In the studio, his tanned skin and mustache come into view. Though his 25-year-old masculinity is very well felt, his black eyes and long legs still seem to belong to a boy. The prepared clothes look shockingly good on him, and he is supremely skilled before the camera. Whenever there is even a short break, he searches for a cigarette to place in his mouth. If Yoo Ah In is a pro as a model, what will Yoo Ah In be like to interview? At the end of the interview, he said he thought he had rambled a lot. “There are times when my words are as organized as books on a bookshelf, and there are times like today when they are scattered all over the place. But to be honest, my condition is like that these days.” Though it isn’t possible to know the nature of his confusion, instead of passing on ‘good enough’ prepared answers, he made an effort to express in his own language the thoughts and images tangled up in his head. Has the acting he has shown us until now also come from such an intense place? This 25-year-old said, ‘I am always depressed,’ and ‘I want to stupidly bump into things, and experience, and awake to the truth.’ Can such an actor be said to be fulfilling the duties of youth! Although his casting in ‘Sungkyunkwan Scandal’ divided fans of the original book, there are few actors who understand the loneliness of wandering student ‘Guh-roh’ better than he. It’s also possible that through Jaeshin, he will be able to overcome the confusion of his 20s and, as he put it, grow into a ‘beautiful and wise adult.’
Q. You have a role in one of the most anticipated dramas of the season. What attracted you to the part of ‘Sungkyunkwan Scandal’s Guh-ro Moon Jaeshin?
A. Starting from a few years ago, I began feeling frustrated while acting. All actors probably go through this. Frustration because there are things you want to show, but you can’t. There is a certain brightness that everyone is able to obtain at age 21 or 22, but I think I missed that. I think I’ve been able to portray the parts I missed [back then] through this drama. After I read the synopsis and the original book, I really wanted the part, and by showing how much I wanted it I was able to earn the part of Guh-roh.
Q. It’s still the beginning of filming [for the drama], but have you been able to become one with Guh-roh at this point? It’s quite a tough role.
A. When I act, I don’t ‘become one’ with the part as much as take something that’s already a part of me and ‘maximize’ it. At this point, I think [the part related to Guh-roh] has been maximized a lot. More than the external things, like his talking back or shouting, [I have maximized] the internal part, especially. The center I see in Guh-roh is ‘Expect nothing from no one.’ Whether in the system of the times, the older generations, or in people around him–expect nothing from no one. With thoughts like those, his portrayal comes out a bit rough.
Q. Your looks have changed a lot. Does it feel unfamiliar to you?
A. It’s unfamiliar. But I think others have a harder time accepting it than I do. When a few pictures from the press conference [before SKKS aired] were released, people said, “Why did Yoo Ah In become like that? How did he get so sloppy?” But I like comments like that. When my casting was first announced, people said, ‘The three of them (Micky Yoochun, Song Joong Ki, Yoo Ah In) are all similar. And now they say, “Why is he sticking out so much all by himself?” People’s reactions are amusing [because they change so often].
Q. Song Joong Ki is one year older, but the rest of you are the same age, all born in 1986. How is it working with actors your own age?
A. Actually, because we are all the same age there are some things that can’t help but be uncomfortable, but I am trying to open my heart and be as comfortable as possible. When I shot ‘Banolim,’ it was inevitable that we had to deal with the kind of envy, jealousy, and emotional fights that characterize teenagers. But [at SKKS] the actors are all well-aware of the point of the drama and are all focused on their acting. I like that.
Q. This is your trendiest project since debuting. It means you will become more known among the general public.
A. That’s right. Of course I decided [on SKKS] with those thoughts. I spent a few years in a place that was neither here nor there, you could say. I mean that my image as it appeared to others was like that, not that I myself felt like I was only doing things halfway. Because ‘Sungkyunkwan Scandal’ is so highly anticipated, and the viewers will probably be teenagers or in the 20s, I thought the reaction might be more passionate. I want to make a big impact on people who have not had the opportunity to see me very much until now and become closer to them. But still, in the final decision, the most important thing is my sense of personal satisfaction.
Q. Your looks are those of a ‘young kkot-mi-nam’ but the roles you have chosen are almost always depressed or rebellious figures.
