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Joo-won interview: Ratings man and aegyo boy
by | September 23, 2012 | 93 Comments

Gaksital may be over, but the hit drama has left dramaland a few stars richer, namely its two leads, Joo-won and Park Ki-woong. Not that neither were stars before, but I think it’s safe to say this drama has taken them one step further, graduating them into bona fide leading men status. Both actors have been the subject of numerous interviews (and I mean a TON) since Gaksital wrapped two weeks ago, and the following is a collection of several interviews featuring Joo-won (Park Ki-woong interviews forthcoming).

Joo-won has had a rather meteoric rise to fame, considering that his first drama was a mere two years ago. Here’s how one article introduces him:

He doesn’t know failure. He debuted on television with 2010’s Baker King Kim Tak-gu. He had previously made his debut in musicals in 2006 and drew notice for his strong acting skills and good looks, but it was after he made his television debut that he gained name value.

I’d say it was Ojakkyo Brothers that really put him on the map, giving him a leading man arc even though he was just one of a sprawling cast with numerous storylines. But even with his popularity at that point, he was still new and untried enough that giving him the Gaksital’s hero role was a bit of a question mark. Now with three smash drama hits on his resumé (and one variety hit), Joo-won’s built something of a reputation as a “ratings sure thing”: Baker King hit 45.3% ratings nationwide, Ojakkyo Brothers hit 36.3%, and Gakistal reached 22.9%.

He admitted, “To be honest, after I was cast I felt a ton of pressure. The production budget for one, and also, it was my first time headlining. Every time I ran into someone who knew me they would say, ‘You have to do a good job.’ I felt the pressure. I was smiling on the outside, but inside I was burning up with anxiety [Laughs]. It was especially the case during the time when we were filming but hadn’t broadcast yet. If it’s on TV I can watch how I turned out, but before then I had no way of knowing how well I did or what the response would be. I consulted with those around me to see how I was doing. In the end, I did feel I was lacking a lot of times but I also gained a lot of confidence. I felt, ‘Ah, I can do it.’ I felt it with my previous dramas in Baker King and Ojakkyo Brothers, but in this one I felt I was maturing.”

About the ratings hit(s): “Another success? I don’t know the reason myself. [Laughs] The one thing I know for sure is that luck was on my side. I enjoyed acting [in Gaksital] because the script was interesting, and I got to work with many excellent sunbae-nims and teachers on the show. Rather than Gaksital’s success being because of me, I think it was that there were so many good actors that viewers could trust in.”

The drama spanned six months of shooting, which began on March 1: “[Park] Ki-woong hyung and [Jin] Sae-yeon joined filming near the end of April, but I started in March. Since I began earlier, I had more time than the other actors, in both the acting and action aspects.”

On the downside, that cut into his sleep. We all know the perils of dramaland, especially when you’re the title character. Not to mention this drama’s numerous action scenes, period setting, and emotional intensity. Not a walk in the park.

Joo-won said, “Not being able to sleep was the hardest thing. I barely slept at all, to such an extent that the very word sleep felt like a luxury. Thinking on it now, what amazes me is that I could memorize my dialogue and act under those circumstances. I worked so madly that it’s a wonder that filming completed without incident. After staying up several nights in a row, I would repeat to myself, ‘Let’s get it together,’ and on top of that I had to show the conflict between Gaksital being the hero and Lee Kang-to’s bad side, and deliberating over various isues made me feel like my head would burst. [Laughs]”

The character of Lee Kang-to was, as we can imagine, a complicated one given the extremes of emotion he covers and the amount he changes over the course of the show. Joo-won describes putting a lot of thought into how to create the character and make him his own, and “dog” was what he landed on. It’s the word he was called by the Koreans, for being a lapdog of the Japanese.

“I deliberated a lot over it. In the drama, Kang-to shouts a lot, and I thought a lot over how he would regulate the outbursts. If it were a real situation a person might shout without thinking about it, but in a drama, I thought it might make viewers uncomfortable to watch. There were a lot of those shouting scenes, and when they ended my hands and feet would be numb. I filmed them till I felt drained. I didn’t calculate or arrange my facial expressions, I just entered that scenario and let it all out.”

The show had a number of memorable scenes, and lots of those were of the anguished variety, and it’s unsurprising to hear that the crying scenes really made Joo-won cry. When asked which scenes stay with him, he said all of them.

