It’s just been confirmed that Gong Hyo Jin will star alongside Cha Seung Won in the Hong Sisters’ The Discovery of Affection, due out later this year. Is it just me, or is this one of their oldest casts ever? Maybe it’s just me. Anyways, the following is an interview by asiae in regards to her recently published book about the environment. She’s very honest about herself and her work, particularly the fact that she’s writing about environmental issues…and yet bought a fur coat. (I kinda wanna read that chapter.) It doesn’t look like she’s making a very researched statement in her book, but rather a more opinionated book based on her insights. (Honestly, I’d expect a more well-researched, literate book out of Lee Young Ae, what with her doctorate degree and what not.)
The following is an excerpt.
10: I think a lot of people are surprised that you have released a book on the environment. They probably thought that you would’ve done something related to fashion because of your image.
Gong: I needed time to think about myself. One of my jobs as an actress is to do interviews, and when I do them, I get to organize a lot of the thoughts that are in my head and that’ll lead to times I’ll organize them completely, as if overturning my desk. And that’s how I came to decide that I should release a book like this. Actors in particular don’t have a workplace to go to everyday so we become bored or feel empty at times. It’s not like people are always looking for us.
10: It says in the foreword of the book that you started writing about environmental issues because of the concerns you have as an actress.
Gong: The simple reason is that because of my job, I go overseas often so I get to compare Korea with other countries a lot. It makes me sad to see Korea’s grey skies when I come back from countries where the air is clean, because unclean air wears down people’s bodies and lose energy. So my body felt the [effects] of the environmental problems and another thing is that I have a lot of time to think random thoughts. (laugh) I have the time to take off the vinyl of laminated covers, grow flowers and own a dog. But the bigger reason is that it helped me overcome the sense of isolation I get from being an actor.
10: What sort of isolation do you feel?
Gong: Contrary to people’s understanding, actors don’t get to appear in the projects that they want to. Sometimes we do but sometimes we don’t. Sometimes there won’t be good projects, no matter how long we wait, and many times, the directors I want to work with will want to work with other actors. (laugh) It’s not like we can sit with our nose in the air and say, “I won’t do it.” That won’t be the end to the ordeal. That leads to quite a lot of situations where you’ll get alienated. And if on top of that I read bad comments about me on the Internet, I sometimes just want to die. So I needed things to look after and turn my attention to in such situations. I think I came to place plants and animals close to me after thinking what there is that would want me and that I could look after anytime. That’s also why I wrote the book. I wrote it for fun rather than having a particular reason for it.
10: So you’re saying you started thinking about the environment after looking after plants and your dog. I think you must’ve thought a lot about giving and receiving affection while writing your book.
Gong: I had been very sensitive. There are so many things for me to do in this world but I had been looking only at what’s right in front of me and reacted sensitively to people’s perception about me. There are things like Twitter now so if people see me doing something while I’m out, they can write about it real-time. And it could be a fun thing but it’s also true that I need to be more careful so I became more sensitive. That’s why I needed to do something that would reveal my true self. I’m also just not the type that is good at being secretive and less expressive. That’s why I wanted to do something that I could reveal my life the way it is while making me a more attractive person.
10: What do you mean make yourself attractive?
Gong: I had actually wanted to be a woman who people will think is a ‘bad woman,’ like Angelina Jolie. (laugh) But I came to realize I’m not that kind of person. I’m the one who talks the most and is sometimes the only one talking when I’m with other people. (laugh) I thought whether releasing a book like this would be fitting for my character. But I decided that it could be a good thing for me and a learning experience.
10: The part where you talk about buying a fur coat was fun… the fact that you wrote so honestly about the experience while writing a book on the environment and how you described the entire process of how you were conflicted as well. It was to the point that I felt that you didn’t need to tell so much.
Gong: I couldn’t help it because it weighed on my conscience. (laugh) It’s not like I won’t wear that fur coat in the winter and I’m sure that someone who has read my book will see me wearing it. I’m ashamed of it but I’m only human so I felt it would be better to be honest and show people that I worry over similar things as them. I also made a lot of effort to cut down on spending on such things after going through that thought process and also think of whether I’ll use what I’m buying a lot. Before, I used to buy clothes thinking, ‘Who knows when I’ll come across something like this again?’ but now I just walk by thinking, ‘I’ll see this again if it’s meant to be.’ (laugh)
10: Is that why a lot of your book is focused on how you’ll spend on what?
