You know the general feeling ’round here about Song Seung-heon (My Princess, East of Eden), who is known mostly for his inverse looks-to-talent ratio. So imagine my surprise when I read this interview where he’s endearingly frank, and jaw-droppingly self-aware…which is just NOT how I imagined the guy who has but one serious facial expression…which is neither serious nor expressive. I mean, he literally admits to spending a good part of his career just trying to look cool. HA.
The 35-year old model-turned-actor debuted sixteen years ago, and I first saw him on the sitcom Three Men, Three Women which ran from 1996-1999. Seeing him in a sitcom first explains why I generally like him, despite his lack of dramatic chops, because he’s always been good at funny. Not in a crafted, obvious comedic way, but in a poke-fun-at-himself way. He makes reference to his character on the show, whose entire concept was that he was the only one who thought he was funny. It was 2000’s Autumn Fairy Tale that launched him into Hallyu stardom (and the subsequent slew of serious, melodramatic roles). Thankfully he’s come back around to comedy with My Princess, which has garnered him praise as an actor…maybe for the first time ever.
Here’s a translation of the interview he did with Yonhap News, the day after My Princess wrapped.
Have you slept? They say My Princess‘s schedule was murder.
We filmed the last episode until 6pm the day it aired and then went straight to the wrap party. I didn’t drink very much, but I totally crashed. I think I was just so tired. My manager put me in the car and drove me home, and then said it took an hour to wake me up once we got there. And then I finally opened my eyes at 7 this morning. I don’t know if it’s because I slept so little for two months, but I couldn’t sleep for very long. I didn’t see the last episode because of the wrap party, so I woke up and watched it.
How do you feel about it now that it’s over? Any regrets?
Honestly, there were times during the shoot when I really thought we weren’t going to make it to air with that episode. The schedule was that unbelievable. I’m just relieved we finished in one piece. Of course there are things I regret. But the genre and the character were fun. I think any experience in the end makes me who I am.
Why did you choose a romantic comedy now, and why did you wait till now to do one?
With the drama East of Eden and the film Invincible, I was doing a lot of heavier projects, and I kept hearing from people that they missed the ‘Unfunny Song Seung-heon’ from my debut days, in the sitcom Three Men, Three Women. And then this project came in. Episodes 1-4 were already written, and they were really funny. But then I didn’t know that starting with Episode 5, the scripts would start coming in late. (Laughs) Why didn’t I do a romantic comedy earlier? When I was younger I wanted to look cool. Back then, more than a happy ending, I wanted to do projects that had a resonance.
What’s it like now that you’ve tried a romantic comedy? A lot of people are saying that you’ve ‘found your clothes.’
I’m always putting on a serious face, with heavy acting, so this time I got to have fun. It really felt like I just came to play. The schedule was hard, but the acting itself was really fun. I’m always playing roles where I’m trying to look cool while carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, but I didn’t have to do that for this role so I liked that. (Laughs) If I have the chance, I’d like to try a romantic comedy movie as well.
You’ve never had so many cutesy love scenes as you did here. Could it be that you really fell in love with Kim Tae-hee?
If you see it that way, that means we acted really well. (Laughs) I just shot it comfortably like we were really dating. Park Hae-young’s childish and playful side is a lot like me. But when I’m dating, I’m more aggressive than Park Hae-young, so his passive expressions of affection became really frustrating for me. Park Hae-young was hesitant to marry Lee Seol, but in real love, when would that happen? If it were me, I would’ve said, ‘Let’s just run away.’
It’s great that you’ve found a role that fits your image so perfectly, but is there any regret that you didn’t do this sort of genre in your twenties, when Song Seung-heon was ‘prettier’? You’re now in your mid-thirties. Do you feel older?
Honestly, I don’t. In our drama, Lee Ki-kwang is 22, and that actually did surprise me, that he’s so young. But I still feel like I’m a high school sophomore. It might be because I still hang out with the same friends from that time, but if I look at the way my friends and I play now and back then, it’s the same. (Laughs)
Even if you don’t feel your age, you must feel some change. What’s changed?
My approach to acting has changed. It happened since I came back from the army. A sense of responsibility is something I feel more and more, and I’m discovering a sense of enjoyment in new things. Before when I received a script, I would just act it out like a machine. But now I think about what else I could bring to the scene that isn’t written there, and I have room to look past myself.
I’m not trying to make myself stand out anymore; I’ve learned the importance of harmony. I learned I can’t just do things according to my own ambition, but that fans should be able to watch and enjoy the project. If before I did things to serve my own ambition or to appear cool, now I think about what I can do for fans through this project.
I received letters from foreign fans who wrote that they came to know Korea because of me, and it made me feel the effects of Hallyu. I don’t think I thought about those things before. But now I think they instill a sense of responsibility in me. I’m also having more fun. It’s not just because it’s work anymore, but now I want to enjoy acting and have fun. There’s still a lot of talk about my acting skills, but that’s just something I have to work at, and aside from that, I’m discovering that acting is fun and I’m learning to enjoy it.
Why weren’t you ambitious about your acting before?
When I was younger I never dreamed of being an actor. I was an ordinary kid and became an ordinary college student. And then in 1995 someone who worked for a fashion label came into where I was working part-time, and asked if I wanted to enter a modeling contest. And then they picked me, and all of a sudden I was a model. Kim Sung-jae was the main model and So Ji-sub and I were just starting, and then when Kim Sung-jae died suddenly, somehow So Ji-sub and I became the main models.
And then after that, I came to do Three Men, Three Women. Without any preparation. So I started without any ambition to feed, and I got an enormous amount of criticism, saying that I couldn’t act. But now it’s different. Now acting is the best I can do, and it’s a career that I’ve invested more than ten years in. In my twenties, I just thought, ‘This must be what I’m doing.’ But now I’ve come to think about the fans and the public before myself.
Do you have any fears? Do you ever worry about losing popularity?
Ever since I was a newbie, I always had it drilled into my head not to be attached to popularity. So I’m actually not the type to be concerned with that too much. Of course, I’m human, so it’s better to be popular than not, but it’s not like I could be a youth star forever. While working on My Princess with Lee Soon-jae [who plays Grandpa], I saw how passionate he was, even at his age, and it made me want to become like him. I actually became ashamed of myself while watching him. He spent his youth digging deep to learn his craft, but I’ve never done that. I never dreamed of being an actor when I was young. So now I’m full of regret that I didn’t do the same.
What do you do on your down time?
I go play with my friends or I exercise. I play golf. Now that I think about it, my life is kind of boring. (Laughs)
Any plans for marriage?
I really want to start a family. But that’s not so easy to do. I don’t have a partner. Who knows, someday somebody I’ll love will suddenly appear, and I might be talking about marriage.
Via Yonhap News
- GQ’s leading men roundup
- My Princess: Episode 1
- Two more reasons to watch My Princess
- Song Seung-heon’s invisible love
- Invincible trailer and official poster
- Song Seung-heon picks an awkward “ideal woman”
- Song Seung-heon’s photo shoot for W