Set against the streets of Hong Kong, BNT International has released its exclusive interview and photoshoot with Ji Chang Wook in the city known as the Pearl of the Orient after revealing a very drool-worthy and satisfying teaser video. This translation is a combination of two separate articles.
Within the short period of time spent working with an actor, the attitude you see may only be a very small part of his true self, but at the very least, it still paints a picture of his appearance in the future. With that in mind, in order to have a high quality photo shoot and interview, Ji Chang Wook is an actor who even possesses the ability to remove the need for any unnecessary descriptions.
Ji Chang Wook has been flooded with many love calls not just locally but also from the Greater China region. But he is humble. Even as he wears thick autumn and winter clothing in the 33°C heat, his attitude towards the staff is unlike that of a star, and he is both sincere and earnest. Under the stifling hot weather in Hong Kong without even a small fan to keep cool, he still did everything that was required of him.
“It’s all right. I’m good~Don’t worry. I hope the pictures turn out good. Where would be better?” He does his best for a better shot.
His appearance has a charm that subtly attracts people, which makes us more curious about the mysterious and perfect messenger character Seo Jeong Hu that he will be playing in his next drama ‘Healer’. We can still see traces of the innocent youth that he played in the earlier part of ‘Empress Ki’. The ability to pull off various kinds of charms is a great strength for an actor.
Ji Chang Wook, who recently went to Taiwan to film SBS’ ‘Running Man’, replies to a question about the difference between Taiwan and Hong Kong, “Actually I’ve done filming in Taiwan (for Running Man) and I’ve also travelled there on a private basis before, but it’s my first time in Hong Kong so it is a new place that I wish to learn more about.” Before the interview, we thought he would be a rather boring actor, but that feeling has completely disappeared, and we now see his mischievous side now and then, and also the sight of him being engrossed in taking handphone selcas* with the staff. (*Selca = selfie. I hate the word ‘selfie’ so I’ll always use the korean term ‘selca’ in my translations instead)
To the question “Have you always joked around a lot?” he said, “I usually joke around a lot, but I am actually shy. I joke a lot if we get closer, and even in the recent ‘Empress Ki’, I was awkward with Ha Ji Won noona initially. But we got closer while filming, so I ended up joking a lot later and I had fun filming,” he said in a low voice.
Seemingly ordinary but with a remarkable voice, actor Ji Chang Wook who is becoming a new Hallyu star has already seen his fame increase in the Greater China region and Taiwan.
What could be the secret that he’s hiding? From the food he enjoys eating everyday, the music that he enjoys listening and hum along to, his favourite song that he often sings at the noraebang (*karaoke room), and even his ideal type that women are curious about, we asked him in detail.
Through [Star Chatter], the subtle playful side of him that he has been hiding and the mellow look in his eyes, let us follow the footprints he has left behind on the streets of Hong Kong at night.
Q: Talking about your works, in comparison to the number of works you’ve done, you have played many different kinds of characters. Is there any genre or character that you hope to challenge yourself with?
Just like the movie ‘Catch Me If You Can’, I think it will be fun to play different kinds of roles in one show. As for genres, I’m not particular about that so all are fine with me. With the exception of sitcoms (laughs). Sitcoms still feel difficult to me.
As for the movies I’ve seen recently, after ‘Empress Ki’ ended, I saw ‘Roaring Currents’ in the cinemas and enjoyed it (laughs). I also enjoy watching the British drama ‘Sherlock’ these days. Firstly, the actors act really well, and with it being a mystery drama, it is exciting and keeps me curious. The process of solving the cases is very interesting.
Q: If you were to give a simple introduction about your next drama ‘Healer”…?
For a romantic comedy, its topic and story are very heavy. It is a story about the media and the beliefs of reporters, and the story also has to do with the father’s generation. Just looking at the topic and subject matter, they are not light, but I’ll probably play a light character…(laughs)
Q: Your chemistry with Ha Ji Won in ‘Empress Ki’ was good. When it comes to the age of your partner, does it matter whether she is older or younger than you?
Actually, I’m not particular about that. Whether it is a female actress or male actor, I like talking a lot to each other and discussing about the show while having fun working together. This time round, I really had fun working together with Jiwon noona. She is my school senior, so if we do get to work together again, I think we will really be able to do it enjoyably.
