An Interview with Lee Yo Won

Lee Yo Won is a serious actress. She’d rather be talked to about her work than about her personal life. The actress married in 2003 to professional golfer Park Jin Woo, and they have a 7-year old daughter together. She also spent 9 years studying part-time at Dankuk University before finally graduating in 2008. Imagining her personal life with all the work she’s done since then… Amazing huh?

So here is an excerpted interview of Lee Yo Won, and how she viewed her role on 49 Days.

10: In your interview for when your film “The Recipe” came out, you said that you’d want to play a cheerful character of your own age next time. So is that how you came to play Song Yi-kyung in “49 Days”?
Lee Yo Won:
I decided to take on the drama after hearing that I’d play a double role and that it would be about being possessed. I actually didn’t know much else detail about my character. So in a way I was worried that I’d merely be lending my body for someone else’s character but I still thought it could be fun. And I had played a lot of gloomy characters before but never someone who was suffering from depression and was alive yet no different from being dead. That’s why I had more fun with the drama. I basically took a risk with it.

10: Having an understanding of Shin Ji-hyun (played by Nam Gyu-ri) and Song Yi-kyung must’ve been the most important aspect to playing your character since you had to play both at the same time and they changed in very subtle ways over time. How did you go about this in the beginning?
Lee:
I started the show with a rough picture of what they’d be like after reading of their history from the script and trying to imagine things about them because I’m the type that builds on characters as the story develops. I also tried to express even the smallest details about them differently because the two are characters in very different situations and personalities. I actually didn’t get Song Yi-kyung at first. That she could be like that just because of a guy. But she’d fallen in love with him after being dependent on him also as a friend and family from when she had been an orphan from a young age so Song Yi-soo (Jung Il-woo) must’ve been everything to Song Yi-kyung and the reason she lives. That’s when I realized that she would’ve wanted to die when he suddenly died.

10: In the first episode of the drama, it was as if we could hear Nam Gyu-ri’s voice when you said, “I’m Shin Ji-hyun” after Song Yi-kyung’s body gets possessed with Shin’s spirit for the first time. Had you been observing Nam’s voice and actions?
Lee:
To start with, I knew I wouldn’t be able to imitate Nam’s voice because I have a medium-low voice and she is high toned. So I didn’t do anything on purpose — it just came out the way it did as I tried to act cheerful. I also told myself that Song Yi-kyung would speak or act like herself as well, even when she’s possessed by Shin, because she’s still in Song’s body. So I tried to express a Song Yi-kyung who is possessed by Shin Ji-hyun. Of course, over time, I came to imitate Nam’s gestures and habits more and I too taught her my habits.

10: There were more romantic scenes you had to play with Han-gang (Jo Hyun-jae) and Song Yi-soo in the latter half of the show. And [scenes that were] sad because of being laid between life and death. How was it having to pull off that aspect of it at the same time as well?
Lee:
It was emotionally challenging because Song Yi-kyung and Song Yi-soo had truly loved each other a lot but the show started off from how they were in pain so I had to keep imagining of how they were in love. I kept telling myself that I love him and that I only see the good sides to him but I’d have to shoot a lot of romantic scenes with Han-gang as well which confused me at times. On top of that, my character had to keep thinking of the person she loved and live for him which I also had a hard time with because I’m not used to that either. While projects I worked on before were about the main female character achieving her goals with romance on the side, “49 Days” was about life and death and love.

10: Like you just said, you have almost never been in trendy romantic comedies but actresses in their twenties and thirties usually have at least a couple that they’ve done throughout their acting career. Why is it that you haven’t gone down that path?
Lee:
Strangely, I hated trendy dramas when I was in my early twenties. I kept going after the conventional ones. I wanted to work with senior actors and learn how they can act so well… I wasn’t drawn to characters of similar ages telling pretty love stories.

10: Well you were put in a different position this time — working with actors your age or those that are younger than you instead of learning from older actors. How was the experience for you?
Lee:
I did have a hard time in certain ways because it was my first time doing so. For example, you don’t act alone, you have to have chemistry with your scene partner so when I worked with more senior actors, all I had to do was do a good job with my part since they are at a level where their acting has been perfected. But I couldn’t be under the same mindset for when I work with younger actors. Then again, I’m not the very friendly type so what I did instead was to try to draw out as much as I could from them by making the atmosphere at comfortable as I could. I let them try or do what they wanted to. This is why my juniors thank me and say I’m a good senior to them, no other reason.

10: What elements draw you in when choosing a project?
Lee:
People usually say that the character, story and director have to be in harmony and I think that’s the case for me as well. Of those, I take the character into most consideration.

