Thursday, November 4, 2010

[INTERVIEW] Actor Ko Soo

Reporter : Wee Geun-woo
Photographer : Chae ki-won
Editor : Lee Ji-Hye
Editor : Jessica Kim

For long, since his debut at the age of 20 in 1998, Ko Soo has stolen the hearts of many women with his strong facial features which have earned him the nickname 'Ko-vid,' in place of 'David' of the David Statue. 

Yet instead of believing that his good looks will keep him popular, a mistake so often made by those who are born beautiful, he has been creating his identity as an actor who slowly but steadily and surely has expanded on his realm of acting.

After starring in SBS TV series "Piano" in 2001 which won him titles as best new actor and most popular actor at the network's year-end awards ceremony, Ko Soo, now 32, still puts in as much thought and effort as he did into his acting when he first made his debut.

He was on close to a four-year hiatus to fulfill Korea's mandatory military duties but he has proven he is no less of the actor he was when he stepped out of the public's eye starting 2006.

Ko Soo was evaluated as having shown solid acting in his comeback roles "Will It Snow for Christmas?" on the small screen and "White Knight" on the big screen last year.

Now back with film "Hunters" opposite actor Gang Dong-won, Ko Soo sat down with 10Asia to talk about his acting and latest pic.

10: It can't be easy on you physically having to do an interview so early in the morning.
Ko Soo: No, it's not a problem.

10: You seem to have used your body a lot for film "Haunters."
Ko Soo: I do think I had to move a lot compared to Gang Dong-won.

10: You even had to fight with the many people that Gang's character controls in the movie.
Ko Soo: But it seems that you have to have a hard time with what you're doing to feel that you've actually done something. (laugh) I had a tough time, having to sweat and run around but my character Kyu-nam is someone who recovers very quickly. This scar here too [points to scar near eye], the doctor had originally said it would have to be treated for three weeks. The cut was so deep that you could see my bone. And it was totally red at first, then turned blue the next day and slowly moved down. But I went back into shoot just a week later.

10: It couldn't have healed in a week.
Ko Soo: It hadn't healed but we went into shoot. The scene we filmed when I got hurt.

10: You couldn't move around the shooting schedule?
Ko Soo: There was a set schedule and we were in a hurry. We had to [shoot] to keep everyone happy including the producer.

10: But you're body is precious as well.
Ko Soo: It is precious. (laugh) It's precious but a lot of people were working with me. And of course everyone would understand but it's a situation that could become easier for everyone with just me being just a bit more diligent. I think it's right that I bear with the situation. I don't like getting in other people's ways.

10: Well that's easy to say but not everyone can act upon it. That's why it's difficult to think of you as anyone else than the honest and right-minded actor that you have portrayed in your roles. In this movie as well, your Kyu-nam faces an opponent with a ridiculous amount of strength to do what is right.
Ko Soo: I don't think Kyu-nam will know the meaning of words such as justice because he has learned so little that he could be called stupid. It's just it makes him angry to see the people he loves suffer.

10: And do you like that about him?
Ko Soo: I do like that about him. He doesn't want to change, win or gain anything. He's very simple-minded. He's happy with the fact that he can eat and live as he does in his current state. He thanks the sunlight when he sees the sun and that he can hope to find warmth when the day is cold.

10: Do you like such simplicity?
Ko Soo: Me? Yes. Doesn't everyone?

10: But in the entertainment business, having the desire to reach higher can't always be a bad thing.
Ko Soo: I think I just try to be natural. When I look at myself, I think I just want to do what I want to at that moment and live the way I am, rather than striving to achieve something huge. I'm not the type that does things on purpose. Just naturally, going with the flow. (laugh) I don't need to get anything in particular on purpose. If I want something, I'll think 'I want it' but think that I'll get it one day rather than trying to get it right away.

10: Well when it comes to both Kyu-nam and simplicity, it's about protecting what you already have rather than trying to achieve something new. It there anything by any chance that you don't want to lose?
Ko Soo: Hmm, health? I don't like being in pain. Whether you have a disease or have a cut on your finger, they all hurt. And of course, I haven't ever been seriously ill before but I've been in pain here and there. It's not good to be in pain.

10: Then why did you not take better care of your body when you so hate being in pain?
Ko Soo: You can't really feel it then. And when I'm working, I absorb myself into my role, thinking I'm not myself anymore. That my character is in pain, not me.

10: You can separate the two like that?
Ko Soo: I think you just need to think that. 

10: Since when did you establish such a mindset for acting?
Ko Soo: It's not something I thought of separately. It's just how I've come to work. Actors think a lot about roles they have been set to play -- from the moment they wake up till when they fall asleep at night -- so I think you naturally become closer to your character and drift away from your own life. You don't transform immediately but rather naturally.

10: And do you eventually become your character after going through such gradual change?
Ko Soo: I try to but I don't think I can become my character 100 percent. I always want to and hope for it endlessly but 100 percent is hard to achieve.

