[Magazine] The Celebrity, March 2014 Issue: One night meeting with Ji Chang Wook



On a night walk with Ji Chang Wook.  Calling him out on a night that makes one all the more sensitive to the surroundings, I said I wanted to meet “Ji Chang Wook” and not the emperor “Ta Hwan”. Nevertheless, whether he was passing through the long tunnel blanketed by cold air or crossing the desolate streets, he was always unperturbed.

The night is no stranger to Ji Chang Wook.  During his rest days, he sweats it out with a game of late-night soccer with his friends, or walks around alone letting his thoughts flow. On his rest day where there is no “Empress Ki” filming, we met him not at the studio in the day, but under a bridge at the Han River at night.  On a day where the wind seems to be faster than the speed of a car, he walked in the quiet lighted underpass and along the middle of the road. Each time a question was thrown at him, he would stop and purse his lips, the cautious look of him buried in thought strangely matches with the silence of the street that day.

How long has it been since you walked the streets at night like this?

Surprisingly, I was often walking around alone.  While walking, I will arrange to meet people on impulse. Although I do stay at home on my rest days too, I do get to relieve my stress when I roam around.

You may not remember, but we met you when we went to the Yong-In Dramia studio to do an “Empress Ki” feature for the January issue of “The Celebrity”. It was probably during the filming of the 11th or 12th episode, and you were catching a nap while the other actors were filming.

Haha. The weather was really cold then and it was especially tiring because it was the early stage of filming.  Now that almost 30 episodes have been aired, it seems like a really long time ago. I’ve already adjusted to the character and the environment by now, so I feel much more comfortable now. One secret about sageuks (historical drama) that most people do not know is that we are able to wear more layers of clothing when the weather is cold as compared to modern-day dramas. I now have the know-how to cope.

Apparently, you are a man who leads an upright life. Even your stylist who has worked with you for many years claims to have never seen you playing around.

Nay, how could that be? Is it because I seem too quiet? I do go out for a coffee and go drinking with my close friends and hyungs.

A few years ago when there was a heavy snow, a photo of you taking the subway to get around became a hot topic. But isn’t it inconvenient to walk around on the street or go to crowded places with your friends?

I’m not the type who enjoys being the subject of attention in front of people. I find it most comfortable to do everything quietly. Of course, there are uncomfortable aspects of having others’ eyes on me, that’s why I tell people “please pretend that you do not know me”. Audiences feel a sense of familiarity with me through the small screen and there are also people who approach me. That makes me feel thankful instead, so even when I have to travel around these days, I do not find it uncomfortable, and neither am I particularly concerned about it.

I heard that playing late-night soccer is your hobby.

Ah, I play soccer really often. On the nights of most of my rest days, I will be out playing soccer. I’ve been doing that with my close friends since my high school days, and we also have a separate competitive team. The weather has been really cold these days, it’s relaxing to sweat and get heated up while running.

You suddenly look brighter. You must really love soccer a lot.

Playing soccer at night has a very unusual charm. People ask why I play soccer at night; although the adults’ morning soccer club usually meets in the day, the guys around my age usually meet at night. Especially during summer when moving in the day is way too hot and burns your skin, it is cooler to play at night. The lights at the soccer field are also really awesome when turned on. The only thing that I’m concerned about is the filming “Empress Ki” these days, and it is soccer that helps me to de-stress after filming. It is a good way to interact with other people and also a good form of exercise.

Soccer also helps to maintain your fitness.

Although that is true, I’m playing soccer not because I want to keep fit. Outside of work, isn’t it very stressful to make plans for every single thing? I take care of myself by eating well, sleeping well and resting well.

That’s a typical role model answer. But after getting to know you, aren’t you very strict in managing yourself?

Not true at all.  Of course, I have to be very focused when I’m at work so I don’t care about anything else, but when I’m resting, there are many times where I really don’t do anything at all. I don’t know if I will seem very boring if I continue talking like this, but I’m in fact a person who knows how to play when it’s time to play. I just appear very quiet because I’m shy.



