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Ha Suk-jin: “Standby was freeing”
by | October 3, 2012 | 22 Comments

You may recall me saying (just once or twice or maybe a dozen times) that Ha Suk-jin is the reason I watch Standby, MBC’s flagging sitcom that started with such cute potential. So with the show heading toward its finish—it wraps this week—I saw this interview with Ha and had to see what he had to say about it.

Standby has been airing for the past six months, and never did as well with ratings or buzz as its predecessor, High Kick 3: Counterattack of the Short Legs. You can’t blame it on a lack of appealing actors or a cute world, because it has plenty of that. What it doesn’t have, though, is a sense of groundedness to give the world any depth. Characters tend to act in single-minded, single-dimensional ways, so the light fluff aspect doesn’t have anything deeper to root it in something real. (Which was something High Kick managed so well.)

The show was slated for 120 episodes, and while I wouldn’t classify this as a big cut, it is now ending with Episode 113. That includes a few pre-emptions that pushed back the schedule a bit, including this week; I guess MBC just didn’t feel the need to give the show those episodes back, choosing instead to end it on time.

His character Suk-jin seems, on the surface, your everyday (for a drama) cold hottie: He’s professionally successful as an announcer, he’s good-looking and well-dressed, he comes from a good family, he’s smart, he’s curt and uptight, he suffers no fools. Like every other chaebol-like character, right? But it turns out his Suk-jin is actually a completely different guy once you get to know him—he’s insecure, friendless, poor (thanks to dad going bankrupt), and hiding a painful past as an uber-dork carrying a grudge against (Lee) Ki-woo, who always had everything come to him so easily.

And despite being petty and snippy and difficult, it’s those flaws that make him adorable and lovable. He’s the type of guy who boasts about all the girlfriends he’s had… to cover up the fact that he’s never had any and is too embarrassed to admit it. He proudly name-drops his best friend, Alexandrio Cabernet Bourbon the Third. His rabbit, rescued after a broadcast segment. He keeps a shit list with a running tally of every single person who’s ever wronged him, for crimes both grand and petty—and in addition to including some inanimate objects, the list also bears his own name.

So I totally loved Suk-jin, and was super, super irritated when the show just dropped the ball with him. His loveline remains firmly one-sided, while Dull and Duller (Soo-hyun and Ki-woo) mope and glower all the live long day.

Asked about the romance, Ha Suk-jin answered, “I’ve never been in a project where I didn’t have a loveline. But this time, it looks like my story will end with a one-sided love for Kim Soo-hyun-sshi. To be ending without even one kiss scene, I’m a bit disappointed with the writer. [Laughs]”

Suk-jin’s character is, in my opinion, one of the funnier characters in the show, which may seem odd since the personality isn’t funny at all. In fact he’s rather humorless, a stick-in-the-mud who takes things way too seriously. But I appreciated that he let the situations speak for themselves, letting the funny arise from the situation rather than forcing in excess slapstick or gags.

The interviewer even asked whether he thought his comic touches came on too strongly, but Ha answered that he finds acting itself to be a cheery thing: “While taking on this comic acting in the sitcom, I found that it felt very freeing. There are times when I struggle in feature dramas about how to properly express my character’s emotions, but with Standby I could take risks and be adventurous. It was fun for me to freely create facial expressions or lines of dialogue as I was acting.”

Of course, he also has his disappointments, and the low ratings (4% to 5% for the daily sitcom) have to be included in that. “It’s very disappointing that the ratings were low. But I don’t blame them for being low, or anything like that. You just have to get over the disappointments. If I get another chance to do a new sitcom later down the line, then I’ll have to take that chance to make up for this disappointment.”

Ha Suk-jin’s already got his next project lined up after Standby, which is a cable show on JTBC called Childless Good Fortune. It’s the next drama by hitmaker writer Kim Soo-hyun, whose projects always attract buzz and big names (Life Is Beautiful, My Man’s Woman, Mom’s Dead Upset). She also tends to reuse many actors in her dramas, so it’s considered a fortuitous thing to be brought into the “Kim Soo-hyun family.”

