Yoo Ah In probably stole the show from Park Min Young and Micky Yoochun. Him and Song Joong Ki were the epitome of bromance (after Sang Bong and Ji Heon of Dr. Champ. Sorry – am biased.) So here’s an excerpt of the man behind Jae Shin, the one who created the “Geol Oh Sickness” and the Moony Faction. What a well-spoken, insightful young man.
(Inner Harry Potter geek comes out: Every time I see “Moony Faction” I always think of Remus Lupin, since his nickname was Moony. He’s my first “Moony,” and will never be replaced.)
10: You wrapped up filming of “SungKyunKwan Scandal” on the day it ended its run. How have you spent the past few days? I think you must’ve been busy doing everything you hadn’t been able to recently.
Yoo Ah In: I’ve been drinking the whole time since I don’t have to work at night. (laugh) But no matter till how late I drink, I’ve been waking up early because it’s become a habit from filming “SungKyunKwan Scandal.” It makes me angry. (laugh) I actually get drunk pretty easily, maybe off half a bottle of soju? And I stay that way until I pass out. But I can’t pull all-nighters anymore. I go home at around two or three in the morning. Why am I talking about drinking?
10: Let’s talk about your drama. (laugh) 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 that character that was so appealing to you?
Yoo: I think I was drawn to who he is within the drama. He would be 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 at SungKyunKwan, not from the entire world. I become curious about why he lived in that space like that when he had taken an exam to enter it and I felt he was similar to me.
10: What did you feel or discover while acting his 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 deep 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 little roles in which my character loves someone. (laugh) I thought a lot about how to shoot the scene where in the 19th episode, I drop off Yoon-hee in front of the prison Seon-joon (Park Yu-chun) is at and tell her to go see him by herself. I talked to the director a lot about this, on whether it’s something that Jae-shin would actually do or if it just couldn’t be helped because according to the plot of the story, he has to pull back.
10: I actually was curious on what it was that Jae-shin felt for Yoon-hee.
Yoo: Yoon-hee was a character Jae-shin had been interested in from the first moment they met, even before he developed romantic feelings for her. He used to be a guy who has his back turned against the world, regards all students at SungKyunKwan in the same way, and is prejudiced about them just like they are about him. But I think he changes after meeting Yoon-hee who has a lot of spunk, is funny and interesting. And in that process, he develops feelings for her, then finds out she’s actually a girl, so I think he came 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 wasn’t only the romance but also the process of how the characters grow that served as the framework to “SungKyunKwan Scandal.” The moment that left a strong impression about Jae-shin in particular was when in tears, he says to his dad, whom he resented since the death of his older brother, “I acted up that I was hurting more than you. I was wrong. And I was sure that I loved brother more than you did. 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 in that 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: I think you’re the type that can’t bear not immersing yourself in every scene.
Yoo: It’s because there’s a reason I say my lines and put on expressions but I would sometimes end up doing them for no reason. I would say a line, laugh, or give a look without thinking about it. (laugh) Oh, and that’s not automatic, I very much so do it on purpose. It’s also a technical aspect. Of course, there are also people who want to see such things and it makes my job easier too. When I was tired, there were moments I thought, ‘What’s the need for a reason, I’ll get an okay sign for it.” In that sense, there are things I’m both happy and sorry that “SungKyunKwan” ended. Jae-shin wasn’t a character I pulled off perfectly so maybe I could have done better.
10: What did you feel while shooting “SungKyunKwan Scandal” based on your past learning or experience?
Yoo: The aspect that I felt I lacked the most in creating Jae-shin was vocalization. Set aside the experience I have in showing my emotion through my acting, having good vocalization is a basic quality required of all actors but no matter how much I wanted to produce other sounds, my throat and breath would reach a limit so I could only produce certain sounds within that. And it’s not just about the sound. It’s something which could expand my character’s range so I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to do that to its fullest.
10: In “SungKyunKwan Scandal,” all four of you were of similar ages. 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 will be like this and 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 they need to receive more attention. But I 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 came to accept Yoon-hee, Seon-joon and Yong-ha, I myself came to see these people in real life in a good way 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 thank Joong-ki for is that 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: Writing is an act which contains your will to express something that you feel inside. You had mainly been writing on your Cyworld account and started writing on Twitter a few months ago. How has that been?
Yoo: When I’m away from home, I’m in dire need of the time and space that will let me go back to being myself. For three to four months, I felt uncomfortable not being able to live my life as myself. So being able to voice what I think and communicate with people through Twitter as Uhm Hong-shik, as actor Yoo A-in, was very comforting. In a way, it’s a blessing and honor, and I learned a lot from the thousands of responses I receive from my single comment. Of course, some were just light or routine remarks but quite a lot of the responses awakened me and taught me lessons, as well as reminding me of what a closed person I am. So, I’m going to stay on Twitter. (laugh)
10: So are you saying that it’s difficult to be your real self but you want to continuously make sure that you are being real?
