It was our first time receiving a business card from an actress. Prain Global Inc.’s Office Lifestyle Team Leader and Affiliated Actor, Lee Se-young. When she does not have anything on her schedule, she goes to the office and does everything, from reading the scripts to doing dishes and cleaning, finding her moment of resting and relaxing through doing so. She is made the Office Lifestyle Team Leader for her contribution in leading the effort to make the company a more beautiful environment for the staff to work in. When asked whether she would be promoted to a Director because of the great outcome of The Red Sleeve, she answered with a burst of huge laughter, “I was working away from the office (filming) last year, and my seat in the office went missing. I should be looking for my desk first.”
“I STILL FEEL LIKE CRYING WHEN I THINK OF THE RED SLEEVE’S ENDING.”
Debuting at the young age of 5, she is by right a veteran actress, having walked on the path as an actor for the past 25 years. From 2019, she has been working non-stop through The Crowned Clown, Doctor John, Memories, Kairos, and The Red Sleeve, filling her filmography with one project after another. A splendid beauty with the perfect proportion of eyes, nose, and mouth, on a face so small that it can be covered with a smartphone; this actress says, “I want to live a long, simple life.” “I want to be an actor who earns my keep.” “This career to me is just like how a job is to a salaryman.” She never puts her pencil as she continues to write down everything, choosing each of her words carefully as she gives her answers. We also got to understand why her long-time fans gave her the nickname of ‘satto’ (lovely but crazy). ‘The love story of a court maid who has nothing’ as told by Lee Se-young with her big, bright, twinkling eyes. It is as if The Red Sleeve’s Deok-im comes to life, narrating it with calmness yet with a huge wave pounding loudly.
It has been a month since The Red Sleeve ended, yet there are ‘Red Sleeve fans’ who cannot seem to move on from the lingering feeling after the drama ends. Have you moved on from Deok-im?
I’m the type of person who usually moves on right off the bat once the drama ends. That is because I need to embark on a new project and I need to set a new starting point for that. But then, this time around, whenever I do interviews, go on broadcast shows, or attend pictorial sessions, people around me continue to talk about The Red Sleeve. Then I’ll be reminded of the drama’s ending and feel like crying, and I’ll tear up.
The final episode recorded 17.4% in ratings, which is an amazing record.
Honestly speaking, I have never thought that it’d do so well like this. I just put my faith in the project, the director, and (Lee) Junho-ssi, filming diligently and enjoying my time on the set, so I was so happy. The drama did so well that honestly, it feels a bit surreal. Hence, I try not to be floating high up in the air, since I’m afraid that my feet will fall off the ground.
‘The king loved the court maid. Did the court maid love the king?’ the drama begins with this question. How did you interpret Deok-im’s heart?
I think that there’s no doubt Deok-im also loved San. It’s just that the feelings were not expressed due to the situation. As the story progressed, Deok-im’s growing romantic feelings towards San were rather expressed as painful, melancholic, and sorrowful. The line Deok-im said right before she passed away was the only part where she clearly expressed her true feelings: “Do you still not know about it? If I didn’t like you, I would’ve done anything to run away.” “I loved you. But then, I also lost so many things, and I didn’t become happy in its entirety.” I wanted to show that (through Deok-im).
It was certainly not easy to portray those feelings only through eyes and facial expressions.
I knew the timeline, so I have organized the moments when Deok-im was made aware of her feelings towards San and when those feelings grew deeper, and then I acted accordingly. I didn’t say it out loud, but I wanted the viewers to know that she didn’t mean it, although Deok-im was shown to be acting as if she did not love San. In the second half of the drama, the feelings grew deeper, but then the intense kiss in the library ended with Deok-im being ordered to leave the palace. Deok-im was trying to live her life diligently outside the palace, but she continued to miss San. ‘Ah I really have lost that person; I really loved that person.’ Then, she returned to the palace. The appearance of Hwabin gave way to a sense of anxiety and uneasiness to form in Deok-im’s heart; now, San’s heart might not be with her anymore. In episode 15, Deok-im expressed her earnest feelings through her gaze: ‘I can’t say it out loud, but I love you.’ ‘Please understand me for being someone who can’t avoid rejecting you because of your status as the king.’ ‘I can’t reach out for you, but please don’t let go of me.’
The ending was very nice, set on the boundary between dream and death.
I made up my mind to do this project because I loved the ending in the original novel. Even when the script was only out until Episode 6, the part I was most curious of was the ending. On the day we shot the posters and the teasers, I saw the phrase ‘the moment became forever’ and predicted that the drama was heading towards the same ending as the original novel. It was also a wake-up call for me to stay focused since I have to portray it well for the sake of the story heading towards the sad and ardent ending. ‘Please love me.’ San’s line still tugs at my heart. Isn’t it too unfortunate for two people who could love each other wholly, only in death?
