[Interview] Ji Sung Aims for the Far Future
We met Ji Sung just as the nights were getting colder and the darkness started creeping into the sky. We were meeting for the first time in a long while, as we′d last met when he was shooting the SBS drama Swallow the Sun, but it didn’t feel any different because that comfortable smile on his face was the same.
Over a warm cup of tea, Ji Sung talked about so many deep topics, he had us wondering whether it was okay.
Perhaps it was because of his recent SBS drama Protect the Boss, but his seriousness seems to have given way to a hint of mischievousness. Ji Sung starred in Protect the Boss as the rich boy Cha Ji Hun, who, on the outside, seemed to have everything, but on the inside held a scarred heart, making him like a child who′d suddenly stopped maturing.
But through this man-child role, Ji Sung learned something new about himself.
“I know I have a very serious image. But Cha Ji Hun didn’t feel very awkward or burdensome for me. Cha Ji Hun was the character I had been waiting for for a long time. After reading the synopsis, I felt that he was a character in which I could show off a lot. I said I would do it if I could have a partner I could work with, and as Choi Kang Hee came in I said I would do it.”
Ji Sung actually chose Protect the Boss over its competitor, KBS2’s The Princess′ Man. Considering that The Princess′ Man pulled ahead in viewer ratings, we wondered if he could have been feeling sorry for himself.
“The Princess′ Man wasn’t for me. So I don’t feel sorry I missed it. Moreover, I could show the public a new image by acting as the bouncy Cha Ji Hun. I acted with sincerity, and thanks to that a lot of our viewers cheered for me. I acted as if I had really become Cha Ji Hun, and Choi Kang Hee acted as if she had really become No Eun Sul. Our partnership built characters we could be satisfied with.”
Though it fell behind in ratings, Protect the Boss did win over The Princess’s Man in other, some would say, more important, ways. The viewers were so into the characters of Protect the Boss that some even said they wished Choi Kang Hee and Ji Sung would really start dating, even though Ji Sung has been openly dating his girlfriend.
“I’ve been in a lot of dramas, but none of them were as enjoyable as this one. I personally think it’s a great blessing. Actually I said we should all go on a short trip before the drama started; the director and actors would have thought it was a weird proposition to make, but they accepted the offer, and I thank them.”
Ji Sung had recommended that all of the actors and staff of Protect the Boss should go on a short trip. That trip turned out to become the foundation of the team’s teamwork. Ji Sung said that he thanked the actors and staff for taking up his offer, but we could see the passion and consideration in Ji Sung that made him come up with that thought in the first place.
Ji Sung was the main lead but he didn’t want to be the only one to receive preferential treatment. He had learned in his 12 years of acting that he could shine even brighter if he put down his thirst for attention.
“He wants to wear stylish clothes and he wants to be the perfect man for his lover, but Ji Hun is actually a dork. So I told (Kim) Jae Joong to do all the cool stuff. (Laugh) Then as it turned out, Ji Hun and Mu Hun (Kim Jae Joong) both shined through. More than anything, I’m glad that I could widen the spectrum of roles I can take up. A lot of people told me that Ji Sung only goes with serious characters but I think I′ve broken through that bias now.”
If anything, taking on the role of Ji Hun taught Ji Sung to not care about popularity anymore - something rare in any industry, but especially in the acting biz, which is driven by a combination of looks, power, talent, but particularly, popularity. Yet though the popularity he earned through Protect the Boss could wane any minute, Ji Sung wasn’t shaken because he knew that what he should do was to quietly keep to his road.
“I want to become an actor who lasts in the long term, not a star that shines brightly for just one moment. I know that what goes up must come down. Instead, I want to be a friendlier actor, moving closer to the public. To do so I need to put everything down and just concentrate on my acting. Only the most sincere acting can touch the hearts of the public.”
Photo credit: Kim Byung Gwan