Shin Min Ah and Kim Seon Ho – ELLE September 2021 Interview

Two people who start building a feel-good rhythm by leaning on each other.

CHA CHA CHA

A Sea Called Shin Min Ah

It has been a while since the last time you did a duo photo shoot. I’ve been doing solo pictorial continuously, so I was actually worried if it gets awkward to shoot together (with someone). Perhaps it’s because we’ve been filming Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha together, but I feel like everything is flowing smoothly together with Kim Seon-ho.

The image of the short-haired ambitious politician Seon-young in Chief of Staff 2 is still fresh in our mind, but 2 years have passed since then. What is your reason to make your comeback through Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha? It’s such a warm story. Each of the character’s stories comes out alive, not only the leads but the supporting characters as well. I have thought of doing a bright romantic comedy in this frustrating time, so perhaps the viewers are also waiting to meet such a lovely story like this.

How charming is the character Yoon Hye-jin, a dentist who moves to the seaside village Gongjin, for her to steal your heart at once? She’s really straightforward with a clear view of life. Just like how people nowadays, she likes her job and has a clear goal. But then, she has a weak heart and is slightly dorky. She is the only one who thinks of herself as a sharp and perfect Seoulite. (laughs) She can’t be any lovelier than that. I really wanted to portray her.

Her character has many aspects for women your age to relate to. Right. It’s great if young women could relate to her and like Hye-jin. After all, there are lots of variety programs these days focusing on nature and daily life. When someone feels tired and dreams of looking at the sea while enjoying the scent of people, this character might be giving you strength.

You are currently filming in Pohang as the background of the seaside village. Do you feel any difference in rhythm between seaside location and filming set in the city? Seoul’s weather is really hot. Although it’s also hot in Pohang as well, there’s this refreshing feeling to have the wide blue sea in front of you. I’ve always loved the salty and humid feel of the sea, hence even with lots of scenes and parts to be shot, I’m able to film in high spirits. It’s something I like, but the staff has a difficult time when it comes to outside filming. There’s also the charm in filming in the countryside and living together under one roof.

You probably have huge anticipation for your onscreen partner Kim Seon-ho, since this is your first time acting together. Does he fit the character Mr. Hong perfectly? After all, Mr. Hong is the character who is the personification of a jack-of-all-trades. It’s amazing that Kim Seon-ho too is good at everything he does. He has his cheeky side and relaxed, plus he’s also good at singing, you know? He really fits the character well and makes me wonder, “How is he good at everything?” He’s the favourite actor of people these days. Perhaps, it’s going to be the birth of Mr. Hong who is deserving of all the love.

The two of you are really similar, not only for your bright and healthy energy but also for the dimples. (laughs) What is the moment you feel that both of you match well during the filming? I’m the type of person who is quite careful, and so is Kim Seon-ho, who is considerate towards others. Because of that, we seem to aim in the same direction. We are considerate towards each other and try to match ourselves during filming; the acting will come out naturally as we gradually grow closer. I’m really thankful to him for always making the set a comfortable one.

What is the percentage between flirting and fighting when it comes to the two characters in the drama? Right now it’s mostly fighting. (laughs) It will eventually be a mix of fighting and flirting soon, right?

A lot of viewers still remember the message – that life is precious – from your first drama together with director Yoo Je-won, Tomorrow with You. This time around, the two of you are meeting again in a more cheerful and energetic drama. Since we are working together for the second time, it seems that we both know what the other person wants. The director is such a nice person who especially loves to see the cast’s reactions, so the actors are enjoying the time filming the drama.

