There are people who reveal their true faces in jokes instead of serious debates. He who is totally against dating openly because he doesn’t wish to make a big deal out of it, and who still claims that he does not know how to make himself appealing, actor Ji Chang Wook who debuted 8 years ago is such a man. That’s why we had a chat with him. About his dilemma regarding dieting, tears and dating.
We are sorry to make you wear a winter coat in such hot weather like today’s (it was a very hot day with temperatures close to 34°C, and there was no air-con in the studio). But you really did bear with it well. You even jokingly told the staff “You are now forbidden to say that you are feeling hot!”
It’s good to get over things by joking at the same time. The atmosphere on site is important; it’s uncomfortable for the staff to try and be tactful in case I get upset. There was a time when I wasn’t even able to let go of a minor thing, but I’ve changed somewhat as I worked. It’s not uncommon to feel hungry, hot, or become slightly sensitive while working. If I think of the big picture, letting go of the minor stuff is the right thing to do. But I did feel hot. Especially when I put on knitwear and shirt with a coat, it’s really…(laughs).
Today is exactly the kind of day that is hot and makes you feel hungry. You are now in the midst of watching your diet right?
But it’s a problem because I eat again. (What kind of food are you unable to resist? Alcohol?) I’m able to resist alcohol well instead. If I think that I cannot eat something, I really won’t let myself have a taste of it. Ramyun, Jjapaghetti (a type of instant noodles), pig trotters, sundae soup (blood sausage soup)… While imagining “How tasty will it be if I went to the Shin Eui Joo Sundae Soup restaurant in front of my house?”, I eventually compromise by thinking “Wouldn’t it be alright if I exercise after eating?”. Developing a good body is a really painful thing. I think it is alright for people with a good figure to boast about their body! Because people dislike seeing those who strip and boast about their body. But please think of how painful that process is. Do you know how tasteless and fishy protein is? There’s so much delicious food in this world, but one has to resist all of that. That is worth applauding.
So will we be able to see you showing off your body in the tvN drama “The K2” that will air on 23 September?
There are topless scenes, but my body is not at a state that is worth showing off. I find it impressive when I see those actors who can manage a perfect body right in time for filming. There was something I felt very unfair about while filming “Healer”. The amount of time I had to prepare for that show was rather long. The first scene was of me playing tennis with a computer and then taking off my top, so I really worked hard to exercise. But because the set was built late, we only filmed that scene one month after we commenced filming. My body was already a little out of shape by then. Ah, this isn’t right, my body was really good originally…
I recall that scene. I thought it was an opening scene that gave a good portrayal of the character Seo Jung Hu, the best night courier in the industry who is equipped with wearable smart gadgets and accomplishes any task, and has the ultimate goal of saving money to buy an island and live there alone. You were also a mysterious and capable person in “Healer”, and you now play an elite bodyguard who was formerly a war mercenary soldier. You seem to have an attachment to the action genre?
I don’t really like action actually. But strangely, I keep ending up doing action shows. “Empress Ki” was the only one without action, I play a taekwondo instructor in “Whirlwind Girl 2” that is now airing in China, and there are also many action scenes in my upcoming movie “Fabricated City”. Although that’s the case for all shows, I chose “The K2” not so much because of the action, but because I felt that the psychological strife and conflict will be interesting. Kim Jae Ha, the former mercenary soldier who becomes a fugitive, meets Choi Yoo Jin (Song Yoon Ah) and Go Anna (YoonA) and becomes their bodyguard. But upon lifting the lid, you will see that this is a drama that is centered on the psychological battle between love and revenge.
You seem to mainly choose characters that are different at the start and at the end. Ta Hwan in “Empress Ki” seemed innocent and immature initially but later transformed into a mad emperor. Even the cool Seo Jung Hu in “Healer” who didn’t care about anything else in the world showed a desperate but warm sense of humanity eventually. Will Kim Jae Ha also experience a change in personality?
He’s a really cynical friend. Because he bears a trauma of being abandoned by his country and organisation in the past, he has a cold view of the world and finds everything irritable. Such a person will open up his heart and change gradually after he meets someone, and I find the inner conflict that he experiences in the process very attractive. Situations that need restrain; wanting to love but unable to love, wanting to eat but unable eat (laughs). These kind of internal conflict are present in all the characters.
Besides the casting, there is a lot of anticipation because this is the work of director Kwak Jung Han who directed “Neighbourhood Hero” and “Chuno” and scriptwriter Jang Hyuk Rin who wrote “Yong Pal”.
