Ji Chang Wook (29), who is about to be called into military service next year, has been hailed by Korean media as "(the) expert in action acting" after completing the Korean drama 'The K2'.
Currently there are many male Korean actors who prefer to act in short romantic comedies that are in the 20-episode range as they feel that it's very tough to film action projects and longer TV dramas require more filming time as well.
However, Ji Chang Wook, who is in front of me, is different.
5 years ago, Ji Chang Wook exploded in popularity when he filmed the 159 episode daily drama 'Smile Donghae', and his performances in every project have left a deep impression on viewers. Ji Chang Wook has many "Mom fans" especially, perhaps due to him having acted in a daily drama.
This is my second time interviewing Ji Chang Wook. Through the interview this time, I discovered that compared to other young male actors, he really is more steady and he has matured even more. I'm really looking forward to his exciting performance in his next project!
Q: 'The K2' has been wrapped up. Please share your feelings on filming this TV drama.
JCW: Now that I've finished filming, I'm both happy and also reluctant (to part ways). The thing that makes me most reluctant is that I can't see the actors and crew that I've worked together with.
Q: I heard that your guarantee for acting in 'The K2' made history as the highest guarantee ever paid by TVN. Is that true?
JCW: Yes. When I heard that I was receiving the highest guarantee I felt immense pressure. Whenever the filming got really exhausting, I thought about this "highest guarantee" to encourage myself. I had no choice but to double my efforts. Haha.
Q: Then are you satisfied with your performance in 'The K2'?
JCW: Hm, I don't know how to say it. In regards to viewership ratings, I can't say that it reached my original expectations. But according to my manager, the rights for the drama were sold overseas and can be considered to have not made a loss; he told me I could relax and not worry. Haha.
Q: You had a lot of intimate scenes (kissing, mouth-to-mouth etc) with Yoona in 'The K2'. This was your first time working together, how did you cultivate your feelings? Were you embarrassed during the intimate scenes?
JCW: Not only was it the first time we were working together, our first scene together was also the "kiss scene" in Barcelona. We weren't close but we had to film a kiss scene, so it was a huge burden. That's why when we were filming in Barcelona, I took the initiative to talk to her, asked her to drink coffee, and even told her "Yoona! Let's become good friends quickly." After that, by the time we filmed the kissing scene, we didn't feel that embarrassed anymore.
Q: You acted in 'Warrior Baek Dong Soo and 'Healer'. It seems like you like the action genre especially. Is that right?
JCW: In the past when I was looking over projects, there were a lot of action dramas. But I really did not join any project just because it was an action drama. This time was the same as well. Although there were many action scenes in this drama I decided to join this project because I was drawn to the bodyguard character I acted as well as the political background storyline.
Q: You really had it tough filming 'The K2'. There were many action scenes in the drama and at the press conference you even said "This will be my last action drama." So what kind of dramas would you prefer? Why?
JCW: I feel like I did my best in 'The K2' and I can rest for a bit for now. But recently many people have been asking "If you receive a really good action script, will you do it again?" This question really troubles me.
If there's a really good (action) project after this, I might still try it.
Every time I did an action project, I would think to myself, "Why do I have to go through such hardship acting?" But whenever filming began, I would forget all of that and get completely absorbed into the project and felt excited over it. Action can be called every man's romance. Acting in action shows made me feel excited as well and I also wanted to film every single scene well.
STRIPPING FOR THE SHOW
Q: You frequently show your great body in your works, including 'The K2' (taking off his shirt in front of the camera, naked fighting in the shower). There are many male actors who show their skin in Korean dramas, perhaps to increase the viewership ratings. What are your thoughts on male actors having to do that to attract the audience?
JCW: I stripped completely in the drama, so why didn't that increase the viewership ratings for 'The K2'? Haha! After the broadcast the nude scene did in fact become a hot topic online. In the beginning when I looked at the script I was worried that the audience would be grossed out by the "shower naked fight". But when I saw it later on, it was filmed in a way that was better than I expected and the audience reacted well too.
Q: Which scene left the deepest impression on you in this drama?
JCW: It's the naked fighting scene in the shower. This scene took a whole 8 hours to film and this was also the very first scene filmed on the very first day, so naturally the impression was very deep. At that time I specifically asked the director to let me film that scene first. Because I was worried that as filming went along, if I ate something during our all-nighters it would be difficult to maintain a good figure. In the end, the director really let me film the naked shower scene on the very first day.
Q: How do you maintain your figure? What's the most difficult part?
JCW: If it's a scene where I have to show my body then it would be like when you're preparing for an exam. I would start dieting a few days before and also exercise like crazy. I usually like exercising anyway so it's not too difficult.
Q: You're now 30. Do you have a different attitude now with regards to your job?
JCW: There are no changes when it comes to acting, but from the viewpoint of a regular guy, it feels different now that I'm 30. When we were younger we probably all thought about "What would I do when I'm 30?" There's something special about being 30. A lot of people even say that men only start to grow when they're 30. It could be because I'm 30 that I decided to join 'The K2', because I wanted to show an image that was even more mature and manlier.
NOT SUITABLE FOR VARIETY SHOWS
Q: You appeared on 'We Got Married' to show your support for your friend Choi Tae Joon. Have you ever considered joining the program and having a "fake marriage"?
JCW: I feel like my personality is not suitable for variety shows. To be on variety shows you have to be good at talking and be able to present a natural side of yourself. I'm not good at talking and I would be clueless without a script, so I would not consider going on this kind of variety shows. Actually, recently the production team for the MBC variety show 'I Live Alone' invited me to join the show but unfortunately, I live with my Mom so I can't do it even if I want to! Haha!
WISHES TO DATE
Q: Do you have a girlfriend now? What kind of girl do you like...?
JCW: I always want to date but I don't have a girlfriend right now. Whenever I meet a girl I have good feelings for, work gets busy and it turns into nothing. This kind of situation happens repeatedly and in the end it became difficult to date at all.
When I get a girlfriend or intimate scenes in a drama, I try to get fulfilment from that instead.
I like girls I can "get along with". For example, it's not difficult to find a girl who has double eyelids, is tall, looks beautiful etc. But to find a girl I can "get along with" is really not easy. That's why I want to find a girl like that.
Q: Not just in Korea but you also filmed a couple of Chinese dramas. Please share the difference in filming and the joys and hardships of filming.
JCW: In China, their filming method is "film first broadcast later", so the filming portion is not as intense/tight as in Korea. The actor, director and script writer has ample time to communicate and understand the artistic intentions of the project.
On the other hand, in Korea the filming is done effectively while under intense pressure, and that's the good thing. Before, I would watch movies and dramas co-produced by China and Korea or dramas co-produced by Japan and Korea. I guess that's because both sides are trying to utilise the best parts and balance out the cons.
Q: Are you preparing to enter the army soon?
JCW: I will probably get my letter at the end of February or beginning of March next year. At that time I should be able to confirm when exactly I'll be going in.
But I hope to be able to do a new project before I enter the military. Right now I already received some scripts so I will go over them carefully before I make a decision.
I'm too tired now so I don't want to do another action show. I would like to try acting in a romantic comedy.
Q: It's been quite a while since you were last in Singapore. Is there a chance of meeting your fans in Singapore? Is there anything you miss about Singapore?
JCW: It's been over a year I guess. Of course I really want to meet my fans in Singapore. Right now my company is planning the schedule for my international fan meetings, although I'm not sure of the details.
Translations: teappani (PLEASE CREDIT @TEAPPANI/TWITTER IF REPOST OR CUT)