“I will use my medical skills with dignity and conscience.” As actress Shin Min-ah, do you relate to Hye-jin’s sense of duty as a dentist when it comes to your job as an actor? These days, it is not easy to maintain dignity and conscience while doing our job. According to Hye-jin’s words, “I’ll earn lots of money so that I can live with nothing to lose.” It’s in her blood to protect her dignity and conscience. An actor is a person who receives lots of love from the public through the job, so the matter of dignity and conscience are valuable to me as well. I also think about my attitude towards those. Truth to be told, I’m not really sure how much I have put into practice. (laughs)

“I’m not sure.” That might be your answer, but you have lived longer as an actor calmly without any incident as compared to others. Actually, the target and emotions change with the passing of time and the changing era. Even if it’s physically difficult on the body, the energy you get from the sole desire to do something at all costs will also give you happiness; there’s also the time you grow tired and feel like taking a long, well-deserved break, being a mere human. The cycle will repeat itself, so it will eventually make me think of something that gives me utmost happiness and joy when I do it. Between making a bold attempt and taking it easy, I think the reason why I get to act for a long time is that I don’t get attached to only one path. When I look back, there seems to be a road set to be Shin Min-ah’s own path, but I was careful taking my steps because I didn’t know what awaits on that path.

Are you the type of person who values your relationship with people around you? You always seem affectionate towards people who have worked with you for a long time. There’s the joy in acting as you become an actor, but then, there’s also joy in forging various types of human relationships with people you meet through the job. The result is always good when you are working together with good people whom you can connect with.

What kind of people do you mean by ‘people you can connect with’? Are they people you can rely on or people you have faith in? I think that most people around me are the type of person who is considerate, careful, and respectful around others. I’m also someone who hates to be a nuisance to other people, so that could be why I get along with people like me.

At one point, you started taking on roles in stories about hopeful life, or female characters with strong beliefs. From Tomorrow with You‘s Ma-rin to Chief of Staff‘s Seon-young, even Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha‘s Hye-jin; what is the reason for you to be attracted to humane characters like them? The three characters are all precious people whom I love dearly. I judge the characters myself, weighing in how much I can relate to them and what is the best way to develop their inner feelings to bring them to life. When it comes to the lines and their actions, I can relate to them, making me unconsciously attracted to them. That itself becomes the reason for me to gain the confidence to portray the characters.

On the other hand, as an actor, you also like to push yourself into unfamiliar territory, just like the character of diving athlete Yi-young in your first venture into thriller through the film Diva. Given how diverse the film genre is, I think that I’m inclined towards fresh or daring characters as well. As for drama, since it is a medium that is familiar to most people, I want to portray more characters who are relatable to the viewers regardless of their age range.

Have you discovered a new side to you recently, or is there any side you find too familiar? I’m a shy person, so when I encounter an embarrassing situation, my face turns red from blushing. I had hoped that it won’t be like that, but it’s still like that. (laughs) One thing that has changed is that I can express what’s in my mind to other people. Maybe it’s something natural when I grow close to them and find them comfortable to be with. But then, being shy is something I can’t seem to change and I still blush…

There have to be moments when Shin Min-ah wants to escape at once to go to a seaside village. In a situation where it is impossible to leave, what turns into your personal seaside village? I would watch documentaries during those times when I cannot leave. Backpack Travels is such a fun show. Once you are immersed in it, it becomes some sort of healing for you. I also like it when I get to be alone and be myself without thinking about anything. Being in this line of job requires one to meet with many people, so the time I spent alone is also the moment I get to return to myself. I actually have curiosity about many things and I have tried learning lots of things to turn them into hobbies, but none of them lasts long enough. (laughs)

Is there any secret to Shin Min-ah’s ability to maintain the rhythm without growing tired until now? Honestly, as I continue to live as an actor, there are many instances when I think that this job is not suitable for me. There are tough times, and there are moments when I have to make an effort to get over things that don’t suit me. Still, when I find things to love about the job, I forget that thought and spend the time in bliss. So, does that mean it suits me well? Haha. Would it be possible to know about the moment before the fun kicks in?

Actors tend to have a goal they want to accomplish through each project. What does Shin Min-ah wish to acquire from Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha? I want to deliver the story from real-life situations. If I get to approach women of similar age range who think that they know everything, I think the mind will be healthier and more stable. While I was initially attracted to the drama because of the bright characteristic found in romantic comedy, my wish to continue filming safely and healthily like this is a trivial but huge goal to me.