Gong: I started on this book by talking about a lot of very small things with an environment expert who helped make the book. Things like how much water is used every time we brush our teeth and what the proper way is to wash dishes. And we reached the conclusion that we should start by not creating trash. That made me run out of steam though because it’s impossible to do that and no matter how well people separate their trash, there are still a lot of problems to recycling and disposing it. But the expert told me we still have to make efforts to create trash because that’ll improve the situation and there are new recycling technique being invented even at the moment we’re making our book.
10: But just like we need new recycling techniques to be invented to protect the environment, these issues aren’t things that can’t be resolved through a single person’s efforts.
Gong: I actually did start thinking that in the end, it’s up to the government to solve environmental problems. For example, with recycling, they need to start by fixing the law on how they only fine people who throw away trash so that it can’t be recycled. I want to handle these issues in more detail in my next book. But for now, I felt that it’s important that I at least bring slight changes to the lifestyle of my readers. And that’s why I came to write about spending. The most people who will read this book are people in their twenties who will be spending the most because they have just started to make money. A lot of people relieve their stress by spending money on Internet shopping malls and I felt that the reason we make money may be to spend, and that we live to buy the things we want.
10: So you ended up going from environmental issues to consumption, then to living. (laugh)
Gong: In a book called “No Impact Man,” there is a part that says your daily wage would be higher if you work during the time you spend two to three hours cooking for yourself at home. But you’ll buy food since you can’t make it which means you’ll make more to spend more and create more trash. At first I thought, ‘What’s he talking about?’ (laugh) but I ended up relating to it quite a bit. If you work for longer, you’re more likely to take a cab instead of walking or taking the bus and you’ll spend more money to make up for how tired you are physically. It’s just a vicious cycle. So I started having very complex thoughts while writing the book but it’s a difficult issue for me and my readers so I want to handle it in my next book.
10: In that sense, I think you did well in dealing with environmental issues by talking about your own experiences because I felt very strongly about not using shampoo when taking a shower after reading your book. (laugh)
Gong: I think nagging people actually helps. (laugh) Even my friends who had used to say they couldn’t be bothered have started telling me they’ve changed their ways because of me. I believe that everyone subconsciously regard themselves as kind people and want to be good people. When I do interviews like this, people may think, ‘She’s probably talking about it to sell more of her books’ (laugh) but I believe that it’s important that someone keeps saying these things. It may stimulate people to restart things they had been hesitant about doing. Having the thought that one person can make a difference will help both yourself and the world.
10: Don’t such thoughts end up changing how you live life? There was a part where you wrote about how you exchange books and clothes with friends but you have to know how to not compare the value for such things to do that.
Gong: Well I think I took an interest to the environment because of my personality. I’m very timid and am always trying to figure out what the other person is thinking. (laugh) I’m always trying to think of how the other person feels and constantly think of things like, ‘Maybe she’s hungry now?’ or ‘She said she had another appointment to go to’ when I’m with my friends. That’s why I’m in complete agony when I have birthday parties (laugh) because I’m always wondering how everyone is doing. I think that’s why I have those thoughts for my plants and dog… I observe them to see whether the plants need more sunlight or the dog needs to go out for a walk.
10: I guess there was a big gap between who you really are and who you want to be.
Gong: I actually wanted people to see me as a wilder person up till my early twenties. You know, there are always kids like that in school. Those who think the No. 1 delinquent in school is cooler than the class president. And that it’s cool to spit, chew gum and kick what you could just use your hands to push. (laugh) There was a time I wanted to be like that. Of course, that’s no longer the case (laugh) although there are times I want to seem more brash. And over time, I’ve come to think that thinking of the environment and becoming a meticulous person is much cooler. I also think there will come a time when the fact that my serious attitude toward other things and people will be received well by others as well.
10: Do you think having such an attitude influences your acting as well? It looks like you act your roles with more precision in your more recent projects, particularly in “Pasta” alongside actor Lee Sun-kyun. It seemed like you were paying more attention to how you guys work with your scene partner or the overall space of the kitchen rather than trying to make yourselves stand out.