When we watched the making clips, it seemed that laughter was never-ending on the set. Director Jang Ji-in said that SanDeok couple pulled every single strange and weird pranks and jokes under the sun.
Should I say that it was a part of the process of bringing the tension and hype up while we were on standby? Most of the time, we would be joking around while being in the position for the actual scene in the drama. There was the forehead kiss scene and we were having trouble getting the right angle, so Junho-ssi’s lips kept touching the crown of my head. It was a full day shooting and I had applied products on my hair and I felt embarrassed of my sweaty hair, so I said jokingly, “If you lay a kiss there, you’ll pass out.” Everyone on the set laughed after hearing that. During the scene where we fell into the pond, they said that I looked like I was doing jump skis when I was falling and kept mimicking my movement. It was a set full of laughter.
“THE PARTNERSHIP WITH LEE JUNHO: IT WAS AMAZING AND COULDN’T HAVE BEEN BETTER”
We cannot miss asking about your partnership with Lee Junho. Your chemistry in romance was also a perfect fit for each other.
It was amazing and couldn’t have been better. Junho-ssi and I had this shared goal of showing off our perfect chemistry. After working together for about 7 months, we naturally grew comfortable around each other and we had a strong faith in each other. The director regarded us as Jeongjo and Deok-im themselves as we exchanged opinions and there were lots of processes of coordinating going on as well. Everything was translated into the drama and it is probably the reason why SanDeok couple has been receiving lots of love.
How is actor Lee Junho as an acting partner?
In the past, I watched The Good Manager and I admired him for being a very talented actor. He’s already on a level where I wouldn’t dare to judge him. When it was confirmed that Junho-ssi would be portraying the role of Jeongjo, I trusted that he would do very well from the very beginning and didn’t have any doubt about it. I saw the reaction after The Red Sleeve aired, saying, ‘I never knew that someone of idol origin could act well like this.’ I was actually surprised at that reaction. Junho-ssi was already a perfect actor. Plus, he isn’t only good at his job, but he himself is a good person. Since we have grown close and familiar with each other, the synergy between us seems to have doubled in amount. I want to offer my gratitude towards Junho-ssi for going above and beyond to portray a cool and charming San.
Your chemistry with the rest of the court lady squad (Ha Yully, Lee Eun-saem, Lee Min-ji) was also felt beyond the television screen.
It’s totally not easy to encounter good people like them as you work. Even in my real life, I also have three close friends who are like the court lady squad. Everyone is so precious like gemstones and I consider our connection precious, so we have agreed to have a meetup once every three weeks. It is our little group we made to learn everything we could think of.
Your experience is on the level of Director (in the workplace), yet you are still working continuously without any rest. Did you have any moment of a slump?
I did have my moment of darkness around 2015, but I continued to move forward. I need to make my own path and live my own life, but at that time, I didn’t have any project coming in; yet, I didn’t think of staying put without doing anything, so I attended college diligently to score a scholarship. I did a makeup business and even applied for a trademark for it. It was also the moment I gave serious thought to acting. I realized that I needed to do something with all my heart and soul in order to move forward.
You are now 30. Is there any difference with your mindset as compared to your 20s?
My birthday is in December, so I’m technically 29 years old still. (laughs) There isn’t anything new. It’s just that I can feel that my stamina isn’t what it used to be when I was younger? It makes me think that I should nourish myself and lay the foundation for the future while I’m still younger and more energetic.
Your goal to live a long and simple life is the same as Deok-im’s, but don’t you think that this time, you have hit a huge jackpot?
I try not to pay too much attention to it. It’s the project that has hit it big. I’m someone who is going to continue working in this job like a normal salaryman.
Looking at Director Jang Ji-in’s interview, she seemed to love San and Deok-im so much. Is there anything Deok-im wanted to say to the director then?
‘Please remember Deok-im who was running around brightly under the lush green summer shine. And please keep San in your memories, the one who didn’t forget Deok-im as he looked up the cold snowy dark sky.’ That part made me choke up with tears. To director-nim..um..I can’t even begin to express my feelings in words. You were the one who worked the hardest, filming and then using your energy to do the editing. Seeing you working like that made us pull through. Your affection for this project was bigger than anyone else. We happened to work together from spring until winter while doing this long project, but no one ever predicted that we would receive this kind of result in the end. It’s just that I want to offer my sincere gratitude for spending your time together with us.