An Interview with Yoo Ah In
He who said, “I think I have begun to move forward from the time when I had no choice but to spring away from the world” would respond to even the lightest of questions only after thinking for a long time, choosing his words as carefully as if he were writing. The man who said that happiness may not be his to have; I met Yoo Ah In.
Q. Compared to when we met two years ago, I feel like you have settled. Has your mind been able to find some peace?
YAI: Just because one’s mind is relaxed doesn’t mean that one is always a relaxed person. There are times I am uncomfortable. It depends on the environment, and I’m affected by the people who are in that environment. I’m comfortable today.
Q. When I told people I was going to interview you, the first thing they all said was, “When I was watching the drama ‘Sungkyunkwan Scandal’ I had no idea that Moon Jaeshin was Yoo Ah In.” Do you think it’s because of the character? Your face has also become much more mature than before.
YAI: Because I tanned and grew out a beard. It could also be the natural process of aging. I don’t think I’ve changed at all, but it’s fun to see each person’s different reaction. I’m currently considering if, when the drama is over, I should cleanly shave my beard and show up and surprise everyone (laughter).
Q. After you were cast as Moon Jaeshin, there were many people who were dubious. They were asking whether you, who smiled like a young boy, could match well with rebel child Moon Jaeshin.
YAI: I have never tried to look like a kkotminam, but people think of me with that kind of image. Because I’m not a muscled, rough kind of man, and Moon Jaeshin has a very aggressive and tough image, I can understand why people would think that way.
(Q. And those kinds of opinions didn’t burden you?)
YAI: The people who thought of it as a problem were fans of the original novel. Because I’m an actor who acts according to the drama script and not the novel, I thought that any deviations from the original character were simply a result of my focus on following the script faithfully. And I had confidence that I could truly portray Moon Jaeshin well. But I think it’s quite funny.
(Q. What is?)
YAI: When my casting was first confirmed, people said that Song Joong Ki, Park Yoochun, and I all looked the same, and that we were just three kids as white as tofu, but after one official photo was revealed, they said, ‘Is he something special at Sungkyunkwan or what, why is he sticking out by himself.’ And now they say I look manly and mature. The reactions that change with time are quite funny. When actually Jaeshin isn’t a manly person, either….
Q. Then what do you think of as being manly?
YAI: I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be manly since I was little. Could one say that a manly person is someone who speaks honestly, and is able to accept other people’s opinions freely? I’m still not quite sure what it means to be ‘like a man.’ Although I’m positive that what people describe as ‘manly’–someone who’s rough, punches hard, has hard muscles, and has strength in his eyes–these outside characteristics are definitely not what it means to be like a man.
Q. Moon Jaeshin, who says what he feels and behaves how he wants, shares many similar points with you. What I mean is your disinterested attitude, or your oblique way of seeing things.
YAI: Moon Jaeshin is a person who, though insensitive and disinterested, sways back and forth. He doesn’t go around with his clothes undone to show off his good body; he’s a person for whom its annoying to even have to adjust his clothes. The Jaeshin I think of is more on the young and cute side than manly and cool. He’s the type who, if he is hurt by the world, he chooses to give up on the world and estranges himself from it, rather than overcoming and winning it. Isn’t that quite young? Of course, I’m acting with sympathy to his pain, and I, too, have gone through a time when I turned my back on the world, and because of that I can understand him more, but I don’t think of him as manly. He’s more cute.
Q. Still, you’re in a situation where you can’t avoid acting cool.
YAI: To be honest, I couldn’t properly watch the first episode. I was afraid I might have acted like I was cool. It would have made my fingers and toes curl (laughter). Even though I only appeared in one scene, I couldn’t properly watch it. Of course, I have to act cool, but I still want to appear as someone who’s cool in a clean and fresh way.
Q. No matter what kind of acting you do, you seem like Yoo Ah In. Even if you were to dress up as an 80-year-old man right now and acted, you wouldn’t seem like any other person at all.
YAI: If a sunbae hears this, he might scold me and say, “You must only be the character you are playing,” but I don’t think that way. Acting is a reflection of me and is a work of self-expression, so no matter what character I’m inside, it’s right that I, myself, am portrayed in a different form. That is the reason why the actor Yoo Ah In must exist; in other words, that is what gives me worth.
Q. Some actors in their 20s act out roles of characters in their 40s and say that that’s good acting.
YAI: For now, I want to continue playing roles that are my age and are at the same point of maturity as myself, and I want to play characters that can best show the moment of life I’m currently passing by. I’m 25 years old now, and when I look back at my early 20s, I was a very strange child. I was obsessed with being different from others, and I wanted to be special. Being an actor is a special job, but I wanted to be even more special. That heart is the same now as ever. When I hear that I’m good at acting compared to my age, or that I have depth, it means that I can show that I’m a different person than others my age, and I can surprise people, but I feel regret that I can’t show even more. Of course, I have been a part of good movies and have met good characters, but I do have the thought that it would be nice if just one person from the general public, or just the people who look at me, could see that part of me even more clearly. Moon Jaeshin is a character through whom I have been able to quench the thirst of wanting to show something I have very much wanted to show to the general public for a long time.
