Yeo Jin Goo – GQ February 2021 Interview

I still find it surreal that Yeo Jin-goo is coming back to grace our screens with his presence this February. Yes, the long wait is finally over! He did appear on the variety show House on Wheels and made a cameo in the drama Start-Up last year, but I am always bad at keeping up with varieties and I haven’t had the drive to continue watching Start-Up (oops..). Anyway, the promo materials for his upcoming drama Beyond Evil are trickling out slowly, making me even more impatient for it. I guess I have to keep calm for now and enjoy his comeback pictorial with GQ, exactly two years after his interview for The Crowned Clown back in 2019. Time sure flies!

I LIKE POETRY; I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT READING, BUT WRITING IT.

Yeo Jin-goo is brimming with expectation and he never disappoints. There is no doubt about it too, his time around.

We are in a deep trouble. The day is too cold that it is making us curse under our breath. I even shot a scene in the rain not too long ago, so I had a realization that it was indeed the winter.

That was your only reaction after being drenched in this freezing cold? Winter means that it’s cold…haha!

Do you have any tips to tolerate the bitter cold weather? I’m not sure about everyone else but I stick the hot packs on the back of my arms. I like it since it makes me feel as if someone is giving me a nice warm hug from behind.

Just now, it is like listening to the voice behind the AI speaker Jang Yeong-sil in the drama Start-Up. After all, Yeong-sil always gives vague answers. You’re right. Although it was just a special appearance, it was a fun experience. In the drama, things Yeong-sil said would always come back like foreshadowing; hence, I would first say out the lines stiffly like an AI speaker would, before acting it again as if I am delivering prophecies.

We remember that there were lots of speculations at first, with people wondering if it was really Yeo Jin-goo or not. The director told me to keep it a secret first. There were also a lot of people around me who recognized my voice right after they heard it, but there were also those who found out late and were like, “That was you?” There was a close friend of mine who followed the drama from the beginning, but he didn’t have any clue about it until my short appearance in the final episode. He thought that it was a voice actor all this while.  

It sounds like a compliment to us. I watched the film Her starring Scarlett Johansson as the voice of an AI virtual assistant and realized that a voice alone can also move a person’s heart. Although the voice itself is important, I used to pay more attention to my eyes. Hence, I would always practice expressing my feelings without any lines, only through my eyes. But then, I got to be more interested in the voice tone and the way of speaking as well through the project this time.

Is there any area that you are expert at so that you can give out any answer like an AI speaker, regardless of the question? Of course, that excludes acting. If I am to exclude acting, um…there’s nothing that comes to my mind at once. If guessing is allowed, then love?

Love? I have read scripts since I was young, so I learned from what I read: how does a man and a woman’s psyche function according to the situation, the meaning of a particular action or words, things like that. I also become my friends’ love coach; hence I can deliver answers which sound like they come from textbooks. The problem is that the reality in love is different from what I learned through such method. For example, there are people who have low possibility of ending up as a couple, but they turn out to be dating later. Haha.

That makes you totally unreliable for it. Then, let us ask you ask a question about acting, the area you seem to be confident with. What should be done for someone to be able to deliver a good acting? Ah, this is vague too. Although I have been acting for a long time, I have never gotten a proper lesson on acting prior to me entering the university. Still, if I am to explain within my own limit, then I would see the senses as being the important thing in acting. Even if it’s the same scene, the tone of it will differ according to the different person expressing the scene through his acting. In the end, acting is possible for anyone since the person itself decides on his acting direction according to his senses, and one will get better as the time goes. Even when I look at the senior actors with years of experience, they still sharpen their intuition according to their own styles before they come to the set. Hence, if someone has acting as their dream, I think it’s the best for that person to begin his journey as soon as possible, don’t you think so?

Although we are not the person who should be saying it…but we will do it. What was the project that you think pulled you to a new level, like someone who entered the college after high school? To me, the dramas I did in 2019 – The Crowned Clown and Hotel Del Luna – held special meanings to me. I acquired positivity as well as good kind of stubbornness through these two projects.

How? I had to portray two characters in one drama through The Crowned Clown. Although it was very tough, it became an opportunity for me to get a feel regarding acting to some acting. As for Hotel Del Luna, it was a project which allowed me to praise myself. I received lots of love and praises, which made me realize that it’s okay to act according to what I wanted to show. It was so overwhelming at that time.