That’s why I’m also highly anticipating this. The script is also interesting, but the director’s thinking matches with mine especially well. He shared a lot about the overall tone of the show, how the psychology of the characters should be depicted for greater effectiveness without being too conventional, and I found that most of our opinions were the same. It’s difficult to act if I’m not able to understand. Well, I can still do it but I’ll wonder how meaningful that will be.
I also sensed that you acted by thinking a lot rather than by instinct in all your works thus far.
Sometimes I just act based on what I feel, but although there are moments like that, I basically still do a lot of calculations. Firstly, there needs to be a clear and detailed analysis of the character as a basis. Although it’s the same for other actors, I think a lot about the flow of the show and not just about my own role. One of the mistakes I made when I was younger was to think about just that one scene or emotion. For example, if a character is caught in a really bad situation, it doesn’t get resolved instantly, but it carries on over a series of episodes. At that time, I would get into the first emotion only and act continuously angry for one or two episodes. Now, I try to look at the script as a whole with a broader perspective. I need to analyse not just my scene alone, but also what happens in the previous scene, and what kind of tone I should have for more harmony (between scenes).
While filming “The K2”, you are also preparing for the musical “The Days” that will begin on 25 August. Is there a special reason why you’ve been starring in it since the first run, and even in the second and third run?
Because of feelings. I may have affections for it, but not being able to reject is also another reason. Strictly speaking, I think I can’t act in “The Days” given my current schedule. I will affect the team because I’m often unable to attend the rehearsals and I can’t perform many times. It was a project that was really tiring but enjoyable during the first run, so a part of me didn’t want to miss this chance, while another part of me couldn’t bear to reject the offer from the head of the production team. He/She asked me “You will perform again if we stage this performance again next year right?” while we were drinking, and it was difficult for me to simply say “No, I won’t”. I said “I’ll definitely do it!” and I ended up doing this musical continuously (laughs). Maybe some might say that I’m not being professional enough, but I think this can also be a personable way of working. Anyway, even though I seem like I was trying to be tactful, this is actually something that I wanted to do too.
I remember you saying in an interview that “my acting is split between before and after I acted in the musical ‘The Days'”. What did you mean?
I didn’t receive that many offers before starring in “The Days”. It was really after that when both “Empress Ki” and “Healer” did well and things started to go smoothly. Even with regards to acting, “The Days” was my first time performing in a large theatre. There was a lot of burden and it was a performance that I really pushed myself till the end. When a person who appears on TV stands on the stage, he will come to take notice of the unkind gaze. I drank and cried a lot. But as much as it was difficult, the musical was really great and full of happiness.
Is a worker never able to produce a good piece of work without going through hardship? Jo Jin Woong sshi also said something similar in a Bazaar interview two months ago. Is that the truth?
During “Sons of Sol Pharmacy”, I cried a lot while drinking with Jin Woong hyung…those words really seem to be true. I first realised how true this was while acting in a small theatre performance called “Thrill Me” in 2010. It was also very difficult for me then. It was a role that was very manly, but he was also a horrible man who looked down on others. I saw myself as vermin but others did not feel the same way. So I told my hyung who was acting with me that I didn’t know what to do, and that I was having such an excruciatingly hard time, but what he told me jolted me back to my senses. Acting involves constructing a person who did not exist. Although we are men and may not know this exactly, but isn’t a proper character born after going through as much pain as a mother giving birth? From that point onward, I began to treat hardship like it was a natural thing. I was able to bear it because I thought to myself that it’s only natural to suffer like that and nothing is going wrong. It is also a fact that it was very hard for me to appear comfortable in front of the camera. Now I feel uncomfortable instead if things go too smoothly.
You seem to be someone who cries a lot. Surely you don’t cry when getting an injection right?
Certainly not! I cried because I was really sad. I had just debuted during “Sons of Sol Pharmacy”. Although acting is acting, but there were many complex and difficult parts. Jin Woong hyung, Son Hyun Joo hyung; I would cry just looking at their faces. I had this fantasy of joining an entertainment agency, and I thought I only had to worry about acting once I join an agency, but that wasn’t the case. It was stressful to me when my manager hyung told me that I had to do this and that from now on. I’m who I am, so why must I keep trying to change all the time? I felt hurt thinking that way. Everything felt rather exhausting when I had such a mentality. Gradually, I received training as I worked, and my sadness and thoughts of unfairness disappeared. So I don’t cry easily these days. (Anyway, you are definitely the type who isn’t ashamed about crying) It’s right to cry when you are sad, and it’s right to laugh when you are happy. I’m that kind of person.
