Actor Kim Jung-hyun has it; the balance between comedy and tragedy, and the balance between dream and reality.
TAKE A BREAK, KIM JUNG-HYUN
There are four episodes left of Mr. Queen (at the time of the interview) but you are done with the filming, right? How are you spending your days at the moment? The drama wrapped up filming on December 31st last year, while we completed filming for the spin-off around mid-January. I’ve been resting since then.
You even ended the year 2020 with drama filming. What was the final scene that you filmed? I remember that the final scene I filmed is not the ending of the drama. The ending was shot at a different location. Ah, this might be a spoiler if I am to speak about it….
This interview will be published after the drama ends so you do not have to worry about giving out spoilers, but I am also curious about the ending as a viewer myself. Still, it’d be better if you can watch it without knowing the details beforehand, reporter-nim. The ending…how should I say it? (laughs) Please watch until the end.
Is the filming atmosphere great since the drama ratings are soaring high? How was it on Mr. Queen’s set? When we first started filming, we didn’t really know each other so there were times when we were nonchalant around each other, but it gradually got better. We also need some time to get to know each other on the set. This time around, we couldn’t have any group dinner beforehand so there wasn’t any chance of growing closer in private setting. However, everyone is just bright in personality from the beginning, so we grew really close on the set.
Not only the group dinner prior to the drama’s beginning and the wrap-up party after concluding the drama, even the reward trip has now disappeared. We still had the wrap-up party for Crash Landing on You back then; after concluding the final filming while greeting everyone with “You’ve worked hard, everyone!”, we exchanged thoughts on each other during the wrap-up party. Having it ended sans those things was also unfamiliar to me, this time around. But then, since the filming wrapped up while the drama was still airing its early episodes, it made me even more eager and curious about the reaction towards the drama and the character Cheoljong, instead me feeling empty or sad about it.
Do you tend to feel empty after you are done with a certain project? I usually feel empty. This is also my first time joining a pre-produced drama, so there’s this different feeling from it. Before this, my filming schedule would stretch until the day of the final episode itself; this time around, we were already done with the filming for the ending and the feeling was quite different. Perhaps, it used to be like that for me, feeling empty after doing the projects previously.
You continue to receive the viewers’ love, one drama after another. Should we say that you have a sharp eye when it comes to choosing your projects? I’m not sure about that. I think that there’s a limit to judge a certain project based on the script alone, since there are lots of work that goes into making a drama. There’s also luck playing its part, and I was lucky. I think it’s not having a sharp eye.
When you are choosing a drama, what comes first: emotions or rational judgment? I think I approach the script with my emotions first when I receive it. To me, the feelings I have when I first read the script is really important. There’s also the curiosity in going through the next episode, with the growing curiosity in finding out more about the character. When I’m on the second round of reading the script, then I’ll be weighing it in based on my rational judgment, thinking “How it will turn out if I am to portray this character..?”
Both Crash Landing on You‘s Gu Seung-jun and Mr. Queen’s Cheoljong are two-faced characters. They both appear light and unrestrained on the outside, but they are secretly burning with big dreams inside them. Is it the same with actor Kim Jung-hyun? There are times when I’m different from them. I’m changing depending on the situation. It’s difficult to define myself; it’s not an easy thing to do, since there is always a new side of me that I discover according to the situation. There are discoveries I made through work, and there are also those I found out through the changes I go through in my daily life. Even if it’s something huge, there are moments it will appear trivial. Thus, it would be great to continue doing my current work without losing the principle I have towards the job at the moment.
What kind of principle it is? (The principle is) that emotion is a gift. The fact that someone can change their life or incorporate the emotions they feel into their own life after watching a character portrayed by another person on the screen. If the experience (of watching the drama) becomes an opportunity for that someone to realize something that they have never imagined before, I think that it’s already a meaningful and precious thing. After all, being able to take part in that someone’s life through a project is a precious experience to me. Hence, I’d like to keep holding on to this principle and it’s be great to be able to do so until the end.
It is as meaningful as the drama character itself, to be able to influence someone through the project. It’d be great if I’m able to do so, for myself to be reinvented by the viewers instead of them thinking that ‘he’s always been like that’. It makes me feel something new deep inside my heart.