How was it for you prior to that? Should I describe it as a ‘slump that was not quite a slump’? I did hear praises as I continued doing projects one after another, but I couldn’t be satisfied with myself when I had to receive help from the directors and the senior actors. But then, I got to try out what I have prepared and what I have studied, acting on the set according to my opinion through The Crowned Clown and Hotel Del Luna. It was my first time acting using this way, but I felt that I have learned a lot through the process. I even had the thought of doing another project as soon as possible after that.

What does your current drama Beyond Evil mean to you, if it is possible for you to talk about that? I realize that there is almost no funny scene in the drama as I continue filming it. The character I’m portraying is someone who isn’t fully reasonable, but he believes himself to be so and views the world through a calculative and realistic point of view. But then, there are times when he makes decisions driven by his emotions all of a sudden. This is my first time portraying such character. Perhaps, that is the reason why it feels refreshing every time I act.

It turns out that you share a fun connection with the actor you are acting with at the moment, Shin Ha-kyun. You acted as the child version of his character in the 2006 movie No Mercy for the Rude. That’s right. I really loved sunbae-nim’s acting ever since I was younger. I wish that I can also meet him comfortably in a personal setting outside filming, but it’s regrettable that I couldn’t do that these days due to the current situation.

Yeo Jin-goo seems like someone who is not bound to your real age. The characters you have portrayed so far are all not limited to certain age bracket, plus you can get along well with people regardless their age, just like how you were in the variety program House on Wheels with Sung Dong-il and Kim Hee-won. Are you the type who is not conscious of your age? It depends on the situation. The two sunbae-nim on the program were both treating me comfortably, so it was possible for me to show my comfortable side naturally, at the same time while trying to be as courteous as possible. On the other hand, there are times when I have to maintain a strong mind that requires me to forget my age for the roles in the projects. The senior actors would always tell me to act without minding about the age, but I think that one should be able to portray their character well against the other actor.

Is there any moment when you feel that you are still a kid, no matter how old you are? When I discover something that I treasure. One of my hobbies is assembling models; whenever I see a certain plastic model kit that I have always wanted to buy, I unknowingly let out an innocent reaction. (Like squealing, Jingoo-ya? Hehe)

On the program House on Wheels, you learned the skill of deboning a fish from YouTube. What other kinds of second-hand experiences that you have seen through YouTube? These days, I’m falling into the black hole that is F1 racing videos. I love driving but this just on a completely different level. I even think of trying out car racing one day every single time I watch those videos. I also check out cooking-related videos frequently. All the cooking techniques for Italian, Chinese, and Japanese dishes would come out if you go deeper. It’s like ‘Teacher YouTube’ to me. Also, the videos related to writing. Sometimes I search for them when I am curious about how other people write.

Why is that? I have mentioned it once in an interview that I love poetry. Not reading, but writing it. It’s nice to scribble whenever something crosses my mind or I feel something from time to time, even if it’s short. At first, I wanted to try writing a scenario. I thought that I would give it a try since I am an actor myself, but it turned out that I didn’t have the talent to write something long. Hence, I thought of starting from writing something short and that’s how I started writing poems.

That is cool. When do you usually feel inspired to write? There isn’t any exact time. I’d suddenly start writing when I feel bored or when there’s a nice gentle breeze that I like. There are times when I look up the sky and feel that the moon is beautiful, inspiring me to write. There’s also one time when I had an overnight filming schedule, so I wrote a poem about how I was going to spend the night.

What are the words that frequently appear in the poems written by Yeo Jin-goo? I have never thought of that before this, so let’s see…I’m not really sure why, but I think I frequently use intensifiers together with words that describe emotions. For instance, not just ‘pretty’ but ‘so pretty’, also ‘much’, ‘many’, ‘…than yesterday’…

Maybe the reason why you have such instinct is because of the careful and sensitive feelings, leading to the urge to express yourself in a dramatic way? Are you also being influenced by the character you are portraying at that particular moment? Yes. I would naturally write poems from my character’s point of view when I’m in the middle of a project. That was such a fun thing to do. It’s because that I get to see the world from the character’s point view, which is new, considering that the character has different feelings from what I feel at that moment. When I was filming Hotel Del Luna, I mostly wrote about cause and effect. ‘I will wait for you; no matter how long it takes, I will wait for you.’ ‘It is okay to leave; trust me.’ Things like that. When I take a look back at those lines, I wonder how did I manage to write such lines.

The sun has set and it is snowing heavily outside while we are sitting for the interview. What comes to your mind ‘on a snowy night’? Um, I want to feel the snow as I close my eyes. Although it’s as dark as the night, I’m curious about how vivid it would be to feel the snow’s touch; where do you come from, and who will you meet other than me.

©GQKOREA

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