Mention actor Ji Chang Wook, the image that comes to mind is “steadiness”.
Ji Chang Wook’s filmography speaks about his personality. His debut work was the 2008 movie “Sleeping Beauty”. One year after that, he starred as the immature youngest son in KBS2 TV’s “Sons of Sol Pharmacy”. That was the real start to his life as an actor.
His first leading role came two years after that. He played the titular role in the KBS1 TV daily drama “Smile Donghae” which had high ratings of 40%. He became the “nations’s son” by playing the role of Donghae, a kind youth with tenacity. “Smile Donghae” was the number 1 contributor to his popularity.
After that, he grew ambitious in his acting. In SBS’ “Five Fingers”, he played the role of a villain with a severe sense of inferiority. In between, he also broadened his acting range by starring in musicals such as “Thrill Me”, “Jack the Ripper”, and “The Days”. Last year, he even showed his sageuk acting skills in the MBC drama “Empress Ki”. In KBS2 TV’s “Healer” which ended on the 10th, he acted with the charm of two characters who had entirely different personalities.
He has none of that pretentious attitude of actors in their 20s. Neither does he have any “action” to take the easy route of riding on his fame. His expression has always been pure. When he is praised for his acting ability, he says with a smile, “I’m still far from that. I don’t know how I should react when I hear such praises.” Thanks to his steadiness, we met Ji Chang Wook who looks forward to the next day.
– It was probably not easy playing Jung Hu and Bong Su, two characters with entirely different personalities in the show.
“That’s why I pondered a lot. It’s not that I’m playing two different roles; it’s because the character Seo Jung Hu is ‘acting’ as the character Park Bong Su, so it was more difficult. The most difficult homework was to what extent Seo Jung Hu should change when he acts as Park Bong Su. I was worried if it would become too childish if I acted in a way that seemed like he made a 180-degree change into another character. But the director advised me to ‘leave an obvious gap between the two characters.’ Although I was half in doubt at first, the difference between the two characters was made large, and the audience seemed to like that more.”
– Did you feel more comfortable when you were acting as Jung Hu or Bong Su?
“Compared to Jung Hu who needs to restrain and calculate his every move, Bong Su was freer and more comfortable. Even on set, it was more interesting when I was filming as Bong Su where I could freely do everything that I wanted to do.”
– You’ve only received praises for your acting.
“I don’t know how I should react when I hear such praises because it’s so embarrassing. I’m the kind who will be so embarrassed when I hear praises (laughs). The staff really suffered a lot in this show. A good piece of work was made from all that effort from the staff. I don’t think the praise I got is simply because of me doing a good job.”
– You also pulled off rough action stunts.
“Articles initially wrote that I did all the action stunts on my own but that is not true. There was definitely a stuntman. There were action stunts that could not be totally done by an actor. There are definitely scenes that will look better if personally performed by a stunt expert. My friend who served as my stunt double and Director Jung Duhong who directed the action suffered a lot. Looking at them from the side, I felt pity and sorry for them.”
– But even then, you personally attended action school to prepare.
“What I learnt at the action school definitely helped me. In the case of movies, the flow of action scenes are clearly decided upon, but in dramas, there are many times where the action is put together on the spot. At the film set, you need to memorise everything immediately and there are also many occasions where changes are made suddenly according to the situation, so it’s not easy. Our action team is the same team that appeared on the ‘I Am an Action Star’ episode of ‘Infinity Challenge’. You will know if you watch it, but they really suffered a lot. I watch ‘Infinity Challenge’, so I was really happy to see them (laughs).”
– You seem to watch a lot of TV variety programmes.
“Not at all. I hardly ever watch TV on regular days. I just happened to watch ‘Infinity Challenge’ sometimes (laughs). I can’t even touch the remote control for two minutes.”
– Then what do you usually do on your rest days?
“I meet up with close friends and drink coffee while chatting (laughs). These days, I like going to places to maintain my health, so we go for half-body bath or massages. I also like drinking. My alcohol tolerance is about half a bottle of soju, so rather than the alcohol itself, I like the drinking parties. Ah, I also like soccer.”
– I hear that you belong to a celebrity soccer team.