As for Cheoljong in Mr. Queen, his role needs to be able to make people laugh despite his dignified self. How did you portray the character? I think I made an effort into focusing and digging into the situation at that time. It seems that the viewers would say, ‘He’s acting cheekily!’ if I try to act so. I don’t want to portray a certain kind of acting; instead, what I did was focusing on how to clearly show the relationship between Cheoljong and the characters around him.
Still, we can’t help but to think that it was cheeky, the way you acted out the scene where he had to explain the memories of their first night to Soyong. Haha! That scene wasn’t originally in the script, and I just wondered if it would be good to have that kind of feeling as we were rehearsing, so we created it. It made the feeling of being abandoned to appear more alive, plus I also wanted to show Cheoljong doing his best at everything just because of Soyong’s one word. It was also a necessary scene linked to the one after that, so I didn’t think that I portrayed it as being cheeky. I only thought that I should give my best at explaining during the situation.
Cheoljong is, after all, someone who gives his all with utmost sincerity. He’s sincere when it comes to Soyong. But then, he’s just a bad guy to Hwajin. (laughs)
Although the character of Soyong, portrayed by Shin Hye-sun, is the key figure to the story, Cheoljong is also a vital character. Where did the good chemistry between the two of you came from? Actress Shin Hye-sun carried this air of familiarity with her, plus the surrounding atmosphere also contributed to the chemistry. The director was really considerate as well. Because of those reasons, our chemistry and synergy appeared more natural. Shin Hye-sun sunbaenim had always been great, so I thought that I only had to provide good reaction so that the viewers would enjoy watching it. It was a huge relief to see how the comedy in the scene as well as the intended laugh was conveyed well to the audience. When I heard that people were laughing after watching our drama over the weekend, I remembered feeling a surge of pride in a corner of my heart.
How do you feel going into a historical drama straight after doing a modern drama? Do you feel any appeal unique to historical drama? I had fun. There’s this unique appeal of historicals. Although there are people who think that way of speaking in a historical drama is old-fashioned, I see it as a small token of promise between me and the viewers, like ‘We’re telling the story of Joseon Dynasty.’
You went to the North Korea and even lived in Joseon Dynasty in your dramas. Have you ever felt curious on how your previous characters are doing at the moment? I do feel curious about all of them. If there isn’t any next life for the character inside the drama, or there isn’t any mention of the character in the drama, then there’s no way of knowing how the character is faring at this moment. Everyone would be curious about that. How are you doing these days…it’s funny. I was the one who portrayed the characters….(laughs) I am curious about their current life. How is it? Sometimes I even think of this: how they would be living their lives should I continue to portray the characters a little longer?
Nowadays, the contents see the consumers actively participating in them and also contributing to the creation of the content itself. There are also requests made for second season. How do you perceive that from an actor’s point of view? It’d be great to have the second season, but won’t it be even more abundant for the story after the drama ends to be continued according to the viewers’ ideas and imagination? I think that the characters will continue to be alive as long as people continue to remember and talk about them.
When you watch a drama, what kind of viewer are you? So far, I’m just someone who enjoys watching them. I think that it’s a privilege to be able to watch a drama. Perhaps, it’s also my hobby as well. I think of various things as I watch them: so that’s how they express it; people would do that; I also did that.
Do you usually watch various types of contents? Somehow, I think I’m watching a lot of YouTube videos these days. Current issues, history, mystery, strange stories…ah, I also catch up on sports. It’s one way to relive stress.
You even went around putting up posters yourself during film festivals when you were actively starring in various movies. Are you still dreaming of starring in movies at the moment? I still have the dream and also the goal. It was during Jeonju International Film Festival. Even when I didn’t have any agency and had to do promotion myself, it was fun. Now that I think about it, it was cringe-worthy; but still, I enjoyed my time back then. Even when I went to put up the posters, everyone was busy drinking, so there was not one passing by me. I think the passersby walking there didn’t recognize me back then.
The audience you met during the film festival at that time would be very precious to you. Especially in this difficult times for the movie community, the good times must have been a great memory to you. Back then, it was something new for me to be doing GV for Overman in Busan. I even remembered the scents from that time. It was so difficult to see my own face being showed on the large screen. A lot of tight shots were also used in the movie, so it was even more difficult to watch that. I recently watch the movie Soul. It was the first time in a while for me to go to the cinema by myself, and the atmosphere has changed tremendously. You have to leave an empty seat in between.
