It was the first jackpot in a while. The casting of actor Choi Jin-hyuk to MBC drama “Kang Chi, the Beginning” which ended two weeks ago, was a lucky bet for both Choi and the show itself. And although viewers may not be familiar with him, Choi has been around for quite a long time. After debuting through KBS’s “Survival Star Audition” in 2006, he has played a variety of characters on the small screen. Yet this was the first time he left a strong impression. Originally having aspired to become a singer, he also sang one of the original soundtracks to the show and it topped several music charts. TenAsia heard everything Choi had to say about his character Weol-ryeong.
Q. Did you know when you were filming the show that your character Weol-ryeong would receive so much attention?
Choi Jin-hyuk : Well… I thought that the drama would do well but I didn’t know people would like my character Weol-ryeong so much. I think it’s because my character was fused into a well-made drama.
Q. You made a brief appearance but left a strong impression. You must’ve felt pressured to do well in your own way.
Choi: There wasn’t a single scene that was ordinary (laughs). So I told myself that I should just do as much as I can do, instead of trying too hard because I didn’t want to make viewers feel uncomfortable. I just told myself that I should act with as much ease as I can.
Q. You appeared in episodes one and two of the show which usually determine how successful a drama will become, yet immediately grabbed attention. I think producers were taking somewhat of a risk in adding a new character.
Choi: I would’ve felt the same way too. Placing an unverified character at the start of a drama is basically like gambling. And Weol-ryeong in particular went through many changes but I think the director coached me well in where I needed to do more or less so it made the drama look good.
Q. The scene where Weol-ryeong sobs when Seo-hwa dies in episode 21 is considered one of the most memorable scenes of “Kang Chi.”
Choi: I remember crying all night on set. I’m not good at pretending to cry so I usually tend to cry for real when I act. And for that scene, I cried for almost eight hours, till I was exhausted. I felt really sad afterwards as well and I got a bad headache so I had to take some painkillers.
Q. Weol-ryeong was a very masculine character, from his low voice to the serious vibe he gave off. Are you actually like that too?
Choi: The times that I’ve been told I did okay are when the characters I played were close to the actual me. I injected a lot of the actual me into Weol-ryeong as well, which is why I think I looked natural. There are affectionate and playful sides to me but I do like to be serious.
Q. Does all of this still seem surreal to you?
Choi: From the moment episode 21 went out till the next morning, my name was the No. 1 trending keyword on the Internet which has never happened in my life before. I was also extremely surprised when I was told I topped 10 music charts with my song. They’re feelings I hadn’t ever felt before so it hasn’t sunk in yet.
Q. I heard that a lot of other programs such as variety shows want you on their shows.
Choi: A lot of variety shows in particular have asked but I still feel cautious to. And it’s not because I’ve become big-headed but Weol-ryeong is a character that I won’t forget for the rest of my life so I’d like viewers to remember me as Weol-ryeong for just a bit longer.
Q. You must also notice your heightened popularity because of the new fan sites that have come about.
Choi: It seems like my fans want me to leave comments so I do after hours of serious thought. I may write only a few lines but it’s a huge deal to me. (Shows bracelet on wrist) I got this bracelet from a fan recently as well and I wear it everyday these day.
Q. Do you think having been an unknown actor for several years had helped with your acting?
Choi: Of course. I also don’t think I would be as thankful if I hadn’t gone through any difficulties. I went through much trial and error, got scolded on set, cried, and gradually improved as an actor. I notice the change as well so it makes me happy.
Q. You shed a few tears recently while talking about those past days on Park Kyung-lim’s radio show.
Choi: Park is actually almost like a mother to me. She had helped me out a lot since the beginning of my acting career so it was surprising and moving that I was on a show that she hosts. I pinched myself so many times that day to stop myself from crying.
Q. You’ve also been cast in scriptwriter Kim Eun-sook’s “The Heirs” (translated title) for your next project.
Choi: The writer called me as soon as she saw the first two episodes of “Kang Chi.” I think I’m just somehow very lucky this year (laughs). I’m very attracted to my new role because I get to play the executive president of a major company which I’ve also wanted to do.
Q. Are you planning to change your image in future projects?
Choi: I want to play a few more manly roles. I’ll probably shoot two films on top of the drama so I think I’ll be very busy.
Reporter. Jang Seo Yoon email@example.com
Photographer. Gue Hye Jung firstname.lastname@example.org
Translator. Jessica Kim