Ji Chang Wook, who continues to be busy each day even though his drama has ended, put a halt to everything for a while and went to Bali for a holiday. This is idle time in a long while.
I sat down for an interview with Ji Chang Wook at a peaceful Bali resort where the sound of the strong waves can be heard. It was almost a month after “Healer” ended. Even though the gruelling filming schedule had ended, he still had a busy week doing interviews, and also showed up at various events. An event that was held overseas was even cancelled because of safety reasons as too many fans had gathered. During his spare time, he had meetings for his projects, and also did performances of his musical “The Days” in the provinces. He ate and drank with friends whom he did not get to meet up when he was busy, and even went on a short trip with a close brother. In the midst of such busy days, he left for a holiday in Bali where the rainy season has passed and the place was steadily getting hotter.
His days in Bali were very monotonous. He woke up late, had a late breakfast, did a bit of swimming and went back to sleep; he would take out his comic books that he had brought along from Korea to read and then sleep yet again; that’s how he planned and spent his days lazily. Perhaps, after leaving everything behind, one may even become more decisive and at ease. After “Healer” ended, interest in Ji Chang Wook has been greater than ever. At the Bali Airport, there were many fans who waited many hours just to catch a short glimpse of him. Even at the resort that was more than an hour’s drive away from the airport, there were people who recognised him and asked to take a picture with him. “While acting in shows all this while, this is the first time I’m encountering such a situation. I’ve received so much love even though the viewership ratings weren’t very high. But that show has already ended. The show has passed, and I am no longer Healer. Only the fun memories that I had at the filming remain. It was enjoyable to interact with the scriptwriter and director, and I had fun getting along with the staff who were like my neighbourhood hyungs, noonas and younger siblings. That’s all. Nothing has changed. Except that there are now more offers than before? Last time, there weren’t many project offers coming in, and if there were any, I will either first do it and see how it goes, or I would have two shows and I had to pick one. But now I am able to choose from among several different shows.” At the film set, he is a cheerful youth. He will purposely laugh and joke a lot. But actually that could also be the result of hard work. “The film set is always very busy. But if I were to act only, it will be even more tiring. So I make an effort to laugh more. But after some time, that image eventually became my actual personality.”
But he’s not the kind who is able to open up his heart and be candid with everyone. He readily invited staff members who worked with him for a long time to his home and shared a meal prepared by his mother. After a show ends, he spends five days a week meeting his high school friends whom he had not met in a long time, laughing, joking and having fun together, but this is a side of him that he does not reveal to people who meet him for the first time. Facing him who is seated down for the interview, it is impossible to imagine the image of Ji Chang Wook seen in his tales of bravery back in his school days, which included sticking a chopstick in an electrical outlet to trigger a power failure so that remedial class would be cancelled. His long-time friend and current manager described the teenage Ji Chang Wook as “a guy who is good in his studies and has a good personality.” After crying and persuading his mother, this guy enrolled in the movie and theatre course and eventually became a real actor. “It was very difficult when I was a rookie. An acting career is not one that will work out if you just act only. After entering the entertainment world, I clung to my seniors and cried a lot. It was probably more difficult for me because I’m very shy. But I think I’ve adjusted a lot better now. When I did interviews last time, I often gave very short answers. If I was asked ‘What do you like?’, I would give replies like, ‘Soccer’. At that time, it was strangely very awkward for me to talk about myself. But I’m no longer like this. Now when I give interviews after a show ends, I get to sort out my thoughts and this also allows me to properly send off the character I played. I realised that there are many things that I have to put up with for the sake of my acting career.”