Gong: Once you start taking an interest in these sort of issues, it becomes difficult to play characters that spend recklessly. I may decide that it won’t fit me to play the daughter of a rich family. Of course, I’ll probably take it if the project is a good one (laugh). I also think an actor’s job involves getting many people to like me. You’ll meet from 50 to up to 100 people on the crew per project, then go your own ways but meet again later. And of those people, there will be people you meet for the first time but you can only work well with them by talking to them, getting them to like you and exchanging each others feelings. I think that’s how I came to pay attention to relationships on set or how I work with the project in general so that may be my strength when it comes to acting.
[Kae’s Note: Isn’t her character in the new drama a has-been actress? So she’d be rich. Haha.]
10: It seems that you think a lot about your relationships with others and people’s perception of you.
Gong: Since young, I’ve been the type that tries to get along with my friends. (laugh) Someone who is good at noticing how others feel and knows what’s going on. I’ve been the type that has always made the effort to maintain good relationships with people rather than lead others or be in the center of attention.
10: I think that’s why you’ve played a lot of roles that involve taking care and looking after others. Even in “Pasta,” Lee Sun-kyun’s character Hyun-wook started depending a lot on your character Yoo-kyung.
Gong: It just turned out that way. (laugh) I came to realize one day that I was controlling chef (Hyun-wook). (laugh) I was watching one of the episodes on television one day with the crew and they kept saying that Yoo-kyung is so sly. (laugh) I know I’m the one who did the acting but Yoo-kyung truly did look sly in how she controlled Hyun-wook with her expressions.
10: I think that’s what was unique about Yoo-kyung. She didn’t try too much to appeal to men with her femininity yet it’s not like it was concealed on purpose. It just felt like you portrayed women as they are in everyday life but I think you must have thought a lot how to go about this.
Gong: I try not to play the same roles. That is why I try to convince producers straight up of the sort of roles I want to play everytime. And I put in a lot of effort in the beginning of the project to show that I didn’t make the wrong judgement. The director did say I seemed too feeble at first. (laugh) And he worried over whether I’d be able to stand up to Hyun-wook when he’d always be shouting at me. But I told myself that I wouldn’t act it out even if I know how to because I’ve done it before. I just wanted to show an ordinary girl who is scared enough to cry when Hyun-wook is being scary and be slow at a lot of things. It was after the first two episodes that the director said I should continue portraying Yoo-kyung the way I was.
10: That’s why I’m curious of the next step that you’ll take. Actresses become limited to the roles they can play with age but it seems like you’re just increasingly getting better at finding the roles you want to play.
Gong: Up until “Pasta,” I think used to believe my strength laid in how I was good at making women think I’m cool or wild. But for the time being, I want to play characters like I did in “Pasta” although of course, I’d make sure there are different things that are charming about her. I think that now, actresses have longer heydays and they have more time than they did in the past. I just think that we need to be better. We have to extend our life as actresses by constantly working hard instead of waiting to make it big by coming across a great project by chance. You need to competent to captivate people. Acting isn’t just about working on a good project and a good director. Projects that may have seemed slightly hopeless turn into good projects with good acting and I’d like to become an actress who can be of help to the people who make that project. I’m trying to become an actress liked not only by people who watch my work but also those who make them. I think that’s probably how I’d be able to stay in this industry for a long time. (laugh)
10: How would you like to live your life when you’re past your thirties, not as an actress but as a human being.
Gong: Well it may have already started for me but actors have defined characters as actors. For example, that one may seem ‘feminine’ or ‘kind.’ But I think I need to push that aside and look for who I really am when I’m back to being my real self. When actors get a set image, they try to magnify that aspect of them as much as they can and push ahead with it in a way that will be most well received by people. That also sometimes makes them worry whether they might mistakenly show their true selves. That’s why when they play characters that deviate from their set image, they say things like, “I played a character completely different from me” or “The person you see on screen is just the character.” (laugh)
10: So are you not going to do that anymore? (laugh)
Gong: I know that I have the image of being a fashionista who is honest, confident and outspoken. And it’s true that I don’t deny it nor try to change it. But that’s me as an actress. I want to show people who I am as myself. I’m actually more careful and I’m hoping to be someone who can see the entire forest instead of just a single tree. That’s why rather than adopting my image as an actor to my actual life, I don’t know how this will be accepted, but I want to be someone who is two-faced. (laugh) An actress on the outside but I think what I’ve written in my book is closest to who I really am. That’s what I want people’s perception of me to be.