Kim Jung Hyun – Esquire March 2021 Interview

The reason why actor Kim Jung-hyun does not talk about his own acting.


Kim Jung-hyun talked about the character of Cheoljong, as well as Gu Seung-jun, Cheon Soo-ho, and Go Man-soo. He said that he did not leave behind any regret or glory with regard to those characters. To actor Kim Jung-hyun, the moment right now is the only thing that is the most important to him.

You are already done with the filming for Mr. Queen, right? Yes, it has been a while since we wrapped up filming.

Ah, was it a pre-produced drama then? It was supposed to be one, but due to the current situation, we had to suspend the filming in the middle, so in the end, the filming overlapped with the broadcast. So, it has been about…a month? Including the filming for the spin-off Mr. Queen: the Secret as well.

Now that it’s been a month, you get to catch your breath slowly. Right now (at the moment of the photoshoot), the drama Mr. Queen is still airing, and I’m reeling in the joy (of watching the drama). Only after the final episode ends, then it will be the time for me to bid goodbye.

Did you catch the broadcast last night (for episode 18)? Yes, I did. But I didn’t appear much on the episode. (laughs)

Perhaps, it was the episode where Cheoljong’s appearance was the shortest in an episode compared to the whole series. In return, it’s also a chance to watch the other cast’s acting and focus on them. Yes, that was how it was for me. Since I have watched the whole series, I also got to watch the other cast’s acting too. Truth to be told, I can’t really watch my own acting.

You cannot bring yourself to watch your own acting? Yes. it’s just a bit embarrassing for me to do so. Still, it’s gotten better nowadays compared to before. I try to watch my acting since it is also one way for me to find out which part that I still lack of.

So, you are watching them by yourself then. Rather than watching with my friends or my family…well, sometimes I do watch together with my family, but it’s more embarrassing for me. During those times, I avoid watching the TV. I turn my face away from the screen and try to figure out from their reaction, if my acting is really right or not.

Still, it is not awkward for you to watch your drama together with your family then. Yes. They also talk about the parts they like and they also cheer for me. My mother is actually worried for me, saying that I had suffered and seem to be suffering at the moment.

Once the magazine is released, I’ll make sure to send it to my parents as well. But then, my mother tends to talk only about other editors, saying that they are writing their articles well this time (when looking at the magazine her child worked on…). My parents seem to be talking only about me, especially my mother; when the explosion scene came out, she was really worried and felt really bad about it. “What do I do with you? Mom, it’s all acting. Cheoljong in the drama isn’t me, Jung-hyun. Don’t be too immersed in it.” I said that to her, but it’s her son after all, so she couldn’t help but to do so. My father also said that I’ve worked hard. Although my older brother couldn’t catch the broadcast together with us, he even sent a message saying, “Cheoljong is alive.” My younger sister also did the same thing.

Then, which actor has left a deep impression on you after watching them? Me? First, my partner Shin Hye-sun is really excellent, and I’m always thankful towards her. But if we’re talking about deep impression, I think I choose Kim Tae-woo sunbaenim. His attitude on set was so great. Although the camera wasn’t focused on him in a certain scene, he would be standing in his position, maintaining his focus and delivering his lines, at the same time matching the emotion level and delivering his acting. He was admirable and there’s a lot of things I learned from him. Perhaps, it’s something to be expected from a senior who has been in the industry for so many years since his debut. But then, he continued to be considerate even towards the cast younger than him, always working together to create the harmony in the scene, so how do you say it…’So that’s exactly what a senior does,’ that was what I learned from him. It was a new, strong feeling to me.

Lord Kim Jwa-geun, portrayed by actor Kim Tae-woo, was a role where he didn’t have to do much when compared to his previous characters. Be it the movement or expression, he didn’t have much of them since he’s someone who kept his real intention hidden. Still, it is an amazing thing for such character to bring the weight into the story. That’s right. He has that kind of charisma to him. His ability to dominate is also remarkable as well. When I watch him, I would have this thought, ‘Sunbaenim is not just a senior. Even if I continue to build up my filmography, I won’t be just a senior; what kind of senior I would be and what kind of acting partner I would remain in one’s memory. It depends on the effort I make in each and every moment, and everything counts.’

