Ji Chang Wook is now an action star.
We met up with Ji Chang Wook who showed passionate acting in the tvN Friday-Saturday drama “The K2”. After wrapping up the show, Ji Chang Wook said, “Our last filming ended around 4am in the morning. Reality hit me after I slept and woke up. Actually, I thought reality would set in after filming the last scene, but the staff members were tired and Director Kwak Jung Hwan wasn’t even able to film the last scene because he had to go and edit the footage, so I didn’t feel it since we just ended like that. Waking up after sleeping, I felt happy because I didn’t have to look at the script anymore.”
“Although there was a lot of expectation, this was also a project with many regrets. It’s my greed as an actor, I had a lot of desire to show more different and interesting sides of me. Although I’m very thankful for the praise I’ve received, personally I did wonder a lot if it was a pity. Because it’s not possible to be always satisfied with all aspects in every project, so although I completed the project with regrets, I’m also looking forward to presenting even more in my next project.” “This is a project that I worried about alot. I thought alot about how I should analyse and act in order to persuade the audience. I could have acted in a way because of the script or through my own analysis, but I wasn’t able to convince viewers in certain parts. I feel a little regretful because of those aspects. I wanted to show new acting in a more concrete and interesting way, so I feel a little regretful.”
But the most surprising thing to viewers was the bathhouse action scene. The sight of Kim Jae Ha fighting naked against JSS members who bore ill feelings towards him was shocking. Ji Chang Wook chose this as the most memorable scene for him.
“The most memorable action scene is the one in the bathhouse. That scene was done at the first filming of the drama. Because I had to expose my body, I told the director that it would be difficult for me to maintain my figure because I will have to watch my diet everyday and exercise daily, and I wanted to get that scene done as soon as possible, so it got placed in the first filming session. This was also a scene that worried me the most after seeing the script. I was afraid of going nude to fight, and I worried about whether it will look alright when seen on screen and whether (viewers) will find it repulsive. I thought this could feel dirty if done wrongly. Fortunately, it appeared looking unconventional. I think this scene gave me inner satisfaction.”
Ji Chang Wook earned the title of ‘action star’ through this drama. He said, “I think the term action star is not bad. Action in itself is every man’s dream. I also tried imitating (action moves) while watching action movies when I was a kid. I enjoyed having yet another colour that is of my own somehow. When I was young, I used to worry about what kind of colour I will have, but now, I think it is not bad as an actor to wear a colour and shine in it. Not just action, but when there are more positive comments, I feel really happy. Because there are more positive comments about my action scenes, I feel very thankful towards our stunt team instead. Actually, I couldn’t do the action without relying on a body double. Although it is not evident, he suffered a lot behind. In every project I do, I feel very grateful and worried that he will get hurt.”
With difficult action scenes, exceptional hard work was also necessary. “It wasn’t easy physically. I enjoy exercising very much even on normal days. I love moving around, so that’s one of the reasons why I exercise a lot normally. Before starting on this project, I did quite a lot of muscle training because there are shirtless scenes in this drama. I wanted to portray the character as a stronger man compared to previous shows, so I trained my muscles a lot. I think it is important to do rehearsals and coordinate movements with the stunt team before doing action scenes. I was familiar with this because I’ve done a lot of action before. So it was a little more comfortable.”
Although everyone recognises his acting in action scenes, he feels regret.
“Actually, I chose this drama thinking it isn’t an action drama. The structure and relationship between the characters were interesting and I also had a romanticised view about bodyguards. It could become an attractive drama just based on the character relationships alone, and I merely thought of the action as one of the things audiences can enjoy watching in the drama, but there was really a lot of action. Episode 1 even ended with me just performing action. I started the show thinking that I can sufficiently endure physical suffering and perform action to produce such spectacle for the drama, but I found myself recording the line ‘bodyguard action The K2’ at some point in time. This is a drama that has much more to offer than action, so I find it regretful that the drama chose to focus on action only. I’ve always enjoyed moving around and I exercise alot, so I did exercise my muscles quite alot because there are shirtless scenes in this drama. I did that even more so because of the character’s image too. I don’t think I’ll have any desire for action for the time being. I did too much. Among all the projects I’ve done thus far, I think the action here was the most strenuous,” he said with a laugh.