Are you the type that feel some kind of burden as a lead actor? I can feel the burden. But then, it’s also something felt by the director and the staff as well. It’s the burden and responsibility of the character to be shouldered by an actor, aside from the score. It should be delivered well…it should be portrayed well….even if the intended story doesn’t get delivered precisely, there should be a chance to interpret it as a new story….there’s also the attention towards the ratings, but that is not the absolute thing. The project needs to be released first for it to be watched; since it’s something that’s beyond my reach, seeing the project turning out to be a success if like a gift to me.
As you continue to do one project after another, how actor Kim Jung-hyun is changing through the process? Do you have any change you can think of yourself? I think I’ve become more tender. I’ve grown to treasure myself. There were times when I felt that it was possible to do so, since there were moments when I blamed myself. I’m not doing that anymore. Perhaps, it’s something to do with growing older as well, but there are bound to be changes with passing time. The relationship with people around me is also changing, especially when there’s nothing left behind.
Being in your 30s is such a great time in your life, as well as in acting, since the roles you get to do increases. How do you intend to shape your 30s? I’m 32 years old this year, and still 30 in Western age. I’m looking forward to it. When I was younger, I heard people around me saying that the 30s and 40s are the real beginning for actors. If there’s something that I can do right now, it’s the intention of showing what I’m capable of doing according to my own ability. Every single moment is a challenge to me. I’m reminded of the emotional feeling I had after watching the movie Soul recently. It’s about the worth of being alive itself, so I hope that my 30s would be like that.
Is it the feeling of having lots of things you are yet to show others? I want to do the kind of acting that won’t be boring and tiring to the people who watch it. It’s the same every time we watch him? This seems to be overlapping with his previous character, right? It’s the same feeling, though? I want to avoid those. I want to be an actor who can bring his character alive and portray it well, instead of letting the character sink in the actor’s own self. An actor whom people continue to watch out for…I’m making an effort to be one.
You have lots of stories and talks related to effort. Do you like to work hard and make an effort? Personally, I think of myself as someone who are lacking in lots of things. (laughs)
A great project also matters to the public. TV is the cheapest mode of entertainment, delivering joy to all people regardless of their age. It’s even more meaningful in this current situation of COVID-19. It’s the same to me, since I also want to keep doing good projects. Especially in this current situation we’re living in, I want to be a part of project which provides hope and courage. I hope that I’m able to do a project which makes people happy and soften their hearts in this trying times.
Have you even thought of providing bigger amount of joy through variety program? You have not made many appearances in variety program. I have never appeared on any, so I want to greet the viewers through a variety program if there’s a chance. I’m still wondering if I’m really the right person to provide joy and delight through variety program, but I’ll give it my best shot if I get a chance. (laughs)
The year of 2021 has just begun and we are soon celebrating the Lunar New Year too. What is your wish for this year? My wish is for COVID-19 to end soon. I want to meet people freely without any restriction. I miss doing that. I want to go on a trip since I love travelling. First, I just want to go somewhere; a warm place if it’s winter, or a cool one when it’s summer. I want to go somewhere according to what I feel at that exact moment. There’s this kind of feeling you get from being in an unfamiliar place. It’s a sad thing to be unable to travel in these days.
What is your usual travelling style? I’m the impulsive type. Whenever I make the decision to go somewhere, the destination is always set just one week prior to the date of departure. I don’t make specific plans; instead, I prefer to decide on places to go in a big context and gets sidetracked in the process.
Kim Jung-hyun. Your name exudes the neat, tidy aura. Do you like your name? There is also another actor who shares the same name as yours, so there might be a time when you were weighing in stage name for your career. I also had this talk with my agency’s CEO. The name is what my parents give me, so I don’t want to change anything about it. Hence, that was how I started off using my real name in the industry and this name has brought me to this point of my life.
What are you up to these days now that you are done with your filming schedule? Are you going through scripts for your next project? It’s impossible to go out in the current situation. Still, I get to relieve my stress through working out. The drama is still airing at the moment, so I’m reeling in the moment, watching the reactions and the conversations people have after watching the episodes. I’m not thinking of rushing into my next project. There’s still this ongoing good project of mine, so once it’s finished, I’d like to do a project that I want to do, whenever it is. Taking too much rest will only be detrimental to your body.
‘Too much’ is different from one person to another. I don’t want to take a rest longer than a year. It’s already enough with few months’ rest.