Sung Joon: A brighter role next time?
The recent interview with Jung So-min came out at the end of last year, just as her popular cable drama Can We Get Married was heading into its finale. A new interview came out with her co-star Sung Joon just this past week, and caught up to him after he’d had a bit of time to deal with the end of the show and the aftermath of fan-love that followed from it. Not that he hadn’t earned lots of fan-love before, but Can We Get Married really seems to be the one to solidify his leading-man status and set him up for the future.
The interview for Movieweek:
I hear that the show wrapped filming on the first day of the new year. Has it sunk in yet that the show has ended?
“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I feel a little blue, too, now that there’s nobody around who used to be at the set all the time. This was a drama where I really felt the enjoyment of going to the drama set. It was a lot of fun.”
Is that why? Your face looks great.
“Ah, I’ve been faithfully going to the dermatologist.”
It’s not just your complexion, but I mean that your expression seems to have softened a lot.
[Embarrassed] “It must be because of the character of Jung-hoon.”
Can We Get Married seems to be the thing all women of a marrying age talk about. Could you feel the popularity of the drama?
“I didn’t really know about it, but one day my mother said in passing, ‘My friend likes you.’ My friends also told me, ‘My mom’s your fan.’ After hearing that, it felt real: Ah, so I’m in a pretty popular family drama that a lot of middle-aged women like.”
How did you imagine the drama when you heard the title?
“I didn’t get a sense from the title itself. I thought, ‘What’s that? Is it similar to MBC’s variety show We Got Married?’ That was all. [Laughs] When I first read the script I thought it was fresh, that the plot was unpredictable.”
As the drama went on, what moment was the most surprising?
“When I watched the first episode. I felt the subtle rhythm and speed of every dialogue exchange. No matter how great the atmosphere is on set, once it goes through editing that tends to fall flat, but I saw how the rhythm was kept alive perfectly and thought, ‘I know this is my drama and all, but it’s really entertaining.'”
The drama depicts the process from the moment of proposal through the wedding, and even though it’s fake it really feels like going through the process of preparing for a wedding. After experiencing that, did you have any thoughts about not wanting to go through it yourself? [Laughs]
“In the middle I did think, ‘Ah, I really don’t think I could get married.’ Jung-hoon’s pretty different from my own personality and this isn’t real, but I did think that it shouldn’t be this difficult. Of course, there were a lot of parts that were handled for dramatic effect.”
What’s the thing you felt was most extreme?
“The relationship between Jung-hoon and his mother (actress Sunwoo Eun-sook). I’m not as soft-hearted as Jung-hoon so I’m not the type to give up on something I’ve decided on because of my mother. I don’t even want to feel the sense of a difficult reality spoiling my love. The relationship between Jung-hoon and his mother-in-law-to-be Deul-ja (Lee Mi-sook) was also pretty extreme. I could understand what it feels to want to impress, and to want to become a trustworthy son-in-law. But when he’s attacked by his mother-in-law over the issue of his salary, even though it’s a drama my feelings actually felt hurt.”
Especially when the one doing the attacking is Deul-ja. [Laughs]
“It’s really tough to confront people like Deul-ja. You don’t hate her but you can’t make make sense of her, and she’s the source of stress and pressure. [Laughs] Off-camera, Lee Mi-sook sunbae-nim is really cool and impressive. One characteristic of great actors is that they also make their co-stars’ characters come alive. I’m still awkward at this but she helped bring me alive.”
There are fans who have come to like Sung Joon the actor thanks to Jung-hoon’s character, fans who haven’t seen your darker side. [Laughs] Are their expectations a burden?
“These days I feel a bit confused whether people like me, or Jung-hoon. It’s led me to think more deeply about myself as a person. Who was I, what kind of person? Was I originally like Jung-hoon, or not? In the past, since I had a strong sense of identity and felt strongly that ‘I’m reserved and stoic, I’ll do what I want to do,’ but nowadays I’m not sure. Who am I? [Laughs]”
Are people telling you that it’s time to take on a bright character now? Can We Get Married was a bit of an unexpected choice.
“No, not at all. Choosing projects is completely up to me. If I don’t want to do something or if I feel I can’t, I say so frankly. Because it’s my filmography, I feel I should be as honest as possible regarding my work.”
Did you choose Can We Get Married easily, or did you think a long time about it?
“I think that agonizing for a long time about important things is ultimately not a good thing. It’s a fairly brief process. I read the script and if it’s interesting I meet the director, and as we talk the assurance comes to me and I decide whether I want to do it.”
Of your projects, which did you take the longest to think over?
[Thinking a while] “Shut Up Flower Boy Band (tvN). It wasn’t anything big, but the title was kind of embarrassing. [Laughs]”
What changed the most about your mental attitude while working on Can We Get Married?
“Actually, it felt like I’d let my mind grow too relaxed so I’m working to get my mind back on track. After ending an enjoyable time on a good drama, I grew too comfortable. I think that kind of mental determination improves after overcoming difficulties — it gives you the determination to win, to prepare yourself to accomplish the task.”
By any chance are you the type who grows uneasy when good things happen? [Laughs]
“I change with the seasons. When things go well, there’s always that vague sense of unease asking, ‘Is this really okay?'”
Are you the type who has more certainty about yourself, or doubts?
“Um… I think doubts.”
“Doesn’t doubt have the ability to pull you down?”
“Of course that’s true, but you have to trust in people to keep yourself from doing that. For your own state of mind, you have to trust the people around you. You just can’t fall into the habit of leaning on them too much to keep you from feeling pessimistic. When I was younger, I had the attitude that I had to solve everything on my own. ‘You can’t be weak, weakness is poison.’ But looking back, it feels like those thoughts were weakness. After I let myself lean on someone once, it actually felt better. These days I don’t think of depending on people as an exposure of weakness, that this is what it means to live as a person.”
Before taking Can We Get Married, you acted in the indie feature Pluto, which hasn’t released yet. You play an extremely dark and cold character there — how do you think it’ll be when it’s released?
“To be honest, I’m uneasy. I worked hard on that, but if I hear that I did a bad job it’s bound to irritate me. It’ll be tough if the reception isn’t positive.”
You worked that hard on it [to feel so uneasy]?
“It was a tough project. But it being tough doesn’t automatically mean I worked hard. At the time I did my best and felt like I killed myself doing it, but is that the same as working diligently? These days I worry about a lot of things. Things feel confusing, and I feel uncertain about a lot of things.”
Genius Yoo-jin in Pluto was this way, and Choi Chi-hoon from White Christmas was also cold and dark. It seems to suit you well, and you could also say that it’s the easiest method of using the actor Sung Joon. That may be why it seems that the producers had an amazingly discerning eye to bring Jung-hoon out from that Sung Joon.
“Thinking about it now, it was a really good decision to take on the Drama Special Swamp Ecology Report. It was my good fortune to be able to play an ordinary, optimistic character. As soon as I read the script I felt i had to do it. Thanks to that, I got Can We Get Married. Director Kim Yoon-chul said he’d seen that and chosen me. Doing Swamp Ecology Report was my best decision of 2012. Thanks to that, I also got a KBS Drama Award for a one-act. To me, it was a treasure of a project.”
What if people are so in love with Jung-hoon that they want you to keep taking similar roles?
“Repetition can become poisonous, but if it makes people happy I don’t see why I should refuse a role just because of that. If I get the offer, I have to take it, what can you do? [Laughs] Still, I want to always be challenging myself with new roles.”
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