If you are shy, then you are not someone with many interpersonal relationships right?

That’s right. But there are a few people whom I’ve known for a very long time.  Although I take a long time to get close to people, once we do become close friends, you will know how much of a joker I am (laughs).

What should one do to get closer to a shy person like you?

My affinity with other people isn’t determined by one single factor only. It could be because of a good feeling or because we get along well. Besides myself, aren’t most people like that too? I do not insist upon only meeting up with people of similar personality as me. Rather, my friends are all very different individually, that’s why it’s difficult to pinpoint one factor. While performing in musicals, I got along well with the actors and directors I met. If a person is very compatible with me, we will tend to maintain a very long lasting relationship.

Initially, the image that people had of Ji Chang Wook was that of a healthy and honest youth like Mi Poong in “My Too Perfect Sons” or Donghae in “Smile Donghae”. Recently, we see more uncomfortable and immature yet pitiable characters from you, like In ha from “Five Fingers” or Ta Hwan in “Empress Ki”. 

Both images are characters portrayed by me, so it’s natural for me to appear somewhat like them.   Simply because I am extending or reducing my inner self into the different characters accordingly, which is why there are differences in the way I portray them. But I don’t care which character I prefer myself to be looked upon as. No matter what kind of character, as long as they come to me, I see it as fate and I will give my best. The only thing I hope for is that people will enjoy watching it.

Borrowing on what you said about “fate”, you have had the chance to play many different characters up till now. Among these, there must be a character whom you can relate to, and also those that you cannot understand at all. 

Of course there are. Because no matter how much you immerse yourself in the character, you are simply not that same character in reality.  It’s not so much of not being able to understand the character itself, but there are also instances where I cannot understand the character’s situation. But trying your best to understand the situation is a special professional requirement that an actor should have. In such moments when I am unable to understand, the first thing to do is to keep reading the script alone to death and work hard to understand it. The next thing I’ll do is to ask my friends. For example, I am an only child with no siblings, but in “My Too Perfect Sons”, I suddenly found myself with 3 other brothers. Because I grew up alone, situations of being together with siblings are foreign to me. At that time, I went around asking my friends who have many siblings.

Do you tend to share your opinions with other people?

I do perform a search of my name online sometimes. I mostly see what kinds of news articles have been written about me. Being an actor is a job that does not allow me to disregard the public, but I try my best not to be too sensitive. Although it is important to know how people feel about my acting, I do not wish to be affected because of that whenever I act. It is definitely important to find one’s balance and not let myself get shaken. Each time I waver or become weak, I will ponder even harder about the role and read the script several times.

You seem very calm and unperturbed.

I think I am like that to a certain extent. Of course, I am very thankful that people like me. But hearts can change and there’s no telling how situations will change either. If I feel hurt or be at a loss whenever that happens, I will be so miserable.

After “Empress Ki” ends, where will we be able to see you?

I might probably start filming a movie in May. It’s a movie called “Two Constables” and I’ll be starring with senior Sol Kyung Gu. It’s not that I want to keep it a secret, but the script isn’t ready yet so there’s nothing that I can reveal to the public. I can only briefly tell you that I’ll be a hot-blooded constable in the Joseon era.

You will be filming one sageuk after another.

That’s how it will be. Sageuks require a lot of thinking, so I’ll probably have a lot to worry about again once the script is ready.

Honestly, which is easier? Sageuks or modern-day shows?

Hmm, modern-day shows deal with the present while sageuks deal with the past. Haha. Actually, both are difficult. But sageuks are very difficult to produce because they require guesswork based on traces left behind by documents and artifacts from the past. A lot of imagination is required about how people in the past lived then. Were kings really that solemn and ceremonious back then? It may or may not be true, which is why there is much more to think about. The reason behind what I mentioned earlier about actors not being able to disregard the public is seen here. As my portrayal of a character is based on my own imagination, I may be able to receive fresh appraisals from the public, but there’s also a possibility of me appearing awkward or giving the audience negative feelings. Because there is always this desire to give a more interesting and fresh performance, I spend a long time imagining about the many aspects of a character.

