My Name Is: Kim Soo-hyun
Kim Soo-hyun: Strangely, I keep looking at you
While the night rain falls, children grow up before you know it. Kim Soo-hyun acted as the young Cha Kang-jin in SBS’s Will It Snow For Christmas, giving off an unfamiliar new vibe that made his Soo-hyun in MBC’s Kimchi Cheese Smile and Jae-ta of KBS’s Jungle Fish seem like faint memories.
With heavy eyelids and black eyes, rounded nose, and distinctly furrowed upper lip, the young man’s face was the same. But he showed a heat with his stare, posture, and stride that could not be that of a child. And when we met him again, slightly brighter in SBS’s Father’s House, the realization hit. A tender sprig had formed into a bud for the first time. Just growing in height cannot evoke that critical feeling that makes it impossible to take one’s eyes off him.
Even watching him off-camera, he gives off tension. He starts speaking with difficulty: “Actually, my mother… is what’s often said to be… that… she was a strong mother.” A very warm story unfolds as he tells how she guided him to take acting lessons with a theater company as a high schooler as a way of fixing a passive personality. He makes a pretty keen observation as he explains that he thinks his young appearance and deep voice are somewhat incongruous but that that image makes him appealing, and he tosses out a meaningful sentence: “Actually, um, my exterior and interior are different.” After listening to a question, he asks curiously without hesitation, “But what exactly does homme fatale mean?” and settles that with “Um, then that word is extremely fitting to Rain!”
His power to make others turn their attention to his words is Kim Soo-hyun’s hidden card, which he has cultivated unwittingly. “When I act, I try to bring my ambitions and worries to the character in an appealing way. He’s remarkable. He’s pretty memorable. Those are the kinds of things I’d like to hear. That’s why I immerse myself in my role, to have that push and pull with viewers through my stare or my voice.”
His candor in laying out serious words that could become lethal foretelling is naive. And when he explains, “The characters I play are also part Kim Soo-hyun — my starting place is from myself, so that a viewer would find him like Kim Soo-hyun,” we are given a clue into this character called Kim Soo-hyun, who is gradually coming into fruition both inside and outside of his work. At the intersection of Kang-jin and Soo-hyun, Jae-il and Jae-ta, there he is with his commanding expression and way of speech.
“In the future, I want work constantly for a while, without a break”
Perhaps he knows his growth has been greatly accelerated, as he reveals his hope, “In the future, I want to work constantly for a while, without a break.” With that said, he adds, “I’m sensitive to the word ‘youth.’ I’m in my youth right now. But, a girlfriend…” But before even ending that sentence, there is no mistaking his cheerful twenty-three-year-old playfulness as he pretends to wipe tears from his eyes. However, there’s a seriousness to his tone when he says, “Whatever the role, I want to try them all, but if I have the opportunity I’d like to do more roles like Kang-jin, masculine roles.” It’s also there when he says, “They say that children can act better because they do it without fear. But once you start becoming aware of your age, you start feeling more fear, and you can’t come charging in. I think I’m at that point,” pointing out the obstacle he will have to overcome.
That’s why even though Kim Soo-hyun is as unpredictable as ever, one can roughly estimate how much he will bloom. He says, “I’m a go-getter. Later on…” and pauses while grinning. “Hahaha. I almost said my dream is world domination!” He laughs it off, but they say one grows as much as one dreams.
My Name Is…
My name is Kim Soo-hyun. “Soo” means outstanding (秀), “Hyun” means benevolent (賢). There are some people who wonder why I don’t use a different name, since it’s the same as the famous scriptwriter… What would be better? Kim Soo-kyum? Kim… Kali? Hahahaha.
I was born on February 16, 1988. I’m an acting major at Joongang University.
I’m an only son, and at home I’m pretty untalkative. Still, when I’m surprised, I shout unthinkingly, “Mom!”
