Having a good eye for roles is probably the most important step to becoming a successful actor. After all, a good role can be your breakout role and catapult you into massive fame. That was what happened to Joo Won.
The actor scored the role of the antagonist in Baker King Kim Tak Gu, his first and also break-out drama. He went on to pick up lead roles in Bridal Mask and Good Doctor. After his roaring success in the latter drama, where he plays an autistic savant who became a pediatric surgeon, he took up a similar role this year. This time round, he becomes a doctor who treats gangsters and plutocrats to raise money for his ill sister’s medical bills. Like his other dramas, this also became a resounding success and is currently the top-rated drama of the year in Korea.
The actor shares his thoughts about the success of the drama and criticisms faced by his co-star, Kim Tae Hee.
You’re mid-way through the filming of The Gang Doctor. How has it been like?
To be honest, I am very exhausted – I haven’t slept for 6 days straight [and] could only nap between film breaks. The schedule is packed, and I am taping 50 out of the 60 scenes all by myself. But I [feel] encouraged when I see the ratings the next morning.
How hectic is your schedule?
There are two production teams – Teams A and B. One starts in the morning, and the other at night. They work as fast as they can; they work very hard. To me, it doesn’t matter because I am in almost every scene. (Laughs)
The Gang Doctor soared over 20 percent within the first six episodes, and is now the highest-rated TV drama in 2015. How do you feel about it?
I am very grateful for all the encouraging reports and the ratings. Every single encouragement counts, it keeps me going. I also [feel] very encouraged by the production team. It is not an easy drama to film but everyone worked well together. We will continue to work hard but please continue to watch us.
You have a lot more scenes compared to your co-star, Kim Tae Hee. Does this give you/her any pressure?
Kim Tae Hee noona (an honorific used for an older woman – lit. big sister) is working hard to show everyone a different side of herself. You can say that she is completely absorbed into her new character. I can see that she is letting herself go, and acting as natural as possible. I cannot judge her acting, but as a partner, I am very upset to hear unconstructive criticisms. I feel bad.
Did you do anything to make her feel better?
When the articles came out, I called her to comfort her. She was worried about the fifth episode; she was worried that the ratings will drop because of her. But it didn’t! In fact, the ratings went up to 18% on the fifth episode and passed 20% for the sixth. Yes, I told her not to worry and the percentage did make her feel confident again. I told her that the increase in ratings is because of her and her efforts.
Given a second chance, would you choose another actress to work with?
No. Kim Tae Hee noona works hard. She’s not perfect, but the same goes with everyone else. This is the first time my co-star is being criticised this way and I am not feeling too good about it.
What did you learn from this experience?
It is the same wherever I go. It is no good saying bad things. Learn from your mistakes. There’s no one who wants to make mistakes at work, there is no need to make enemies or become enemies.
Is your public image important to you? Do you, like some artistes, carve out a pseudo personality for yourself?
As mentioned, I don’t like making things up. I want to be real. As an artiste, it is inevitable for people to talk about you or make stories up about you. I am happy to show people how I am as a person, and I think people are happy to see how I really am like. I don’t have the confidence to bear the stress of ‘decorating’ myself. (Laughs)
Would you rather be an actor or a celebrity?
If anyone asks about my dream, I would always tell them that it is to become a remarkable actor – like some of the veteran actors. I am still considered young, my life experiences pale in comparison to them. You know how when the veteran actors deliver their lines, there’s so much ‘depth’ – it’s like they took the emotions out of their life experiences. I envy them very much, I am not [at that level] yet. And even if I tried, I feel like my acting becomes exaggerated. So the question on actor or celebrity, I would definitely choose actor. Although it is best to be both, I really like the feeling when people comment that I am different when I am acting.
The Gang Doctor airs within 24 hours from Korea, with subtitles, Thursdays and Fridays at 8.55pm on ONE. ONE is available on Singtel TV Ch 513, 604 and StarHub TV Ch 124, 820 and 823, and on demand on Singtel TV Ch 514, 605.