Q. It’s unexpected. I thought you would respond “I’m a person who acts, and this road won’t change,” without interest in popularity or the entertainment industry.
YAI: You’re right. I wasn’t interested. I used to think that I would just do what I wanted, and as long as I did what I wanted, the rubbish entertainment industry didn’t matter. If I used to think that being conscious of others was uncomfortable and a useless kind of work, now it’s something I can’t do anything about, so I have freely accepted it. I have become conscious [of others] somewhat more comfortably.
Q. What do you think of the power of influence an actor has on the general public?
YAI: I always think about the influence an actor has. Because I wasn’t a person who had a large amount of influential power until now, I worked hard to obtain it, and sometimes I also anticipated the day I would have that influence. But now I think realistically. I want to use the voice I have to properly exert a good influence (laughter). Funnily enough, I talked about this with my friends yesterday. I thought I was living only for myself, and was a person who only thought about himself, but these days, I think a great deal about wanting to become a good person. I want to tell the teenage girls who write come to my mini-hompy and write, ‘Oppa I like you’ that I am not the illusion they like. The images of celebrities who fans normally like aren’t at all grounded in reality, so I don’t think that that kind of illusion is only a good thing. I want to show the honest appearance of the human Um Hong Sik (his actual name) unedited and in full. Through my acting or even my writing, I would like it if the people could use me as a passageway through which to see the world as a very special place.
Q. On your mini-hompy you use the name Um Hong Sik and not Yoo Ah In….
YAI: The name Yoo Ah In seems like such an obvious lie that I don’t like it.
(Q. Then can’t you change it?)
YAI: I don’t dislike it enough, and I’m not uncomfortable enough, to actually change my name. Anyway, it’s what other people call me, I’m not going around saying, “What about Ah In-ee” (laughter). It doesn’t matter to me, what people call me.
Q. You have more writings than pictures on your mini-hompy.
YAI: The thought occurs to me that I have been able to communicate with people through my writing more than through my acting. It’s too funny, but I wanted to show the person Um Hong Sik, who writes on his mini-hompy, more than the actor Yoo Ah In. I don’t think of my writing as lightly as just a hobby, so sometimes I do feel the consciousness of writing as a job. I think, I have to bring this month to a close, it’s time to write something (laughter). I think that when you can’t help but write, you have to write.
Q. How much do you read?
YAI: I really don’t read very much. When I read one page, I want to write 10 pages, so it’s really hard. It’s a great habit, but when I read a book I end up imitating that literary style, so I’m not sure whether reading extensively is good for people who like to write.
Q. When you have a hard time, do you show it to the world, or do you hide it inside yourself?
YAI: When I have a hard time…. (thinks for a long time) Now, I express it a bit brightly. The baggage I have to carry with me throughout my life, or the hardships and troubles that are too much to bear in my every day life, I share them with people around me. There was a time when I was swept away by my “self,” my ego, but now that that time of endless negativity has passed, I have found a positive side. I used to think I was an extremely negative person. It’s not completely passed yet, so I can’t organize it for you in just one sentence, but I think that my endless negative thoughts actually created a passageway through which I could communicate with positive and beautiful people.
Q. Do you rebel?
YAI: These days I don’t (laughter). In the past, I wouldn’t show up to film and would cause everything to fall through; I would do everything I could. To be honest, I wasn’t exhausted enough to rebel like that, but when I was twenty-two, I hated being suppressed and restricted by reality. So I became more rebellious. If you think of it this way, I was already past all the moments of wanting to rebel, but I just wanted to show people that I still had the room to rebel anytime.
Q. No matter how old one becomes, it is certain that everyone will have to fight with themselves. Then what kind of person will Yoo Ah In be in his 30s?
YAI: I’ll probably be cool (laughter). I’m always striving to become a good person, a more impressive person, and I truly, endlessly–really, endlessly–make an effort to become a person I won’t be ashamed of, so I would like it if I could bear the fruit of that. I want to be an impressive person who can’t help but be acknowledged by everyone.
Q. You have finished your time of psychological transition, and you are playing characters you wanted in projects that are receiving attention. Are you happy these days?
YAI: I’m not sure.
(Q. But why?)
YAI: If I’m to say I’m happy, there are too many conditions that have to be fulfilled. Maybe because I’m not simple….
(Q. Perhaps because you’re a perfectionist?)
YAI: Hmm, do I seem that way (laughter)? I think that perhaps happiness may not be something for me to have. And that, to a very great extent.
Source: Vogue Girl, October 2010
Editor: Hwang Ji Ah
Photographer: Mok Na Jeong
Staff: Hair and makeup: Kim Hwan; Stylist: Ji Sang Eun; Casting director: Choi Jin Woo
Translated by jaeshinah