100 minutes of fan service. Ji Chang Wook secretly comes to Taiwan to learn Mandarin.
Korean drama “Empress Ki” is highly popular in Taiwan, and Ji Chang Wook shows his might as an “emperor”. Not only did he come to Taiwan for the first time for a fan meeting, within his four-day schedule here, he has continuously been giving interviews to various Taiwanese media. He talks freely about his journey since his debut seven years ago and his personal secrets, and even revealed that he wants to come to Taiwan to cycle around the island, inviting his fans to come along with him and “Follow me!”
[Lots of affinity with Taiwan. Took the subway before, and even studied Mandarin before.]
On the morning before his fan meeting, when he was having an interview with us at the hotel, he was like a “hyperactive kid” who could not keep still, who will run off to do something when he thinks of doing something. He’s totally an active person. When he’s not having his picture taken, he immediately disappears mysteriously, but once the set-up is done, he will suddenly emerge from the crowd again. Without even wasting a minute or second, even though communication was difficult, he was able to accurately follow the directions of the photographer during the photo shoot. Even though he woke up so early to work, his eyes looked slightly tired, but he would definitely not show any sign of tiredness in front of anyone.
Ji Chang Wook said that he is actually not unfamiliar with Taiwan, having secretly came to Taiwan with his friend about 2 years ago, but not many people recognised him back then. “I had more freedom last time. I could take the subway with everyone, go to all kinds of places to play. This time round, I don’t have such a high amount of freedom as before, after all I’m here because of work. But seeing so many people love “Empress Ki” makes me very happy.” He was able to face the camera and greet everyone using fluent Mandarin, and even personally signed in Mandarin for us. We asked him if he had specially made the effort to learn Mandarin, but he revealed that he had learnt Mandarin before in high school, “but I only studied a bit of it!” (laughs)
[Has his own views about interpreting a character. Only reads the script when filming “Empress Ki”]
Seven years since debuting, Ji Chang Wook hasn’t starred in many shows, but all the characters he played have left a deep impression. That’s because of his personality whereby he has a lot of views of his own, so he is very careful about choosing his scripts, and neither does he think that his situation is better than others, “I think luck is relative. Compared to some people, I am considered lucky of course, but when compared against some other people, my luck may not be exceedingly good either, so my answer is rather ambiguous. But regarding my criteria for selecting works, I’m more concerned about whether the role is interesting, whether it’s attractive, whether it attracts me, and how much charm can I portray in this character.”
This is also why, instead of watching the shows of other actors to figure things out, or diligently gathering research for reference to prepare for the role, he focuses more on analysing the script in his hand instead. He then uses his own method to create and breathe new life into the character. “It was also the same when I was filming “Empress Ki”. I will spend time in the beginning to analyse the role, and after I’ve decided on the way that the character should be portrayed, I will not let myself be affected by anything else.”
[Feelings take time. Working hard, so there’s no time to date]
His career has taken off, and although he admits that he wishes to date, he understands that dating is probably only a kind of luxury at this point in time. He says he takes time to warm up to people, likes women who share chemistry with him and whom he can easily chat with, and he will not fall in love with someone at first sight. We ask if he’s like Ta Hwan who loves a beauty but not his country, and if he has to choose between work and feelings in real life, how will he strike a balance? He laughed, saying, “Work is now my priority, and also because I’m really too busy with work, I have no time at all to date a girl, so I don’t think there’s a need for me to worry about this issue yet.”
After completing filming for “Empress Ki”, Ji Chang Wook first gave himself a long break to get out of his previous character, because filming for his next drama “Healer” will commence after holding a few pre-arranged meeting sessions. He will play a mysterious errand boy who gives up his dream of living alone on a deserted island after experiencing life as a journalist, and becomes an outstanding reporter instead. “This is a show with a rather deep subject matter, but my character will be a relatively light-hearted one. I think the script is really good this time. When I was choosing a script, I thought it would be good as long as no mistake occurs, and I hope to get along happily with all the actors and crew. The most important thing is to finish this perfectly.”
Besides the positive and bright image he has presented, even his manager who has worked with him for a year and eight months was full of praise for his performance at work. His manager said, “Among the artistes I have managed, he is a very genuine, hard-working actor who is very passionate about acting. He is loved by so many people, and this makes me, who works together with him, feel very proud of him also.” Apparently, Ji Chang Wook has received many invitations from the Greater China region after he shot to fame with “Empress Ki”, but he thought about the reason why he became an actor, which was because he wanted to act and not because he wanted to earn lots of money, so he rejected many of these invitations.
“I think he stands a good chance of expanding into the Greater China region, or even venture to the international stage. Although I think it might still be a little inadequate now, I will accompany him to work hard in this direction.”
Q&A with Ji Chang Wook
Q: Do you think you are a person with a mind of your own?
A: I think I’m considered a person with more thoughts of my own. Compared to other actors, I may not have many works, but I want to take one step at a time according to my own plans. That can probably be considered as my professionalism and dedication.
Q: What do you do when you are not working?
A: Play! Actually it’s quite simple, like meeting friends for coffee or to drink. I also play soccer because I like sports.
Q: Do you have any friends whom you are closer with in the entertainment circle? Do you usually hang out with them at gatherings?
A: Actually, I don’t have many celebrity friends, but I still keep in contact with the cast and staff of “Empress Ki”.
Q: Do you usually like to drink at gatherings? How well can you hold your liquor?
A: I can’t really drink, but I do like drinking. (He stole a look at his manager when he mentioned drinking)
Q: Including your previous visit to Taiwan for vacation and your visit this time to hold your fan meeting, what is your impression of Taiwan?
A: I could feel the warmth and cheerfulness of the Taiwanese people the minute I got off the plane, and that left a deep impression on me. I heard that travelling around the island on a bike is a popular thing to do these days, so I would really like to try that. (Q: You are not afraid of being recognised?) Then all of us can ride together! (does a “follow me” gesture)
Q: What is your impression of Taiwanese women?
A: I don’t have female friends who are Taiwanese, neither have I gone out alone with a Taiwanese girl, so the impression I have of them now is merely fans. What left a deep impression on me is that Taiwanese fans are very warm; they will welcome me wherever I go. I’m very touched and thankful.
Q: I heard you humming a song when we were taking pictures of you. Is it because you personally like to sing? Or because you are preparing for the fan meeting?
A: I just hum out of habit. I do like singing also. (Q: You sang OSTs before. Do you have plans to venture across and become a singer?) Hehe….becoming a singer and releasing an album are not part of my plans.
Q: I heard that your mum was initially against you joining the entertainment industry. What about now?
A: Now, my mum has already approved of it, and she likes it too. I think it was mainly because of worry, because her son will be appearing on TV often and has to talk often, so she was worried. My mum has also followed me to Taiwan this time. I feel happy just looking at my mum being happy.
Q: What is the worst thing that has happened recently?
A: I’m quite an impatient person actually, so I often drop my things. For example, when I drink with my friends, stuff like my glasses and watch will often go missing. Some times when I take off my watch and leave it somewhere, I will forget about it and leave after chatting with my friends.
Q: Lastly, please say a few words to all your Taiwanese fans who love you.
A: Because this is my first time here (for a fan meeting), I am feeling very nervous but excited also. I’m really happy to see everyone liking “Empress Ki” so much, and it also makes me feel that I have to work harder in the future to deliver more good works to all of you, and let everyone see the different sides of me. I hope everyone will continue to support me! 🙂
Scans and Mandarin-English translation by Gabby.