“The filming environment in China and Korea is very different. I even wondered if I will have difficulty adjusting to the sudden change in environment, but I don’t think I felt any of that at all. Although the environment was different, I think I adjusted well and I had fun working. I may have an unusually large amount of regret this time, but I also felt very relieved after the drama ended. After ‘Healer’ ended, this was a project that I chose after giving much thought, so I have a lot of affection for it. This was also a project where I worked very closely with my seniors, colleagues and staff.”
Kim Jae Ha is a layered character caught in a complex set of relationships, and this puts a heavy burden on Ji Chang Wook’s shoulders. Because dramatic emotions and the relationship between characters must all be portrayed through little dialogue due to the character’s personality. But Ji Chang Wook was able to capture the audience through his quality acting. Besides attracting viewers’ attention with his powerful bodyguard action, he also stirred the hearts of viewers through his melodramatic scenes with Go Anna.
YoonA is a representative idol-actress from SNSD. We were curious about his working relationship with her.
“Because she’s an idol from SNSD and an actress who started as an idol, I tried my best not to look at her through coloured lens (means to be biased/prejudice) when I first met her as partners. I just thought of her as my partner and co-star. Actually, because I haven’t seen her past works, I ended up being able to look at her without being coloured (by prejudice). I saw her as YoonA who is playing Anna.”
“I had many conversations with YoonA. Actually, the ending kissing scene was filmed right at the start when we went overseas for filming. At that time, I only found out that we were going to film this scene when I arrived at Spain’s Barcelona airport. There was no concrete script available yet at that time, and we were only given the scenario that the couple Jae Ha and Anna will kiss at a location with beautiful scenery. I was very taken aback. It was also a scene that gave me a lot of pressure. Such a scene would not be possible to film if we were uncomfortable with each other, so we had no choice but to get close to each other as soon as possible. We quickly dropped formalities and spoke a lot about our values, hobbies, life philosophy and other things about ourselves. Because we had to film such a scene at the beginning, we got comfortable with each other and acted without any burden. I thought she was a very easy-going partner, and we also matched each other naturally. That must be chemistry. Being able to depend on each other and treat each other comfortably.”
Although there were many famous scenes such as the ramen scene, the strawberry ice-cream scene and the walkie-talkie scene, the scene that clearly showed their romance and moved audiences was the blanket kiss scene.
“This was a scene that I was very worried about after seeing the script. In the script, it was written that I had to cover up with the blanket, hug her and go under the blanket and kiss. We discussed about how to do this in an interesting way that would suit the atmosphere at the set. There were also many parts in the scripts that required ad-libs. The director also said it was fine. He said he hoped to film this as a one-take without doing any editing, we set the script aside and filmed according to how it turned out as we rehearsed. We did a lot of ad-libs under a tight situation that will get very tense. We filmed it for close to 3 minutes. Actually I had to keep raising my arm during that 3 minutes and my arm hurt, so it wasn’t an easy scene, but we were considerate about each other and had fun filming. Actually that was also my first time filming such a scene,” he said laughing.
Regrets about the melodramatic aspects are inevitable. The process where Jae Ha and Anna confirmed their feelings for each other and grew closer was explained in an overly implict manner which made viewers disconcerted.
“I think the melo bits of the show were quite regrettable. The flow of the show is also a bit of a pity. I think more should have been done to persuade the audience about how Anna and Jae Ha got attracted to each other and its flow. The writer, director and actors did consider that. I think it was sufficiently understood because events kept repeating. Because we kept considering the inevitable attraction between Jae Ha and Anna and the point at which that happened, so the cast thought that Jae Ha would reasonably like Anna and came up with a reason ourselves. But actually I felt regret that that part wasn’t portrayed in a nicer way (to audiences).”
