Korean actor Han Jung-soo [photographed by Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Han Jung-soo says "2010 was the luckiest year of my life"
Three years ago, when Han Jung-soo was appearing in the SBS TV series "King and I", he had the words "Justice, Courage, Passion, Wisdom, Faith" set as the background on his mobile phone screen. This sincere man who said he "wants to live with a sense of justice, not like a coward" and believes "how you live life is more important that what you achieve in life" is a rare find in the 21st century. And this year, in KBS TV series "The Slave Hunters" and SBS' "Prosecutor Princess", he played characters that were most similar to himself. And during that time, his mobile phone has changed to an iPhone, and its background from those five words to cartoon characters from his favorite comics "One Piece". 10Asia met with actor Han Jung-soo, who has remained the same in his beliefs over the years.
Q: "Prosecutor Princess" ended its run last week. What have you been up to?
Han Jung-soo (Han): We watched Thursday's final episode together and went on an overnight trip to Jebu-do the next evening. Kim So-yeon, all the actors and crew had all lost 5 kilograms because everyone exhausted from staying up all night but the atmosphere on set was really great. The staff were really great -- the cinematographer, lighting director and director Jin Hyuk, of course. Nobody caused a big fuss, no matter how hard things got.
Q: You appeared in KBS drama "Devil" but "Prosecutor Princess" was the first modern drama where you had a big role. You usually worked on traditional dramas including KBS' "Conspiracy in the Court" and the recent "The Slave Hunters". I wondered what it would be like to see you play a modern character when we still had an image of Choi Jan-goon [Han's character in "The Slave Hunters"] in our minds.
Han: To be honest, I was only half sure myself. I thought, wouldn't it be strange or awkward? It was my first lead role and I didn't have time to prepare for the character Yoon Se-joon because the filming schedules for "The Slave Hunters" and "Prosecutor Princess" overlapped. It was so exhausting and stressful that I started having alopecia areata. I went to the hair-dresser and he was like, "Hey, there is a balding spot here..." He took a picture and I saw an oval-shaped bald spot. (laugh) I was extremely nervous but I started feeling comfortable after about five episode.
Q: It must have not been easy to go back and forth from shooting a traditional dramas and a modern drama. You have to deliver your lines in a different way.
Han: That was the hardest. So when you watch the beginning part [of "Prosecutor Princess"], you are like, "Is this Prosecutor Yoon or Choi Jang-goon?" (laugh) I don't think I have the ability yet to go from playing the deep-voiced Choi Jang-goon in "The Slave Hunters" one day and then loosen up and switch to being Prosecutor Yoon the next morning. I got some bad reviews and even I could see that I wasn't that good. But after the tenth episode, the character started to change a little and I think my acting loosened up too. What is really disappointing about shooting dramas is that just when you start to feel a bit comfortable and try to do what you want [with the role], it ends. (laugh) It was like that with playing Choi Jan-goon and Prosecutor Yoon too. Just when I was getting comfortable, it was the end of it.
Q: Wasn't it burdening to play a "good-looking prosecutor whose nickname was Gregory Peck?" (laugh)
Han: I wasn't burdened about that at all because you can't change your looks anyway. (laugh) But I felt a huge pressure about making changes acting-wise because Choi Jang-goon and Prosecutor Yoon weren't completely different characters. I was worried that people might say "That is not Prosecutor Yoon. That is Choi Jang-goon" and I think that is something all actors have to carry with them forever. I heard that actor Al Pacino, whom I admire, had told one newcomer actor "Don't do the kind of acting that you want to do. Do the kind that you are good at". He may be right, but an actor who tries to do different things could be great too. Personally, I want to act a variety of characters. Like a really hilarious character and a hard-core noir one too.
Q: But all your characters hae been pretty consistent. From "Conspiracy in the court" to "King and I", "The Slave Hunters" and "Prosecutor Princess", you played characters who were loyal and right-minded.