The show is, like many of Kim’s dramas, a multigenerational piece with a large extended family at its core (anchored by veteran Lee Soon-jae). Ha plays one of the grandsons, and said, “I’m grateful just to be in a Kim Soo-hyun project. My sunbaes tell me that being in one of her projects will be a valuable experience.

Asked about his busy schedule, he answered that thanks to his experiences in back-to-back projects, he gets accustomed to new sets fairly easily. Since he’s not a star, he explained, he feels the need to work constantly to get his name out there. “I don’t find it tough doing drama after drama. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to keep acting. It allows me to keep being exposed to the public, and I enjoy just being able to show my acting.”

This jump will take a bit of adjustment, though; he’s working to find a more serious mien after going free and unfettered for the past half-year. He added, “After doing a sitcom, doing a traditional drama like a Teacher Kim Soo-hyun show will broaden my range. I’m approaching this project as a chance to learn another type of acting.”

Ha also explained that he hasn’t been able to make a strong impression with the general public. While I love him, I do think he’s on the mark about that, if you look at it from the larger picture, compared to other actors of his generation. “I read a comment once asking why I couldn’t hit it big in my projects. It was a comment asking why I wasn’t hitting stardom despite seeming like I would. I liked that there are those kinds of expectations of me. It’s better than people thinking, ‘Eh, he won’t make it.’ If I keep at it steadily, won’t I satisfy the public sometime? Before I get married, it should. [Laughs]”

For his sake, I hope it happens. Because that comment—it could’ve come straight from my brain, years ago.

Via Osen

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22 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. bear99

    I love ha suk jin since he played in My Girl, and after that he also play in Tvn whats happening in saengchori. This drama is freakin hillarious and fun, too bad not many peoply watching it.
    I did not follow Stand by because the subs is not update. But i always wanted to see his new drama. Hope he can gain more atention in the future.

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    • 1.1 ethvren

      he wasn’t in my girl, think you meant the other lee da hae drama hello miss or smth like that?

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      • 1.1.1 D

        it’s Hello Miss.. i like him there, i was thinking.. hmmm, dunno why but at that time he reminds me of Kwon Sangwoo

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        • 1.1.1.1 cheekbones

          Me, too ! I used to refer to him the Kwon Sang-woo’s look alike since I didn’t know his name.

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    • 1.2 houstontwin

      Yes, “What’s Happening in Sangcheori” was a wonderful comedy, and Ha Suk Jin was just perfect in it!

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  2. Village Mrembo

    He’s too cute!!!

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  3. Mara

    He’s too cute for words and I love his acting. He was great in Seungchori and his comedic timing is definitely right on. He’s funny without seemingly trying to be. I’ll be watching his future projects.

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  4. hellochloe

    I was *this* close to watching Standby, but nah. Writer-nim has failed us. *loong sigh at what could’ve been*

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  5. janey

    I watched him in a movie about the teacher and her students and a scandal quite a few years ago and fell in love with him there. I thought he would hit it big too since he was in a couple of movies but he did seem to disappear for awhile…Hope for the best for him I do quite like him :D

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  6. hot_saranghae

    He’s definitely one of those actors who keeps on showing promise, but haven’t been able too rise to “stardom”…..

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  7. ethvren

    You know what, he reminds me of lee kyu han a lot! And i like both of them. I’ve been following ha suk jin since the wreck that was hello miss with lee da hae (is that even the title), so i’m glad he’s getting this well-deserved exposure!

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    • 7.1 Alvina

      I absolutely know what you mean when you say that he reminds you of Lee Kyu Han. Both of these guys are given the standard “side-romance” roles, but ~always~ manage to shine in them.
      But, despite that, they never really get traditional leading character roles (excepting Ha Suk Jin’s few movie/cable dramas).