As for me, I personally found Cha Jung-hwa (Court Lady Choi) great and I was amazed by Lee Jae-won (Special Director Hong)’s acting. They were all portraying witty characters, but there was this peculiar sense of stability radiating from them. I also had the same feeling when I first saw Jae-won hyung. Isn’t he too calm and poised? He’s always calm and quiet without using too much energy. But then, once I watched it on the screen, there’s this feeling of amplification coming from him. I also thought that his acting is really great and I found him marvelous.

How about Cheoljong? What was your favourite scene of him? Ah…it’s about my acting. (laughs) I think that every single acting of mine was just average. But then, I received a message from the director after we were done with the filming for the Surit-nal scene. “Your acting was great. It was the highlight of today.” The director didn’t really send texts like that usually and that was the first time, so I even thought, ‘Oh, it seems that my acting on that day was good.’

That was how it was. The viewers also found the scene where Cheoljong took a dive into the lake as another memorable scene of him. The YouTube view count of the scene is self-explanatory. The scene itself was a huge transition point, where it was the moment Cheoljong discovered his feelings for Soyong that has been blossoming in his heart since before. Also, the scene in Episode 17 when he said, ‘I’ll bear everything myself.’ It was the moment Cheoljong felt a sense of responsibility in him. ‘It’s like killing the Queen twice.’ This line was imbued with guilt to some extent. I hoped that the scene would be something that the viewers would enjoy.

As expected, you are not going to talk about your acting. (laughs) I was completely in awe after watching that scene, thinking, ‘Ah, so this is why actor Kim Jung-hyun is made for the role of Cheoljong.’ You carried this peculiar feeling with you in that scene. Even with the line ‘Let’s do the no-touch rule’, it was a funny line, but at the same time, there’s this passionate melo and also the beauty in tragedy vibe coming from your delivery of the line. Thank you. The standard is always out there. If I am to talk about my acting during that scene…it is difficult for me to explain about it.

I was reminded of it, so I watched from Mr. Queen from the beginning. It’s just refreshing to watch it again from Episode 1. By that I mean Cheoljong’s acting. Ahh, thank you.

Am I singing too much praises for you? No, it’s totally alright for you to do so. Although it makes me feel embarrassed, but I also feel so good inside.

Really? I’m not going to stop myself then. We tend to go back to the beginning of a good book we have finished and the feeling will be new. I had the same feeling when I watched your acting in the early parts of the drama. It would be great to remain in the viewers’ memories like that. The current situation itself is very limited to all of us; we can’t go out freely and it might be frustrating for some. ‘I did laugh and cry when I watch Mr. Queen back then.’ It would be great if it was etched in their memories, becoming a drama which would be suitable to be watched again at any time.

There were also comments like that for your short drama Binggoo/Ice Mound: I would be reminded of this drama when the winter comes. That kind of comment would mean a lot to the creators of the drama. A drama might be simply brushed off as a forgettable one after watching it once, but it will undeniably become a memory associated with a certain emotion. It’s such a huge honour (to be able to do so).

Is there any of your own project which has the same effect on you? Ah…..

It is totally fine to say that you do not have one. (laughs) My heart would grow tight when I watch the shows I appeared on. That is why it’s difficult for me to watch my own acting repeatedly. I always watch them with a strict standard, plus there’s nothing that I can change now that the end product has been out. I think I’ve yet to be able to take it simply as pure enjoyment (when watching the shows). I don’t know. It might be possible once some time has passed.

So, you are saying that it is still difficult for you to separate your acting when you are watching your own projects. Sometimes, when I go out for a drink with my friends, they would be teasing me, saying that we should put Welcome to Waikiki Season 1 on and watch it together. (laughs)

I had to work from home few days ago and I actually watched that drama when the camera was still on. Wow, I could only hope that I didn’t appear as if I was playing on the camera at that time. It was so difficult to stifle your laugh when it comes to that drama. Yes, that’s really how the drama was. It was intense.

Did you really say that it was intense? Yes, it was. Although the scene itself appeared funny to those who would be watching it, there’s this sense of urgency when it comes to the characters in the scene.

