Park Hae-jin returns as Yoo Jung for the film version of ‘Cheese in the Trap’ / Photograph = Mountain Movement Story

Park Hae-jin has now played the role of Yoo Jung twice for the webtoon-based Cheese in the Trap; once in the TV series, and once in the film version. For an actor, this is an unusual situation. Most actors would shy away from the opportunity to reprise a character, as it is difficult to please everyone regardless of whether they approach the character in the same way or decide to go a different route. Park Hae-jin, however, made his decision without an ounce of hesitation. Although it was a difficult task, he created a different character for Yoo Jung for the film after repeated contemplations. According to Park Hae-jin, “this was the most difficult character [he’s] taken on among the recent characters [he has] played.” 

In a recent interview, Park Hae-jin explained, “Because the thriller genre was really emphasized in the film, I focused on setting a clear boundary between good and evil. Even when it came to my facial expressions, I tried to create a clear contrast between light and dark expressions instead of being ambiguous.”

Yoo Jung in the film version of Cheese in the Trap, is a character who has an element of duality to his nature. Although he may be smiling on the outside, it’s impossible to determine what’s going on in his mind. “Everyone will have a different interpretation, but I think Yoo Jung is a pure and genuine person,” said Park Hae-jin.

I actually think that everyone lives as if they are leading a double life. Most people change their speech and behavior depending on who they’re dealing with. I’m the same way, too. More so than having a dual personality, I think that Yoo Jung is a genuine person who is honest about his feelings. When he’s with his girlfriend Hong Seol, Yoo Jung likes her so he tells her that he likes her. When he’s around people that have hurt his girlfriend, he of course acts out in anger. The reason that he was cold toward Hong Seol in the past is because he was afraid of revealing the parts of himself that were kept hidden.” 

Park Hae-jin is a lot like Yoo Jung in that he thinks about others before himself, and remains cool-headed when he’s at work. “I think that controlling my facial expressions and being considerate of those around me come with the territory of my line of work,” said Park Hae-jin.

The atmosphere on set changes depending on my demeanor. The crew members read my facial expressions and will start whispering to each other. If I’m uncomfortable on set, I make everyone else uncomfortable, so I try to stay upbeat when I’m working. I try to smile a lot and be talkative. I tend to put on a mask for my own sake.

Park Hae-jin on playing the character of Yoo Jung once again: “This is the most difficult character I’ve taken on among the recent characters I’ve played.” / Photograph = Mountain Movement Story

Starting with My Love from the Star (2013), and moving on to Doctor Stranger (2014), Bad Guys (2014), Snow is on the Sea (2015), the TV drama version of Cheese in the Trap (2016) and Man to Man (2017), Park Hae-jin has been working continuously without a break for the past five years. The actor is currently in the middle of shooting the 100% pre-recorded TV drama titled Four Men. “I sometimes think that the driving force behind my ability to work continuously comes from feeling unsatisfied with myself,” said Park Hae-jin.

I’m the type of person that gives everything I have whenever I’m acting. Even so, I always find myself wishing I had done more. The feeling of regret you get even after putting your all into something becomes a motivating force. I’m pretty objective with myself, but even more so when it comes to my acting.”

Throughout the interview, Park Hae-jin emphasized that he wants to “quit doing soft melodramas.” The actor, who shot to Hallyu stardom after his role in My Love from the Star, repeatedly expressed his dissatisfaction with the acting work he has done in Korea. Park Hae-jin talked about his hopes for his future by saying, “Because I’ve appeared in so many trendy titles such as My Love from the Star and Cheese in the Trap, I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to play bold characters. In the future, I want to do projects where I can show off my acting skills.”

Does he have any desire to play a villain? In response to this question Park Hae-jin replied, I don’t really like characters who are brutally cruel, but I do like complex characters who are brutal when they don’t appear like they would be – like the characters from Grimms’ Fairy Tales. I’d also like to try a melodrama about blind passion like the JTBC TV drama Misty.”

Even though it has been 12 years since he made his debut, Park Hae-jin says he still takes acting classes. When I looked at him quizzically after hearing this, Park Hae-jin smiled and replied, “A lot of people ask me why.”

I don’t practice lines with my acting teacher; we work together to create a character. We look into the character’s background and the environment they’re from to create a more colorful character. If you find yourself confined by your character, it makes it difficult while you’re acting. The work I do with my teacher allows both myself and my character to be more flexible. I want to be an actor that breaks the mold.

Park Hae-jin: “I want to play bold characters from now on.” / Photograph = Mountain Movement Story

Translated by Jennifer Earwood