Translation: @teappani/Twitter [PLEASE CREDIT @TEAPPANI IF REPOSTING/SCREENCAP ON OTHER PLATFORMS]
An actor who can find the perfect role for himself is a fortunate one. A well-cast role brings the whole drama alive. Ji Chang Wook is such an actor.
I first met Ji Chang Wook about 5 years ago. When he wrapped up his drama 'Smile Donghae', this was what he said to reporters in a voice filled with worries, "I don't know what kind of actor would be a good actor." He was troubled over how he should act in order to express his sincerity. Rather than trying to become the best, he just does his best and he has affection for all his projects. And he has proven his passion through his acting.
In the TVN drama 'The K2', Ji Chang Wook took on the role of 'Kim Jeha', a war mercenary turned bodyguard; hired by the presidential candidate's wife and protecting the girl who lives apart from the rest of the world. The bodyguard action was brilliant and portrayed his relationships with the girl, 'Go Anna' (Im Yoona), who could not be revealed to the world in a beautiful melo (love story), and the absolutely evil woman 'Choi Yoojin' (Song Yoon Ah), who was not afraid to take on the world for the sake of power and honour.
"As there were many action scenes as well as emotional scenes, it was very exhausting both physically and emotionally. But it was interesting and I had fun filming. The viewers also responded well so I gained strength from that. Although it has now become another one of the projects that has passed through my life, I think I was able to leave good memories."
More than anything the action scenes left a deep impression. It would not be an exaggeration to call it a "Ji Chang Wook action movie". In almost every scene from the first episode through the fourth episode, he was showing "back round side kicks". However, it was a little different from his previous works 'Healer' and 'Warrior Baek Dong Soo'. Due to the realistic action fighting, one could feel more. Ji Chang Wook was not careless with a single scene and did not spare his body while acting, thus allowing such highly perfect scenes to be created.
"There were many action scenes in 'Healer' which made it difficult as well. But this project had twice as many action scenes as that. Action carried a large weight (in this drama). The director and martial arts director did the drama 'Chuno', how could it be any less? (LOL) If the action in 'Healer' was more like a comic book, then in this drama, the action scenes were more realistic. Although 'Jeha' was a character that was very skilled in martial arts, I thought it would be better if his action scenes were not too flashy. For example, if I did a kick twice, only one would land well. Actually, the musical 'The Days' helped me with my action scenes. I played a presidential bodyguard and I had many discussions with the martial arts director and was thus able to increase the range of action."
For a male actor, the "flower of acting" (T/N: as in the most appealing thing in acting genres) has to be "action". Ji Chang Wook also agreed on that point. I asked him a straightforward question, "Why do you like action?"
"I don't like it. I really don't like it. (LOL) I do like sports but I didn't know that such extreme action would make such a big impact on my life. I was just doing it and it created this flow. I never said (to myself) things like 'I have to become an action actor' or 'I need to do action for my next project'. In fact, I said many times 'This will be my last action drama.' However, if the character is very attractive or if the costars who are appearing together in the action project are really good, then I would agonise over it. It's a difficult yet interesting genre after all. Also, action is a romance for guys. Now, it just seems like fate. (LOL)"
Ji Chang Wook started to share about the fun episodes while filming the action scenes. (T/N: left out description of the shower scene)
"Out of all my projects, this scene was the one where I showed the most skin. I was afraid that my body would be ruined if we filmed it later so I requested to film it early. For better or worse, we filmed it the very first day. It was a scene where I had to shoot almost completely naked and it was embarrassing to dive into a brawl with all these men who were also just wearing a piece of underwear. Even so, the scene that came out was cooler than I imagined so I have no regrets."
"In any case, I would usually be the type to have a lot of talks with the director and writers and give my opinion, but it was even more so with this project. If 'Jeha' didn't fit well then I'd ask for them to match it. If the action is too fancy, I'd request for them to take out the skills and focus on the emotions. If there was a really difficult action, I would change it to an action that I could do even better. Thankfully, all the the staff listened to my opinions well and I was able to relax and act."
To be honest, you can't separate the melo parts from Ji Chang Wook in 'K2'. His melo scenes with 'Anna' were as exciting as his action scenes. 'Jeha' was in love with the young woman who was unloved by her parents and locked away from the world. Ji Chang Wook who acted as such a 'Jeha'. I was curious about Ji Chang Wook's ideal woman in reality.
"Between a woman I have to protect and a woman I want to protect, I would choose the woman I want to protect. Although it's attractive when a woman like 'Anna' brings out the protective instincts, I like a woman who at times show a strong side and at other times show a weak side. The most important thing for me, when I look at a woman, is whether we can communicate. If she's a woman I can converse well with, if our humour chords match, and if she's able to be understanding about my job, then those are enough for me."
The kiss scene with 'Anna' with the setting sun as a background stimulated the dead love cells of reporters. It also garnered a hot response from viewers. It turned out that this scene with Yoona was filmed 3 days after they met.
"After shooting in Seoul for about a month, we went to Barcelona, Spain, for our location shooting. Up until then, I didn't have a scene where I had to work with Yoona and I only met her privately once so it was awkward. We arrived in Barcelona and the director said 'You guys have a kiss scene'. I was taken aback. From then on, I started to get close to Yoona quickly. (LOL)"
It was a kiss scene that made Ji Chang Wook and Im Yoona get closer but it was also a stepping stone towards building their chemistry with each other.