When I was in high school, I worked a part-time job for a fast-food restaurant. The timing didn’t match between the end of school and starting work and I was always late, so I was fired after three days. Still, I was paid for three days, and it was thrilling. There’s a saying that a child should buy his parents socks with a first paycheck, so I bought my mother socks… but she didn’t wear them. I should have bought her something with lace.
I learned how to rock climb once. I was in high school, and I even went out to a competitive meet, climbing natural rock. But I was eliminated in the second round when I fell… I learned skin scuba diving too. I tried experiencing sports that would be difficult to do in everyday life.
When I was on MBC’s Kimchi Cheese Smile, I wasn’t worried about taking off my shirt when I heard about the swimming parts. But when we started filming, the other hyungs — phew — had ripped abs and built bodies, and I was shocked. In particular, (Jang) Ji-woo hyung was so built he was called a mannequin. I hear that when he served in the military, he got a special grade for his physical exam.
In SBS’s Will It Snow For Christmas, the scene I’m most fond of is the one at the school faucets where I tell Yoon-ju, “I’m not interested in you, but strangely I keep looking at you.” When I shot that scene, the director and lighting director teased me, saying, “Wow, it’s [legendary actor] Shin Sung-il!” but it made me feel good. My mother’s favorite scene is the one where Kang-jin is painfully rejected by Ji-wan when she’s wearing mourning clothes.
When I shot the scene where Kang-jin walks barefoot, the director deliberately scattered stones in the road. He wanted me to step on them, to feel that pain. His intention was to capture the moment those feelings appeared on my face naturally, but my manager hyung was fidgeting because I might get hurt.
A scene I’m a little disappointed in is in Episode 2, when Kang-jin touches his foot and looks at the moon. The camera shot me in a full shot from behind, but I was slumped over, like it was a bad habit. When I saw that at home, I was a little saddened and thought, Arg, why did I do that!
Before filming SBS’s Father’s House, I was pretty nervous. I’d be acting with Choi Min-soo sunbae-nim, Baek Il-sub, and Park Won-sook, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to breathe. But they all took good care of me, and in particular Baek Il-sub helped a lot by explaining Jae-il’s situation to me rather than just indicating how the acting should go. I really learned a lot.
Choi Min-soo sunbae-nim knew I’d stiffened up and really took efforts to help me relax. [Lowering his voice] “Wanna learn kumdo?” he’d ask and start conversation. On the set, while I’d be talking with the director, he’d play around and poke me from behind, then pretend it wasn’t him. But when he acts, he gets into it completely. At the script reading, he said, “I don’t want to appear like an actor who is acting, but I’ll approach this drama to give off the feelng that you’re watching Human Theater. I’ll become that person.”
Time flies when I’m at home, lost in thought. I’m not great at it, but I write when I’m alone. I watch movies. I especially like Jo Seung-woo, Ha Jung-woo, and Ryu Seung-beom sunbae-nims, and they have a lot of the elements that I like in actors.
I don’t think I have distinct preferences. I like hip-hop music, trance, ballads — I don’t differentiate between genres. When I sing, I’ll do a ballad, and then a hardcore song. Haha.
My emotions tend to fluctuate, but whether I’m feeling happy or sad, rather than hiding everything I feel insisde, I like to work them off and get rid of them entirely. That’s why when I feel good, I might give all my money to a beggar, and when I’m depressed I feel lost in my emotions and think I want to die. I like crying, so when I see the line “tears flow” in a script it makes me happy, because I can exhaust those emotions and cast them off.
I like taking photographs. At the time of Kimchi Cheese Smile, Lee Byung-jin sunbae-nim’s camera was so cool, and I learned a lot watching him. Right now I use a Nikon D800, which I got really cheap secondhand, thanks to Lee Byung-jin sunbae.
I really love taking photos when it snows a lot like it has recently. It’s easy to attach sentiment to a simple footprint, saying, “Looks great!” Hahaha.
But, doesn’t it always snow on Christmas? I think a white Christmas is a given. What did I do last Christmas? Um… so… well… I went to a noraebang with friends. Heh.