It was after a full 12-hour shoot that began at 7am, when we got to sit down with Lee Jong Suk and Kim Woo Bin, the two actors in charge of the ‘melodrama’ portions for the drama “School 2013”. Reflecting the difficulty in filming are their reddened eyes and hoarse voices, yet it is hard to not see them as Namsoon and Heungsoo. Lee Jong Suk said that he already had dinner earlier so it is okay to have a longer interview since “I’m going to die ‘cause there has been no one to talk to lately”, then he flashed a beautiful smile that is just the same as Namsoon’s. When Kim Woo Bin talks, he speaks slowly with his deep voice, just like how Heungsoo is a boy of few words. If you are still in shock after seeing how Heungsoo was escorted to the police car and Namsoon looked on in fear and tears, let the following interview be a tonic to your nerves. A meeting with Lee Jong Suk and Kim Woo Bin, both even more beautiful when you see them up close.
On the set, it’s all actors around the same age, so you gather together even when it is supposedly rest time.
LJS: About two weeks before the filming, all the actors gathered together and did script readings, so we became close friends really quickly. During days without filming, we would still go out together and just hang out and chat. The regular members in this group are Song Hakyung (Park Seyoung), Byun Gi-dook (Kim Yeong-chun), Gae Nari (Jeon Sujin), Kim Jonghyun (Kim Jonghyun), and also Lee Gyuhwan who sits behind me. Actually, I divide the class into Heongsoo Gang and Namsoonie Gang; it’s like ‘you guys have to be better friends with me than with Heungsoo’, like that. (laughs) I think Namsoon’s favourite friend is Kim Jonghyun.
Go Namsoon is not simply definable like the cool model students or rebellious teenagers that you often see in school dramas, what kind of character did you aim to create when you first read the script?
LJS: The first time I read the script for episode 1, I couldn’t grasp his character tangibly. Then I was so nervous that I would go all the way to the editing room and see how it looks like on screen. He has no expressions and no desire for friends; when Jong-Ho confronts him, he just gives him money or lets himself be beaten up, then suddenly Heungsoo helps him. No matter how you look at it, Namsoon is like a child with no emotions. Even the screenwriter came to me and said, “It’s hard to have affinity for Namsoon, isn’t it?”
When did you start having affinity for Namsoon?
LJS: When he recited the poem called “Wild Flower” in episode 2, it suddenly became easy for me to face Namsoon. He is a person who is weak to the weak, and an adult-like friend to the strong. He had once lived like Jong-Ho, so Namsoon understands him to an extent. He is the kind who would say something soft and light that cast a large impact on others. Of course, I actually read out the poem loudly while reading the script. (laughs) I was very serious during filming but somehow the kids in class all laughed so much that it was a little difficult. But after I saw the episode when it aired, I understood. Wow, Namsoon is really a good kid.
Though he is a character that has no memory of receiving love, Namsoon can somehow care for and love his friends and teachers.
LJS: The only person who has ever loved him is Heungsoo. This distinction is so strong that you wonder if this kind of friendship really exists. His mother is not here anymore and his father is always away, drunk and uncaring. He is indifferent towards Kang Joo and it seems like he has never been in love. Since young, Namsoon only plays with Heungsoo.
When Namsoon decided to quit school, he told Heungsoo, “the thing I am giving up is not school, but you”; one can tell how special Heungsoo is from that sentence.
LJS: When I read that scene, I cried. Even when they were shooting Heungsoo’s reaction shots and only my shoulder appeared on screen, I cried. During the filming of “School”, I think I became more of a crier. Normally, though I cry while watching movies or dramas, I don’t really cry from sadness in real life. I haven’t experienced this kind of strong male friendship, nor this intense sorrow that brings tears to my eyes. It is because my heart became close to Namsoon’s that the tears fall naturally.
When there are important emotional scenes, Lee Ming Hong PD would direct in a style that goes with the emotion of the scene. How does this affect your acting?
LJS: When he is a little too vague and I can’t understand, then I’ll just do what I want. Haha. One of the bad acting habits that I have picked up in the past is that I use my eyes a little too much when doing facial reactions. PD-nim has told me that it makes the acting quite juvenile so I try to cut down on that. However, having to limit my facial expressions make acting quite difficult. PD-nim is usually quite strict on us, but sometimes he lets me call him Min Hong-hyung, and I love that. I’m the type that likes to use aegyo (childlike cuteness) on one or two people when I’m in a good mood.
This your first time to take a major role that pulls all the threads in the drama, what you learned as an actor from this experience?
LJS: I have always wanted to be an actor, but I was nervous every time I acted. This time it became truly enjoyable. I never thought that being an actor could be this much fun. Therefore, I don’t want to say goodbye to Namsoon. My feelings towards Namsoon are so strong that I keep thinking if I will ever encounter another character like him. That is why I didn’t want to do anything else while I was acting as this character. At first, I just didn’t want to overwhelm myself with work, but ow I don’t want other jobs to distract me. I only want to focus on Namsoon.
After “School”, if Namsoon lives on somewhere, how will he be like?
LJS: Well, he won’t get to university but he will live earnestly. Selling vegetables or beer, something like that. After figuring out his relationship with Heungsoo, he’ll be able to lay down a heavy burden, and hopefully live out his life with lots of happiness.
Because you guys keep eating ramyun that I think of this (laughs)… what type of ramyun do you think Namsoon likes the most?
