[TEN Interview] Jung Hae-in: “Popularity is like the foam on top of beer, I’m trying not to be transfixed by it”
He looks neat and tidy with his short hair and smart-looking suit, and he’s cautiously witty in the way he speaks. When we met with actor Jung Hae-in in a cafe in Sogyeok-dong, Seoul, he seemed to be a lot like Seo Jun-hee – his character in the massively popular JTBC drama, Something in the Rain. Jung Hae-in confessed that he hasn’t been able to completly part ways with Seo Jun-hee following the end of the drama on May 19 thanks to having to keep up with a hectic schedule full of commercial shoots and promotional activities overseas. “The person who’s being interviewed is Seo Jun-hee, not Jang Hae-in,” he said with a laugh.
10. You wore a suit today even though we won’t be taking pictures.
Jung Hae-in: I’m strangely comfortable in suits (laughs).
10. How does it feel to be done with Something in the Rain?
Jung Hae-in: As I was counting down the remaining filming days, I thought, “I wish this wouldn’t end.” Usually when I’m done with a project, I feel a little empty, bittersweet, and relieved, but those words aren’t enough to describe how I felt with Something in the Rain. This is the first time I’ve felt this way. That goes to show much I was focused on this drama and how much I loved it.
10. The drama ended with Seo Joon-hee and Yoon Jin-ah (Son Ye-jin) reuniting in Jeju Island. Are you happy with the ending?
Jung Hae-in: There were parts that I felt were a bit lacking, but I liked the fact that they were able to meet and be together again. (When asked what he thought was lacking) It took three years for the two characters to reunite after separating. I thought long and hard about how that should be portrayed. It was a period of three years in the drama, but in reality, there was a two-day gap between the scenes (laughs). I wondered how it would’ve been if it was a year and a half or two years, but I think it showed how much the two missed and loved each other.
10. When Yoon Jin-ah lied or went on a blind date, the viewers were split on their opinions. Some even said they felt frustrated with her.
Jung Hae-in: I think Yoon Jin-ah is a very realistic character. Compared to her, Seo Joon-hee has a fantastical side to him in that he only cares about love. Even during crucial moments, Joon-hee doesn’t consider what could benefit him the most. I thought that was really cool. I thought, “Could a 31-year-old man be like that?”
10. Why do you think Seo Joon-hee liked Yoon Jin-ah as much as he did?
Jung Hae-in: I’m not sure. I don’t think he had different reasons. I think he just loved Yoon Jin-ah because she was Yoon Jin-ah, he loved her for who she was. There was actually a part in the drama where Yoon Jin-ah asks, “Why do you like me?” and Seo Joon-hee wasn’t able to give an answer. In the end, he said, “I don’t have a lot of reasons. I just like you because you’re Yoon Jin-ah.” That’s one of my favorite lines. Isn’t that how it is in real life? Who would go into a relationship saying, “I have six reasons for liking you”? You like that other person because you just do. And because you like them, you see more of their strengths.
10. Besides “I just like you because you’re Yoon Jin-ah,” are there other lines that you like?
Jung Hae-in: In the last episode when Joon-hee meets Jin-ah, he asks, “Where’s my umbrella?” I think that’s a poetic line that implies a lot of things. He’s basically saying, “I really missed you,” but he’s expressing his feelings through an insignificant object. I thought that was one of the lines that shows who Joon-hee is. There was also a scene where Joon-hee is having drinks with Seung-chul (Yoon Jong-suk) and he says, “I hope Yoon Jin-ah isn’t that happy.” That line really resonated with me as well.
10. What kind of actress was Son Ye-jin on set?
Jung Hae-in: She broke all of the stereotypes I had about her. I honestly thought she would be sensitive, picky, and kind of scary (laughs). But in actuality, she’s easy-going, unpretentious, and she laughs a lot. After seeing how at ease she was around the crew members, I learned a lot about how a leading actor should behave on set.
10. You acted alongside an actress who is called the “queen of melodramas.” Your impressions of working with Son Ye-jin must be unique.
Jung Hae-in: By using the word “unique,” it sounds like you could be implying a number of different things (laughs). At first, I felt an incredible amount of pressure. I felt a lot of weight on my shoulders. She’s had this incredible career, but for me, it was my first leading role. I worried that my inadequacies could put a crack in the tower that she had built, and I guess that had come across in my acting. Ye-jin sent me a text one day that said, “Hae-jin, you are Seo Joon-hee. Whether you’re feeling awkward or good, do what comes naturally to you.” That gave me a tremendous amount of strength. Throughout the filming of the drama, I kept looking at the text. I felt that she respected me as a person, not just as a fellow actor or a colleague. As a result, I think we were able to have better chemistry on set.
10. Maybe that’s why some people wondered if the two of you were actually dating.
Jung Hae-in: That’s right. There were also a lot of people who took it a step further and said, “I know you two aren’t dating, but you should give it a shot because you look so good together” (laughs). There were people who were seriously cheering us on saying that you never what could happen in the future. I felt proud every time I heard things like that. Even though it was a fictional story, I tried to act with sincerity. I felt like that came across to the viewers.
10. During the press conference for the drama, you said, “I’m going to ask Son Ye-jin to treat me to some rib eye later on.” Did that ever happen?
Jung Hae-in: She actually did that on the day of the press conference. She paid for all of my staff members as well as her own, so the bill came out to be a tad expensive. I felt a little uncomfortable when we were eating (laughs).
