Thursday, April 29, 2010

[INTERVIEW] Actress Seo Woo

The day before shooting ended at 5 a.m. in the morning. The shoot continued again later on the same day at 11 a.m. During the afternoon the outdoor shoot was put to a halt due to the rain. For half the day she waited in the car for the rain to stop. Things resumed at around 9 p.m. The temperature suddenly dropped on the open set of KBS' "Sister of Cinderella" which is built next to a lake. While shooting the drama, it repeats the feeling of being on the field or on a stakeout. 

Seo Woo, well-known for her role in the critically acclaimed movie "Paju" which won awards and opened at several prestigious international film festivals including the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) and at the Rotterdam Film Festival, sat down to speak with 10Asia about her current role as Hyo-seon in "Sister of Cinderella." 

10: You have shot about half of KBS' "Sister of Cinderella" now. Is it not physically tiring? 
Seo Woo: I was worried at first because "Sister of Cinderella" is a mini series being shot on a very tight schedule. Of course I haven't gotten much sleep lately but it's not as hard as shooting a low-budget film in a short period of time. I feel that I've become tough by filming in torn-down areas in movie "Paju." 

10: You're a new actress but have played a wide range of characters through a variety of films and dramas including "Crush & Blush," "Paju" and "Tamra, The Island." How do you choose your roles?
Seo Woo: I made my debut through director Jang Jin's movie "My Son." It was by chance that I appeared in the movie and I was in only one or two scenes but I really liked my role, and I think having worked with a good director and staff led to everything else. Rather than having a good eye for choosing the right roles, I am thankful that I got off to a good start and when I choose my next project, I consult with my agency's CEO and we have a long discussion on my next role. I tend to select roles that are difficult to play instead of the roles that I know that I know I would do well at. I do it because I think I'd be offered an even better role after I do it. I was worried over having to play an ugly and weird kid in "Crush & Blush" and I am scared of water but I played the role of a female diver in "Tamra, The Island." I think taking on such roles have helped me to learn about the mindset I should have or how to handle certain situations as an actor. 

10: From all your roles you have played, which character do you think is similar to you?

Seo Woo: All the characters that I have played have been similar to me in a certain way. No matter how fun and good a production is, I won't take it if I think I wouldn't be able to stand playing my role. (laugh) My character Jong-hee from "Crush & Blush" lived a life completely different from mine but I think that I had some of her traits. Like the inferiority complex or expressing myself in the opposite way from how I feel. When I saw the script for "Sister of Cinderella," there were parts where I thought, 'Oh! This is just like me!" 

10: Are you two similar in the sense that you grew up receiving a lot of love?
Seo Woo: Yes. Both my mom and dad are very old while they're the youngest in their families, and I am the youngest in my family. So while I was growing up, I think I lived in my own world where I thought 'everyone will love me and think I am pretty' because the elder people in my family would show me lots of affection and gave me everything I wanted. I found out though, that it wasn't like that in the real world. I realized I had been wrong the whole time. (laugh) I thought to myself that even if I am happy and I think that people around me like me, somewhere in the world there is someone who hates people like me. So I liked how Eun-jo looked differently at Hyo-seon. 

10: You look very young for someone in her mid-twenties. That's why you were able to play a middle school student in "Crush & Blush" and other younger roles. Do you ever get stressed out because of your youthful face?
Seo Woo: In "Tamra, The Island" my character Beo-jin was 15 or 16 years old. It was a bit embarrassing [to play the role] but I didn't pay too much attention to it. I thought that for "Sister of Cinderella," they would use child actors but they said, 'No, why would we use child actors when we have Geun-young and you?' so I was taken aback. (laugh) It did feel uncomfortable having to wear a school uniform, and not just for one episode but four because I think viewers too would feel uncomfortable seeing me in it. (laugh) But someone told me that this might be my last time wearing a school uniform and that I may not be able to anymore even if I wanted to. Of course, I may get to wear one again but I decided I should be thankful that there are people who want me to wear a uniform so I went forth with it.

10: In film "Paju," the transition you showed with your character growing from a middle school student to a female in her 20s was very natural. You had to pull off quite a large age range. What did you do to express the differences in a character's age and mind set?

Seo Woo: The director of "Crush & Blush" showed me a video of how middle school students talk nowadays. I noticed that kids nowadays are much more mature and smarter than in my days, whether they are talking to someone of the opposite sex or just friends. I realized that you don't talk like a kid just because you are young. When my character in "Paju" was in high school, she was mature and had a lot of inner thoughts. And just because Hyo-seon from "Sister of Cinderella" is 25 years old, it doesn't mean that she is all grown up. It's not important to differentiate between a middle school student, high school student and an adult but a person's inner age is more important. I rather work hard on the external changes the character goes through, such as the pronunciation, vocalization and tone. 

10: What drives you to keep acting?

Seo Woo: Herbal medicine? (laugh) Honestly, when I'm acting I don't have much time to feel whether I'm really enjoying myself and I'm having fun because most of the time, things will be hectic and we will have to shoot the scenes in a hurry. But I do think I get the drive from the thought that I should compensate for the gratitude I feel. For example, when I was shooting "Tamra, The Island" I seriously didn't want to go in the water but I felt that I had to because more than 70 to 80 staff members were waiting for me to go in the water. Instead of thinking of 'I will look pretty if I do this' or 'I will be acknowledged for this,' I shoot each scene knowing that the staff members are doing a good job in capturing the acting and angles that I have discussed with the director. 