For the photo shoot, we travelled to various locations in Bali under the warm weather from day till sunset. He walked along the beach carrying a surfboard and also drove around on a motorbike. This was almost becoming his ideal holiday. “When I go on a holiday, I usually do not explore much. I just sleep and eat a lot and look at nice scenery. I like it this way. But on one hand, I do wish to go backpacking, and I would also like to travel around on a motorbike. I wish to travel freely for 3 to 4 months. I also wish to ride a motorbike like a Harley Davidson before I turn 30, although I’m not sure if I’ll have the time.” Actually, there is not much time left till he turns 30. He will probably be going to the army next year. Before he goes to the army, he wants to earn lots of money, get a motorbike driving license and try riding a Harley Davidson at least once. But that day will likely come in a flash. “I’ll have to go when the time comes. I have a vague hope that more interesting things will come when I return, so I’ll just enlist and come back.” Ji Chang Wook says he has been steadily walking well up till now.
His weekend drama “Sons of Sol Pharmacy” and daily drama “Smile Donghae” had very good viewership ratings, and his ahjumma fans still continue to call him “Donghae”. He also filmed the miniseries “Warrior Baek Dong Soo”, played an emperor in the full-length sageuk “Empress Ki”, and now attracts warm interest even from places beyond Korea after finishing the miniseries “Healer”. But in reality, Ji Chang Wook’s original dream was to be an overnight star. “When I first became an actor, I wanted to be the lead in a drama and become an overnight star suddenly. But I wasn’t able to achieve that (laughs). But despite that, I think I’m steadily walking well on my own path. I didn’t intentionally choose to do a weekend drama, daily drama, miniseries or sageuk. Things just turned out that way. After my debut, the shows I did in the beginning all had very good viewership ratings. But that made me scared instead. I was worried about what if my next project were to get low viewership. Even when a casting offer came in, I couldn’t accept it readily. Back then, a senior told me that one is not an actor if he cannot choose a project because of the viewership ratings. I eventually summoned my courage and chose a project, and that was ‘Bachelor’s Vegetable Store’. But that drama couldn’t even get a 1% viewership rating. At that time, I felt relieved instead. I finally realised at that moment. Even if the viewership rating isn’t high, I cannot give a shoddy performance, but I ought to take responsibility right till the end, and there are also things that I can learn through the project. I also realised that even when a show has ended, the actor Ji Chang Wook does not disappear.”
Now, he has a new dream instead of becoming an overnight star. “Since I couldn’t become an overnight star, I ought to at least become a wealthy person overnight (laughs). But that will not happen. Others will win at least 1,000 won or 2,000 won when they buy a lottery ticket, but I can’t even win 1,000 won.” Setting his joke aside, he replies again. “Now, I want to be a happy actor. I hope the process of acting will be fun and interesting. Whether a show will do well or not cannot be realised by just my greed alone. If I work enjoyably with people, sometimes the show will do well, but unfortunately, there are times where the show will not do well too. All shows will come to an end and neither will your life be changed by just one show. I realised that what remains behind are the people you worked with and the memories. As I get older and become a father, even if I do not get to play handsome roles like I do now, I want to enjoy acting the roles I play, and I want to be an awesome senior who acts whatever I want to do.” There are times where he purposely chooses not to watch the broadcast if he cannot act according to his expectations, and there were also times where he cried as he faced the unfamiliar entertainment world that was slightly different from the world that he had always lived in. And way before that, although we do not know the details, he also had a less than peaceful childhood probably due to problems between friends or family issues. “As time has passed, there are things worth keeping as a memory from meeting those friends, and there are also moments that seem really difficult even when I think back now. But I think there will be even more happier times from now on. Even if there are difficult problems now, I’ve developed the skill of letting them go. Last time, I would have started worrying when a problem arises, but now I’ve learnt my own way of overcoming it. I think I’ve become more at ease.”
After spending five lazy days in Bali, he will be back to his busy days again. Whenever he updates his social media account occasionally, his name will definitely appear on the search rankings of portal sites, and the cheers for him are still as warm as ever. When he returns to Korea from Bali, he will begin exercising again and prepare for his next project, and by now he should have decided on his next project and would have begun preparing for it. In this way, another time of his will be filled again, and pass by again.
Translated from Korean to English by Gabby.
Scans by cherkell.
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Source: Marie Claire Korea