10. People had a lot to say about Yoon Jin-ah’s mother. Most people felt that she was too opposed to Yoon Jin-ah and Seo Joon-hee.
Jung Hae-in: (sigh) It’s not like we were filming a modern-day rendition of Romeo and Juliet or anything… (everyone laughs) I felt resentment towards her mother when we were acting, and I would think things like, “Just let them be together. Try trusting them just once.” But when I gave it some thought after the drama ended and tried looking at the situation from Jin-ah’s mother’s point of view, her disapproval was completely understandable. But since the viewers looked at the situation from Jin-ah’s perspective, I think they felt [her disapproval] was a bit much.
10. What do you think you would do in that situation? If your parents were against you being with the woman you loved, what would you do?
Jung Hae-in: It wouldn’t be easy, but I think I would confront the situation head-on. If both of our parents disapproved, it would be really difficult… but I would still confront the situation.
10. The drama said it would show what “real romance” is. Do you think you know what “real romance” is and how you should handle a romantic relationship?
Jung Hae-in: I thought in-depth about love as I was working on the drama. It gave me an opportunity to think about how I should love someone. First of all, you have to engage in a lot of conversations with the other person. This is something that’s evident if you watch episodes 15 and 16 of Something in the Rain (laughs). Although the two characters wanted the same thing, the way they expressed their wants was different. You can figure out how someone feels just by looking into their eyes, but if you want to make those feelings tangible for the other person, you need to share your thoughts and be honest. More than anything else, I feel that courage is necessary when it comes to love. Just like the courage that Jin-ah showed when she first held Joon-hee’s hand and the courage that Joon-hee showed when he went down to Jeju Island.
10. What moment in your life required the most courage from you?
Jung Hae-in: It was when I first decided that I wanted to go into acting. It was around the time when I was about to turn 20. It was the greatest challenge and adventure that I had ever undertaken.
10. What were you so scared of?
Jung Hae-in: When it comes to this acting, everything is indefinite. It’s an occupation that can bring you a lot of love and joy, but it’s also an occupation where every moment requires you to challenge yourself.
10. It took you quite some time after your debut before you found your so-called “big break.”
Jung Hae-in: I never regretted a single moment, I never hesitated, and I never got impatient. Also, that’s how I will continue to be in the future. I plan to keep walking silently and calmly down my path, just as I’ve always done in the past.
10. You might tell yourself that you won’t change, but the environment around you will change a lot. You’ll also have a lot of people giving you advice.
Jung Hae-in: Even when I just do a search for my name online, I can see that things have changed (laughs). More articles are being written about me and a lot of people call me Joon-hee. It’s something that I’m thankful for and it makes me happy, but on the other hand, there are times when I feel a sense of heaviness on my shoulders. I’ve been listening closely to the advice that colleagues and directors have given me. But in the end, I’m the one who has to make decisions for myself, and I’m the one who has to take responsibility for my decisions.
10. It must be difficult to maintain the mindset that you’ve had up to this point since the way that people respond to you has changed.
Jung Hae-in: I think maintaining a balance is a difficult task. Fans of Something in the Rain have given me so many different titles that I felt like I could lose my balance if I became too absorbed in all that. I really like beer, and I started to think that fame and popularity is a lot like the foam on the top of beer. After you pour your beer and you talk for a few minutes, you look down and you see that the foam has disappeared. If you savor and become too transfixed by your own popularity, you can lose the essence of who you are. That’s why I’m trying to only feel half of the emotions that I experience. Just as I’ve always done, I’m constantly trying not to fluctuate too much between feelings of joy and sadness.
10. What do you think of people calling you the “master of melodramas” and “the nation’s younger man”?
Jung Hae-in: It makes me want to run away (laughs). I’m grateful, but I also feel pressured by it at times. I think that it’s an issue I have to work out with my next project. It’s a hurdle I have to overcome. Titles like that are given to you by the projects that you’re involved in. I think that the titles that I’m given could change depending on the image I portray in my next project.
10. Has your next project been decided?
Jung Hae-in: I’m looking at a few different scripts right now. I plan on choosing my next project in the near future. I watched an interview with Ahn Pan-seok (director of Something in the Rain) where he said that I’m “someone who really loves acting” and I’m not someone “who wants to be consumed for [my] physical appearance.” I was really grateful for that. Just as he said, I have a lot of affection for acting. I want to show people who I am through my craft.
10. Isn’t it exhausting to be so busy?
Jung Hae-in: I don’t feel exhausted because I’m just so happy and thankful these days. I’m happy when I get to sit down and talk like this, and I’m happy when I have to go to Japan to promote my work. It’s not that I’m trying hard to be positive – I just can’t help but to be positive since the situation I’m in is amazing.
10. Are you ready to say goodbye to Seo Joon-hee then?
Jang Hae-in: After I finish a project, I need time to empty myself, but I haven’t been able to take any time for myself after finishing up with Something in the Rain. I’ve been trying to maintain such a hectic schedule that I haven’t had a single day of rest. I was in Japan for 3 nights and 4 days recently because Something in the Rain is going to be airing in Japan in July. I thought if I stayed busy, [Seo Jun-hee] would slip from my mind, but it hits me hard from time to time. Just think of it this way – Seo Jun-hee is sitting here in front of you right now (everyone laughs). Starting from tomorrow, I need to prepare to return to myself as Jang Hae-in.
Translated by Jennifer Earwood