“If I had to choose just three, it would be when I cried against hyung’s (Shin Hyun-joon) back, when my mother died, and when Mok Dan was shot. It’s horrible just to think of those times. I could really relate to the situation where I cried against Hyun-joong hyung’s back, and the emotion naturally rose up, of wondering how I’d go on. Lee Kang-to was like that. I could relate personality to the feeling, where people see him as a bad person although he’s working and earning money for his family.”

He continued, “When those scenes were over, they would linger in my mind. It wasn’t just acting, but me shedding real tears in those scenes, and I felt in tune with those emotions.”

“In the scene in front of the grave, I was really sobbing there alone, beating my chest, and it truly felt like my heart was ripping. Before we began filming, I was crouched there in front of the two graves [Mom and Hyung], and I had that feeling of having lost everything.”

The show was set against the backdrop of the Japanese Occupation in the 1930s and the underground independence movement to reclaim the country. The character of Gaksital—a “hero of the people”—became something of a symbol for those real-life figures, and there was naturally some burden on the actors and the production to do history justice.

Joo-won explained studying history for the role: “I tried to understand what it was like in that era. Since I didn’t live then I couldn’t experience it directly, but through the script I tried to know and learn. But it was very painful. It was a history lesson. I’d also done a lot of studying on my own about the Japanese occupation before beginning on Gaksital. So in acting in this, I could feel a lot in an indirect way. I couldn’t experience life directly, but I tried very hard to try to feel it.”

Aside from the nationalism spurred by Gaksital’s storylines, which included comfort women, Joo-won also took a trip to the controversy-mired Dokdo on an episode of 1N2D, which got him called a patriotic actor by some.

“Calling me ‘patriotic actor’ is a burdensome title. Not just me, but all the actors. I didn’t make any conscious effort to show that image in my drama or variety shows. Actually, when took on Gaksital the thought never occurred to me that it might be ‘anti-Japan.’ I just looked at the project and chose it because it was a good one. I hear that a lot of Hallyu actors declined this drama because they thought it would be anti-Japanese, but I don’t think they lack patriotism for not acting in Gaksital. Every Korean citizen has a sense of patriotism. And all our actors love our country.”

He added that the same burden applies to calling him a “ratings man,” which he isn’t ready to be labeled. Gaksital did manage to best some A-list Hallyu stars despite its “non-headliner” cast; competitor dramas Ghost and I Do, I Do, both of which boasted top names (So Ji-sub, Kim Sun-ah), never caught up to Gaksital, which took first place in the ratings.

It must be hard to imagine disappointment given his drama history, but it seems he tries to remember that those high numbers can always change: “My next drama might come in second place, or have ratings so low that people don’t even know I’m doing a drama.”

Joo-won was brought on to the second season of 1 Night 2 Days at roughly the same time he began filming Gaksital. The variety program had been hugely popular in its first season, but I think it’s safe to say that the idea of a new(-ish) cast with a new PD had some skeptical.

He said, “To be honest, I didn’t feel pressure about going on 1N2D. If there was any pressure at all, it was about my role and character. At first, I worried, ‘My hyungs are all doing well, but why am I removed?’ It isn’t that I don’t have any worries now, but these days I just try to enjoy myself. Before the show, aside from Tae-woong hyung I wasn’t familiar with the others, but I’ve become a lot closer to Seung-woo hyung and Tae-hyun hyung. Now that I’ve gotten to know them, I see that they’re all open-hearted people. When their dongsaeng uses aegyo, they find it cute. [Laughs] That’s why I just hug my hyungs and get closer to them. Haha.”

Aside from that, there’s the question of logistics: 1N2D shoots every other weekend, and that means he filmed the variety program concurrently with filming Gaksital.

He admitted, “It was really difficult physically. [Laughs] But it’s so much fun to go to 1N2D. I have fun. Shooting the drama is tough on stamina, but when shooting 1N2D I spend the whole day laughing, seeing good things, eating tasty things [though that streak is hilariously over]. It’s work, but I consider it a break. So when I returned from shooting 1N2D, it would give me energy and helped in the drama. It may have been hard physically, but mentally it was a big help.”

Joo-won added, “If it were a different type of variety program I wouldn’t have been able to do it, but I feel I can with 1N2D. In regular life, you wouldn’t have the opportunity for seven guys to together and travel the whole country. But I get to travel to nice places, eat the specialties, see the culture, and have good experiences. 1N2D is a program that helps me a lot on a personal level.”

