The following interview took place at the Korean Cultural Centre UK on Thursday, November 7th 2013, prior to the London Korean Film Festival 2013 Opening Gala screening of Huh Jung's 'Hide and Seek'.
Hangul Celluloid: Throughout your career, you have appeared in both numerous television dramas and in movies; predominately the former with the latter having been mainly character roles. Did you deliberately set out to focus more on television or build your career in both mediums?
Son Hyun-joo: It’s true that I’ve worked in dramas for a very long time and it just kind of happens that when you’re in the midst of making television you tend to become close to the directors, for example, and they keep calling you with offers of work. So, my career wasn’t deliberately aimed more at TV than film, it’s just kind of worked out that way. If there is a good film script on the cards at any point, I would always be interested in doing that as well so overall I see my career as focused on performing in both mediums.
Hangul Celluloid: In terms of Korea, the movement for actors between drama and film seems to be fairly easy and there are a lot of big stars that perform in both. In the West, things are rather different and the movement between TV and film and vice versa seems a difficult line to successfully cross. Have you found any difficulties in moving between mediums or in terms of the public’s perception of your acting focus?
Son Hyun-joo: I feel the difficulties are more related to the method with which content in the two different mediums is created rather than any problems moving between them. TV dramas have a punishing schedule and time is always ticking – dramas are always created at breakneck pace – whereas in film, time can be taken to ensure scenes are exactly as the director and cast want them to be and are happy with, and there is a feeling of successfully realising the scene instead of getting it done quickly because more is needed by the end of the day’s shooting. As far as public perception is concerned, I’m honestly not sure. I hope people see me as an actor who produces good work rather than being either a TV or film performer.
Hangul Celluloid: Speaking of that, do you feel the speed with which dramas are created sometimes affects the quality of the finished piece? Are there, or have there ever been, times when you’ve had the thought “I wish we could do that again”?
Son Hyun-joo: Oh, that’s a great question. The conditions that are caused by the speed of drama creation do make it incredibly difficult at times to produce scenes and overall stories that I am personally happy with; even sometimes affecting my need and desire to create a complete, well-rounded character. I often feel that more could have been detailed; whether it be scene content, character depth and believability, or both. Many Korean actors and actresses find that whole process really problematic and I’d even go as far as to say that that may well be part of the reason that some choose to focus on film or move away from TV to cinematic work.
Hangul Celluloid: You are, of course, here and the London Korean Film Festival to promote ‘Hide and Seek’ but you also star in ‘Secretly, Greatly’ which is screening later this week at the festival. What attracted you to both films and how did you come to be cast in each?
Son Hyun-joo: After finishing the TV drama ‘The Chaser’, I took a break of three or four months and during that time I read a lot of scripts that came through. One of those was ‘Hide and Seek’, and the way in which the script dealt with the horror genre in such a realistic way appealed to me greatly – the feeling that this could be anyone’s individual story – and I also felt it sat well with what I had done in ‘The Chaser’, both in terms of realism and what I knew I could bring to the role. In terms of ‘Secretly, Greatly’, that appeared more to me as ‘the art of humanity’, if you will, and it was based on an online cartoon. As such, I felt that the character I would be playing had never really been seen on screen before and that led me to really wanting to be involved. I spent six months in a gym training with martial arts experts for the role as well, in order to be able to create exactly the character I wanted to.
Hangul Celluloid: Where you are choosing roles and deciding on specific projects, is their appeal more the overall story and the themes they contains or the specific individual characters you will play?
Son Hyun-joo: Generally when I am choosing possible roles, I look at the overall structure of the script – does it make sense, will the audience be able to understand it when they see it, it is worthwhile etc – and those questions are what I really focus on when I’m deciding which roles to take.
Hangul Celluloid: You’ve already mentioned that you starred in a TV version of the film ‘The Chaser’, for which you won several awards. Does playing a role in a TV drama based on an already successful film differ from playing a part in a film that is specifically created for television? Do you prepare for a role differently when there is already an earlier film version of the piece?
Son Hyun-joo: With any project – be it film or TV – I tend to discuss my character and the overall story with the director, a lot, to ensure I know what way to express the character that’s been written. I ask an awful lot of questions to ascertain the things I need for my portrayal and sometimes the discussions are protracted to the point of almost being endless [Son Hyun-joo laughs].
Hangul Celluloid: I’ve been told I have to wrap things up at this point. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me and answer my questions.
Son Hyun-joo: I’m happy to and it’s very nice to meet you. Thank you for taking an interest in my work.
I would sincerely like to thank the London Korean Film Festival and the Korean Cultural Centre UK for allowing me to actor Son Hyun-joo.