If that’s the case, it seems like you would prefer to take a time machine to journey back to the past instead of going to see the future.

I would like to do both. I’m naturally very curious. Most people who see me for the first time usually think I am obedient, but they just don’t know that I love joking around. I was very restless when I was young and often got myself hurt outside. I was a truly mischievous boy.

These days, people no longer dig only one well for themselves (*meaning to specialize in only one thing). Are there times where you look into other fields?

Not at all.  What I’m doing now is already too much for me to handle. What you do isn’t important; the important thing is to do well in it, right? In fact, any work apart from acting is burdensome. I once appeared on the variety show “Radio Star” to promote my musical and it was awkward. I don’t really have a desire to do variety. I’m able to do acting because the situations and script are made available, but variety shows require me to simply perform on the spot, which makes it more difficult.

“Ta Hwan” is a character that induces laughter inadvertently. Even if it’s not variety, I’m a bit curious about your comic acting.

Haha. I do want to try out comic acting at least once. But until now, I don’t dare dream about it because it seems like a difficult genre. I’m afraid I might not do well in it. I really like Jim Carrey who has both a serious and funny side to him. If there is a chance to show such a side of me one day, I will attempt to play a comedic character too.

You even won a newcomer award for the musical “The Days”.  Even after your drama ended, you did not rest but went on to star in “Jack the Ripper”, “Thrill Me” and “Brothers Were Brave”. Do you really enjoy performing on stage that much?

In dramas, every scene is cut and you can feel the fun in editing when monitored later. Musicals are done in one breath from start till finish which makes them really attractive. The biggest reason that makes musicals addictive is the strange thrill of seeing the audience directly.  Basically, I am very greedy when it comes to work. People ask me when I’m going to take a rest when I move on from one musical to another after finishing a drama. I take short breaks in between work. But even then, I still think about work when I’m resting, so work is still good after all.

The more I talk to you, the more I see that you have a strong mentality. How were you like when you first started acting?

I worried a lot about the talent or ability I had, till the extent that I even wondered if I should quit. But now, I think I’ve found the way to just hang in there. Although this sounds obvious, the answer is to just do my best in the position I’m in now. Of course, there are many hardworking people out there, but it’s not easy to do so. I set myself at ease by constantly worrying and thinking about my roles.

Aren’t you thinking too much? If you think too much, you will end up dreaming about it often too.

Right. But things that I do not wish to remember, I’ll forget them quickly. I don’t think much about it either. Words by other people that make me feel bad are also forgotten. I really hate to obsess over it.

You have a good personality, because you are able to forget everything and let go.  

Is that so? When I have a worry, instead of seeking advice, I prefer to be alone and think through many aspects, which can reduce occurrence of misunderstandings instead.

You are thinking again.

Oh yeah (laughs).



Translated from Korean to English by Gabby.

Source: http://thecelebrity.net/ko/magazine/mar2014_interview01

(Although the interview published on the official website is incomplete, this translation is a complete version of the full length article from the magazine)

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4 thoughts on “[Magazine] The Celebrity, March 2014 Issue: One night meeting with Ji Chang Wook

  1. I’ve felt reading his instagram that one aspect of him is that he seems like a ‘thinker’ … a thoughtful person…this interview is not too surprising to me but was very enjoyable.. Thank you!

  2. Thank you so much!!! It’s so refreshing reading his interviews, always something new and his way of thinking is very interesting… he’s serious and easy going at the same time and it can be seen he’s not pretending, he’s himself and he doesn’t let others take control of his life as other actors of his generation sadly do.

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