Park Shin-hye made her debut in 2003 in the music video for Lee Seung-hwan’s song “Flower.” She gained recognition in the same year by playing the younger version of Choi Ji-woo’s character in the TV drama Stairway to Heaven. After starting out as a child actor, Park Shin-hye gradually widened her spectrum by starring in one hit show after another with titles such as Goong S (2007), You’re Beautiful (2009), The Heirs (2013) Pinocchio (2014), and Doctor Crush (2016), and developed into one of the most widely known actresses in her 20s. With a number of her works being broadcasted overseas, Park Shin-hye has also been gifted with the title of “Hallyu star.” Even with all of her accolades, the actress is not yet satisfied. She has wanted her acting skills to be more substantial than her public image; she has ruminated over how she should transform herself and has been critical of herself over the matter.
The film Heart Blackened, which came out on in theaters on November 2, is a movie that clearly shows Park Shin-hye’s longing. Heart Blackened tells the story of a man named Im Tae-san (Choi Min-sik) who tries to clear his daughter’s name after she is suspected of murdering his fiancee. Park Shin-hye plays a lawyer named Choi Hee-jeong who is convinced that Im Tae-san’s daughter, Im Mi-ra (Lee Soo-kyung) is innocent. In addition to appearing in the movie without any makeup on, Park Shin-hye exquisitely played the part of a character who wavers between her convictions and the truth. It’s a role that has allowed her to break free from the dazzle and splendor that are usually associated with the actress. It’s a performance that has us anticipating Park Shin-hye’s second act as an actress.
10. This acting role is cearly different from anything you’ve showed us in the past. Does this have anything to do with why you chose to star in Heart Blackened?
Park Shin-hye: I’ve played predominantly light-hearted characters in the past, which is unlike the character of Hee-jeong in Heart Blackened. She’s a realistic character and she experiences a range of emotions as the case unfolds in the film. The roles I’ve played before required me to devote so much energy into playing a bright and lively character. I thought that Heart Blackened would give me the opportunity to show a character who is being heavily weighed down by something and to show a performance that was more relaxed.
10. What side of you do you think Director Jung Ji-woo saw that made him suggest the role of Hee-jeong for you?
Park Shin-hye: I think he was looking for someone who could portray a strong, lively character who could stand by their convictions like Hee-jeong does. When I first met the director, he said, “You’re such a big Hallyu star, that I don’t know how to act in front of you.” I’m actually very easy-going and there is a side to me that’s rather rough. I also like to be active. When I explained these facets of my personality to the director, he said it was “unexpected.”
10. You revealed your bare, makeup-free face in this movie. Were you uncomfortable at all about doing that?
Park Shin-hye: Hee-jeong is driven more so by occupational ethics and pride rather than success. Although this part was edited out in the beginning of the movie, there was scene where she goes around to different homes to perform a “home care service” where she looks after children. Since she’s such a busy person, I didn’t think she would have the time to focus on her appearance.
10. You had to show subtle emotions in the film. With it requiring a different method from expressing emotions outwardly, I think this would’ve been a difficult task.
Park Shin-hye: When you’re acting for a TV drama, you have to express emotions with precision; with this role, my emotions had to be compressed. I needed to show myself supressing my emotions further and further until they eventually exploded. I got a great deal of help from the director to make this happen. He talked with me a lot to help me understand Hee-jeong’s emotions.
10. Was there a scene that was particularly difficult to shoot?
Park Shin-hye: There was a scene in the courtroom where my character had to interrogate a person that she’s sure is the culprit. Because I had to make that person confess to their crime, I felt uneasy and very agitated. Since I was so focused on my character, I hated the situation I was in and I had a really hard time. I think that was the most cynical expression I have every made while acting.
10. You had to work alongside so many actors, including longtime acting veteran Choi Min-sik.
Park Shin-hye: Each person was like a stimulus for me. The other actors said that I was natural in my acting, but I wasn’t completely comfortable. I was intimidated because everyone was such a good actor. Because I was nervous, I was really tense and it took me quite a while for me to act naturally. Choi Min-sik always arrives on set early and prepares for his scenes. Even when he’s rehearsing, he acts as if it’s the real thing. He personally showed the virtues that actors need to possess.
10. The chemistry you had with Lee Soo-kyung who played Mi-ra really shined through. What was it really like to team up with her?
Park Shin-hye: She was so lovely. I thought about how nice it would be if she were my actual sibling. Normally, she would greet me in a cutesy way and say, “Hi, you’re here!” But then when she was in front of the camera, the look in her eyes would change. That really motivated me. She made me reflect upon myself and made me think, “Did I act with that much honesty like Soo-kyung does when I was in my early 20s?”
10. Actors who wear out a particular image that they show in dramas tend to feed their hunger for acting through movies. What’s your criteria when you select a film?
Park Shin-hye: That’s similar to my situation. To be honest, I was afraid of doing films. There are so many good film actors, and I thought my experience wouldn’t be enough for me to take on a leading role in a movie. But I always had a desire to be in films, which made me keep getting involved with movie projects (laughs). I did gain slightly more confidence by doing Heart Blackened. Before doing this movie I would show 100% of my emotions on screen, but in Heart Blackened, I expressed 50% and left the other 50% to be interpreted by the audience. This made me feel a whole new kind of emotion.
10. Is there anything else that you want to try?
Park Shin-hye: I want to to try my hand at a mundane role and do a crime thriller as well. I don’t want to remain just as a pretty face from an advertisement or as a Hallyu star. I want to be the kind of actor who can successfully go back and forth between TV dramas and movies.
Translated by Jennifer Earwood