Han: I like that I have an image of someone that people can trust. I am grateful for that. It is not easy to get a trustworthy image. We have a local election coming up and all the politicians probably want that kind of image too but it is probably difficult. In that sense, I am lucky. I would like to keep that image but it could be broken as I eventually end up playing various roles.
Actor Han Jung-soo [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Q: The uniqueness of Prosecutor Yoon is that he seems like a straight-arrow but his thoughts are very flexible. It was impressive that when everyone was talking badly of Ma Hye-ri (played by Kim So-yeon), who tried to oppose the organization's hierarchy, he tried to be as understanding as possible.
Han: He looks stiff but he is open-minded. And that is why he says about Ma Hye-ri, "So she thinks so. Could she be really wrong?" I liked that about him and such trait is sort of like me too. I am not someone who is exceptionally good at something. I don't have any special talents, I am not exceptionally smart or athletic but if there is one good thing about me, it is that I try to be open minded about what other people say.
Q: "Prosecutor Princess" was your first modern drama and your first romantic role.
Han: Yeah. In the film "Faceless Beauty", my character didn't really romance, he just did a bed-scene. And at the beginning of "The Slave Hunters", my character was about to have a little romance but he didn't even get to see the female characters later on. (laugh) It was the first time [in "Prosecutor Princess"] that there were romantic emotions going back and forth between a man and a woman, and I learned a lot. The emotional flow is extremely delicate in a melodrama so there was a lot to worry about as well, but it was fun.
Q: But there must have been moments when you thought, "I couldn't have done this in real life.. only when I am acting".
Han: Oh, no way. My hands and feet would cringe... (laugh) Actually, Prosecutor Yoon wasn't a very romantic person and he is not good at showing his affections. But in the second half of the drama, he really got himself close to Prosecutor Jin (played by Choi Song-hyun). He even said things like, "Why didn't I notice? How cute you are?" I could not have said that. I thought he would remain a serious character til the end but Prosecutor Yoon really surprised me. He even proposed.
Q: Is there any particular scene that you remember from the shooting?
Han: There was a scene where he is riding in a car and telling Ma Hye-ri about the memories he has about his dead wife. It was an emotional scene so I had to keep talking for at least three, four minutes while being on the verge of tears. But there were too many speed bumps on the road. Speed bumps would keep coming up whenever I was about to say something, so we had to keep doing it over agin. What was worse, we kept getting the red light. (laugh) We ended up re-shooting the scene at a different location, but I liked that scene.
Q: I heard you and director Kwak Jeong-hwan of "The Slave Hunters" go back a long way. How did you first meet him?
Han: We met when we were preparing to shoot a four-part drama on KBS, about two years before I shot "Conspiracy in the Court". It was about a male detective investigating a case with a female government employee who is an expert in psychometry. But the drama got flopped and I had forgotten about it. Then one day he called me and asked me to work with him again. I didn't have any work at the time, so I had no reason to say no. But actually, my character in "Conspiracy in the Court" died early too. Around the fourth episode in an eight-part drama. (laugh) And after another two years, he called and said he was doing a drama called "The Slave Hunters" and asked if I wanted to join. I said yes again and when I got the synopsis later, I found out that my character Choi Jang-goon was very cool.
Q: It was interesting that when you first met director Kwak Jung-hwan, you guys hit it off while talking about Che Guevara.
Han: Director Kwak asked me why I act, and I told him that I thought the 21st century was an age of culture rather than ideology. I think that is when I mentioned Che Guevara. It is quite important for a director and an actor to share their consciousness, not just what they think about acting. Their thoughts have to agree when they are working together. The underlying concept in "Conspiracy in the Court" and "The Slave Hunters" is that they are stories about people who want to try to change the world in a better way. I think you can make a better drama when you agree on things like that.
Han Jung-soo [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Actor Han Jung-soo poses during an interview with 10Asia.
Reporter : Choi Ji-Eun five@
Photographer : Chae ki-won ten@
Editor : Lynn Kim lynn2878@, Jang Kyung-Jin three@
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