Q: On set, many scenes of you joking around have been made public. Do you usually joke a lot?
Jokes? Everyone does that a lot (laughs). I’m also very shy, but when we get close, I do joke a lot, and it was the same with Jiwon noona also. She said she’s very shy. But when noona gets more comfortable and gets closer to you, she gets really playful. Actually, although we became closer, it was not easy. But in the beginning of ‘Empress Ki’, there were many playful scenes so while filming those scenes, we naturally got closer to each other.
#Ideal woman: Career woman vs pretty woman
Q: You’ve never given a concrete description about your ideal type.
Actually, I don’t have an ideal type for external appearance (laughs). We need to meet up personally and chat a bit…it’s good if our code can match and have a good conversation. For instance, I basically don’t prefer people with no manners. Even if the woman is really pretty and everyone will like her, if we cannot have a chat on the same wavelength, then I wouldn’t like her.
Q: It would be good if she has the same interests as you.
It’s not easy to have the same interests as me. I really love soccer (laughs). And I’m really against bringing my girlfriend along to play soccer. It’s not good at all for the both of us. There is nothing for the girl to do so she will feel bored, and the guy also has to worry. I see people like that some times and it’s really uncomfortable (laugh).
Q: You looked very natural riding the horse in ‘Empress Ki’. Was that your first time learning it?
I learnt horse riding because of ‘Warrior Baek Dong Soo’. I remember having a lot of fun. This time round, I didn’t get hurt while riding the horse, but during ‘Warrior Baek Dong Soo’, I had a big injury so I had to be careful always. The horse is very scared and well-behaved, but since it is an animal, my trainer told me never to trust the horse and to be careful always.
Q: Is there a project that you want to do?
I want to do a creative musical. There is a performance called ‘The Story of My Life’. I really want to act in that so I’ve been going around making a din (laughs). It is a two-man musical that tells a story about friends. It’s really interesting (laughs).
Q: Recently, male actors have been active as MCs in the fashion and beauty line. Do you have any ambitions to do that?
Actually, I don’t have any interest in becoming an MC for fashion or beauty. If I were to become an emcee, I don’t have confidence with regards to whether I’ll be able to take responsibility for the programme and take the lead. I don’t have the confidence, and I don’t have the passion for it either. For instance, I like wearing pretty clothes and look good in them (laughs). As I do my job as an actor, I always go around wearing pretty clothes when I have schedules, which is good. On normal days, I like being comfortable so I usually dress comfortably. These days, I exercise everyday so I wear exercise clothing like shorts and sleeveless T-shirts when I exercise (laughs).
Q: Is there anything new that you want to learn?
I want to learn the guitar (laughs). Personally, I like music (laughs).
Q: I saw a video of you singing on Instagram.
(Laughs) Cho Kang Heon is a musical actor whom I’m very close to. We were drinking at his home and got very drunk then (laughs). We were really drunk so we ended up playing. While singing and listening to the song, Hyung likes the guitar so I kept asking him to play it (laughs). I can’t play the guitar so I kept asking him to play, hahahahaha. The video was filmed by my manager. Although he’s my manager, he’s my closest friend. We were friends since high school. I “seduced” him so he became my manager (laughs).
Q: You seem suitable for variety shows like ‘Room Mate’?
Even if that wasn’t the case, Shin Sung Woo hyung and Min Woo from ‘Room Mate’ had asked me to appear once on the show to introduce as a friend. I rejected them very politely (laughs). I really have no confidence.
Q: That’s an unexpected relationship.
I worked with Sung Woo hyung in the musical ‘Jack The Ripper’, and I got close to Min Woo while drinking. We also ended up playing soccer together. I joined the team because of Min Woo, but because Min Woo is busy these days so I don’t get to see him a lot (laughs).
Q: Park Min Woo caused a controversy because of his reality show.
I didn’t know because I don’t really watch TV. But I saw it all over the internet one day. Min Woo has a strong sense of responsibility and dislikes being indebted to people and he has to personally step forth to take care of things. Compared to his age, his style of doing things is like an adult. He really thinks a lot and he’s also very young. He thinks deeply, he’s a grown-up kid and a very kind dongsaeng, so I found it regretful. I called him to ask if he was all right. But even then, he still did well on his own.
Q: While acting, have you ever been scolded by your seniors or teachers before?