A. I liked roles like that in my early 20s. Don’t people that age naturally want to express things like, ‘I’m sad,’ ‘I’m depressed’?
Q. Because of that, your most normal role of Hyun Kyu in ‘The Man Who Can’t Marry’ actually felt newer/fresher. If you weren’t an actor, do you think you would be a normal man in your 20s like Hyun Kyu?
A. Even now, I live like Hyun Kyu on the surface. There are many people who misunderstand me, thinking, ‘He is somehow harsh,’ or ‘His personality isn’t easy [to know/to get close to],’ but I actually try hard to live a very relaxed and easygoing life. I don’t have complaints, I don’t have things I want to obtain, and I don’t act like I’m better than I am. However, if something builds up [for a long time], I explode. (Laughter)
Q. Because you didn’t choose the path of only chasing after popularity, it appears [from the outside] that you have strong convictions of the path you want to take as an actor.
A. Being an actor fits me well, and I think this is the work I should be doing. I don’t want to become a slave to this work, and I don’t want who I am to disappear because of it. If acting makes me unhappy, I don’t want to continue doing it just because I don’t know how to do anything else. That’s why when I select a role or come to a fork in the road, I always think. In the end, that’s what I sincerely want.
Q. Living as an actor, when do you feel the most happiness?
A. Actors know whether they have truly acted or whether they just faked it. Whether they passed along the script like a tape recorder, or whether they really acted through their own language. Whether they cried because they were truly sad, or only because they had to cry. When I think ‘I did it for real,’ I feel the most happiness.
Q. What period of your life until now would you choose as the most depressing and difficult?
A. Around when I was 23? I think that was the worst of my depression. Part of it was because of the environment around me, and part of it was because I became emotionally entangled in that atmosphere. I’m not saying, ‘I was this depressed when i was 23 and now I’m not depressed anymore.’ I’m as depressed as ever and as sad as ever, but because I deal with it differently now, I think I have become a bit more comfortable [with it].
Q. But you seemed happy at today’s photoshoot. Do you have severe emotional ups and downs by any chance?
A. No. I’m just always depressed. (Laughter) But like I said before, I don’t express all of that in my [day-to-day] life. I actually tend to show it less than other/normal people. I have never once said, ‘I’m having a hard time’ to my friends. I think of it as my own burden that I have to solve by myself, completely.
Q. But you can share [that kind of burden] with someone you love. What about when you date?
A. I don’t think I’m a very good person. So I tell the other person beforehand. “I’m not going to be a very good boyfriend; is that going to be okay.” Everything I don’t express to anyone, and don’t depend on them for, falls as a burden on my girlfriend. Because of that, there is always one reason or another that makes [the relationship] hard. I don’t have an ideal type drawn in my head; I simply like people who don’t live their lives by too many rules. Someone who can accept me and someone to whom I can freely express myself.
Q. You debuted at 19 and six years have already passed. Are you happy, living as an actor?
A. Acting is fun and makes me happy, but I’m not sure if living as an actor makes me happy. Still, I am making a great effort these days to be happy. In the past, I liked that I had a lot of thoughts. I thought I was special and that I was superior. (Laughter) Now, I am making an effort to find happiness, and to make myself happy.
Q. You are currently 25 years old, exactly in the midpoint of your 20s. What do you see when you look back toward your early 20s?
A. I feel regretful that it passed by so quickly. It is not easy to grow older in a beautiful, positive way. As I grow older and I learn more, I become more fearful. People say that becoming more cautious and avoiding things [you don’t need] are part of ‘gaining wisdom,’ but I disagree. I think that true wisdom means that even after you have suffered, you get up and keep fighting; even if you are hurt, you are not afraid. My early 20s were a time of stupidly colliding into things, experiencing life, and awakening to truth. Now, even though things are starting to make a bit more sense, I don’t want to become like other people.
Q. Then how do you want to spend the last half of your 20s?
Credit to jaeshinah@soompi for translating. Interview taken from InK/dalbbit1004’s Naver blog. Vid uploaded by janjher@soompi
Because of a tech issue, Jaeshinah has to translate this article twice. So here is my extra gratitude to her: