D-3 of his enlistment, we met actor Woo Do-hwan in the midst of him being nervous and anxious.
Woo Do-hwan’s Passionate Goodbye
It was not a planned separation. One week before the scheduled shoot, we received the news of his enlistment. This was what the star wrote in a handwritten letter posted on his SNS (Instagram): “Thank you for looking over and loving me in my 20s.” The ELLE team got even busier over the preparation for the meeting with him. Then, 3 days before his enlistment date, the photo shoot began in the midst of the gathering of his staff, who had been with him for a while in his years in the industry. He was indeed an actor who fit well with the screen, from his bold features to his strong gaze. Actually, this is also the moment when public’s interest is pouring in for him; it was thanks to his portrayal in the drama The King: Eternal Monarch, where his portrayal of two characters enabled him to showcase his playful and cheeky side he never got to show before. This caused people to see him in a totally different light compared to before. Perhaps, it has something to do with the slightly late recognition he received in his acting career for him to approach acting with a more heartfelt sincerity, to the point of him shedding tears whenever his projects came to an end. We were still burning with curiosity, wanting to know about this man, getting choked with tears at the end of the interview after answering question with honesty from his heart. Just before he changed into the final look for the shoot, he left the studio for a while and later returned to stand in front of the camera with a freshly cut hair. It was the last scene.
We heard about the sudden news of your enlistment, so this meeting turned out to be meaningful. Yes, yes. This is my final schedule. I wanted to have some fun meeting some friends and have good meals and drinks (with them), but I restrained myself for today. Since this is going to be the last pictorial in my 20s and it would last forever, I want to be able to do it in my best condition.
D-3 before your enlistment. How do you feel right now? There are so many emotions going on, really. I am someone who tends to keep a journal in order not to forget what happens today and tries to keep the day on my mind. Even with that, I think that the enlistment will bring about many things to be thought about: how I have lived and all the people who are precious to me…things like that.
The King: Eternal Monarch became your last project before your enlistment. What did the drama mean to you? When I think about it right now, it was such a great thing that it was a project where I got to portray two characters. Because of that, I was able to showcase two different sides of me, and it did feel like leaving behind two different projects for the fans. It was a project where I got to work together with really great actors, actresses, and production team, so it was like gaining thousand troops prior to joining the army.
Between Jo Young and Jo Eun-sup, it must have been difficult to act out two polar opposite characters. It was difficult indeed. There were times when I had to act out both characters in one day, and there were also times when I had to changing back and forth between Yeong and Eun-sup. Our staff also worked hard to set my hair and help me changing in and out of different clothes for the roles. When I became Eun-sup, the first thing to do was to amp up the energy level. As for Yeong, I had to keep myself as poised as possible when I changed into him. It was a fun experience to be able to create the difference between the two characters myself, although I have to admit that it was not easy at all. Even if the scenes where the two of them appeared in were the most difficult, they were also the most interesting to film, since I had to take everything into account, including the reaction and the eye level.
Jo Eun-sup especially was the character that enabled you to show a different side of you. How did you feel having to act out a playful character who used saturi (regional dialect)? Those who know me well would have known that I am the real version of Eun-sup (laughs). Although I am well aware that people thought that I am somehow closer to Yeong in real life due to the serious nature of the roles I have done before. I think that I got to showcase a different thing this time, and it was something new to me as well with regards to acting such character. I have always wanted to do a role like this, and I was finally given a chance to do so. It feels like Writer Kim Eun-sook discovered another side of me and took it out, shaping it into an animated character.
Anyone would have different sides to their own selves. What do you think would be the most contradicting point encountered by actor Woo Do-hwan? Whenever I am meeting someone in a more private setting, I hear lots of comments saying that I am different from what they see. For example, people always say that I seem to like drinking alcohol. But actually, I really don’t like doing so! I think most people are aware of this now thanks to my recent project, but I like to joke around.
Another surprising thing about you is that you are such a crybaby. We heard about this from your My Country co-star Yang Se-jong, and he said that you cried a lot during the last shooting. I tend to be quite emotional. Even during acting, I feel that I am still lacking when it comes to technical details, so I tend to concentrate on the roles and the emotions pertaining to them. Anyway, I did receive calls from (Yang) Se-jong. Since he went to the army before me, he shared lots of things with me. We are both very thankful towards each other. We are the best partners, after all.