I haven’t been scolded by my seniors before. I’ve received praises before, but when I was young, I was scolded a lot by directors for not being able to act (laughs). Fortunately, I don’t remember being scolded by seniors, and they explained to me in detail about acting. Of course, I also followed them around a lot. I was still a student back then. To me, the seniors at the set were just like my professors. I learnt a lot by observing the seniors at work.
Q: Your first time acting was the opportunity for you to become an actor?
At the very beginning, I had the thought “I have to join the theatre and film course.” Simply because it seemed fun. I didn’t know anything, I just thought that being an actor would be fun. I will also be able to earn a lot of money and it seemed so easy, so I really didn’t know anything. Of course, it is still fun now, but it’s very difficult.
An incident happened during the shoot that let one feel the quiet charisma and strong heart that Ji Chang Wook possesses as an actor. It was the final fashion shoot. On a street of Hong Kong where the light intersects with the darkness, a drunk foreigner came towards Ji Chang Wook who was in the midst of a photo shoot. In order to protect him, his manager and staff restrained the man, but at that moment, actor Ji Chang Wook went towards the foreigner instead and offered a handshake.
The foreigner did not intend to disrupt the shoot, but he wanted to shake hands with Ji Chang Wook. Perhaps he read the look of the man’s eyes, the sight of him offering his handshake was really fine. We now move on to the next chapter of [Star Chatter] with actor Ji Chang Wook who possesses a pair of eyes that can see through the heart.
Q: How was the character Ta Hwan in ‘Empress Ki’?
Of course, whichever show I join, there is always a pressure. But carrying a burden, I cannot run away from it. Instead, I try to focus on how I can make the character more well-rounded. It’s like I’m trying to search hard for something. But the role itself had a lot of things for me to perform so it was very fun. It was a role that really allowed me to play and enjoy.
Q: The line “tender and chewy (말랑말랑 쫄깃쫄깃)” in the drama became a topic of discussion.
The line was “I want to eat tender and chewy Goryeo persimmons.” But the line itself was very interesting and and the situation was also funny (laughs). I think the scriptwriter wrote Ta Hwan really well in the beginning. He wasn’t a dashing character but somewhat silly and cute at the same time, hateful but also loveable, so what I was really concerned about in the beginning was how not to make him appear hateful. If you look at the character Ta Hwan, he is a character that is full of ridiculous things so he could appear hateful, so I really studied a lot about what should I do so that the audience will be able to watch without frowning.
Even for the way he spoke, instead of learning from someone, for ‘Empress Ki’ this time, I wanted to break away from the typical sageuk. Historical sageuks or authentic sageuks have their own style of voice acting, but I wanted to break away a bit from those and adopt a more modern way of speaking. I was curious if dignified kings really spoke in such a dignified manner even when they were alone. Obviously they didn’t do that, so why was there a need to speak in such a dignified manner? Because he is a king and because his subjects are around, he needed to deliver his speech in that big space that’s why he probably spoke in that kind of voice, but what if everyone could hear him even if he didn’t speak that way~that’s why I wanted to express this in an interesting way.
#<Being the latest person to be casted for ‘Empress Ki’> “The scriptwriter’s trust in me was a big encouragement to me”
Even the scriptwriter also said, “Just do whatever you want~ do like how you would do everyday.” So during the script reading at first, I would chat with senior Lee Won Jong and other seniors during break, he said,”Chang Wook ah, just speak like how you speak everyday~ Just like a kid, be childish and weak and do what you want~.” It was a great encouragement.
Also, in the beginning, I joined the cast the latest, but fortunately, there are people I know such as Jeon Guk Hwan senior whom I worked with in ‘Five Fingers’ and senior Lee Won Jong from ‘Warrior Baek Dong Soo’, so it was more comfortable.
While filming ‘Empress Ki’, I also had a great time with Jin Yi Han hyung (laughs). Yi Han-ie hyung is really really funny (laughs). No matter how you look at him, he is really crazy and very funny, it was fun. Hahahaha. It was very fun and funny at the film set (laughs).
Q: I saw an article where you said this was a really memorable piece of work.
Yes, I really had fun filming and it was also very successful. Many people loved it and this is a piece of work that I’m very grateful for.
Q: There is a wave of Hallyu stars now. Are you thinking of venturing overseas?