10: Is that why you sometimes choose characters that are similar to your own self?
Ko Soo: I think it would be correct to say that my character becomes similar to me rather than me looking for a character that resembles me because we're based on the same factors such as looks, way of speech and tone, so I guess it would be impossible to be completely different.

10: There definitely is that sort of consistency to your characters. And that's why it's difficult to imagine you playing a mean role. 
Ko Soo: Whether it be meanness or pureness, I think they all arise from the situation the character is put in. If he was in a situation where he had to be mean, he would look so anyways, even if he didn't put on a nasty expression.

10: But we haven't seen such acting from you yet. Do you maybe not want to try your hand at such roles?
Ko Soo: I do want to as an actor but it's not that important for me. If I wanted to express such things, it could show in my work in a ridiculous way but what's important for me is the script I have right now. I can play mean roles when I'm handed them or I'm put in a situation too. But what's in my hands now is what's important for me.

10: Then it goes down to the issue of what the creator wants. Are there people who want to use you for such roles?
Ko Soo: There are. Screenwriters or directors sometimes tell me that it would be great to show a different side to someone like me and that they think a lot about how that can be done. Because someone doing something unlikely of them has greater impact than someone doing something they're likely to do.

10: In that sense, your role as Cha Kang-jin in "Will It Snow for Christmas" was interesting, not because your character was mean but that it was different. He was also very different from Jae-soo in SBS TV series "Piano," with a cold side to him. And he's righteous yet not kind-hearted. The Yohan you played in movie "White Knight" was interesting as well in the sense that you were a murderer who loves only one woman.
Ko Soo: I think I study into roles time to time when the need arises. And I read quite a large number of scripts. Cha Kang-jin had a dead-on personality. He an architect which is a job that needs precision, with things such as numbers, balance and mathematical calculations. In the same way, I felt that in "White Knight," I wasn't trying to go as far as making people forgive Yohan but that I should justify why he was murdering people. It would become difficult for the audience to understand Yohan if he committed murders fanatically so I took that into consideration while playing the part. But I don't know if I did a good job of it. I feel like I could do a better job now...

10: I think you show such characteristics of your characters not only by using your brain but also by using your body. The thin body you revealed in the bed scene for "White Knight" showed the insecurity your character feels and it seemed like you had a sharp quality embedded about you when playing Cha Kang-jin.
Ko Soo: I think I created that too by thinking about it. I went running every night while filming "White Knight." (laugh) Yohan is someone who is more used to darkness than brightness so my scenes were shot at night and I slept once every two days. And with my body as well, I created a physique which could protect a woman but not be bulky. Then I got my body waxed. I didn't think having body hair would fit Yohan's image.

10: Did you think that up yourself?
Ko Soo: I did.

10: Your face and body which is thinner than they used to be went very well with your characters as well.
Ko Soo: I think I've lost some baby fat. And I've been doing aerobic exercises regularly.

10: Didn't you do boxing and Korean traditional martial arts before as well?
Ko Soo: I took up Korean martial arts for a role but I don't do boxing either these days. But I did take up karate for about a year. At a place where a proper instructor teaches. But I think you acquire a combativeness that doesn't need to be there when you take up martial arts. And you clash more with others. Defense is good but you defend because there's attack. So I stopped because I would prefer not to have such things exist for me. And it was hard on my body after a year.

10: I understand why you reached that conclusion. What's harder to understand is how you came to take up karate.
Ko Soo: It was to train. To train myself.

10: Are you ambitious about training your body and soul?
Ko Soo: I used to be. But now, not really... (laugh) I don't know. Maybe it's because it's so hard. Because I try really hard once I start. So my body will be in pain while I also need to work. I'm an actor, not a martial arts person or athlete. So I decided to concentrate on acting.

10: But do you still want to maintain a healthy body and soul?
Ko Soo: I always want that. Through acting, I've come to realize that the body is very important. It's important to stay at zero, to not overdo it or underdo it. So that I can gain and lose weight whenever I need to.

10: So you want that ultimately for your life as an actor?
Ko Soo: It is but I think I live a controlled life because I act. That's why I think this is good. I'm grateful. I could've become extremely lazy and loose if I hadn't become an actor.

10: Does that come from the work itself or because it is work?
Ko Soo: I think acting is the same thing as salaried workers going to work. You have to start getting ready at four or five in the morning to prepare yourself for shoots. And like salary workers sit at a desk and talk to their bosses, we need to sit and talk with directors and work with crews. I don't think my job is special, we're all just doing our jobs.

10: Don't you ever want to break away from everything?
Ko Soo: I heard recently that people are usually consistent in their dreams, goals and tastes but for actors, they change everytime they play a new role. That people usually live with their own mind but that fluctuates a lot for actors. I think that's why we don't think of deviation.

10: Then aren't there times you want to take a break from work?
Ko Soo: Of course there are. But I think I've been on enough breaks. I rested for about three to four years while serving in the army so it may be because of that but I now want to do a lot of things like acting, working and creating.

Reporter : Wee Geun-woo 
Photographer : Chae ki-won
Editor : Jessica Kim , Lee Ji-Hye 
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