There are other benefits: “The age range of my fanbase has expanded considerably, and for some reason if feels like I’ve become an idol. There are 3- and 4-year-old little kids who see me and run away.”

Ha, but is that because you’re so famous, or because they’re afraid you’ll catch them and torture them? I guess that’s the strange dichotomy of being Joo-won.

Regarding the ending of the drama [SPOILERS AHEAD, YOU ARE WARNED]:

Joo-won said, “It was saddening that everyone died, but the last scene was really awesome. What’s disappointing is that when we shot the last scene, it had been raining heavily. It was too bad that we would wait for the rain to stop, then shoot, but you could say it was also the best, most impressive scene. Everyone came out wearing gaksitals to march for independence. Perhaps you might feel that in the moment it was a futile gesture, but the meaning of it was extraordinary.”

“Although I did study before the show, while filming I came to think a lot about our country and our people’s pain and suffering. [The show] tried to take what we knew from books and draw them out. It gave me a chance to really study the sadness and patriotism of our people in a historical way.”

“I learned on the acting front as well, and learned how to express my opinions. There’s the director who has his opinions on my character, but I gained confidence in how to assert my opinion. And as a lead actor, I also learned how to lead the staff and other actors.”

What about a continuation of the story? [MORE SPOILERS AHEAD.]

“If there were a Season 2, I want to do it. For one, [ongoing] series aren’t common in Korea. But Park Ki-woong hyung and Jin Sae-yeon died, so they wouldn’t be able to do it, which is sad.”

But for now, Joo-won is looking for new drama. There’s nothing concrete, but he does want to do a romantic comedy.

He said, “Of the characters I’ve played so far, a lot of them haven’t been my age. I’d like to do something sweet suiting a mid-twentysomething. A character who doesn’t get stained with blood, haha. They say romantic comedies are the most difficult, and I’d really like to give it a try.”

And we’d love to see it.

Via Star News, Newsen, Star News

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93 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. onewcondition

    Omo that last picture! That people is Gaksital XD

    • 1.1 Denali

      Haha. My thoughts exactly! :D

    • 1.2 Ivoire

      Thank you so much Javabeans, for putting this together, and helping us find out more about Joo-won!

  2. Vanessa

    Thank you!! :3 I can not WAIT to see his next drama

    • 2.1 Erean

      ME TOOOOOOOOO

  3. Noelle

    Woot! Love him. There wasn’t enough Joo Won-ness in 1N2D so I’m glad to be getting my fix.

    • 3.1 Noelle

      He’d be perfect for a romcom!

  4. mas

    YES! I’d love to see you in a romcom! :3
    With lots of aegyo thrown in too.

  5. Pitch

    Aw, he is such a cutieeee!!! I still miss my masked hero, withdrawals have been hard on me….I REALLY woulnd´t mind a second season, lol. I know it is unlikely, but I think there would be enough plot.

    Thank you, jb, for putting this together!

  6. Annie

    I thought there was some news about his next drama already?

    • 6.1 Annie

      More specifically Level 7 Civil Servant. I guess he didn’t accept.

  7. redfox

    haha he is so cute. a koala clinging to hyungs. Koala-won. if that is a word.

    good luck for him. I hope he gets into a drama that suits his cute aegyo side. oh, oh, and I want a full lenght movie with koala-won and Park Ki Woong

  8. KRush

    <3 When I see those pictures I think, "Thanks for all the hard work!! See you next time." :)

  9. R

    Thanks a lot Javabeans !!!
    I love him & Gaksital so much !!!
    Really can’t wait to his next project !!!

    • 9.1 R

      I like his answers about ratings, success of Gaksital and ‘patriotic actors’, a humble and intelligent actor…
      And him talking about his crying scenes made me cry :'(

      • 9.1.1 dramabliss

        Me too, and isn’t that amazing? Reading an interview, and his responses making me tear up–just goes to show how a daebak show Gaksital really was and how Joo Won has emerged as a really awesome actor. Didn’t see Baker King but loved him in Ojakkyo Brothers.

  10. 10 Shurlee

    Yes, please do a rom-com next! Thanks Javabeans for sharing this interview!!

  11. 11 Lilly

    He has action hero written all over him. Hard for me to imagine him in comedy since he is so intense.

