Joo Won: “The unachievable sorrowful love was what I always dreamed of”

November 2013


On the day of this interview, Joo Won’s cold was so serious that he could not even stand properly. Because he felt cold, his whole body was wrapped in a blanket and he kept downing hot drinks. His pallor was really not good; it even came to a point where I wanted to ask him if he could still hold it together.

Joo Won said “My throat is really painful. Yesterday morning, I had set aside the painkillers and water in case I needed them but because it was too cold, I could not even pull my hand out to take them. I could not get out from my blanket.” Nonetheless, Joo Won’s face still wore a smile and he used the most aegyotastic voice, muttering that he felt really unwell. However, living up to his moniker as “Born Actor”, Joo Won eyes immediately shone when we talked about acting. He even said “There is a rehearsal tomorrow, I must get well quickly,” expressing his concern towards the musical rehearsals.

Joo Won takes on the role of Sam in the musical <GHOST>, he is practicing intensely. <GHOST> is based on the 1990 movie of the same title. The songs speak of a love that lasts forever. Through the use of magic and other advanced technologies to depict the pure love of a man who became a spirit, the purity of the love rose to a higher level.

In midst of MBC’s last year drama <7th Level Civil Servant>, Joo Won participated in the audition of <GHOST>. As he was busy filming the movie <Catch Me> and TV drama <Good Doctor>, Joo Won started his rehearsals for the musical later by 2 weeks. To mitigate for the inconvenience caused, Joo Won spared no efforts and threw himself into the rehearsals. On the 23rd October, a rehearsal in the studio was broadcast; Joo Won displayed his smooth singing prowess and acting skills which fit well with the rest of the cast, eliminating all worries.

Besides his acting skills, whenever Joo Won is spoken of, the first thing that comes to mind is his extraordinary physical stamina. However, presently looking at how sick Joo Won is, I wonder if his relentless and arduous pace for the past few years has been overboard. The practice sessions for musicals are especially long and require tremendous physical strength and focus including the ability to coordinate closely with co-stars. Thus we were curious and asked Joo Won what was the real reason for him to choose a musical. When Joo Won heard this question, he immediately burst out laughing. Then he sincerely replied “I have always brought up musicals to the company. For me, as long as I could perform in a musical I will be happy but from the company’s standpoint, it’s a matter of income to be derived. Of course, filming a drama or movie will be better. As I kept bringing up the matter on musicals, the company said if I had to perform in one, then we had better choose a good production. Just so, it happened at that time, I came across news of auditions for <GHOST>. Without delay, I went for it.

It has been a full 4 years since Joo Won left the musical stage. Although he is a household name now but the musical arena is cruel one. Still, Joo Won went with a heart to pursue his first love and participated in the auditions. Above board, he won the lead role of Sam.

“At that time, I really sweat over it.” Joo Won reminisces of the scene at the audition “Now I feel especially good. When I go to the set, there are people who would imitate Si On’s speech and very often they would say “Pali Pali” jokingly. Or when the atmosphere is not too good, I will stand up and speak like Si On to warm up the mood. It’s really interesting and fun.”

Emphasizing that the songs and acting are all very difficult, Joo Won expressed the two most important areas to him “This most important thing of this production is in the transmission of emotions. Of course, expressing emotions are the most difficult but I feel that once this is settled, the songs will naturally flow smoothly.”

“Many have watched the movie so everyone understands it well and most fundamentals remain. Sam is really very awesome. He is very capable at a young age and full of courage and humor. Within the confines of this characterization, I think it’s more important to add one’s unique color to it. Having more emotional scenes does make it heavy but there are also fun parts which I feel are just as important to bring to them to life.”

Joo Won even talked about his dream love: “The sorrowful love between Sam and Molly is something I have dreamt of since young. Movies like <The Notebook>, <Romeo and Juliet> belong to this genre. Every time I watched this kind of movies. I would be immersed in the poetry of it and not come out for a week. Because this is something which is not achievable in reality, my mindset is one of being contented to represent such love.”

“I had fallen in love when I was young but now I have become realistic about it. There are some things which are difficult to accomplish in reality. From young, I thought a lot on issues about unachievable love so this has somehow been reflected in my choice of projects. Even if it was not a melodrama, the lead character always has some kind of plight which he has no control over. I feel that only by having that will it touch the viewers’ hearts. Of course, in reality, we should not have those types of situation but they seem necessary in dramas.”

Sam who married Molly died due to an incident and became a ghost, sticking by Molly’s side. So although the actor who plays Sam is visible to the audience, he has to act invisible to their co-stars. To this, Joo Won showed his outstanding insights when he explained “It’s difficult for us (actors who play Sam) and also difficult for our co-stars. Although Sam is talking, she cannot look at him or rather their gazes can never come in contact with each other. It will be lonely during the 2hours and 40 minutes but we must soldier on. Because he is a ghost who has not gone to the netherworld, he is able to live like a normal person.”

Previously, Ivy who plays Molly mentioned bed scenes with Joo Won during the rehearsal broadcast. She let on that the upper half of his body can be seen. When we brought this up, Joo Won immediately got embarrassed saying “There is indeed pressure.”

“I have always been doing cardiovascular exercises. This time my body is suffering perhaps because I have suddenly started bodybuilding exercises (smiles). During <Gaksital> time, I used martial arts to build my physique. Now in order to show to everyone, I have started exercising. Because the side profile seems to be shown more, I am thinking of which parts to select for training (smiles). But I feel that my fans do not like my physique to be too good. I think it will be more appropriate to just have those muscles essential to men, right? (smiles)

Sam is character which is full of masculinity and holds on to his love even after death. Joo Won said he was vexed over how to portray Sam’s manliness “Many people told me to make it sexier but I just could not get it and asked them “How do you want me to be sexier?” They said it is all right as long as I do not lose the look I have now and I will do well. Sam is a very courageous and magnanimous man; I feel that even though I don’t say “I am man”, it is also possible to use actions to exhibit the manly side of him.”

When Joo Won discussed <GHOST>, he would inevitably talk about physical contact: “There are indeed many physical interactions with Molly. I also felt that way when I read the script. Before Sam died, I have to portray the passionate love between the two. So, caressing her face or hugging scenes are more than usual. Actually, there are really a lot. Because there are many physical bodily contact, hyungs were again shocked.”

At the end of the interview, we invited Joo Won to boldly publicize <GHOST> and praise himself. However, Joo Won was very shy and bowed his head slightly, smiling as he said “Previously when I watched the musical <Romeo and Juliet> I was completely mesmerized. At that time, it starred Min Young Ki and Cho Jung Eun sunbaes and I watched numerous performances. Just like Romeo and Juliet, everyone has their own ideal dream on love. Someone said that trending big now is “Express Love” (actual word used is fast food but I paraphrase here) but <GHOST> is not like that. If you watch <GHOST>, I think you might forget about “Express Love”. I feel that many people will go away with their hearts cleansed. I will do my best to produce a piece of work that heals.”

Joo Won, Kim Woo Hyung, Kim Joon Hyun, Ivy, Park Ji Yeon and more will be starring in <GHOST> which will be in the Seoul, Guro-gu, D-Cube Arts Centre theatre from 24th to 29th June 2014.

Source: TV Daily

Chinese translation: 小水on Joo Won Baidu
English translation: mrdimples on joowoncutie.wordpress.com

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