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[Interview] Min Ji Hyun Finally Blooms in ‘The Bangja Chronicles’

Rating Rating more Three Stars

2011.11.17 15:32 Mwave Choi, EunHwa

It’s been 10 years since she made her debut, but only now is she starting to shine. She says that she gained the confidence to draw her own story on her blank sheet of paper, and smiles, saying that she’s happy she’s rediscovered what acting is when she forgot what it felt like so long ago.

She is Min Ji Hyun, the Hyang Dan of Channel CGV’s four episode drama The Bangja Chronicles.

We met with Min, who seemed to be a different person from how she was portrayed in the drama. She wasn’t the Hyang Dan we thought her to be, with her Jeolla-do accent and know-it-all boisterous personality. She was a humane, fresh and genuine actress with flawless white skin, brown eyes and a smile that could warm anyone’s heart. She looked so young we couldn’t believe she was actually 28 years old.

[Interview] Min Ji Hyun Finally Blooms in ‘The Bangja Chronicles’

“I took on high school-aged roles even when I was in my mid-20s. I felt bad because I thought maybe I would be limited in the roles I could act in. I hoped that for The Bangja Chronicles my character wouldn’t be a childish one, and I got the mature Hyang Dan. Because my cheeks have slimmed down, I also looked prettier on screen than before (Laugh).”

She adds, “Because of my cheeks, I used to look chubby. My mom would always feel bad that her daughter didn’t look pretty on TV. But this time she’s happy and she says Hyang Dan is prettier than Chun Hyang.”

Actually, Hyang Dan of the original folk tale is Chun Hyang’s servant, and is fairly static. The new Hyang Dan, however, is completely different. She goes around sleeping with men, saying that it’s better to be the concubine of an aristocrat than be where she is now, and even cunningly pretends to be ignorant when she knows everything. Min Ji Hyun is breathing life into the role with her acting.

“When I acted in scenes for Hyang Dan thinking that they were like scenes from my own life, a lot of things touched me. She was just like me; she had never been better off, she worked in a lot of part-time jobs and she swallowed everything down to fulfill her dream.”

Min went through a lot after she graduated from the Theatre and Visual Arts major at Myongji College. When she was a trainee in high school, her agency suddenly closed down. Later on, she practiced as the member of a girl group for a year with a promise that her agency would let her take up acting again someday, but it soon failed as well. She finally started her acting career in 2007, with the SBS drama Mackerel Run.

[Interview] Min Ji Hyun Finally Blooms in ‘The Bangja Chronicles’

In 2009, hardship hit her again. She tried to remove a mole from her face, but she ended up getting 11 stitches because of the procedure’s side effects. The cut on her face soaked through her to cut her heart. Min was going to be cast in the morning drama The Splendor of Youth when the unfortunate incident happened. Fortunately, she was still able to act in the drama, but she couldn’t stop worrying about her family members, who were themselves worried about the traumatic cut on her face and her career as an actress.

“I asked my family to support me until I was in my mid-20s, and I had a vague confidence in myself. I thought if I worked hard, my day to shine will come, but one day I saw that I was becoming a burden to my family. I auditioned for The Bangja Chronicles thinking that it would be my last. My mom and my big sister also told me, ‘Ji Hyun, this is your last. If you don’t make it, don’t ever look back’, but I made it, perhaps because I was destined to continue acting.”

The person who was happiest about the news was Min’s mother, who would often stroke her daughter’s scarred cheek in sorrow.

“Three weeks after the audition, they contacted me. Of course I had to do it, but I became worried about whether I could do it. I hadn’t been acting for a long while. But thanks to the help of the staff and the director, I managed to draw up my courage. I worked harder because I was thankful for their care.”

[Interview] Min Ji Hyun Finally Blooms in ‘The Bangja Chronicles’

The Bangja Chronicles is not for minors, which means there is a lot of suggestive content shown in the drama. Hyang Dan strips down a lot and is involved in many sex scenes. She especially grabbed attention by showing her fine lined body in a water fight scene with Chun Hyang (Lee Eun Woo), while her sex scene with Mong Ryong (Yeo Hyeon Soo) also made issues.