“I belong to a soccer team called FC Men formed by JYJ’s (Kim) Junsu hyung. Junsu hyung formed this team because he likes soccer, but Junsu hyung hardly appears these days (laughs). My position is the striker. Although many people say that strikers are played by those who can play soccer really well, my ability is really not that good (laughs).”
– You said riding the roller coaster during the filming of ‘Running Man’ was very scary.
“I really dislike riding roller coasters in the first place. I will even think to myself, ‘Why would anyone pay money to ride that?’ and ‘That is self torture’ (laughs). I didn’t know that there will be riding of roller coasters in the filming of ‘Running Man’. I did wonder ‘surely not…’ when they told me go to the amusement park. Because it’s called ‘Running Man’, I thought I only needed to run hard (laughs). Riding the roller coaster is already difficult, but we even had to complete missions while riding it. It was really scary and tiring. I thought I couldn’t take it any more, so I told them to stop halfway and I really threw up (laughs).”
– From a supporting role in a weekend drama to a daily drama, sageuk and even a mini-series; it seems like you slowly made your way up.
“Honestly speaking, I didn’t have such intentions in the beginning. Since debut, anyone would think of doing a lead role or the likes of a mini series. Those were foolish thoughts. Thinking back, I thought slowly making my way up like that was my path. I am proud of the path that I’ve walked on.”
– Did you have slumps too?
“It was quite tiring while filming ‘Smile Donghae’. The drama was doing very well, but I was not satisfied with my acting. I had a lot of thoughts like ‘Do I have talent? Shouldn’t I be quitting?’ and it made me really uneasy. Then, Director Kim Yoo Suk told me, ‘Changwook-ah, There are no actors who have natural talent. Everything will be fine if you work hard.’ When I heard that, it helped settle me down. There are no actors who are born as actors. It all depends on how each person displays his own charms and how he expresses himself based on how much he has studied.”
– If you couldn’t be an actor, what would you have done?
“I’ll probably be an ordinary office worker. When I was schooling, I was also a very ordinary student. I studied because students have to study in school, I did not cause any big trouble and I was obedient; I was that kind of ordinary kid.”
– Then how did an ordinary student become an actor?
“When I got to my third year of high school, I started to wonder ‘Am I really studying because I’m happy? Until when can I keep on doing this? What exactly do I like?’ In the midst of that, the people who acted on TV seemed very interesting. I just thought I should act so I enrolled at the theatre and film course at Dankook University. Even when I think now, my entry to university was amazing. But because I went there on an impulse, I was also wandering a lot during my university days. Looking at my peers, they all had ambitions for acting, they were knowledgeable, and also had a clear dream. They really seemed like artists. But I was totally not like that. I often thought ‘Why am I here?’ and I was confused. So I hardly went to school in my first year. My grades were also horrible; they were either Ds or Fs.”
– Then, when did you start to take an interest in acting?
“One day I was passing through a school corridor, a senior called me to stand against the wall and told me, ‘You just have to stand still here.’ I thought ‘What is this?’, and it turned out my seniors needed an extra for an independent film that they were making. It was a role where I really didn’t have to do anything but stand still at the back, but I found it interesting. From that day onwards, I would follow my seniors around and ended up filming independent movies. Under poor filming conditions, I was shivering in the cold everyday but I was really happy. The indie film director who saw that film decided to cast me, so I ended up starring in independent movies, and I ended up acting from then onwards.”
– When the dependable son who was good in his studies in high school said he wanted to do acting, your parents must have strongly objected.
“After my dad passed away when I was in my fifth year of elementary school, I grew up under the care of my single mother, and she was really strongly against it. I was a son who had never gone against my mother’s words, but when I said I wanted to act, that was the first time I went against my mother and fought back. My mother was really hurt. I still feel sorry whenever I think of that.”
– But despite that, your mother must be very fond of you now.
“That’s right. She’s really proud of me. My mum really suffered a lot bringing me up alone, but she’s very happy now. I’m happy because mum is happy.”
– What about plans for army?
“I’ll probably go sometime next year. I don’t really have any bad feelings about the army. If one is a South Korean man, isn’t that a place he has to go no matter who he is? Because I come from all-boys middle school and high school, I should be fine (laughs).
Translated from Korean to English. Please share with proper credit.