10asia has posted a fantastic interview with the man behind everyone’s favourite rebel with a cause. And by fantastic, I mean that it’s a very candid and thoughtful piece. Normally, I skim through celebrity interviews because they’re just so politically correct and boring. However, if you’ve read YAI’s past interviews, you’ll know that he isn’t someone given to mindless self-promotion.
In this interview, he talks about his role as Jae-shin (of course), acting, writing and his desire for freedom and personal space. When the promotional clips for Sungkyunkwan Scandal first made their appearance on YouTube, there were many comments about how quiet he was during the interviews. I think you’ll be able to understand why that was the case from reading this one.
Note: This is an edited excerpt of the interview.
10: Let’s talk about your drama. You mentioned before that you took on Sungkyunkwan Scandal with the determination that you would play the role of Moon Jae-shin. What was it about this character that was so appealing to you?
Yoo: I think I was drawn to who he is in the drama. He’d [stay] away from the other students at the royal academy of Sungkyunkwan, climb a gingko tree and sit there alone, as well as wear his clothes and hair differently but it’s not because he wanted to stand out. At the same time, it was refreshing that he was only an outsider in Sungkyunkwan, not the entire world. I was curious about why he was living like that when he had taken an exam to enter [the university] and I felt he was similar to me.
10: What did you feel or discover while acting this role?
Yoo: Towards the end, I came to feel that he’s a very tender-hearted person, that he’s a real kid. (laugh) That’s why it was difficult to control my acting in showing how he has trouble expressing his emotions versus him also being straightforward and blunt. I also think I may have gone too [far] in terms of emotional expression when portraying how he feels towards Yoon-hee (Park Min-young). In dramas, female characters are usually slow when it comes to love but I too had played so few roles where my character loves someone. (laugh) I thought a lot about how to shoot the scene in the 19th episode where I drop Yoon-hee off in front of the prison Seon-joon (Park Yu-chun) is in and tell her to go see him alone. I discussed this with the director a lot – whether it’s something that Jae-shin would actually do or if it just couldn’t be helped because he has, according to the story, to pull back.
10: I was actually curious to know what Jae-shin felt for Yoon-hee.
Yoo: Yoon-hee is a character who Jae-shin is interested in from the moment they meet, even before he develops romantic feelings for her. He used to be a guy who had his back turned against the world…and who’s just as prejudiced about the students at Sunkyunkwan as they are about him. But I think he changes after meeting Yoon-hee, who has a lot of spunk, and is [both] funny and interesting. And in this process, he develops feelings for her, then finds out she’s actually a girl, so I think he comes to want to protect and care for the lovely eyes and heart she has. And in both the drama and original comic, Yoon-hee is meant to end up with Seon-joon so according to that outcome, I tried to show that he also wants to protect her in a brotherly way.
10: It isn’t just the romance but also the process of how the characters grow that serves as the framework for Sungkyunkwan Scandal. The moment that left a strong impression about Jae-shin in particular was when in tears, he says to his father, who he has resented since the death of his older brother, “I acted as if I was hurting more than you. I was wrong. And I was sure that I loved my brother more than you. I was wrong about that as well.”
Yoo: What I felt was so child-like about Jae-shin was how poor he was at expressing himself and how he didn’t know what to do about how he felt. He was so much of an idealist that he was trapped inside his own thoughts and felt, ‘Nobody hurts more than I do. Nobody is having a tougher time than I am. My pain is the worst.’ Because surprisingly, people with such pain or sadness feel that they’re more superior. There was a time that I felt like that as well. Of course, I don’t think Jae-shin has matured that much. But he’s someone who has a hard time taking even a single step forward while others are taking ten, so even that single step is extremely significant. I think it’s significant how he tore down the walls around him, came to realize that his pain wasn’t all that existed in this world, that he was able to talk about it in tears, and smile afterwards.
10: Was there an emotion that was difficult to show?
Yoo: It was extremely difficult having to laugh at the end of the seventh episode when the King visits Sungkyunkwan to give a religious service and shoots an arrow. For every role I’ve played so far, even when my character is someone who is extremely sad or in pain, I tend to smile a lot and show my emotions the way they are but I just couldn’t figure out how to smile as Jae-shin. I got the script about a week or two before shooting the scene and I stood in front of the mirror smiling this way and that but I just couldn’t figure it out. Of course I can smile in a way that’ll make me look pretty. (laugh) But I wanted to find an emotional link that could lead to laughter. I had the scene re-shot as well but I still don’t think I pulled it off 100 percent.
10: In Sungkyunkwan Scandal, the four of you were close in age. How was that?
Yoo: I was prejudiced about them. I wasn’t able to get close to them in the beginning because of the thought that celebrities would be like this or that, and that’s why I usually don’t become friends with them. (laugh) I understand that they can’t help being self-centered, that what they feel is important, and that they need to receive more attention. But I [managed to] rid myself of a lot of them — through Yuchun, my prejudice of idols and Hallyu stars, through Min-young, my prejudice of fellow actresses, and through Song Joong-ki, my prejudice of actors. So in the way that Jae-shin came out of his shell and accepted Yoon-hee, Seon-joon and Yong-ha, I myself came to see these people in a good way in real life, which means I myself matured as well. I had fun shooting the drama. I just wish we had more honest conversations about acting. But what I [want to] thank Joong-ki for is [the way] he gave me a lot of advice comfortably. I came to realize that he’s not just plain sly, he’s sly in the sense that he wants what’s best for everyone.
10: I remember you wrote on your Cyworld account that you [couldn’t] accept how kind the woman at your convenient store was and then regretted it the day the store shut down. It made me think that you’re still awkward when it comes to people who are nice to you unconditionally or praise you as a celebrity.
Yoo: Yes, it drives me crazy. (laugh) It’s gotten worse because a lot of people watched our drama but I just can’t stand it! Of course, as an actor and celebrity, it also feels good and I’m proud in a way. I’m so happy and thankful when ladies in restaurants come to me and ask for my autograph, saying that their daughters are my fans. But anything more than that is uncomfortable. I wish they wouldn’t even say, “A-in, you’re so good looking!” but keep it at “I’m having fun watching your drama.” I feel like dying when people tell me things like, “All the girls ever do when they get together is talk about you!” I just don’t know how to respond to that and it doesn’t seem right to say thank you. Or should I just be bold and say, “Yea, I was cool in it, wasn’t I?” Anyway, it’s hard for me to deal with more extreme forms of expressions. And it’s not just me as an actor — I think I don’t feel quite comfortable with such things even when it comes to love or the person I’m dating.
Oh dear, does this mean we should stop spazzing about him? For the full interview, please go here.