Although he is a Hallyu star with countless fans from Greater China, he’s not conscious of being a star. He laughed, “My longtime friends just ignore me.” He also revealed an anecdote that happened while filming TVN “The K2”.
“A while ago my friend from high school came down to the set. But it was raining that day. My manager gave me an umbrella and when my friend saw that he was taken aback. He left saying ‘Ya~ give me an umbrella too. Seeing you here, you look cool.’ (LOL) When my friends are around (I also) fool around a lot.
This charming man has surprisingly remarkable acting skills. Ji Chang Wook took on the lead role of a war mercenary turned special body guard Kim Jeha in “The K2”. Even though there were many intense action scenes, they were no problem for him. Action scenes aside, he also (t/n: showed his understanding/assimilation of the role well) brilliantly portrayed the emotional scenes with Song YoonAh and Yoona (SNSD).
“I think this project made me seem a little manlier than my previous works. I also tried to be more relaxed (with my acting). I feel I was also more in tune with my colleagues, seniors, juniors and other actors.”
He always gives an honest answer with frankness. It made us wonder about such a man. Rather than the man (we see) from his projects, it made me really curious about the person ‘Ji Chang Wook’.
And so I asked. About the road that he has walked on thus far.
I don’t know. It’s a bit ambiguous… there’s some similarity with every character. For example, in certain situations Kim Jeha can be cold and doesn’t trust people easily. I think I have that side of me too. When I’m among my friends I think I can be wacky like Park Bong Soo in ‘Healer’ (LOL).
Looking at your filmography, it’s a bit different from other actors in your age group. You did a lot of weekend and daily dramas.
Indeed. Even my first drama was a morning drama. I’ve done weekend, daily and even historical (saeguk) dramas. ‘Healer’ was actually my first mini-series.
It seems like because of that, your (acting) foundation has been firmly built.
I think so too. Because of that it created who I am today and my own colour (in acting). If I continue to walk down my own road like this, I think I’ll be able to show more of my own distinct colours.
You debuted in 2008 and it’s been 8 years since. It must have been difficult in the beginning but you got through it well.
I know right. After I completed ‘Five Fingers’ (SBS•2012) I did not get any other offers. It was an ambiguous position to be in. I had played the lead in a mini-series and even weekend dramas… after that I think I was in a slump. It was a chance for me to reflect back on myself. Then luckily, I was asked to do ‘Empress Ki’.
You wanted to be an actor when you were in your third year of high school. What made you decide this?
“What can I do that I’ll enjoy; what is it that I really want to do?” I never thought about these things until then. All I did was study. I was a really ordinary student. Then I started thinking “What are you doing all this for?” At that time I decided to be an actor. Because the TV was so easily accessible, I thought that acting would be easy too. I thought if I did that I could live happily for the rest of my life. I didn’t know anything at all then, so I could be brave about it (LOL).
When you were younger did you get a lot of people saying “You’re good looking” or “You should be an actor”?
I’ve never heard that even once. When I was younger I never dressed well, I didn’t have any interest in fashion and I never went anywhere. Because I went to a boys’ school in middle and high school, all I did was hang out with my friends and study.
Then you got into Dankook University’s Theatre and Film. How did you prepare for that?
I went to an acting school for 3-4 months. But I really got in unexpectedly. It was a difficult time for me after I got in. I couldn’t communicate with any of my schoolmates because I went in as a blank slate, without knowing anything. It was really hard to adapt. I was also afraid of the senior and junior relationships. So I just wandered for a year. I received a warning (from the school) for my first 2 semesters during my first year. It was a difficult time for my family as well so I took a leave of absence for some time. After that I did a short film just for fun. At the filming site, I was lucky enough to get cast for an independent film. Right after that, I went for auditions and started doing musicals in theatres in University Street.
Everything got solved nicely
But I really felt it then when I was doing musicals. “I really don’t know anything about acting. Acting is not something that you can just do on a whim. It’s a discipline that requires studying and training.” At that time I refocused, went back to school and studied.
When was the first time you felt that acting would be fun?
Actually, when I was younger, I was really nervous and I had a phobia in front of the camera so I was busy getting scolded. I started getting used to filming from ‘Bachelors’ Vegetable Store’ (Channel A•2011). I think I also managed to experience some fun while filming ‘Smile Donghae’.
How does the present Ji Chang Wook feel about acting?
Right now it’s really fun because I can think and feel more about the character. “Why is this person acting like this and how did he become a person like this?” I’ll ponder on thoughts like these as I try to express it (through my acting).
You’re at the peak of your acting career but you have to enter the army next year
I think I’ll be able to adapt well. I’m half anxious and half looking forward to it. I’m more at peace about it than expected. Looking at it positively, I’ll be around younger guys on the other hand, my senior will be younger than me (LOL).
Are you worried about the gap in the middle of your acting career?
Many (other actors) have gone to serve and returned with no problems (so I’m not worried). The length of military service these days is shorter compared to the past so I feel like it (military life) will pass by quickly.
It seems like your sense of responsibility as a Hallyu star will grow bigger
Although it’s a responsibility, at the end of the day it’s also a fight with myself. I always tell my fans “I’ll come back with a better look” but it’s really true. I really have the desire to show something better, even if it’s only a little. Otherwise I feel nervous and think, “Am I too relaxed/content with myself?” For me, that’s my hang-up and also my pride.