Even the scene where your character had to run into the ex-girlfriend after your recent breakup when you were trying to find a toilet because of the upset stomach, or the scene where you had to dress up as a Grim Reaper and chanted, “That’s the day you’ll be attending your own funeral”? Each of the characters in those scenes actually had clear goals respectively. There’s the sense of urgency in answering the call of the nature and how to deal with it at that very moment, but then there’s also the ex-girlfriend I had to run into right at that moment. (laughs) Back then, rather than focusing on the result of the scene as I acted, I thought that it would be better to show the sincerity and the urgency of the character at that very moment, so that people would be able to enjoy watching the scene. As for the scene with the Grim Reaper, it was actually a fragment of Jun-ki’s imagination. Hence, I seemed to have this kind of thought: ‘What could be the reason for this imagination to instill fear in Jun-ki’s own self?’

Just because the genre is comedy, it does not mean that the actors themselves can act cheerfully. When it comes to me myself, the genre itself is not really important. I think that there ought to be something precise to portray the comedic aspect in order for the viewers to regard it as a funny scene. (Just like) Anger, sadness, happiness….it’s just about delivering a clear and accurate acting so that the other person accept it being funny; I don’t think that the answer to appear funny is to act funny.

Welcome to Waikiki Season 1, Crash Landing on You, and Mr. Queen all received huge love from the audience. I thought that it is just that actor Kim Jung-hyun is now confident and comfortable in doing romantic comedy or comedy, but it turns out that the genre itself does not have much significance. Genre itself is just a classification made in order to provide easy access to the viewers, while I have a personal goal that is to continue acting without segregating my acting (into different genres). The ability to portray the character clearly seems to be the essence (in acting).

You also did tragic projects aside from the comic ones, for instance the drama Time, film Stay with Me, and the drama special The Buzz Cut Love; those were the projects many regarded as the proof of actor Kim Jung-hyun’s true worth due to the rich pathos you injected into those roles. Likewise, I don’t think that I had different approach or I imbued a deeper meaning from within myself when it comes to those projects. Instead, I’m the type that would be holding dear to my heart the reactions I received through my projects: how a certain project gave happiness; a certain situation that provided comfort or strength; or one that was encouraging. Rather than the project itself, I think that keeping the reactions of the people who enjoyed the project dear to my heart is more precious.

Just now, while you were doing the video interview, you answered this when you were asked about the keyword you want to see being associated with ‘Kim Jung-hyun’: “A trustworthy actor; it would be great to be regarded as an actor whose performance is worth watching.” It’s more of an expression of responsibility, to some extent. Everyone on the filming set has their own role, right? There’s the director who directs and leads; the writer who writes interesting scripts; the production team that prepare the set for the scene; then there’s me as an actor, whose biggest responsibility is to deliver my acting. It’s not something related to confidence. Even Choi Min-sik sunbaenim, whose acting experience spanned over decades, said himself, ‘Acting is difficult.’ I’m always scared and trembling myself. Maybe it will be the time for me to stop acting the moment I think and feel that I know everything about acting and I am confident about this. The responsibility I’m talking about is that I don’t want to restrict myself and continue to develop myself.

Didn’t you first started acting when you were in high school? What was the reason for you to come to that decision? When I was a senior at my middle school, there was a performance during the final festival, where they did a voice acting session. Some friends would be doing a mime in front of us while we tried to guess the answer as we dubbed for them. At that time, they really enjoyed doing it, and it was the first time I was interested it it. ‘Oh, how did they manage to make it so enjoyable? What’s this? What kind of job is this?’ Instead of thinking about the job as an actor, I was more curious on what acting was all about.

So you did not start because you wanted to become an actor but it actually stemmed from the deed of acting itself. I also heard that you even found a theater club yourself in your high school. Yes. There was no theater club at our school in the first place. Since there were a few seniors at that time, it was possible for us to set up the club and got a teacher (as the advisor), so it was a joint effort for us to set the club together and started it all. I think I can say that we were the roots and the founding members of the theater club at our school.

Did the club have a name? Yes, it had one.

What was it? I wasn’t the one who gave the name. A senior just threw out the word ‘Narcissus’, which means self-absorbed and self-love.

I wondered why you were hesitating before you answered. So it turned out that the name itself is worth the hesitation. (laughs) At that time, we were all like, ‘Yes, it’s good.’….so it was like that. (laughs)

You also attended cram school for acting and even went to Korea National University of Arts (K-Arts). That’s right.

