
I do feel like that at times.
Is that feeling something you were born with?
It’s just something I have accumulated throughout my life. There’s no such thing as being born with it or that it’s forever to me.
Was there anything you wanted so badly that you did something for it?
When I was auditioning for the drama Jealousy Incarnate, The director told me to act only in my underwear, because he wanted to take a look at my physical. I even did tumbling in front of him. Haha.
Do you have any thirst with regard to stage acting?
Of course, I have. Unlike drama or film, theater requires you to maintain a strong synergy with your acting partners from the beginning until the end, while solely being focused on acting since there are no cameras involved. The root of acting lies in stage acting. If there’s a chance, I’d like to try it once. I also want to try doing musicals like Hedwig.
Both Memories of Matsuko and Hedwig tell the story of people who fall into the pit of darkness in their lives but still shine in their own way. Do you happen to like that kind of story?
That’s right. Such kind of story becomes a personal driving force to me whenever I feel miserable.
You are closing your eyes again as you fall into deep thoughts. You remind us of a herbivore that keeps chewing on something after you swallow it.
Is it true that you love to take a walk?
I like to walk along the Han River, since I live nearby. All the things that have been weighing on my mind seem to be cleared, as I devote myself to focusing on my feelings, my movement, my breathing, and each step I take. That’s also how the empty space in my mind will be occupied with new thoughts.
Do you like to clear out your mind?
I’m the type of person who tends to put too much meaning even to the smallest things; how significant something is to this life and what kind of words and gestures to be used when talking to someone. But then, there are so many instances when I realize that there’s nothing to it once it has passed. It’s also ironic that there is another meaning that appears in place of the emptied place.
What you said during the video filming was memorable: “One should not judge others recklessly.” People are always judging someone else other than themselves. What makes you think that it shouldn’t be the case?
In the movie Memories of Matsuko, who is the one who sees Matsuko’s life as detestable? From my point of view, if I accept that I shouldn’t judge another person’s life easily, then I would also be free in my life.