Yoon Eun-hye was much-loved for her spunky portrayals of characters in dramas Goong and Coffee Prince, and has a solid track record of picking hit projects. So it’s no surprise that anticipation was sky-high for her comeback drama, KBS’s My Fair Lady — and while it’s performing decently with ratings around 14%-15%, it’s nowhere near the smash hit expected of her. Furthermore, her acting has been harshly criticized, as it seemed she’d regressed in her skills since her last role, which makes My Fair Lady a modest project tinged with disappointment.
She’s always been known for her friendly, easygoing personality, and I suspect that Yoon’s fiercely loyal following was amassed as much (or more) for her likable personality as it was for her acting. In the following interview, I find it easy to like her — although that doesn’t blind me to what (in my opinion) are glaring acting flaws in her latest role. I figure I can like Yoon Eun-hye and respect her while still finding her acting inadequate, but still, she has a charm that draws me (and, I’d guess, many others) into her character.
NOTE: Let’s keep this discussion civil, shall we? Yoon Eun-hye discussions often erupt into heated flame wars, and I hope we can avoid that here.
“It was really upsetting, I thought I’d go crazy”
Underneath her sharply drawn eyeliner, her eyes start to redden with tears. This is actress Yoon Eun-hye, who plays the immature chaebol and corporation heir Kang Hae-na in KBS 2TV’s Wednesday-Thursday drama My Fair Lady. She had transformed dramatically from the easy-going girl dressed as a boy (Coffee Prince) to a conceited, snobby “princess complex” character, but can this reaction be because of the public’s chilly response? After I asked her about the criticism she has received for her acting when I met her in a cafe on the 9th, the tears started flowing.
“If I didn’t have to film, I would have cried all day in my room… but I couldn’t do that. I thought of how upset my parents would feel to read all those articles slamming my acting, and I felt like going crazy. There were a lot of times when I endured through it and smiled as I filmed, only to end up with tears trickling out. Now, I’m afraid of making transformations. Each time, people grow familiar with the character, but if it takes a long time and hurts me every time, I don’t know what to do, and I feel afraid.”
However, “The longer I do this, there are more voices joining in to encourage and praise me. I took the viewers’ criticism in the beginning to mean that I shouldn’t be arrogant,” she says with a wide smile.
In the beginning part of the drama, the issue that was pointed out the most regarding her acting was her unnatural speech and accent. Yoon Eun-hye says, “Actually, there was criticism of my speech when I shot Coffee Prince too. I think it may have been more of a problem in this drama because Hae-na is someone who speaks bluntly, and people expect a certain image of a chaebol. But my teachers tell me that Hae-na’s character comes across as more personal when she talks in an unlikable way.”
Every episode, Kang Hae-na wears flashy clothing and makeup that would be difficult to pull off in real life. In order to reinvent herself into a polished, glamorous image out of her former plucky one, Yoon Eun-hye is treading a difficult path. She says, “I feel how difficult it is for a woman to work at being pretty. When I was doing Coffee Prince, I just washed my face and applied lotion and skin cream and I was ready to film. But compared to back then, now I have to get up two hours earlier to do my makeup.” The high-heeled shoes are another burden: “I wear high heels that are about 12 to 13 cm high, and after filming for a long time, my legs are swollen like an elephant’s.”
However, in her mind, Hae-na isn’t a feminine type of woman. “She always acts forceful, but she has such a pure heart that she makes a lot of mistakes. That’s why she can’t regulate her own feelings that well, and she can also seem like a dumb child. You can’t see her as perfectly feminine.”
As a result of her successful transformation to actor, there is one fact that is largely forgotten: that she started out as a pop singer in the idol group Baby VOX. Considering that she participated in recording a track, “I Love You,” last year with the hip-hop group Mighty Mouth, it seems she still has a lingering attachment to singing. She says, “I stood onstage for six years. Even now, my heart races when I see singers passionately performing. But the younger singers coming out these days receive a lot of training and have a lot of talent, so I wonder if I’d be able to live up to that. In any case, I’ve always felt disappointed that I was a singer back when I couldn’t sing that well and wasn’t very skilled.”
Following Coffee Prince, she took a two-year hiatus. At the time, she immersed herself in drawing and painting. Prior to her debut, she deliberated very seriously between whether she should be an entertainer or painter. She says, “I draw abstract paintings that show the state of my feelings as they are.” Only a completed painting merits full points. She adds, “When I have amassed a lot of paintings done under the same theme, I’d like to hold an art exhibit.”
She says of herself, “I’m reaching that age where I mature as an actor and as a woman. I’d like to show my talents little by little, but the unfortunate thing is that a lot of people don’t want to give me time for failure. I’d like to learn more as I experience failure too. I wish people would not brand an actor as a failure through one mistake.”