KSH’s Smooth Sailing

The filming for Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is still ongoing. We thought that you might appear a bit tired, but you look like you are in a good mood. You seem to be even more high-spirited since you are in the middle of filming. I’m that type of person (to be in high spirits). I also tend to work hard and put in my effort. But then, the director keeps cheering us to hang in there and sending me those stickers in messenger. I laugh hard at those and the laugh makes me seem a bit suspicious. (laughs)

You have been quite busy between Start-Up and Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha. The time between the two projects felt so short to me. It felt like I blinked and here I am filming for Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha. I did the stage play Ice and even shot the first ever commercial in my life. I released the song Reason and shot a music video. It’s a variety of thrills. I feel like I had to try something new every time I open my eyes. I can’t believe that I get to experience this too, spending the day busily working without realizing that the time has passed.

You also became the cover star for ELLE Singapore, as well as various magazines. You were so nervous during your first photo shoot session, to the point of having your ears ringing. These days, you seem to be enjoying this job calmly. I’ve come to think of photo shoot as a job where I have to express something through image instead of lines or direction. On one side it’s the growing experience of doing photo shoots, but there’s also the fact that I get to meet again the people whom I used to work together with during previous shoots, so I get more comfortable, just like today’s session. It has been about 4-5 years since I crossed over to do dramas; I can also feel my face changing slightly since then.

Today’s session is like a slight departure from your usual style; you even had a few accessories being incorporated into the shoot. I used to love accessories. (laughs) I rarely wear them now since there are lots of opinions saying that the accessories don’t suit me. I used to have that idea in the past. You know how they used to say that wearing several earrings, layering your necklaces and bracelets would make you look better? I used to believe that advice. (laughs) I didn’t have much knowledge about fashion so I didn’t know how to find the balance. As for today, I’m putting on two bracelets and one necklace, so I think that wearing a few of them is fine. I guess that even the things I’m fond of might not be good for me.

Has the same thought ever crossed your mind when it comes to roles? Have you ever had any desire to portray a role that is the complete opposite of your image? For instance wild, dangerous characters. I have. I want to take on a wild character. If there is a character where I’ll have to expand my spectrum, I would want to get it; but then, should there be a need for a style of acting that is completely different from mine, I’ll give way to another actor. When I was in college, I really wanted to be able to make people laugh when I was doing a stage play with an interesting topic, so I did research. There was a fellow who portrayed the same role in the same play, but he possessed the ability to be funny, having good timing and good sense. He had everything which was closer to the role itself as compared to me: the natural voice, manner of speaking, built, tempo, and gesture. At that time, I had a realization, “There’s such thing as being born with it!”

Each of us has this vibe we are born with and unique to us..something like rhythm. Vibe! That’s the thing. It’s something we have to accept. I think I have realized early on that there is a limit, surely.

Looking at the characters you have portrayed up until now, we could see the mind(set) you are referring to. It is like watching someone who knows his ability well enough for him to expand his territory, one step at a time without going here and there. That being said, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha’s Hong Du-sik seems to be the character for the current Kim Seon-ho to show your slightly wilder feel. That’s exactly what it is. The drama is set in a seaside village called Gongjin. It’s the sea everywhere you see. There’s no way you won’t see a wild thing, be it the costume or the background. Plus, the lines are all delivered in front of the sea.

You have to say everything with a loud voice. People who frequently go on fishing boats certainly don’t go around using a soft voice. It’s a deep and big, short shout. There are always waves in Gongjin, so the voice needs to be able to cut through the sound splashing waves. Hence, one needs to throw out his voice, “Grandma!” so that the person far from you will be able to hear your voice. Every single character has their own voices imbued with their unique lives.

This is like an academic talk. There are actors who are born with talent. Those who are instinctively good also have different conversation skills. They would only have to be immersed in the role or situation for them to deliver good acting. It’s an amazing thing to be able to see their acting in front of my eyes. On the other hand, how about me who is amazed by them? I’m already in a different state of mind at that time. (laughs) Learning from someone’s experience and then making an effort to embody the things I’ve learned is what I need to do.

You go back and forth between Seoul and Pohang for the filming. Do you fit well with Pohang? It’s a healing experience each time I go there. The sea is everywhere no matter where you look. I’m enjoying the happiness radiating from this place. When I don’t feel like going back to Seoul on my rest day, I would put on the mask and go to the laundromat to do my laundry. That’s how I get to walk around the neighbourhood.