    • 11.1 redfox

      you know I feel like he would be a Pierrot like comedy hero – sad and pouty when alone like without food in 1N2D, happy and cute when with his girl

    • 11.2 Sintia

      He would be great in everything :-)

    • 11.3 rearwindow

      He was great in Ojakgyo Brothers, so he definitely has a range. I’d love to see him in a romcom.

  12. 12 Sintia

    Thank you!
    He was just amazing in drama. Awesome actor! Brilliant one. Can’t wait to his next project!

  13. 13 row.an

    I love that second last picture of the 3 leads. So heartwarming :)

  14. 14 Link

    Thanks javabeans!I totally needed this soo bad. Miss Gaksital so much. <333 Joo-won is such a humble actor. He's just so cuuuute!! You can never get enough of him.

    • 14.1 Tanisa

      Yes he is humble and great actor to boot and when he cry he doesn’t care what he look like and that cry scene when his mother dead that sound he make still ring in my ear

  15. 15 Ara

    Is he hinting at Level 7 Civil Servant?

    • 15.1 am

      Lawd, I hope he is!

  16. 16 paper

    Thank you <3

  17. 17 Daisy

    He’s good at picking dramas with good scripts!

    • 17.1 Cam

      Yupppsss…Amen! :D

    • 17.2 Chagi

      Can’t agree more hope he continue that way

  18. 18 Jandoe

    Thank you Jb for this and for also giving the heads up on spoilers so I know to skip!

  19. 19 Cam

    Gosh, I really enjoy reading this interview about Joo Won & I really love him!! :D In fact, I feel that everything what he say that made me so happy and warm toward him. It’s a great thing for him to have a chance for his experience to gain his confidence. Plus, I really like him who he is and that way he is. I will be loooooking forward to Joo Won’s acting performance in another new drama!

  20. 20 Ennayra

    Aw, it’s good to see Joo Won on my (laptop) screen again. :-)

    • 20.1 Alexis

      He’s really something! :) Hahaha, that’s so funny! XD

  21. 21 pepperandice

    WHERE IS THE SECOND LAST PICTURE FROM AND CAN I PLEASE HAVE SOME MORE SIR?!?!
    it looks like an official bts photo thing but where is it from iv never seen it before

  22. 22 Arhazivory

    GAKSITAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL~!

    Hearing about how the shouts left him weak and how he truly cried in those scenes, makes me appreciate him even more. This drama would have been taxing on anyone.

    It was revealed that in the scene after Shunji caught Gaksital and they sat across from each other for the questioning, Park Ki Woong started crying after ‘Kang To’ gave the reason for him becoming Gaksital. Even though the scene never called for tears, he was so overwhelmed by the emotions of the character. I think the pooling of tears in his eyes made the scene even more powerful and its one of my favourites.

    I’m looking forward to seeing all of them in happier roles, laughing like in that 2nd to last pic. Watching JSY (and Dam Sa Ri and Koshikai leader) in Five Fingers and she’s doing well. I can get my happy Joo Won from 1N2D, but I wanna see PKW and HCY too.

  23. 23 Kei

    He’s so sweet. And how cute he is, Gaksital doing aegyo! I just love every one of his works and I’d love to see him in a romantic comedy.

    Enjoy 1N2D for now!

  24. 24 canxi

    So cool. I like interviews and getting to know the actors I like on a more personal level. He seems humble and cool. I like how he answered his questions. Thanks for translating :)!

    Can’t wait for Park Ki Woong’s! I might squeal when I see that one, actually.

  25. 25 toystar

    Thank u. He’s so cute love the last pic.

  26. 26 Setlij

    OHHHHHH JOO WON my first kdrama actor crush………. i think it will not be over until i die.My first kdrama was Baker king (way to start my drama life) i like him more than the lead actor I just love him

    • 26.1 Serenity

      HAHA loving him ’till death do us apart.

  27. 27 Mira

    Love him so much, talented actor and humble and adorable :)
    Thanks JB !

  28. 28 DaDa

    I miss him already. :-(

  29. 29 DarknessEyes

    haha thanks for posting!!! I was missing Gaksital and this was nice :) I really love that pic of PKW,Joo-won, and JSY there in the field. too perty :D

    and a romcom? Looking forward to it :D

  30. 30 Derby

    Miss u sooooo much but i want u to take rest for while cutie <3

  31. 31 Addy

    Joo Won won me over with BM. see, i respect guys that know hw to act. i went back and watched ojakgyo brothers and BKTG because of this guy!! he is definitely a favorite and one that will rule the movie industry!!