One thing that stood out was his relationship with Choi Yoo Jin. From what began as a confrontational relationship, the two ended up trusting and relying on each other. Such changes in relationships, such as Choi Yoo Jin seeing Kim Jae Ha as a romantic interest, were dramatically fleshed out in the drama.
“This was actually one of the parts that I enjoyed watching the most. Jae Ha and Yoo Jin, and Anna. The relationship between these three was really interesting. Somehow, from Jae Ha’s perspective, Choi Yoo Jin is someone he has to protect because she is his employer, while Anna is the person he protects. Yoo Jin wants to have Jae Ha, but Anna and Jae Ha are in a romantic relationship. This relationship was very interesting. Caught in between the two women, I think the drama would have been more exciting if the push-and-pull was done better. This aspect is also a pity. A lot of consideration was given to the relationship with Yoo Jin. Jae Ha cannot have love for Yoo Jin, and neither can he see her as an enemy. Between sympathy and pity, I thought of her as a character who will make the audience curious as to whether that is love, pity, or love and hate. Strictly speaking from Jae Ha’s perspective, that is not love. She is a character whom he initially saw as an enemy, then she became a business partner, and then he felt sympathy and pity for her as he got to know this woman. Besides, Yoo Jin behaved that way because she wanted to have Jae Ha.”
Probably because Song Yoon Ah and Ji Chang Wook both have a good reputation for being actors who are good at acting, there was extremely good synergy when the two met. Some supported the continuation of Kim Jae Ha and Choi Yoo Jin’s love line, and there was even talk that the two need to meet more in order to raise the viewership ratings.
Ji Chang Wook said, “Song Yoon Ah has always been a senior who can act well. I personally wished that the role of Choi Yoo Jin would be played by a senior like Song Yoon Ah, I thought she would suit the role very well, and the casting turned out that way just nice. It was so interesting. I really liked acting with the seniors. If I call them seniors, a hierarchical relationship arises. But when we meet each other as actors in front of the camera or on stage, we view each other as equals. I feel very thrilled and excited when I sense that my seniors also see me as an equal partner. That’s why it was interesting to work with senior Song Yoon Ah. Because she has always done well. It’s very tiring to act with senior Song Yoon Ah. You can feel your energy draining. Seeing how she has a very high level of concentration, I end up concentrating continuously because I feel that I shouldn’t miss anything for a moment, and that it will be hard to follow if I break my concentration for even a moment. So as I filmed like that in every scene, one by one, I felt considerably more tired as compared to other scenes once filming was done. It wasn’t easy, but it was still interesting.”
So between YoonA who plays Go Anna whom he has a love line with, and the charismatic Song Yoon Ah, which one is his ideal type?
“Both of them have some kind of charm. Be it a charismatic woman or a delicate woman who makes you protective over her, both are charming. The best thing is actually those who possess both qualities. Likewise for me. Sometimes I will show lots of aegyo to my girlfriend, and sometimes I will behave like a man. Isn’t it boring if one only shows aegyo from start till finish? So I think it’s really good to have both. I’m very greedy right?”, he said with a laugh.
Beside Song Yoon Ah, there were also many senior actors such as Cho Sung Ha and Kim Gap Soo in “The K2”. So he felt all the more regretful.
Ji Chang Wook said, “There are not many people who offer me acting advice now. A lot of seniors spoke to me when I was younger. But seeing that I’ve also turned 30 at some point in time, maybe that’s why the seniors no longer do that. Even though I’m a junior, talking about acting is a sensitive issue so they could have felt uncomfortable to do so, which I feel is regrettable. I wonder how would it have been like if we could share more opinions about acting if there was a little more time. Actually I’m a fan of senior Kim Gap Soo. I wanted to ask him a lot of questions, but there weren’t many opportunities to interact with him, so it was a pity.”
Ji Chang Wook has also become an actor in his thirties now (Korean age). There is a saying that a man’s age starts at 30, so are there any things from his twenties that have since changed?
