Ah, Kim Hye Sung – the baby-faced actor who doesn’t want to be a baby-faced actor anymore. Amazing in “Into the Fire,” and funny in Unstoppable High Kick, he made news when he announced that he would be entering the army earlier than most celebrities.
Below is an excerpt of the interview he has with asiae. In it, he talks about his role as a deaf baseball catcher in the film “Glove,” as well as his views on being an actor.
10: It seems like “Glove” must’ve been a physically demanding movie. How did you feel seeing the final product?
Kim Hye Sung (Kim): I watched the movie with professional baseball players, aside from the press screening for the film. The burden I felt from watching the final production for the first time with real-life baseball players was no joke.
10: I heard it was your first time playing baseball. Do you enjoy watching professional baseball?
Kim: I am a die hard Lotte Giants fan. (laugh) I have a uniform signed by player Lee Dae-ho. I received it during an opening game three years ago at the baseball stadium in Busan when there was an event that celebrities participated in. I didn’t wash it thinking that the signature would wash off. (laugh) When I watched the game, I thought I’d be able to do a pretty good job at it myself but that wasn’t the case once I tried it out. I couldn’t catch the ball and my posture wasn’t great as well.
10: Taking that into account then, it must have been difficult to act as a catcher. Catchers are usually thought to be bulky but you did a good job pulling it off without looking awkward.
Kim: My character was really great and I honestly thought that even if I asked to play the role they wouldn’t let me since a catcher is someone who is bulky or well-built. But the production director asked how I felt about being the catcher when we had our meeting. He said he thought someone small like me would be able to do a good job as well.
10: You didn’t have to use your voice in this movie. You basically had to give up on using one of the tools you can express yourself with.
Kim: The other players and I decided to practice not speaking to each other before we started filming the movie. However, an actor naturally memorizes their lines while saying them so it was really hard trying to sign language perfectly while act out the facial expressions without speaking. Luckily, my experience in acting only with my facial expressions through my last movie “Boy Meets Boy” helped. I tried to communicate with the other actors with my eyes while always looking into them.
10: It seems every character has a different style of using sign language.
Kim: Every character has characteristics to how they sign language. We called actor Kim Yeon-joon’s sign language harlem style. (laugh) He practiced a lot but I think he’s smart because he was unbelievably great when it comes to doing the sign language. That’s why everybody asked him when we couldn’t meet with the sign language teacher.
10: What was it like having to act with sign language?
Kim: It was hard. I had long lines and a complex scene for the first shoot but my lines got changed on the day of the shoot. So I had to memorize the new lines while filming which I couldn’t do. I think it took me nine takes to complete that scene. People on set knew I wasn’t feeling good so they tried to cheer me up by saying I did a good job. They also asked why it took me nine takes when I was doing so well. (laugh) Director Kang Woo-suk asked, “Hye-seong, did you do well?” but I didn’t know what to say. Since I was sullen, the director told me that I did a good job.
10: You had to act like someone that can’t talk and can’t hear. But don’t you hear things immediately, no matter how hard you tell yourself you don’t?
Kim: We had to always look at the umpire in the scenes we play baseball because we would judge whether the umpire is saying in or out by looking at how he moves but there were times when an actor would stop running after hearing him yell “Out!” (laugh) There were many incidents like that when we first began shooting.
10: It must’ve been a lot of fun being amongst guys who were all making mistakes like that and talking.
Kim: It was fun but I’m the kind of guy who is shy around new people. At first, we all had a hard time approaching each other. For the first two months of four months we spent practicing, we only said hi to each other. We’d say hi at first and then just keep training after that. I’m not like that once I become close to someone but it takes time for me to make friends. That’s why other actors said they were prejudiced about me when they first saw me, thinking that I was showing off just because I had more acting experience.
10: Given your personality then, it must be difficult to be in an industry where people demand you to be nice to everyone.