“I’m not embarrassed of the sex scenes with Mong Ryong or of the revealing scenes. I even told my family, ‘Tell the people around you to watch it because your Ji Hyun is going to be in it’. I was loved for this piece, and because I come out more beautiful than anyone else, I’m confident.”

She said her most memorable shoot was one in which she had to faint after sleeping with Mong Ryong. She said she suddenly burst into tears, and that she was perhaps shocked at the new task she had to undertake.

“Only the director and a minimum number of staff members came in for the shoot. I was showing my buttocks and I had my face covered with my skirt, and I cried a lot. Yeo Hyun Su (Lee Mong Ryong) was really considerate, and Lee Ah Hyun (Wol Mae) kept telling me that my bottom looked great and that I was doing good, so I was so thankful. Because everyone was so caring, I felt like I was receiving so much without doing anything.”

[Interview] Min Ji Hyun Finally Blooms in ‘The Bangja Chronicles’

She also showed a deep trust in the drama’s director, Bong Man Dae.

The Bangja Chronicles is her first piece with director Bong, which means that he was the one who kept her on her feet when she was thinking of giving up on acting. Director Bong debuted in Chungmuro with his 1999 film Tokyo Sexpia, and also became a renowned director with The Sweet Sex and Love and Cinderella.

“He’s a director any actress would want. He cares for all the small things, including giving out tips on how an actress can look prettier on screen. Hanbok looks better without a bra, but one time I wore hanbok with a padded bra and he immediately knew. He said, ‘Since only your back will be showing I’ll let it go.’”

Director Bong also shows full support for Min. He made her stand in many different angles so that she could appear in as many scenes as possible.

“I originally didn’t have to appear in the scene where Hyang Dan gets slapped by Wol Mae and stands awkwardly near the dressing table. But the director told me to touch my swollen cheek and fumble with my breast-tie, and after I saw the scene on TV, I realized that scene was the scene I was watching now.”

Perhaps it was because she was loved so much by the staff, but she was given many nicknames. As she didn’t move around because she wanted to keep her hair from becoming tangled, she was called ‘too much consideration’, and because she appeared at the set every day she was also called ‘here again’. When she ran around the set in her bare feet, she was given the nickname ‘bare footed Hyang Dan’.

Once, a shoot had to be cancelled because of Min, something that most producers don’t take lightly. But because she had used all her energy in a scene where she had to play in the water, the evening shoots couldn’t go on smoothly. Director Bong and the cinematographer promptly cancelled the shoot.

“Even when we had to hurry because we have filming schedules, Director Bong let me rest a beat for my acting. The cinematographer told me that it was okay and not to be too worried about it, and the lighting director also comforted me by telling me to be confident. I was thankful that they understood how I felt because they meet so many actors on set.”

She also added, “Because I was doing the thing I really wanted to do, I always wanted to be on set and I felt a big energy well up inside me. The director and the staff all cared for me and told me that they would be ‘the Hyang Dan protectors’. The makeup team, stylist team and the lighting team all looked after things again for me. Even when we had to cancel the shoot, they sent me messages to cheer me up. I won’t forget how they cared for me.”

[Interview] Min Ji Hyun Finally Blooms in ‘The Bangja Chronicles’

Whenever she thought about giving up on acting, she was given a piece to act in and she could again comfort herself. Min says that in the future she wants to act in friendly and humane roles, like Ha Ji Won does.

“Because I like drinking soju with samgyupsal (pork belly) or talking in [small places like] attics, I want to take on more down-to-earth roles. Now that I’ve found again what acting is like, I want to work hard.”

“I didn’t start off as an actress thinking I would become famous overnight,” she says. “It’s great if I can minimize the time when I’m still unknown, but I know it will also come with an anxiousness that could shake me up. I’m just happy to be acting.”

Photo credit: Kim Byung Gwan
Translation credit: Erika Kim

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The Bangja Chronicles 20111117 Min Ji Hyun 20111117 Yeo Hyeon Soo 20111117
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