10: What was it like working with outstanding actresses like Yoon Yeo-jung and Jeon Do-youn for the upcoming movie "Housemaid?" 
Seo Woo: The senior actors in "Housemaid" including Yoon Yeo-jung, Park Ji-young, Jeon Do-youn and Lee Jung-jae all have at least 20 years of acting experience. As for me, when I get instructions from the director, I know what to do in my head but have trouble executing it the way I want to. So I was really frustrated with myself but the senior actors would just discuss with the director on things like 'If it was me, I would do it like this. I think it would be better if it was done this way. How about this?' It seemed that there was nothing they can't do when it comes to acting. I was in awe watching them -- how they can immediately act out the directions they've been given or do even more than expected. Out of all the other actresses I've met, I think veteran actress Yoon Yeo-jung is the funniest and instead of feeling nervous around her, I would feel happy to see her. Jeon Do-youn has such a cheerful disposition and I was so thankful for her because she would worry if I was tired or sick. 

10: What kind of character will you be playing in the movie "Housemaid?"

Seo Woo: I play the role of Hera who is a bold woman who is strong in the visual sense as well. Hera is also in the last month of her pregnancy. The director told me that it would be a turnaround for me to take on the role of a housewife after having played a middle school and high school student up till now. I am short and have a short stomach -- I only found out this time around that I have a short stomach that is less than the span of my hand. (laugh) The special make-up artists had such a hard time disguising me.

10: The atmosphere on set for "Sister of Cinderella" must be quite different since there are several other actors your age.
Seo Woo: We were really close in the beginning but we shoot in two separate groups now because we're much more busier so when we run into someone on set, we'll feel both happy and sorry for each other, shoot our scenes, and then say goodbye again. Chun Jung-myung always puts in a lot of effort to keep us in line and help boost our spirits. More than anything, I'm really having a lot of fun.

10: How is it working with Moon Geun-young who plays the role of your sister?
Seo Woo: I respect her. She's a younger sister that I really like as well as a senior actor that I respect. I cannot even dare imitate her 11 years of acting experience, it's incredible that she has done it since she was so young, and she's someone that I feel is a real actor. But it actually is most difficult to focus on my character's emotions when I'm shooting up against her because we'd be talking and playing jokes one minute, then light up our eyes and get mad at each other the next.

10: There was a scene where you stand on your toes in ballet shoes. Did you ever learn to ballet dance?
Seo Woo: I did a bit of figure skating for a short while when I was very young and then I studied Korean dance in middle and high school but it was my first time ballet dancing. I just went for it regardless, but the ballet shoes were new so my feet got crushed so badly that they started bleeding. I'm born with sturdy calves and I even have muscles on my back but I had to wear a dress which showed my back for that scene. I later burst out into laughter seeing a photo that someone had posted up of me in that scene, saying that I'm as muscular as singer Kim Jong-gook. (laugh) I got greedy to do well again this time so I had to take medicine because my legs swelled up and I've been carrying around a massage machine to loosen up the swelling.

10: Your crying acting is impressive. Large tears will fall from your eyes, even in scenes that are not that sad. Is this because you momentarily immerse yourself in the situation you're in or do you think of something sad in particular?
Seo Woo: I shot a crying scene once when I had no idea what was going on because I had just debuted. I thought I would be given time to pull my emotions together but was so surprised when the cue sign fell. But I think the tears come much more easily when I focus on the scene rather than thinking of something in particular. The script read that I was supposed to cry as if my insides were being torn apart in the scenes of "Sister of Cinderella" where my dad (played by Kim Gap-soo) collapses or when I find out that my mom (played by Lee Mi-sook) has changed. But I try not to think of when I was sad in the past because if I do that and cry on purpose because of that, I notice later on that it shows that I didn't cry for the same reason. And I don't cry easily in particular -- I think it shows well on screen because my eyes bulge out a bit so it's easier to notice. (laugh)

10: There'll be a lot of change to the story in "Sister of Cinderella" starting mid-way. What will happen to your character Hyo-seon?

Seo Woo: The topic of the drama is that 'Nobody is just nice and nobody is just weak' so if you just take the story into consideration, Hyo-sun has been sad and ill-treated a lot so I think she may take revenge thinking she has been betrayed by everyone. Hence although it hadn't showed till now, a lot of her pain will be revealed and Eun-jo's (played by Moon Geun-young) heart will ache for her too. So she started out as a cheerful character but her emotions will rise and fall like waves billowing on the sea.

10: What do you desire the most to improve about yourself?
Seo Woo: As an ACTOR, I feel that I should be more brave and become more strong. An actor should be able to do a variety of things and is someone who sometimes has to show what people sometimes feel within themselves but do not like to show to others so I want to become strong starting from the inside.

10: What sort of actress do you want to be in 10 years?
Seo Woo: I'm actually very curious about that too. I don't know whether I'll be in Korea or acting in a place like Africa. What I do want to do though, is to play genres that not a lot of female actors do. Like action. Japan has Samurai action and China has martial arts so I'm interested to see what kind of action could represent Korea.

Reporter : Choi Ji-Eun five@

Editor : Lee Ji-Hye seven@, Lucia Hong luciahong@
Photographer : Lee Jin-hyuk eleven@
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