Have you found something you enjoy as you embody the character of Hong Du-sik? He is a fascinating character, after all. Hong Du-sik is someone who doesn’t really use formal speech with anyone. I’ve never spoken informally with anyone on our first meet since my birth, not even to someone who is younger than me. Hence, the informal lines were difficult for me at first. Now that I’ve gotten used to it, I find it quite enjoyable to be in Hong Du-sik’s vibe. Plus, he is free-spirited. As I portray him, I’ve come to say, “Okay!” even if someone asks me to build a house. He just walks around with his shirt turning inside out because of the wind. There’s this kind of excitement in turning the blowing wind into freedom and being natural. Mr. Hong is such a charming character. That’s it for now. I’m currently portraying his character. Yeah.

Does it take some time for the confidence to kick in every time before you start filming? There’s never a single moment when I don’t feel the pressure on me. I’m always in doubt of myself.

Your partner Hye-jin in Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is a straightforward and realistic woman. The two of you will come to like each other after growing closer through bickering with each other. Is there any reason why Du-sik cannot help but be attracted to Hye-jin? There are a few lines that Du-sik frequently says to Hye-jin. “I know. I know, but it’s different over here.” “I know. I know, but isn’t this better?” When I look at the drama description, I can’t help but think that the two of them are really similar to each other. From their thoughts to what they have, it seems like everything starts from there.

Do you feel attracted to someone like Hye-jin in real life too? I view people who have the courage to express themselves frankly as cool, regardless of their gender. When we are in the middle of filming, there are times when I can’t bring myself to say that we need to shoot the scene again. I just need to say, “Director, I made a mistake just now. I’ll try it again.” One day, I want to try out a character with lines like Hye-jin’s. “Why? I’ve never lost my pride as a doctor, though?” It’s brimming with confidence, coolness, and full of courage. Such talent and ability is a really charming quality itself.

As a fellow actor, what kind of charm do you see in Shin Min-ah? She is very straightforward, lovely, and has a girly side to her even in real life. I’ve never seen her sulking or even frowning in the middle of filming. She seems to be a person with great character. This time around, I have a lot of schedules aside from our filming, so I would continuously smile and even joke around on the set in order not to appear tired. (laughs) But then, noona just accepts them all. I think that I should thank her properly before the drama ends.

‘Master of Part-time Jobs’ Hong Du-sik calculates everything using the minimum wage and that is his absolute standard. Is there something like Du-sik’s minimum wage standard to Kim Seon-ho as well? It’s the evaluation by the staff who works together with me. Their standard becomes the standard of my works as well. I try to be as close as I can to their expectation of me.

When asked about Kim Seon-ho, people tend to have the ‘harmless’ image in their mind with regard to your attitude; always being someone to listen to and sympathize with. What do you think is your weapon in terms of your attitude, or something that is ought to be your weapon? This is also something from my days of attending college. It was one of the acting grading days during a class but I couldn’t do well on that day. When it was my turn to be graded, the lecturer said, “You can become a star.” The lecturer was known to be considerate and harmonious. He would look at the remorseful students and think about what was good for them before saying, “You will eventually become something in the future, won’t you?” I don’t want to stand on the opposite side of someone, even if that person is the complete opposite of me. I’m able to match my partner. Of course, there’s no way I’ll be able to enjoy that sincerely. (laughs)

If you are to look at your own life as a story, what is your favourite thing out of that story up until now? I didn’t learn many things because I’m slow. I only did acting, and I like how I didn’t give up on this. Also, having no regret over anything. I don’t regret things that have passed. I also like the moment right now. I can try my best and do something for my parents, and I like how we get to spend more time together right now. I’m someone with fear, in the state of having lots of thoughts and greed with regard to acting. But then, thanks to the time I’ve spent together with my family, I think I’ve been well up until now. Ah, I had a blissful moment recently. I rode the city bike for the first time. (laughs) I walked for about one hour and a half and randomly tried to ride it, but it was so fun.

©ELLEKOREA

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