Did the curriculum of K-Arts had any effect on Kim Jung-hyun at that moment? Attending the school was a huge turning point to me. I’m not sure about the curriculum for other schools, but at that time when I was a senior in high school, it was the only college which was practical-oriented. I went through many challenges as well as trying out new things while I was studying there. I also had many breakthroughs as I realized how I was like a frog in a deep well prior to that. Everything that I have learned there have been mostly translated into what I have done so far.

Back then, you did many independent movies, and it turned out that you also did stage plays and musicals. I didn’t get to act on that many plays or musicals. The movie Overman was invited to a film festival, and that was how the path opened for me to do dramas and movies. I was actually very lucky; at that time, I was doing nothing. After I was done with the filming for Overman, I continued doing part-time jobs. But then, a director who happened to watch and liked that movie contacted me and I got to start doing dramas. The next drama followed suit, and I think I have arrived here at this point after taking one step after another.

Honestly speaking, it is impossible to imagine Kim Jung-hyun as someone standing on the stage. Perhaps, I have getting accustomed to the image of an actor whose extremely delicate acting can only be captured by the camera, rather than an actor who showcases his acting through a strong, intense delivery onstage. But then, when I was doing stage plays, one director said this to me, “You can’t seem to act in front of the camera. Someone who has an explosive energy like you won’t be able to do that. Wait and see. You will shine the brightest on the stage.”

Wah, is that so? I was lucky…no, it was probably luck on my side; nevertheless, the direction ended up heading towards a different one and the flow brought me here. I’m still star-struck when it comes to acting, as always. (laughs) I can’t even do a good job (for drama acting), so I will also be star-struck if I happen to act on the stage.

Well, there were directors who said that actor Kim Jung-hyun had this slight tendency of using the ‘theatrical’ vibe. Be it the long take used for the interview scene in the drama Time, the scene you sang a serenade in front of your girlfriend’s house in the drama Binggoo/Ice Mound, or the movie Stay with Me. That’s right, especially in the movie Stay with Me; we had to walk a bit further after setting up the camera. That is something that I like. It would be great to see more attempts at that. I’ll prepare myself well and go to you. (laughs)

That kind of attempt is only possible when there is a sense of trust in the actor. I think that the root of acting lies in stage acting. Of course, there are many who don’t have any experience in stage acting but still excel at acting, but this is just my personal opinion to some extent. Um, stage play doesn’t have things like camera perspective or cuts; it’s just the play itself, in its ‘entirety’. A theater/ stage play is where everything is out in the open; an art form and a genre which requires expression using your whole body. Once you start, there’s no pause in the middle. If there’s no intermission, you have no other choice but to go on and finish the scene in one take. Hence, even when I’m shooting a movie or a drama, I tend to plan the scene and go through it without breaking off character and the synergy with the other actor. Of course, the filming might be cut short from time to time, but I like to figure out the situation of the whole scene. Sometimes, the director or the filming director likes to see that and they follow me; thus, it’s something I’m thankful for when the end result is delivered well.



7 thoughts on “Kim Jung Hyun – Esquire March 2021 Interview

  1. The left-handed cutie from Busan! I remember him from Rebel: Thief Who Stole The People and have been a fan since.

  2. The more we learn about him the more respect we gain for him, I look at him not just as an actor now but more as a humble, wise, responsible human being. He dont talk, or brag alot about himself instead he gave appreciation to people around him… I cant wait to see his next project. Kuddos to you KHJ👍🏽

  3. Thank you for the translation! Help those who don’t speak Korean have the chance to learn more about KJH! He doesn’t hesitate to express his thoughts, ideas and even reflection. Thanks for the hard work! I look forward to the second part!

  4. Thank you so much for the translation..
    I’m becoming a fan of him since watching Mr Queen, his acting is awesome.. The chemistry is amazing.. The more I know if him the more I like him.. never get enough of KJH..

  5. He is a true artist. Not just a star. As I read about him and his thoughts and reflections, I am really impressed. Love him and SHS in Mr. QUEEN. Looking forward to more of their pairings in the very near future. Great chemistry.

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