Actually, after ‘Empress Ki’, there have been a few calls for me to go to China and overseas. There was a time when I really pondered a lot over this.
For example, when I received warm offers from China or overseas, I wondered if I should accept them (laughs) and people would ask “Why not?”, “Why aren’t you going to China?”, “Why didn’t you star in that show?” I would be able to earn a lot of money, my number of fans will also increase, but I eventually rejected all of those offers. I thought it over again, why did I become an actor?
It was because I really wanted to act and live my life enjoyably. I really want to live my life interestingly, and I thought I would have a lot of fun if I acted that’s why I became an actor. I thought about what would be the reason for me to go to China, and strictly speaking, it would be because of money. It’s like I’m being swayed by money. At that moment, I was momentarily swayed by the thought that I would be able to earn money. But after thinking again, it wasn’t because of money that made me want to act. It’s because I wanted to act and that’s why I’m acting.
I was having a simple drink of soju with my seniors who are acting at Daehangno, and looking at my seniors, they seemed really happy. Just talking about acting and life while drinking soju, that sight looked very fun. Thinking again while doing that, I wondered if I go to China to act, will I really enjoy myself? Actually, it doesn’t seem very enjoyable yet so I will have to reconsider.
In the future, as I live my life, I do not know what kind of choice or decisions I will make, but given my current situation, I think this is a right decision. Even though I may wish to go to China, I am holding a fan meeting in Taiwan this time. I’m really looking forward to it and I think it will be fun. It’s very amazing having new fans like that. For instance, the first time I got a major shock was in Japan. I’ve never done any activities in Japan before, but the fact that the Japanese fans loved me so much was a shock for me. So I originally kept saying that I wouldn’t go to Japan and kept rejecting, but I ended up holding one fan meeting there and now I keep going back. I think, “Ah, I’m doing this because it is needed of me,” so this time I ended up going to Taiwan.
Q: Have you prepared anything for the Taiwan fan meeting?
I’ve prepared several events. I’m still in the process of preparing (laughs) and I think it will be fun!
Q: You keep talking about drinking. How well can you hold your liquor?
I’m not good at drinking (laugh). About half a bottle of soju or one bottle? I can’t drink much, but I love drinking with people I like (laughs).
Q: I heard that you are close to JYJ’s Xiah Junsu. How did the two of you get to know each other? Are the two of you drinking buddies?
Junsu hyung, the hyung (Mu Yeong) who acted with me in ‘Empress Ki’ is his twin brother (laughs). One day, I met Junsu hyung when he said that he really enjoyed watching ‘Empress Ki’. Our relationship started from there and then we got to know each other. Junsu hyung is even the current team leader of our soccer team (laughs). Actually, the both of us just came to Hong Kong today by plane. I contacted him saying that I’m going to Hong Kong, and he said he is also going to Hong Kong and is at the airport (laughs). Since we have a car, we wanted to meet up (laughs) but our timings did not match so hyung left first, and we still haven’t met up.
Xiah Junsu is a hyung? – Haha that’s a bit, I think hyung was born earlier in 1987. But I’ve always been addressing Mu Yeong who acted with me as “hyung”, so Junsu also became my hyung (laughs).
Q: Looking at Ji Chang Wook’s profile, you were once the ambassador for the international cooking conference. Are you good at cooking?
(Laughs) While filming ‘Smile Donghae’, I ended up doing that because I was playing the role of Donghae who was a chef. In reality, I’m not good at cooking. But I’m really very good at cooking ramyun. Neoguri, Jjapaghetti, Jjapaguri (*these are names of different kinds of instant noodles). So during ‘Empress Ki’, I really bought a lot of those. Something like cup noodles. Add kimchi to Hat Ban (*a brand of instant rice). I think my recipe is something like that (laughs)?
An actor lives his life as a single person while acting out the lives of several people. But life is like how one author puts it, “Even after a piece of work is finished, one does not stop but continues on.” When a project is ongoing and even after a project has ended, the job of an actor that involves experiencing different kinds of lives is an awesome one, isn’t it? With anticipation for what kind of life actor Ji Chang Wook will be portraying next, the night in Hong Kong gets darker.
Translated from Korean to English by Gabby. Do not copy and paste without attribution.
4 Sept update new pictures: