I first saw Kim Jae Wook when he acted in 2008 Korean movie Antique. The movie was based on a Japanese manga and I had watched the Japanese drama version of the work and loved it, so naturally, I was looking forward to the Korean one.
I honestly cannot remember most of what happened in the movie, but I did remember Kim Jae Wook. Heck, I even forgot that Ju Ji Hoon played the lead role in the movie or that Yoo Ah In was even in it. That was how big an impression he made on me. (Although more people would probably remember him from Coffee Prince.)
At that time, I remember thinking, “This guy must be bubbly and loves aegyo in real life.” But then, a few months ago, I stumbled upon a clip of him in Life Bar and realised I could be wrong about him—he seemed cool just like Ryan Gold, his character in K-drama Her Private Life. Jo Jung Suk, who was on the same episode, described him as easygoing, yet Jae Wook has a certain aura about him that makes it hard for us to shake off that cool image that’s etched in our mind. In fact, when asked to describe himself during the group interview ahead of Starhub Night of Stars, he said after a short pause, “I’m funnier than you think.”
Read on for the rest of the interview and you might just be surprised by the rest of his answers.
What was your first impression of Park Min Young?
I feel like I hear her voice right next to me now. Even though both of us debuted long time ago, we’ve never met before shooting this drama. My first impression of her was just what I expected—beautiful and smart. In addition, she has a unique aura that only good actors/actresses have. When I first met her, I already knew it would be very fun working with her.
You often pick cool roles. Are you cool IRL?
Actually, I don’t think I’m more attractive than the characters that I played in the dramas. I don’t usually use such dialogues that I would use in the dramas. I’m just an ordinary Korean man in my daily life. I try to distinguish my personal life from my work as an actor. I’ve never thought that I was cooler than any character in my dramas.
Tell us the story behind the names of your dog and cat.
I adopted my dog, Da-eum, from the shelter. Her initial name is Da-eum. I thought about raising a puppy and a cat after I was discharged from national service, so I chose their names in advance. There is a four-character Korean idiom, ‘Gam-Gae-Mu-Ryang’, which is used when someone is very thankful. In Korean pronunciation, ‘Gae’ in Gam-Gae-Mu-Ryang sounds the same as ‘a dog’ and ‘Mu’ is similar to ‘Myo’ which means ‘a cat’. I wanted to name my dog ‘Gam-Gae’, and my cat ‘Mu-Ryang’ with a funny meaning, that is, thank you for raising us, but Da-eum never reacted to the name ‘Gam-Gae’. That’s why I call them just Da-eum and Mu-Ryang. Raising a dog and a cat together is not hard at all. It’s a relief that both of them have good personalities. They were raised together since they were young. Sometimes the dog acts like a cat and the cat acts like a dog. It’s fun to watch!
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What’s the difference between acting as a lead character and being a supporting role?
Because each genre is different, it is not easy to say that a main character is like this and sub-character is like that. And I’ve never thought that I’m not going to take sub-characters anymore because I took a main character in Her Private Life. Instead, whenever I see the role that meets my expectations and I can act well on, then whether that role is a main or sub character, I do not mind and I’ll be ready to take the role.
In a previous interview, you mentioned you were not ready to take on a lead role. Why did you feel that you were ready now?
In my 20s, I felt that I was not ready to become a lead actor in a drama. That’s because, unlike other actors who had been acting since they were young, or studied acting meticulously in a university, I had to learn many things from scratch on-the-job. I knew that taking a main role comes with a great responsibility. So I thought that it was inappropriate to taken on such roles just because I was starting to gain attention among the public. In case of Her Private Life, I chose it not because I was ready to be a star in the drama, but because I felt confident that I could execute the role well in the drama.
You and Park Min Young have great chemistry in the drama. Did you do anything special to improve your chemistry?
Thank you for appreciating our chemistry. The viewers’ impression of the drama depends on the chemistry between Ryan and Deok-Mi, so we talked a lot and shared many ideas while we were rehearsing to make scenes more interesting.
What do you want to achieve before you turn to 40?
Well, I’ve never thought about it. I have only three years left, right? I love travelling so much that I try to travel as much as possible when I’m not working. I’ve been thinking about going to the remote places that are difficult to travel to such as the Sahara desert or Antarctica, while I’m healthy and young. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about going to the great nature untouched by humans.
What can we expect from you in 2020?
Nothing has been decided yet. I’m thinking about it very carefully. Probably, I would continue doing dramas in 2020 as well. I hope that I can give you good news soon.
Watch the video interview below.
StarHub Night of Stars 2019 is available on the StarHub Go streaming app, under the Go Local reel, for free to all in Singapore.