[04.30.09] Kang Ji Hwan’s Interview from Kang Star (Part 1)
Q. At the press premiere, I watched the movie seated right behind KJH and KNH. While everyone was roaring with laughter, you seemed to be unmoved…(laugh)
A. We’d already seen the movie several times, so that day we were too busy trying to read to reporters’ reaction…(laugh)
Q. We’ve heard that there were a lot of ad libbing…
A. It’s my own hard and fast rule to plan 70 percent beforehand, and to prepare 30 percent on the set. I would insert my ad lib after certain action or at the end of certain lines, or after certain emotional scenes so as to not get in the way of the opposing actor. In addition, I’d tell those involved beforehand while checking the flow of action to avoid confusion during the actual take. And if the reaction was not good or if for some reason it didn’t go well, I would immediately go back to the original script. The director recognized my effort and took care to leave it open ended to allow me to act as I liked. Actually, except for the scenes that were edited out, 90-100% of my ad lib was used.
Q. You’ve always been known to be a very serious actor on the set. Also, you’re well known as an actor who prepares very hard. Maybe because of that, your acting shows detailed portrayals. And we can see “Kang Ji Hwan”-ish common points in all the characters you portray.
A. There are those who half jokingly say that I’m no fun because I’m so serious on the set, but that’s my own preparation method to focus on the project and to show my best acting. My detailed portrayals have become a sort of a habit when I’m acting. I somehow feel that I’m not fulfilling my duty as an actor if all I do is read the scenario the writers worked so hard to complete.
I feel it’s our job as actors to breath life into the writer’s sentences. I also want to create a characteristic that is solely Kang Ji Hwan. Of course, the detailed acting can be a strength, and also a shortcoming. Depending on the writers, there are those who prefer actors to read the lines just as they were written, and there are those who are happy to see their lines come alive.
Q. Since the media gave good reviews at the premiere, are you expecting good results?
A. I saw the movie for the first time at the technical preview. Usually at these previews, actors focus on their own acting, and the staff check their own respective areas of responsibility for problems. So, there were no laughters where there should be, and I was unsettled. To be honest, I’m real sensitive to the ratings and attendance, and I was so worried that night I couldn’t sleep. The next day after hearing there was an advance screening where the general public would attend, I couldn’t help but go check it out. So I snuck in and watched. 10 minutes into the movie, I got the reaction from the audience I wanted and that made me feel a little better. There were a lot of reviews that said the movie is funny, and it’s true it made me anticipate good results, but still, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. I remember all too well several of my previous dramas were received well by the critics but did not do too well with ratings. I’m trying to wait as calmly as possible for the results.
Q. When dramas with great expectations like Hong Gil Dong suffer at the ratings, we heard that you blamed yourself…
A. Dramas like Capital Scandal and Hong Gil Dong were critically acclaimed, even winning award overseas. So they should have been bigger hits, but they were all overshadowed in ratings by dramas on other stations that coincidentally aired at the same time. Of course, ratings aren’t everything, but I was very disappointed. After several occurrences like this, it became quite stressful. So I threw myself into every project even more, and I used to think at that time that it was my fault because I played the main character. “Am I lacking in acting ability?” “Is it because I don’t have the star quality?” I’d try to think of reasons for the low ratings and tried to carry the burden by myself. So at the time of Hong Gil Dong, I suffered a slight depression. Of course, having gained experience during the course of my acting career, I’ve learned that there are limitations in how actors can impact the performance (of the drama/movie), so I can give myself more latitude these days. (laugh)
Q. Do you think you got impatient because of your late debut, and maybe that turned into pressure for you?
A. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. I had thought that I wanted to be an actor for a while, but I was living in an environment that had absolutely no connection to the entertainment industry, so I had no idea where to start. So time passed, and after I got discharged from the military and started to plan for my future, I decided that it was worthwhile to invest my youth in my dream that I once thought about giving up, and found myself rashly deciding to take on the challenge. I resigned after one year from a company I worked so hard to get into. I started out in a chorus in a musical, but I often ran into a wall because of my untrained acting abilities. There were times I’d get casted as an extra, then fired because I couldn’t act, I’d get a supporting role, then get demoted to an extra. Since I’m the oldest son, I couldn’t continue to keep on living like this, so I decided to give up my dream if I couldn’t get any results by the time I turned 30. After I got the role in the musical Grease, the road gradually started to open up.
Q. Realistically, one can’t become an actor solely by talent, nor does the opportunity come in proportion to the effort one exerts. I would think luck in that one decisive moment plays a large part.
A. That’s really true. Luck can be the answer. But in order to search for that luck, I believe that you have to give your best effort too.