[Interview] Jung Ryeo Won Says Being an Actress Isn′t a Privilege, but a Blessing
"I wasn′t butting in out of my place, was I?"
Jung Ryeo Won′s speech following her acceptance of the SBS Drama Awards′ Best Excellence Award drew attention for being outspoken and down-to-earth. Her main message was that she hoped production environments would be improved in the future, and that the gap between the quality of the dramas and their production environments needed to be filled.
It was a harsh thing to say, but someone needed to say it. Few, however, probably expected Jung Ryeo Won to be the one to say it. Many were caught by surprise, but they clapped to her speech as it pointed out what needed to be pointed out. Jung Ryeo Won wasn′t alone in thinking that production environments needed to be improved; it was the wish of the actors, producers and even the viewers.
It felt as though the actress who had first approached the public with a pure, naive smile had suddenly grown up. She was a person far from the oppressing image that followed the title of ′actress′.
The Jung Ryeo Won who met with enews for her interview was a person warm enough to melt the cold. Her beauty seemed to stem from her beautiful thoughts, and had us imagining her as Korea′s Audrey Hepburn 30 years from now.
You made issues for mentioning "healthy drama productions" at the drama awards last year. Someone needed to say it, but it seemed you were really nervous.
"I became really worried after I made the statement, but everyone told me that it wasn′t out of place. I probably looked timid, but that was all I could do, and if it was able to give strength, I′m grateful (Laugh)."
Why did you decide to make the statement?
"I used to write cards to every member of the staff whenever we wrapped up filming. I thought, however, that it merely seemed like I was trying to build a kind image for myself, telling everyone they′ve worked hard. I wanted to find a way to actually help them. If you cook with ingredients gone bad, no matter how pretty you try to make it look, the end product is the same thing. I thought we needed change in order to produce healthy content."
When did you start caring about such things outside of acting, like production environments?
"I believe it was 2010. I was also able to confirm my beliefs while shooting The King of Dramas. I hope this year it′ll change at least a little."
The public now calls Jung Ryeo Won the ′smart actress′.
"I′m not a smart actress. I want to be careful around such names. I believe if I can′t think up an alternative, and merely continue to stir trouble with my words, it would be better not to say anything. You can′t bring about change alone. I haven′t even come up with an answer yet. The solution I′m thinking of now is to climb to a status where I can embrace everything. I will work hard to build a mood that will make my statements more acceptable."
Sometimes the selfishness of actresses are often dragged into the spotlight.
"Being an actress isn′t a privilege, nor is it a type of power. It′s a blessing, and you need to know how to be thankful for it, and how to share. You′ve managed to climb so high because you were blessed; you shouldn′t try to abuse the title as a type of power. Most people, however, misunderstand the title."
I′m guessing you must endure a lot because you are an actress, too.
"That′s just being weak. It′s a blessing to be an actress. Not everyone is given a status in which they can affect a giant number of people. If you think of yourself as the victim, it means you′re not ready for the title yet. There are, of course, instances where you hit injustices, and it may make you suffer, but you have to accept it because it′s a blessing also. You may be lonely, but you have to live with it too."
You transformed into an actress from a singer with the drama ′The Saxophone and the Rice Cake′ in 2002. It′s been 10 years since then. Has Jung Ryeo Won changed much since?
"Acting is still very difficult for me. It becomes more fun with every attempt, though, so I think a hundred times a day that this is why I love acting . I learn something new every time. There′s no end to acting; it′s a life′s worth of study. That′s why I like it. Acting is a window, through which I can experience different things while living lives similar to the one I′m leading now."
With every new piece you′ve met praise. In your recent piece ′The King of Dramas′, you became the rookie screenwriter Lee Go Eun. Now, the public thinks of Jung Ryeo Won as an actress who isn′t afraid of new challenges.
"It′s more important in life to know how you′re maturing as a person rather than how successful you were as an actor. That′s why I choose pieces I think will help me mature rather than those that look like they′ll be successful. I′ve been worried that I wouldn′t get as many new choices, but I′ve been lucky so far in meeting great pieces."
It seems your agency wouldn′t think too kindly of your choices.
"(Laugh) That′s right. That′s why I try to get on the right side of people since my agency or the producers may not like my choices (Laugh). Still, my agency likes the pieces I like. We′ve never disagreed yet."
Is love or marriage still far from your life? It may be because you′re still in your early 30s, or because you′re still determined to do more as an actor.
"No (Laugh). Those words always stay with me. They escape from me whenever I try to make plans about them, though (Laugh). I′m not seeing anyone now."
Can we look forward to another new transformation?
"I think I′ll be in dramas or films that I would like to watch now. My character in the drama History of Salaryman was of a type I wanted to be, while my role in The King of Dramas was of a type I would have wanted to watch. I was able to be in roles that I want to be in; now, I want to be in pieces that I would want to watch."
Photo credit: Hea Jung Min
Reach reporter Choi Eunhwa on Twitter @silvercandy88!
- Jung Ryeo Won 20130203