You are the kind who is honest about your feelings. Is that the same when dating too?
Hmm…I’m very sentimental. I naturally dislike arguing, so I try to adjust most of the time. It may be scary if I’m like that and flare up suddenly, but that hasn’t happened before. If there’s something I’m unhappy about or if I’m jealous, just saying so will do. “Ya~ I’m annoyed!” (laughs)
It’s only possible to show jealously so coolly if one has high self-esteem.
I’ve always been thinking about this, and there seems to be a strange dilemma when dating. After falling in love with a certain aspect and ending up liking a girl, but as feelings continue to grow, there will be changes. For example, one may fall in love because the girl’s smile is very pretty. But after dating for some time, there will be a time where I’ll come to dislike that girl’s smile. I’ll get jealous when I see her smiling at other people but I do not know what to do about it, and the mood becomes strange seeing me like that. I fell in love because I really liked to see her smile, but now I feel stressed because of that and end up telling her “don’t smile at other people!”. This is greed. Because the greed keeps getting bigger, there are times when I feel scared of myself. Conversely, the other person also does this to me some times. Actually the most difficult thing is not being able to keep in contact because we are too busy. So it’s difficult to date for a long time.
So you will be able to feel the romance of an unconditional love all the more. When we met you in a Bazaar interview two years ago, I recall you saying that you dream of a love where you will look at only one girl throughout your whole life like Tahwan in “Empress Ki”. Is that dream still valid?
It seems that way even more because I’m not such a romanticist in reality. Where on earth can there be such a person who can love unconditionally and sacrifice everything? Even when doing melodramatic acting, one is able to look at the script and imagine the same way as the audience and gain second-hand satisfaction. Although there are shows that are closer to reality, most shows are actually fantasy. Reality is such that it is difficult for your heart to open from the beginning, and when it does open, it shuts again because of a little thing. That’s why I seem to live while holding on to the dream that I will meet a destined person someday. We will either keep running into each other coincidentally, or taking a slight glance while walking past but not being able to forget (the person).
If you were to meet that destined person, do you have any thoughts of dating openly?
No. I’m not the kind who will make a big deal about dating or go about noisily, and I hate it when people talk a lot.
Do you feel compelled to protect your private life? You hardly appear on variety shows, and you didn’t say more than 10 lines when you appeared on “Radio Star” in 2013 either. It was a surprise when you invited your “neighbourhood hyung” as a guest on your birthday party concert in July.
Among my celebrity colleagues, there wasn’t any particular person who was more worthwhile to invite. But it was a really close call when I saw that it was really my “neighbourhood hyung” who appeared. I just didn’t swear, no, actually it was a situation where I almost swore (laughs). I’m really playful when I’m just alone with close friends. But the moment the camera starts rolling, I think “Ah, everyone in the country will see this” and I end up concealing (my true self). I still do not know how I should present my true self in front of large audiences. Actually, what you see in my acting is not entirely my true self. Because there’s a script and a character, so I just need to perform accordingly and think. I’m a person who holds a job as an actor, and my identity as an actor is just one part of the life of the person called Ji Chang Wook. This may be a job that I love and it may be my livelihood, but I do not wish to sacrifice other things that are more important because of this.
*Note: “Neighbourhood hyung” refers to Kangwoo, Ji Chang Wook’s good friend who is not a celebrity.
Anyway, when your “neighbourhood hyung” had to pick “the times when Ji Chang Wook is detestable”, ranked in second place was “When he wins occasionally in the soccer game ‘Winning’ and keeps harping on it annoyingly after that”. It’s not easy to imagine you being like that. It’s true that I’m very playful, but I wish to correct that. I don’t win occasionally, I actually win very often (laughs). (I’ve not seen a guy who admits that he lost a game in Winning. Everyone says that they are the best.) No, I’m not good at it. But it’s a problem if you even lose to me. Aren’t there staff members who are laughing at me now? They are all friends who have lost to me once and laid in their rooms crying at night. So I totally do not think that I’m not good at it. It’s very wrong to think that way!
Translated from Korean to English by Gabby. PLEASE DO NOT REPRINT, REPURPOSE, SCREENCAP OR OTHERWISE COPY OUR CONTENT WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.
Source: Harper’s Bazaar Korea