LJS: He likes ramyun in its original flavour, and follows the recipe written on the packaging, not even breaking in an egg. The fact that he is so hung up on ramyun probably means he really eats it because he likes it, and thus doesn’t like adding more ingredients.
What kind of student were you in real life?
I liked to stay at home and just lie around, so that part is probably similar to Namsoon. I am on the quiet side as a child. My student self is probably like the person with least presence in the entire Class 2-2.
What was your biggest worry at the time?
LJS: When will I debut~? (laughs) I actually debuted really quickly, but back then I had no idea about that. I actually think it may have been better if it was there had been more difficulties in my debut. It would have been hard for me to live through those challenges, but since my life has been rather smooth, there are times when I find certain emotions hard for me to grasp when acting.
Last question. What is Heungsoo to Namsoon?
LJS: There is no need to use flowery words, [he is] a father or family to him.
Conversely, what is Namsoon to Heungsoo?
LJS: His child? Hahahaha! Namsoon is like an adult in front of other people but a child in front of Heungsoo.
Namsoon and Heungsoo have begun to reconcile. During the drama, calibrating the subtle tones of hate and love for Namsoon in your acting must not have easy.
KWB: I stuck rather rather close to the script. I talked a lot with Jong Suk on set, and we used our imagination to construct it. We would be like “this might happen later, so let’s put more emphasis on this part, or lighter on this part”, etc. As for the rest, we know that we should believe in the director and do as we are told. Like if he says, “Don’t blink”, then I won’t. (laughs)
When Heungsoo said, “Didn’t you miss me?” and all his suppressed emotions erupted in the ending of episode 10, how did you capture that feeling when filming?
KWB: According to the script directions, Heungsoo was supposed to turn his back before allowing his tears to fall, I started crying when I read the script. Especially the part where he said, “Besides soccer, I had nothing but you. When my soccer career blew up and I wanted to die, you should have been by my side.” I started sobbing violently at that part. Thus, I went to the screenwriter and told her that I couldn’t reconcile my feelings with the directions, and asked if I could just let my tears fall. She told me that she was going to let Heungsoo cry, but felt that two guys crying at each other may be slightly embarrassing. Yet hearing what I said, she agreed that it may be easier for me to go with my emotions. Actually, when they were filming Namsoon’s shots, I was already crying so much that my nose ran, and people usually feel better after they cry, right? So when the camera turned to film my shots, I actually found it hard to cry, especially since a lot of inhabitants were around and their yells will end up being recorded on mic, so we had to redo the scene many times… it was really difficult.
Heungsoo and Namsoon’s friendship are becoming more and more like a melodrama romance, how do you cope with this as an actor?
KWB: I studied at an all-boys high school, so it was not possible to have this kind of friendship. Haha. When we meet up, it’s usually just normal arguing and hang out. Of course I have friends with whom I am really good friends with, but I think it is hard for an average person to experience the level of friendship that Heungsoo and Namsoon shares, without the painful past that they also share.
Since KBS’ “White Christmas” and SBS’ “A Gentleman’s Dignity”, this is the third time you have played a rebellious high school student. Although viewers may find the characters similar, you must have approached the characters from different angles. How would you place Heungsoo in this?
KWB: Rather than a simple rebellious child, it is better to describe him as wounded. His movements are slow-paced and he does listen to the teacher in front of him during classes. He has no desire and is generally indifferent to everything. After he encounters Namsoon again, he regains his emotions but there is too much of a blank space in their relationship, which makes reconciliation rather difficult. Even if they say, “okay let’s be friends again”, it is not a simple matter.
That kind of relationship has to be expressed more through glances and looks, rather than dialogue. So besides the script, a lot of effort must have been placed on researching the character, right?
KWB: Even since I first started studying acting, I have heard a lot of people say that you need to find a focus on a character. For example, when I asked Namsoon if he missed me, I would focus on all the pain and hurt that Heungsoo had been throughm imagining how Heungsoo had to give up soccer and being unable to fulfill his filial duty to his parents, or even how he had to deal with his mother’s death without Namsoon by his side.
No matter how intimate, if your friend crushed your dreams, it would be very difficult to open your heart for him. If you had a friend who did this in real life, how would you face him?
KWB: I actually chatted with Jong Suk about this, and we both think that we would not let it drag out for that long as in the drama. Since it would be weird to see each other after the incident, if we really can’t stand it, we would just switch schools. Or just go all the way from the beginning, “since you don’t play soccer anyways, let me break your legs too”, solving the problem in such a way. (laughs)
What kind of student were you back in school?
KWB: I liked my friends and teachers. Besides the school doctor and music teacher, all our teachers were male so it was a very macho environment. We were also really strict, if we were caught with cellphones, it would be taken from us for three months. I was lucky that we had a hiking trip in a few days so I got my phone back then. It would be hard for me to compare myself to anyone in Class 2-2 in particular, but I guess I would be closest to Namsoon. I was cheerful but not a model student, I am close with my classmates but my best friend was not in my class.
Do you like soccer as much as Heungsoo?
KWB: I really liked it back in primary school but our high school yard was very small so it was too easy to kick the ball straight over the goal post. Since then, I stopped playing soccer. (laughs)
Last question: what is Namsoon to Heungsoo?
KWB: It may seem like a slight exaggeration, but he is Heungsoo’s reason to live? I’ve tried thinking where Heungsoo would be without Namsoon. However, for Heungsoo, Namsoon is a friend that he can’t be without, that’s why when Namsoon left, he started living irresponsibly.
source: 10asia and translated by hitoritabi