"Any actor would be taken aback if they had to do a kiss scene they were not aware of. Firstly, because we were not ready for it emotionally. For crying scenes you need to prepare for it emotionally as well but for a kiss scene or love scene, it's hard to be indifferent. There are also parts where the actor has to be considerate of the actress. There are all sorts of things to consider but they told us just before the shoot. I had no choice but to keep talking with Yoona and get closer. Come to think of it, Yoona and I got close because of the kiss scene. (LOL)"
Ji Chang Wook paused and laughed out loudly before sharing an anecdote about his close friends.
"My close friends asked me, 'Hey, how was the kiss scene, was it good?' Because I'm an actor, my friends are curious and find it amazing that I'm kissing the actress that they have a romance about (T/N: romantic ideal). I don't know. I can say that compared to any other scenes, kiss scenes are the most difficult. Which actor would say 'Today I'm here for my kiss scene?' (LOL) It's a job where I have to think about how to make the scene appear in a pretty and lovely way. A high level of concentration is necessary."
All this while, Ji Chang Wook has never taken a love scene that is more than a kiss scene. Ji Chang Wook does not have any connections with the traditional bed scenes you see in melodramas. He thought about it for awhile and shook his head. It seems like he doesn't have the confidence.
"I've imagined what it would be like if I had to shoot a bed scene. I don't think I can do it. I'm embarrassed just thinking about it. If the project has a bed scene in it, I think it wouldn't be easy to make a decision to join the project. But if there's a reason that the bed scene is absolutely necessary, if the flow of the show would be broken without that scene, then I would probably agonise over it. If it's a bed scene just for commercial reasons, then I wouldn't do it. Not yet."
The location shooting in Spain with Im Yoona was more relaxed than expected. It's different from a drama film set that's hurried. After one day of filming, he had three days of free time, so Ji Chang Wook went on bike travels with his close friend.
"It was relaxed considering the location. I rented a bike with a close hyung who came with me. We went around randomly without any knowledge of the place. I was able to relax and have fun because there was no one around that knew me. There were people gathered on a road that we were on by chance and I thought 'This must be a famous place'. It turned out to be a church built by Gaudi (T/N: Sagrada Familia). It was a trip we did without any prior preparation, with many such 'heading to the ground' moments. (LOL)"
He recently discovered the beauty of traveling. He plans to travel within the country at the end of the year.
"I couldn't travel a lot in the past. I started to travel recently and I've come to discover the happiness in having that time of relaxation. If I'm in Korea I'm thinking about work almost every day. When I go on travels, I'm able to not think about anything. Because it feels like I'm out of my daily life. The performances for the musical 'The Days' will be starting up in the provinces soon. On the rest days in between, I plan to go to the nice places in Korea. There are nice places domestically as well and not just overseas."
For Ji Chang Wook, the musical 'The Days' is an inseparable part of himself. Even while filming his drama, he matched his schedule and performed during its third run in Seoul. He will be going ahead with performances in the provinces this winter.
"I started practicing for 'The Days' since three years ago and rather than regrets, I'm left with even more affection. It goes beyond affection, (I have a) deep attachment (to it). At the time of the premier, it was a project that came about after a lot of hard work and preparation. To be able to stand on that stage and enjoy that time together with those people allowed me to develop an attachment that surpassed affection. Because I love it so much, I want to call it an attachment."
The reason for that attachment is clear. Ji Chang Wook said it's a work that he's thankful towards as he did it while going through a difficult time and 'The Days' also allows him to reflect back on his roots. Through 'The Days', he was able to grow in his acting skills as well as his own character.
"The projects stopped coming in after I completed the 2012 drama 'Five Fingers'. For an actor to have no drama offers, it was a time of crisis. It was a time where I couldn't find anything no matter where I looked. I was under a lot of stress when I was able to appear in 'The Days' and I also got to do two more musicals after that. It is a project that is like light and salt to me." (T/N: meaning necessities in his life)
The staff's loyalty also play a part. For the agency representative who held his hand through the difficult times, Ji Chang Wook will continue to push himself even when the going gets tough. He emphasised that the promises with the staff, loyalty and chemistry, are more important than the work becoming a commercial success.
"There was a time where every project was a success, like 'My Too Perfect Sons', 'Smile Donghae' and 'Warrior Baek Dong Soo'. After that, 'Bachelors' Vegetable Store' was not a success. Because of the busy filming schedule, it was very hard. When the viewer ratings were not good, with the other costars, we worried over it and that's when I came to a realisation. 'The viewership ratings are not dependent on just one person's hard work.' Even without good ratings, if we enjoyed the filming then we could still create good memories. All the projects are precious, but at the end of the day, they still become a thing of the past. The difference is in how they pass by. That was when I realised that the actors had to take a lead in creating a good atmosphere on the film site. "
Ji Chang Wook is now receiving attention as a star in Korea. He can boast of receiving the highest (acting) guarantee that even surpassed Jeon Doyeon. He's an actor that Korea can boast about, receiving love in China and attracting attention around the world.
"Compared to the past, I'm making a lot more now. There are times when I think it's too much compared to what I actually do. I'm thankful. But I never think that I'm not receiving as much as I'm giving. If I start thinking 'I'm not earning much compared to how hard I'm working' or 'This is not a good job', then the quality of life will drop. Even though more people are coming to see me as I become more popular, nothing has changed on that front."
Ji Chang Wook is an intelligent actor with a clear belief in acting. Although it was a short meeting, that was the deep impression he left.
Translation: @teappani/Twitter [PLEASE CREDIT @TEAPPANI IF REPOSTING/SCREENCAP ON OTHER PLATFORMS]