Jung So-min is currently acting in the cable drama Can We Marry, which is heading into its finale… now. As in, today, almost right this minute. The show is hovering just under the 3% mark on JTBC, which may not be the incredible 8% ratings posted by Childless Good Fortune—8%, yowsa—but is still a strong showing.
Jung’s last couple dramas haven’t been strong performers (Playful Kiss, Standby) but she’s a talent to watch, and so I’m glad to hear that Can We Marry is generating positive word of mouth. It’s a 20-episode romantic-comedy series that stars her opposite Sung Joon, and they play a couple struggling through the courtship dance and undergoing a bevy of obstacles to end up at the altar. (So we presume; the show’s not quite over yet.)
It’s a simple conceit, so the show’s charm is found more in its light and engaging execution than a high-concept premise or a series of dramatic events. Her character in this drama, Hye-yoon, is 28, which means she’s playing well above her age (23). I wonder if that’s why it’s a bit startling to realize she’s only been on the scene for two years; it feels like Jung So-min has been acting longer than her 2010 debut in Bad Guy.
On to the interview:
How is it, relating to a story about marriage that’s a bit off from your real age?
“At first, I wasn’t able to relate to it very closely so I asked my friends and cousin unnis for a lot of advice. I intended to borrow a lot of themes and motifs from them, but the character is so much like me that there really is no gap between us. So much so that sometimes I get confused about my real age.”
Were you bashful with the frank dialogue or bed and kiss scenes?
“For all those—the frank dialogue and the bed and kiss scenes—I did feel a little awkward, but as we set up to actually shoot them it became fine. However, when watching the broadcast at home with my parents, I did feel embarrassed. As it went on, they grew increasingly silent.”
How is your working dynamic with Sung Joon?
“We work extremely well together. At first it was so awkward when it was just the two of us together that I would even miss the actors I’d worked with in the past, but we’ve gotten closer now. We get along well and have a strong rhythm with each other. We can even ad-lib and the other person will just go with it.”
How is the filming atmosphere on this drama?
“The atmosphere is really great. Even though there are lots of times when I haven’t gone home in a week, it’s still bright and upbeat. The actors call each other a lot. There are three years between me and [20-year-old] Han Groo, but I don’t think of it as a very large gap and we act like [same-year] friends. She’s mature and seems like a peer. We’re hardly ever not filming, so after the show wraps we’ve promised to go on an overnight MT together.”
How is Lee Mi-sook, who plays your mother?
“She looks after me a lot, and sends me texts often. On set, she sets a bright mood. She jokes around and has an easygoing personality. I do call her ‘Teacher’ when we’re on set but when I text her, I comfortably call her Deul-ja Mom. Lee Mi-sook sunbae-nim is the one who causes the fewest NGs [outtakes]. She has a lot of dialogue, but most of the time she gets it on the first take without a mistake.”
If you had to pick one to date in real life, would it be Jung-hoon (Sung Joon’s character) or Sang-jin (Lee Jae-won)?
“I’d prefer Jung-hoon. Like Deul-ja Mom said, Sang-jin is too eloquent and has certain suspicious aspects to him. He seems like he would have an affair after he got married; if you broke up once because of cheating, it’s likely he’d do it again. Jung-hoon is my ideal type.”
Does that mean you’d like to marry somebody like Jung-hoon?
“These days, my ideal type has changed to Jung-hoon. It wasn’t that type before, but it’s made me think that I would be happy if I were to marry a man like him. We can always earn money together. These days I’m also thinking of how people work so intensely, but instead of that I’d like to be with someone who would work and also enjoy spending his spare time with me. It’s okay if we don’t earn tons of money. We’re all trying to live happily, but I’m seeing so many cases where people put the cart before the horse.”
What’s your real-life dating style?
“I go all-in to the relationship and the boyfriend. I don’t understand why couples have to do their ‘push-pull’ [akin to playing hard to get]—if you like each other you like each other, and if you don’t you don’t.”
You entered Korea National University of Arts at the very top of the class, you’re on a roll, your life is going straight ahead without any twists.
“I’ve had instances of being envious of people whose lives have taken winding curves. People who have had rich life experiences or come up against difficult times can draw on those to help in acting. So I was envious of them, but I came to the realization that I think the answer is to act in accordance with your experience.”
Kim Nam-gil, whom you worked with in Bad Guy, has come back from army service.
“Even back when filming Bad Guy, Kim Nam-gil sunbae-nim was thoughtful in looking after me even in parts he wasn’t in. It was my debut drama, and he taught me and led me along. After he got out of the army, he called regularly. Not long ago he invited me to a film screening at Jecheon International Film Festival, so I went.”
You must have a lasting impression of Oh Yeon-soo from Bad Guy, too.
“On a personal level, Oh Yeon-soo sunbae is someone I like and am friendly with. She played my older sister in that drama, and she taught me a lot about life. She didn’t have a big influence on my acting, but she was like a mentor for life.”
What kind of actor would you like to become?
“I’d like to be the kind of actor who is remembered for my character. You know how there are cases where even when you watch all the way through the end of a drama, you remember the actor’s name, not the character’s. I want my character’s name to be more remembered than mine.”