If there is a parallel world which exists alongside our world just like in the drama, what is the thing you are most curious about if you can see the fruit of your past choice? I think I would be curious about my life if I don’t become an actor. The drama showed how the characters had different jobs in the parallel worlds. I really want to know what I would end up doing in the alternate timeline, and whether I end up getting married at this point of my life there. There will be many different things including how I would live my life.
Still, in this world, it has been 9 years since you started walking on the path of an actor. Was there any moment where you felt any kind of regret? During early to mid-20s, whenever I didn’t have any project, the time felt so long. I would always worry about how to spend the days, and the waiting seemed like forever. And then, the other half of my 20s flew away so fast without me realizing. It seems that the blissful moments always pass by really quick. Just like how people say that the first break after enlistment feels like 3 seconds (laughs). Of course, the time when we were nobody would feel long regardless of whoever we are, but to me, it was the time when I was waiting earnestly, and that was how I had my fateful encounter. Perhaps, it was because of my late success that I felt more grateful, and how I am able to enlist with the blessings of so many people like this.
Action, thriller, historical, romance..between all those different genres you have attempted before, which one was the most memorable to you? Each of them was different, and every single project was a challenge for me. I think I was lucky to be someone who was able to try out so many different things in my 20s. When I did the drama Tempted, it was the first project just after I had received a newcomer award (Best New Actress for Mad Dog at the 2017 KBS Drama Awards), so the pressure was huge. There was also the burden of becoming the lead for the first time. It was a difficult time for me at the set because I lacked experience back then. I put in a lot of effort in order to find my own breakthrough point, and that was how I overcame the pressure. With all the things I learned through the drama as my foundation and also after joining two films, I felt that things were different when I filmed the drama My Country. I had an epiphany, thinking that maybe the job of an actor required you to enjoy doing it in order to do it properly. Although what could be seen of me at that time was limited to what was captured on the screen, I felt that a lot of things had been different for me behind the camera as well.
Was there any difficult moment or any concern you faced yourself that we didn’t know about before? There is something every single male actor or celebrity would be concerned about in their career, and that is the enlistment. Actually, I have always had a plan about enlistment at the back of my mind. It was my biggest source of worry and pressure. When there was not much work offer coming in, I would think of things like, “Should I just enlist next year?” or “I should really go when I turn 25.” But then, just when I turned 25, I was cast for the movie Master in January that year. That was how I ended up here now. My friends had enlisted one by one and finished their service, hence I have spent almost 10 years listening to their stories and learning the life in army through words of others. At last, I have the chance to experience itself with my own body this time around.
You are 29 years old (Korean age). How was the youth of Woo Do-hwan in your 20s? It seems that you have spent it well. (He paused for a moment) I think I have spent my youth well. Perhaps, I should put more weight in approaching this question. I have met many people: there were those who hurt me, and there were those who were hurt by me; those who gave me their love and those whom I loved…I don’t want my answer to be “No” when I am asked whether I have lived my 20s well or not. Although there might be moments when I couldn’t live well, I didn’t want to leave regretful feeling through my answer.
It was a random question, but you seem to be holding your tears right now. Actually, age is just a number, but I seem to view it emotionally the nearer I get to my enlistment date. I kept asking my manager hyung from last year this question: how is it to be in your 30s? I continued asking him from time to time but there was not much to it, according to him. I asked others the same question and received the same answer. From my point of view, that is somehow sad. I hope that there will be something different (to me) when I return.
What to do wish for your army life experience to be? Other than meeting other people as me and not as actor Woo Do-hwan, there is nothing much that comes to my mind, frankly speaking. But then, just like how I would naturally revert back to my old self whenever I meet my friends, I think I will also make friends during my service. I have lots of anticipation rather than worries. I have this dream of being in army ever since my childhood; protecting something is a cool thing to do. Since this is once in a lifetime thing, I aspire to do well. I also hope that when I return, I will somehow become more matured, adult-like and cool. I am curious on how my reflection would look like on the time when that time comes.
If actor Woo Do-hwan’s 20s is to be made into a film, what would you like to be the ending cut? I would be content with a scene in which I am smiling happily. But then, I didn’t really have much scenes in my projects where I smiled and laughed. Maybe something like the scene where Eun-sup flicked the coin in The King: Eternal Monarch? Instead of a coin, it would be something like, ‘Goodbye my 20s!’ (laughs)
(credit to ELLEKOREA)