He has done a lot, but still is thirsty for something new. He built himself with more sincerity than anyone else, but still has a lot to fulfill. Although he is an adult and has become a leading actor, he says that he wants to continue to stay young and keep the heart he had at his beginnings. This is how Ji Chang Wook is today.
We stick to the schedule and sit like this face-to-face on a Sunday evening. You seem very busy, probably because you are in the middle of filming a drama.
The first episode of “Backstreet Rookie” is scheduled to air on the 19th, so it has been a little crazy. But these days, I’m not as busy as before. The system has improved so that actors and staff can focus on their work in a better environment. At one time it was okay to shoot all night, and in the worst case, I could only sleep 5 to 6 hours a week. A significant fact? There was a time when a guy on the team was dozing while holding the pole. It’s true and not an exaggeration. There were many times when even the director was tired and the actors had to perform in a drowsy state. It’s no longer the case now. I can always finish preparing and it increases efficiency. I think this is a positive change.
I was surprised to see the drama teaser. I asked myself, “Is this really Ji Chang Wook?” Although you have a wide range as an actor, I found this project unexpected.
The teaser is probably the tip of the iceberg. If you watch the drama, it may feel novel to you. I will not go so far as to say that there is a real break with this project, but I think I can show you a more comfortable aspect of me. In fact, I didn’t realize it, but everyone said they never saw me play naturally without power. When I think about it, most of the characters I have played have had to overcome difficulties with a sense of duty, or have to take care of and protect someone. Well, they tended to be cool and skillfully unrealistic, or more superhuman. This Dae Hyun character is an ordinary man. He has a lot of gaps and works hard but things don’t always go well. He makes mistakes but continues to move forward with determination,
The description of the character presents him as a ‘handsome convenience store manager.’ So is that why we think of Ji Chang Wook?
Haha, but rather than being cool, he’s more human and an awkward character. When I first got the script, I really liked it. He is pure, passionate and honest. He is the manager of a small convenience store, but always has financial difficulties. He works all night to live and meets the part time ‘Saet-byul’. He is a character who always does his best, whether for work or in love.
Are there many similarities with Ji Chang Wook?
Yes. Not as an actor but just as me. I’m shy with strangers so you can’t really see it, but I’m usually very mischievous, smile very often and play a lot of pranks. We are similar in the sense that we always try even when we fail. Oh, and also in the way I have problems with my mother. I come home too late and I don’t take good care of myself, so I get reprimanded everyday for many reasons. However, Dae Hyun is very different in these different reactions and in the fact that he shows all his emotions. I’m the type of person who stays silent and hidden when I’m having a hard time or when I’m in a bad mood. When I’m fine I’m embarrassed, then I can’t express it correctly either. So to play the different emotions of Dae Hyun, I think of the moment for each situation. To express it more broadly and more naturally. As the drama progresses, Dae Hyun’s emotional fabric becomes more complex and subtle and I work hard to capture and show his emotions in detail.
This is a new project by Director Lee Myung Woo of “The Fiery Priest,” which was loved by viewers for its unique charm last year. The original webtoon is also very popular. That’s why we were so impatient for this drama.
It has the title of “romantic comedy.” Comedy is central to this project. Some episodes seem like a sitcom. As you could see in his previous project, the director’s main weapon is laughter, cool development and ingenious production. These characteristics of the director are also very strong in “Backstreet Rookie.” It’s really fun to watch. It’s going to be a really happy and radiant drama. Thanks to that, there is a lot of laughter and I really have fun on the set. Around the director, the actors are gathered to discuss and share ideas freely. It is not strict, even as an actor so you can play freely in a pleasant atmosphere which gives all the more the feeling of fun.
The director said he thought of you first for Dae Hyun and made a lot of effort to cast you.
When I heard that, I didn’t show it but I was really very happy. It’s very nice to hear as an actor. More than anything, I was really thankful that you can see a new side of me, and not the image of my previous dramas. It was strangely stimulating and I was determined to do well. It is true that this project is important to me and a bit like a burden. I have always loved comedy but you have never seen my humorous and radiant side before, so it was in a way like a mountain to overcome. It is not easy to make someone laugh and have fun while playing. I am impatient to see how I will manage to blend in naturally with the project and how fun it will be. This is where I do my best.
You are really determined. From the audience’s point of view, it’s really precious to be able to laugh and have a good time without pressure. Maybe “Backstreet Rookie” can fulfill this mission.
Yes, this will be a drama where you can feel sympathy, even in the midst of laughter. It talks about relationships between people, dreams and the reality of youth, something that everyone experiences at least once. You can have a small but precious comfort. While filming, I did not feel that it delivered a big message or a strong impression, but I hope that the viewers will be able to release the stress with our drama and go to bed with a light heart. I imagine the smiling faces of the viewers watching TV and it gives me strength on the set.
I think you have done a lot of projects. Still there is still a lot to learn and watch?
Each project, each role, makes me live different lives and places in a different environment. I think that is the characteristic and the charm of the acting profession. By experiencing this, something is built in me. I would like to live a particularly open life by filming “Backstreet Rookie.” Because of the characteristics of the genre and the personality of the character, I always try to keep my body and mind open on the set. When you interact with other actors and come up with new ideas, you can be introspective and express feelings in a new way. It’s really exciting to take foreign paths. I feel that I am growing and renewing myself accordingly. It’s nice. It’s a really stimulating life.
But is there something you want to hold onto so that it doesn’t change?
My initial heart. My first feelings. Of course, it is not easy. These days, I often want to go back to my first time as an actor. If you look at my first projects, I am so immature that I sigh and feel embarrassed, but on the other hand, you can see that I am very passionate. Compared to when I was young, my skills have improved a lot, but I miss the purity and enthusiasm I had at that time. The more time passes, the more I think about it. I worry about how to keep my youth and the feelings I had when I took my first steps. Every day, every year, it seems more and more difficult so I feel desperate, but I try not to get depressed and keep going.
Right now, is there anything you want to fill your life with?
While many people are watching “Backstreet Rookie” and having healthy, problem-free days, something like that? Personally, I just want to work with good people and laugh happily, like today during the photoshoot. I always think of that when I’m shooting a drama. Be dedicated to the scene of the day and laugh a lot with the people around me. In the past, I had big ambitions and a lot of expectations. “I hope the audience for this drama will be incredible.” “I hope it will be a big success.” But one day I realized that these thoughts were devouring me from the inside. Instead now, I think it’s more important to always have happy, fun times. When I look back, I think it will be enough to be able to say to myself “At that time, with this project, I had fun.”
What about Ji Chang Wook today? Are you happy enough?
Of course. Didn’t we have a lot of fun during the shoot today? It had been a long time since I had done this [photoshoot]. It was a bit annoying because it was a style and concept that I do not often try. I can’t wait to see how it goes. It may be because I am making a joyful and radiant drama, but my life is more alive than ever. I’m sure a lot of people are having a hard time with the Corona-19 outbreak, but I hope you can laugh a little while watching TV or reading this magazine. Come to think of it, what time is it? Wow, did we finish an hour earlier than planned? Now I’m going to start thinking about what I’m going to do with the rest of my Sunday evening. See, this is a perfectly happy day where I have nice time to do what I want!
Translated from Korean to English by cherkell; there may be slight inaccuracies. PLEASE DO NOT REPRINT, REPURPOSE, SCREENCAP OR OTHERWISE COPY OUR CONTENT WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.
Credit: 1st Look Korea, Vol. 198; photos as watermarked