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  8. Eunice

    He was really cute in Unstoppable Marriage with Eugene (if i remember correctly). Wish him success in his next project!

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    • 8.1 DC

      Love that movie!!

      Summer Whispers is also a good movie he’s in.

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    • 8.2 Fab

      Yes they had great chemistry in that movie. And he was great in Once Upon A Time In Seungchori, love that drama.

      I am not really sure about this, but was he in Can’t lose? I think he played the leads brother…

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  9. Jules

    He is, hands-down, my favourite character in Standby (and the only reason I continued to watch when the show unceremoniously dropped the Ki-woo/So-min loveline).

    I have such love for him now that I think I’d watch (and love him in) any project he chose.

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  10. 10 DC

    I’ve loved Ha Suk Jin since Hello Miss. Loved him in Unstoppable Marriage with Eugene too and have wished he’d get a good primetime drama. Great that he’s been steadily working on morning and weekend dramas and Saengchori was a fun show, but I want to see him go big time.

    Still, I’ve always been a big fan.

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  11. 11 Arhazivory

    His character in Standby really is great and memorable. I hope he continues to do well and I hope he gets married. Haha

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  12. 12 happysloth

    pair him with YEH, maybe… that will be double yummy.

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  13. 13 Czak

    I didnt like him in hello miss, not because he was bad. Hello kiss was just one of those drama you watch once and forget and bury under piles and piles of ****. Joke!
    What i mean was, i love all the actors: lee dal hee will always be so pretty charming to me, lee jihoon will always be listed as one of my all time crush, and ha sukjin is just too gorgeous for words. but hello miss is just a genarally forgettable drama, no pull and no charm.
    I watched him in princess lulu and drama city.

    But he really came into my radar when i watched him in “i am happy”. Him as kang seok is like my Ultimate hidden pleasure.
    My kang seok and aeda… in my prayers they are the couple i wish to live again and be happy together. Drama may have seperated them but anbalternate world where their story is true has him alive and living and living to the fullest with aeda!

    Ha sukjin! I love you. Ill be waiting for this new projevt of yours.

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  14. 14 naninoona

    i love this guy!! and i only wish i could say i became a fan because of his acting….. but i fell in love with his gorgeousness first and then came to realize what a an awesome actor he is.

    the way he acts is usually very subtle. he’s not very over-exaggerating if you know what i mean. the way he speaks and his mannerisms are all very subtle and not over-done and i find that so refreshing! even when he’s yelling i don’t find it over done. like, some actors try to yell just for the sake of dramatic effect, but this guy yells how any other person normally would in everyday life and that’s seriously awesome to me. but yeah, he’s gorgeous.

    now, saying all that, i’ve only ever seen him in 2 dramas so i don’t know if that would be enough to go on raving abt how good an actor he is but i just feel that way abt him. he was so good in both saengchori and can’t lose.

    which also makes me wonder why hasn’t he been able to make it big yet. i guess he still hasn’t found a role in a drama that would make him explode as one of the big names. i had the same feeling abt kim soohyun before his role in dream high. he was amazingly promising but still quite obscure. then he was samdong and the rest was history. i hope ha sukjin finds that role that would shoot him to the top because he seriously deserves it. the world needs to see how good this guy is at his craft.

    btw, all the pictures of him in this article are so drool-worthy. hot barkeep. lol.

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  15. 15 jomo

    The way I describe HSJ is this:
    He’s that guy on your street – maybe your friend’s older brother – who’s on the wrestling team, plays sax or piano, and got into an Ivy League school. Your memory of him is wearing HS sweats, glasses and with really bad hair.

    But suddenly, stepping out of a beat-up dark blue Nissan in front of your friend’s house is this OTHER guy – hair gelled exactly the right way, with jeans and a baggy jacket, glasses gone and, heartbreak!, he’s bringing home his beautiful girlfriend from college, and you think, “Damn! I never even had a chance!”
    Ha!

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