The uncontrollable child that shouted and ran about wild in “High Kick 2” has become old enough to experience first love. Now 14 years old, Jin Ji-hee became bashful upon mention of how she used to run about the hallways of MBC’s variety show department while laughing out loud.
She confessed that it makes her embarrassed when she hears the expression ‘violent growth,’ which is often used to refer to child actors who have grown quickly, but she couldn’t hide the satisfaction she seemed to feel over it. Although she said that acting is becoming increasingly difficult as she grows up, Jin also whispered that her special life, through which she gets to experience more of the world, is becoming more interesting.
So although we may not quite be ready to see Jin grow up, she will continue to. And when you listen to her talk, there is no lady that is as graceful as she is.
Q. A lot of people must tell you that you’ve grown up a lot. And it seems that you really have. How do you feel when you hear those words?
Jin Ji-hee: I hear it a lot. It makes me embarrassed.
Q. What do you think? Has it hit you that you’ve grown a lot like other people say?
Jin: Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. I’m just like when I was younger when I’m hanging out but I feel like I’ve grown up a bit when I speak.
Q. But many people remember you as the troublemaker from “High Kick 2.” And you even gained the nickname ‘human beagle’ (an Internet-born term referring to a walking disaster) the moment you appeared in the first episode of drama “Goddess of Fire.”
Jin: Along with that, people say that I make them laugh, so I think it’s good that I can present a positive image of myself. I did show my troublemaker side in “Goddess of Fire” but also did some sad acting in third and fourth episodes. So I think I got to show a variety of characters through the drama.
Q. Acting is actually very simple – you just need to become your character. But it’s easier said than done and I think that the older you become, the more difficult acting becomes.
Jin: It’s definitely more difficult now. I think it’s because there are more characters that one can depict on. The emotions become increasingly complex too. And as I grow older, I’ve come to figure out more things such as the angle of the camera and where the light hits, which makes acting more difficult than tough. When I was young, all I had to do was act.
Q. What about experiencing things that are different from your friends? I think you might want to live an ordinary life like them.
Jin: I actually see this as good experience for me because I’m experiencing another world. I’m still an ordinary child. And I experience enough ordinary life in school. The experiences I have on set also help me mature. So I think it’s good experience. But some people say it’s sad to see me become quick-witted too fast for my age when I should be playing outdoors. And I sometimes think to myself, ‘Oh, maybe.’
Q. Can you tell that you’re more quick-witted and mature than your friends?
Jin: No. I’m like a kid when I’m with my friends. I don’t think I look more mature than them either.
Q. Speaking of mature, you were complimented for your chemistry with actor Noh Yeong-hak who played the younger version of character Gwanghae. Do you know what chemistry is?
Jin: No, I don’t. What is it?
Q. It is an English word for ‘chemical reaction’ and it’s hard to explain but people use it when actors do a good job of expressing the strange emotions that exist between them. It’s used more often when it occurs between actors of the opposite sex.
Jin: (Laughs). But I wasn’t close to Noh from the beginning. We became close after spending a lot of time on set together but we were rather awkward when we filmed the scene in the first episode that many people complimented us on. So I don’t think there was any strange emotions between us but we’re actors so maybe we created chemistry with our acting.
Q. Okay, here’s a picky question. You’re under the same agency as popular actor Lee Jong-suk. Who do you like more, Noh Young-hak or Lee Jong-suk?
Jin: (After thinking for three minutes) Well, I’d like to say I’m really sorry to Noh first, but Lee Jong-suk is more good-looking (laughs). I’m actually not close to him (Lee Jong-suk) though. I met him when I made a cameo appearance in “High Kick 3” but even then, we only said shy hellos to each other because we’re not close.
Q. Okay, well though Noh didn’t get selected (laugh), it must have been fun to be on the set of “Goddess of Fire” because there were a lot of child actors including Noh, Park Gun-tae and Kim Ji-min.
Jin: It’s definitely more fun and feels more comfortable to be on set with people my age. It’s not that I have a hard time working with grown ups but I can open up more easily with people my age. However, the advantage to being with grown ups is that you gain a lot. They tell me good things, teach me more, and even when they make jokes, I always learn something new.
When I worked on my previous film “Boomerang Family” in particular, I learned a lot from my senior actors in how they spoke their minds very confidently and without hesitation. I still tend to give answers that people want to hear, even with interviews like this, but there, nobody did. I realized that I should change my way of thinking.
Q. So while you learn about life from your senior actors, what do you talk about with the child actors you’re close to?
Jin: We talk about the rumors that go around amongst us child actors and we also share our concerns regarding our studies as well, just like everyone else. But we don’t discuss on acting or such just because we’re actors. We’re just students, like everyone else, when we go outside.
Q. What kind of girl are you usually?
Jin: I’m more on the quiet side. I still laugh a lot and act cute to my parents but I also don’t listen to them a lot of the time.
Q. Maybe you’ve hit puberty?
Jin: I think I may have slightly. My thoughts regarding my parents have changed and sometimes I feel like being at home alone.
Q. That reminds me… You have one more father other than actors Jeon Gwang-ryul and Lee Jong-won in “Goddess of Fire.” Jung Bo-seok played your father in “High Kick 2.” What do you call them?
Jin: I call Jung Bo-seok ‘dad.’ We have very few scenes together but it’s reassuring that he’s there because I can still meet him when I go on set. I still feel shy around the other seniors but I can ask dad questions more easily too. I sometimes call Lee Jong-won ‘dad’ as well but there are also times that I call him ‘mister.’
Q. Doesn’t your actual father get jealous?
Jin: Not at all. He encourages me to have closer relationships with them. And he’s the one I spend the most time with anyway so he doesn’t sulk about it (laughs).
Q. You played the younger version of actress Moon Geun-young’s character. It must’ve felt different since Moon started as a child actor as well.
Jin: My role model changes all the time, but I set her as my new role model this time. She was very considerate, maybe because she experienced life as a child actor too, and has a huge passion for acting. I’ve come to want to learn all those things from her. When I first heard I would get to play the child version of her character, I was so happy. It was an honor.
Q. Moon had to go through growing pains as a child actor and you too, will have to experience it in the process of becoming an adult. What are your thoughts on it?
Jin: I haven’t had a chance to really think it over. But in a way, I think I’d like to show a completely different side to me when I grow up, while on the other hand, I also want to change slowly.
Q. If you hadn’t become an actor, what do you think your dreams would be right now?
Jin: I haven’t really dreamt of doing anything else and I’m already an actor, but I’d like to try becoming a diplomat as well. It’s a bit sad that I didn’t have a chance to consider other dreams because I started acting when I was little. Still, I think I’d be able to do other jobs such as become a professor while I’m an actor.
Q. Lastly, you seem like a true actress in your photos these days. And this is a question we always ask our precious actresses. What is your secret to managing your beauty?
Jin: (Answers shyly) Honestly, nothing. I just eat and sleep like everyone else. But my face is slowly becoming like that of a woman’s. (An official from her agency responds, “What?” to which she becomes shy again and waves her hand.) I meant to say that my photos come out better than before. I look feminine (laughs).
Q. One more question for the fast-growing child actor. What’s your secret to growing taller?
Jin: I’m still short but I think the key to growing is to sleep more. I don’t get to sleep a lot when I’m on a project, but I still try to whenever I can. I also eat a lot and do a lot of jump rope too. I try to play basketball as well because I heard it helps you grow by stimulating your feet.
Reporter. Bae Sun Young email@example.com
Photographer. Gue Hye Jung firstname.lastname@example.org
Translator. Lee Hye Ji email@example.com
Editor. Jessica Kim