10: Actors usually can’t help but dwell on their popularity or the success of the projects they take on, yet from a certain point on, it seems that you don’t pay attention to such things and just play the roles that you want to.
Lee:
I think I’ve always been like that. Ratings and admission… I’ve just been lucky with those. I don’t think I’ve ever taken on a drama after trying to predict what it’s ratings will be from reading the script.
10: And how has that been possible?
Lee:
I think it’s because I didn’t start my career with a commercial project. Since I was young, I had learned why certain scenes are needed and why certain movements are necessary. Also, times flies by quickly which means I’ll age quickly as well so I told myself that I’d find what I can do immediately and have fun with it rather than wait to become popular or successful.

10: But none of your projects have been easy. You faced controversy over your acting in SBS’ “Fashion 70’s” and you were the main character in MBC’s “Queen Seon-deok” but actress Go Hyun-jung received more attention for her powerful character Mi-shil that you weren’t exactly in the situation to focus on just your role.
Lee:
I tried not to get affected by such things but it was impossible not to at all. Actors’ jobs are about playing with emotions so no matter how hard I told myself “Not me, not me,” I couldn’t help but waver at comments people wrote on the Internet about me because those got to my emotions. I did get used to it over time.

10: Do you think things turned out the way you wanted them to?
Lee:
I’m satisfied except for the few scenes that I was feeling very tired when filming but it’s something that can’t be solved by man power. (laugh) However, I was surprised at my own gaze. To think that I finally do such acting as well, that I’m slowly improving. I was very happy.

10: Is there anything you want to enhance about yourself then to get more people to relate to you?
Lee:
Emotions. It’s most important for one to play roles that will suit his or her age and I’m at the age that I need to show acting that has depth. What I can’t experience directly, I should at least experience indirectly by reading books and meeting a lot of people. I think that’s what is most important.

You can read the full interviews here, and here.

sources: asiae, additional information: kpopped

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6 thoughts on “An Interview with Lee Yo Won

  1. in QSD I loved her …. I loved her romantic lines… some of them weren’t in the script but ppl shipped her char with various chars along the show…. (except usual love triangle YuShin BiDam)… there were the hwarangs and Alcheon was one of those lovely guys)
    Indeed MiShil got me better …but MiShil withoul Lee Ye Won… as Deokman I can’t imagine
    she forgets that emotions given to us by a char are partly due to the script and storyline … MiShil was at that fine line between super Evil and super hero for her country in her own way… in an interview during the QSD LYW was “ohhh well I hope when I’ll be her age to have such a char… experience matters a lot”
    in my country Deokman and YuShin were loved more than MiShil or BiDam…. but general reactions to certain types of chars depends on culture and traditions

  2. Thanks so much for posting the interview. I’ve liked Lee Yo Won since Fashion ’70’s. There’s just something about her that attracts me to her dramas. I loved her versatile acting in 49 Days, and was happy to read about how down to earth she is.

  3. Luv her so much in 49 Days. Lee Yo-won has the best acting there, and Jung Il-woo has the best character. Therefore when both of them combined together in one scene, always a delight to watch. Mind you, the sparks also everywhere when she with Bae Soo-bin & Jo Hyun-jae, but the one having lasting impression with me is Lee Yo-won and Jung Il-woo, I still thinking of them till now.

    The great thing bout her in 49 Days was she made both her roles shone. She can make a kind of anti heroine character like Yi-kyung still so likable, despite her mistakes, flaws, & gloom. Many people loved and rooted for her almost as much as main character Ji-hyun, even with small portion of screentime. And though its a given we rooted for Ji-hyun, Lee Yo-won “upgraded ” her when portraying it, made her version somehow much more likable than the original.

  4. She’s beautiful & an amazing actress! Also very down to earth in real life & never cares about her popularity, LOLs. Love her!

    Waiting for her next project & hopefully it will come soon.

  5. I have become a huge fan of Lee Yo Won since watching several of her works. Although I liked Queen Seon Duk, the extension after Mishil died was not written as well or as consistently as the rest of the drama. In my country/area, we liked Deokman and Yushin as characters and their love story better too (like the previous poster wrote). Mishil was a great villain, who brought out Deokman’s intelligence and bravery more. Without Mishil as an antagonist for Deokman, and making Deokman start to have feelings for Bidam, were massive mistakes imo. That kind of writing, without focusing on how Queen Deokman was just as intelligent and strong as she was when she was battling Mishil as a Hwarang and as a Princess, made the character become weaker in my mind. Deokman as Queen/Empress should have been just as strong. But, one thing I liked about QSD is that it introduced me to Lee Yo Won, and I was intrigued in seeing her in dramas where she played an actual girl, versus a girl dressed as a boy most of the time.

    49 days is a beautifully written story and drama. It is among my favorite Korean dramas ever, maybe even the best I’ve seen so far. Lee Yo Won made me care about each of the characters she portrayed. Plus, she had great acting chemistry with everyone. Her chemistry with the men made me root for her characters’ pairings with each of those actors. 49 days is my favorite work of hers, because I see her acting out a larger range, and because I liked both of her characters. I am eagerly awaiting her next dramas and hope they are as well written, with as good of a character as she had in 49 days.

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