He said, “I don’t know if things have changed acting wise, but personally, the emotions I feel now are different from my twenties. Since young, I’ve thought about how it would be to be thirty. For men, the number 30 itself is an age that carries meaning. So I had a little more thoughts (about this). It seemed like I had to become a man myself, and something seemed to have changed. Personally, I thought this was time for me to become more of a man. Because I had such thoughts personally, my acting also seems to have changed a lot. Actually, I wanted to show more manliness in this drama. Unlike my previous work, I wanted to show more manliness in the visuals and my character’s tone and personality.”
The drama concluded with a happy ending. Was he satisfied with the ending?
He said, “In my discussion with the director at the set in episode 15, we agreed that Jae Ha was on the brink of death. Actually the director and I thought that Jae Ha would die in episode 16. The script was originally edited in episode 1. Episode 1 was supposed to begin with Jae Ha dying in the very first scene. Anna was to radio Jae Ha telling him not to die, and Jae Ha would say that he really wants to rest now; it was supposed to start with this scene. That’s why I was led to think that Jae Ha would probably die. But just before we were about to film episode 15, the script for episode 16 was released, and turns out he would be alive and well. So the flow was changed in a more lively way. Actually I’ve always liked tragedies since young. Although happy endings have their own kind of warmth, I personally prefer tragedies.”
The show ended with some kind of open ending. Kim Jae Ha’s real name and the reason why he was being pursued were never revealed.
Ji Chang Wook said, “I even joked that Jae Ha’s real name was Ji Chang Wook or Kim Sang Sa (this can mean Boss Kim or Sergeant Kim). It wasn’t revealed in the first half, and neither was it revealed up till the very end. This was an aspect of the show that I found hardest to get used to in the beginning. Writer Song Ji Na was very detailed in ‘Healer’. It’s very difficult for an actor to match with details. For example, one can have many thoughts when drinking a cup of coffee, but it was difficult to match when the emotions were sorted out in detail. Writer Jang Hyuk Rin is the total opposite. There is nothing at all. Because there is no explanation about the events that happened before and after a scene, it is difficult for the actors to portray those. Jae Ha’s real name was also not made known, and the reason as to why he was being pursued was not explained too. We were only given the scenario whereby Jae Ha was framed for Rania’s death and was being pursued, and he went to the army and was discharged for dishonour. We started by thinking how the preceding events should be set up. Creating and defining the preceding events yourself and then matching that was not easy.”
So does Ji Chang Wook prefer having details or none at all?
He said, “There are pros and cons. There is the advantage of being able to do whatever I want when certain parts are not detailed, but there’s also the advantage of being able to act in greater detail based on the details given. Personally, I think it’s a little more interesting to have a detailed script.”
Ji Chang Wook will be taking a break for the time being as he searches for his next piece of work.
He said, “Because I have so much regret for this project, I keep thinking about my next piece of work. There are project offers coming in and there are also many that I’m looking for. I’m looking at my next project with great pains. After ‘The K2’ is all settled, I plan to read up on my next project as I take a short break. I think I should probably do a romantic comedy. This is something that I haven’t considered as mine up till now. I thought those kind of shows should be done by someone who is good at romantic comedies, while I was more suited for serious genres (*Note: He uses a Korean term that refers to genres such as horror, thriller, crime, mystery etc. Can’t think of an equivalent English term so I’ll just refer to them as ‘serious genres’). Serious genres are also more to my taste. But this time, I think romantic comedies will also be interesting and I might be able to do well in it. For my next project, I want to do something fun instead of action. My draft for army enlistment is likely to arrive in February or March next year, and I’ll probably know when the time comes. I’m thinking of doing around one more project before I enlist.”
This post is compiled and adapted from four individual Sports Chosun articles. We are still in the process of translating his other post-K2 interviews. Stay tuned!
Translated from Korean to English by Gabby. PLEASE DO NOT REPRINT, REPURPOSE, SCREENCAP OR OTHERWISE COPY OUR CONTENT WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.