Kim: There are many times when I envy people who are good at being nice to others. I think, “Ah, I have nothing to lose being [nice] like them but why can’t I do it? ” I know that if I was nice, senior actors and the director would accept me better but I’m just not the type to. It’s kind of embarrassing for me to act like that as well. It always takes me a while to become close with others.
10: In the past, you spoke out about the frustration that you felt because of how different your personality was versus your appearance. How do you feel about it now?
Kim Hye-seong (Kim): It’s gotten a lot better now but I had a really hard time before. Actors Jung Il-woo and Kim Bum got to play roles that suit their age after MBC’s sitcom “High Kick” while I always ended up playing younger characters. I was fine with it but people around me kept talking about it [my appearance and personality]. It can be very stressful since only one person was talking about it but it became a hundred and that hundred became a thousand. At one point I just hated this industry. Other productions I was going to do got canceled because I didn’t fit the conditions and that’s why I went on with my life without thinking any thoughts for about a year. At a certain point I just fell apart, drinking everyday and just going about my life. It was to the extent where my manager who lived with me told me to figure out why I was acting like that and that I was being crazy. That’s when I knew that I shouldn’t be like that. And I happened to be handed “Boy Meets Boys” which was so much fun to act since it had been a year. I had thoughts like ‘Ah, let’s try this once again.’ My manager told me that I can’t do anything about it [my appearance] right now and I agree. My face is not going to mature right away and it’s not like I’m going to get plastic surgery because of it. I know that with time, things will work out.
10: Still, is it that you want to take on roles that are more like you or want to express more of what people don’t know about you?
Kim: The audience always associates me with my image from “High Kick.” It scored great viewership ratings and a lot of people watched it. “Gangster High” was a complete box office failure. It flopped big-time! (laugh) So people don’t know I did such acting. There is a part of me that wants to show them what they haven’t seen.
10: I heard that director Kim Byung-wook told you to try to become an actor and not a star.
Kim: He once told me that the road that Jung Il-woo and I will take will be different. The director told Jung that he should continue on with his path to stardom but suggested that I should build on my experience in acting. I was able to organize my thoughts after that. I solidified on the thought that I should go on a different path since I was someone that didn’t fit the image of this generation compared to Jung.
10: When you first started out in the industry, which was greater? Your drive to become an actor or a star?
Kim: When I starred in “Jeni, Juno” my thoughts leaned more towards “Will I become really popular when this opens in theaters?” The acting itself… it didn’t even cross my mind. However, even if I’m not popular now, I want to experience more as an actor and I think more about how I want to become a better actor. You’ll automatically receive the public’s affection once you’re a good actor. For the time being, I want to gain more experience in acting. I would also take on a supporting role. I feel that I can’t do anything besides acting. I really think a lot about what I could do right now if I wasn’t acting but I seriously don’t think there is anything that I can do besides acting.
10: Well the military is probably where that premium will show the most. It’s been reported that you’ll enter the military within the year.
Kim: Hyun Bin made news big-time for going to the Marine Corps (laugh) so I don’t think celebrities should make a big deal about it anymore unless they’re going somewhere as hardcore.
10: It definitely looks like you’ve let go of wanting to be popular. What sort of actor do you want to become?
Kim: I don’t think of myself as an actor yet. I still feel like I’m an aspiring actor. Veteran actor Lee Soon-jae once said, ‘Not everyone who stands in front of the camera is an actor,’ which I think is true. How can you call yourself an actor if you can’t act just for the mere fact you’re acting in front of the camera? It honestly tickles me to call myself an actor. People call me an actor because that’s my job but I still regard myself as an aspiring actor.
10: So could I say that you’re a hopeful?
Kim: That’s right, a hopeful! Director Kang Woo-suk said that from time to time as a joke ? that I could really become an actor. It’s not that I haven’t heard of that before but I’ve never been happier to hear it. It made me gain the confidence that I could really become an actor.