  32. 32 glace

    He is extremely modest. I didn’t think that rom-coms would be the hardest hmmm… but I think it’s time to see his sweet side.

  33. 33 crazedlu

    Sighs and smiles sheepishly.*

  34. 34 Stardust

    Thank you javabeans for the intereview of the cute man-boy that is joo won! hehehehe I didn’t watch Baker King ( My mum has the dvds LOL) nor Ojakgyo brothers ( I tried, but the links to watch were dead..hahaha) but Gaksital is the first time I saw him act… I would say I was skeptical at first becos of all the yelling, and the quizzical eyebrows gave me pause, but upon finish the whole thing, I feel joo won has improved his acting as each episode goes, you can see and feel it…. Esp the scene where he cried for his mum and hyung… * ok I need a tissue again..*

    How much do I LOOOOVE that pic above of the Shunji, Kang to and Mok dan wedding pic?? LOL

    Mokdan is clinging onto Kang to and going : He’s MINE! whilst Kang To and Shunji makes moony bromantic eyes at each other HAHAHA… Thanks for this on my monday morning! =)

  35. 35 Cinderella

    I would definitely watch him in a rom-com which I desperately hope would make use of his aegyo-tasticness….

  36. 36 ck1Oz

    Joo Won pouting in a Rom com would be perfect.Plus can you imagine him being romantic? *swoon*

    • 36.1 needlight

      totally agree!!!

  37. 37 Astrid_974

    Thank you so much for these interviews, I enjoyed reading them a lot =) And OMG, the last pic x))

  38. 38 Tenshii

    I like how Joo-Won always immerse himself into his character whenever he acts like he lives as the character.

  39. 39 Steamy Bun

    Haven’t seen Gaksital but I loved him in Baker King and I’m so happy for his success!!

  40. 40 lenrasoon

    Aww he’s so sweet, i really love reading his thoughts about Gaksital’s ending.
    And i’m looking forward to read Park Ki-woong interview, i really hope he get a leading role next.

    Thanks JB.

  41. 41 bishbash

    The last picture killed me. What would aegyo be without Joo Won?!

  42. 42 hawaiianseoul

    joobear so adorable, you.

    Is that my heart melting on the floor?

    yes, yes it is.

  43. 43 Star

    PLEASE DO A ROMCOM :)

  44. 44 ajj

    Such a great actor and he’s so young. He’s got a bright future ahead.And yes a Rom-com would be nice Joo woonie..

  45. 45 tika

    yess ROMCOM pleasee

  46. 46 OB fanatic

    do a rom com with UEE!!! they had sooooo much chemistry in OB no kidding

    (can’t control my excitement at the moment upon reading the rom com allusion)

    • 46.1 anabella

      Yeah, that would be daebak. Since he admitted that he has a feelings for UEE during OB for real.

  47. 47 Jilly

    Regarding the ending of the drama Joo-won said, “It was saddening that everyone died”.
    I don’t know why that made me laugh so hard. Everyone really did die. Dang…
    “But for now, Joo-won is looking for new drama. There’s nothing concrete, but he does want to do a romantic comedy”
    Oppa, jeongmal? Ghaa I hope that works out :D

  48. 48 eny

    romantic comedy is good choice after all seriouse drama, i believe he can do it, i see he sing with comedic style on the stage and his cf are funny too like kfc and mountia

  49. 49 h311ybean

    Thank you for sharing this. I loved learning more about his creative process. He is such an amazing young actor, and definitely adorable on 1n2d!

    PS I also appreciate how he was carefully he addressed the patriotism issue.

  50. 50 saranga

    i forget that he ever did baker king. of course i only watched enough to check out the cast. my friends were going gaga for him (that glorious height) and so of course i had to check him out. i don’t watch 1n2d (is it too late to hop on that wagon????) but does he really have that much aegyo? that’d be……. almost too perfect. i can’t resist a guy with aegyo, although girls with aegyo drive me up the wall.

    • 50.1 Village Mrembo

      That makes 2 of us! I cannot stand grown ass women acting like 5 year olds with that annoying high pitched voice its just off putting! For me it works for guys cuz u know they r manly men showing a moment of vulnarability (sp) cute cute! I say unless ur Kim Sun Ah, who can easily go from aegyo to sassy…just stop it already ladies!

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