Yoo: Yes, and not just about acting. I think it’s about everything about being someone in his twenties. I actually have a desire to just live a very peaceful life. I want to live comfortably, and of course I also sometimes think that I would like to make money by just smiling pretty but I think I also trying to push such thoughts out and try to force myself to be someone in his twenties. I’m someone who matured early and I know the rules to living life tactfully but I have to let go of them. I’m in the dilemma of being too realistic versus trying not to stay realistic because being mature means that you know the answers so you will stop and settle to protect what you have but that’s immature. I think the true way to be mature is to continuously seek answers, ask questions and go forward as well as fail at times. That’s why I wish people would use the world ‘youth’ in a different way. When people say, “He’s still in his youth,” it usually means that person is immature and a passionate idealist but I wish it could be used to refer to young people who are truly mature and are upright.
10: I think it must be tiring to have to live according to a system or standards of society even when they don’t mean much to you. Plus Korea has very high ethical standards of people who are in the arts in the commercial sense.
Yoo: Because the moment I package myself, I’m not just showing myself to people in a certain way but I trap myself in that packaging. That’s why I’m trying to make the size of my wrapping large and show that I’m someone who’ll curse, who will drink and go clubbing. It’s nothing really but I need to make conscious efforts to do that because it’s as if right now, it’s not permitted.
10: What do you think you were like before you started acting? About ten years ago?
Yoo A-in: I think I was similar to who I am now. I was the ordinary loser who blended in well amongst the other 40 to 50 students in my class but when I delve into more detailed memories and proofs of who I was in my past, it makes me think that people’s nature does not change easily. (laugh) I once came across something I wrote for evaluation during ethics class when I was around 14. I had written about how I would achieve my dream but it wasn’t about ‘what’ I would become. “I think it is people’s job to find true happiness,” is what I wrote. I think it was because that’s all I needed to think about back then. And school was a much smaller and stable form of society than society actually is. Not that I liked school that much either. (laugh)
10: Then do you think you haven’t strayed too far from what you wanted to be like in the future when you were 14?
Yoo: (laugh) Yes. Regardless of what I’m doing, I do think I’ve managed to maintain some of what I felt at the bottom of my heart back then so I’m extremely satisfied. And by satisfied, I’m not saying that I have more and am richer but that I’m not ashamed because I have managed to uphold the roots to what is at the bottom of my heart. I would be embarrassed if that was empty ten years later even if I may become rich throughout Asia and make millions. Of course, when I say this, the response is, “Bottom of your heart? Talk again, after you make millions!” (laugh)
10: Then how do you see yourself in ten years from now? Is there anything that at least vaguely pops into your mind?
Yoo: Hm, it might not exist. But if it did… I do think I’d be a pretty awesome person if I could look back on myself when I was 25 and not feel ashamed about who I am at 35. I’m hoping that the path I’ve been on so far will have paved a way for kids like me.
10: You said before that you feel like you’re becoming ill when you do interviews that aren’t really about communicating with the other person or go on television. Everyone ends up having to do things that they don’t want to at one point in their life but there are people who are particular sensitive about such things and have a tough time with them. Do you think you’ve gotten more used to it with age?
Yoo: It’s still difficult. But while in the past I rebelled against the logic that I should do whatever I’m told since I’m a newbie, I think now, I’m sometimes mistaken as having become arrogant because my name is better known. As if I have changed when I’ve actually always just been this way. (laugh) So I clashed with the agency the most in regards to this. I’m thankful that my current agency accepts me as who I am and we have found ways to compromise because I too want to work at an equal level with them. Of course, it’s all possible only when you become famous. And I’m not saying that I’ve become popular. It’s just that after working on this drama, it feels like my agency understands me much more. (laugh)
10: I remember you having written on your Cyworld account that you didn’t willingly 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 at 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 around “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.
10: Last question. What is the furthest you think of when it comes to the future?
Yoo: I think it’s tomorrow. I think it is possible that I cease to exist any moment and there was a time when I used to live every day of my life engulfed with that thought. I wasn’t thinking that I want to die but there was a time when I thought I don’t need to wake up the next day. That I wouldn’t feel sad or bad in particular if I didn’t get to see another day of my life. I was in despair. But I overcame those times and I’m alive. (laugh) I do think though I could get through today but not exist tomorrow. That’s why today, this time right now and what I’m doing right now is much more important to me than what I’ll be doing in ten years. I came to realize that after I spending such times.