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Hedwig Interview: Kim Dongwan "I'm not that person you thought me to be"

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In 2008, when he still had his public service ahead of him, he said that he wanted to "start quickly." Kim Dongwan, 30 years old, was tired of his life as a celebrity, and was thirsty for the time when he thought he would be able to pay attention to himself only. 2 years have passed quickly, and as the multi-talented member of Shinhwa, Kim Dongwan is now preparing to present himself to us with his new look, as a musical actor. What changes led him to take on this new challenge? We now start Kim Dongwan's first interview about the musical stage.


is the triathalon of musicals?

Kim Dongwan in a musical, especially , was a piece of unexpected news.
Because I am a singer and also an actor, I had a strange prejudice that I should only sing on stage, and only act in places where I should only show my acting, such as dramas or movies. I didn't want to do it in a location where I could do both at the same time. Of course I didn't want to do it also because musicals are difficult to take on.

I chose because I wanted to try acting a homosexual role, and also because it is a very difficult and abstruse role. This performance is like the triathalon of musicals. I accepted the role because I thought that I could torment myself if I try this. I thought about it for exactly two days after the offer came to me, and later I pleaded that I wanted to do it.
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Hedwig is not an average role. She cannot be described to be simply a transgender, either.
It was very complicated. John Cameron Mitchell is a very attractive person, and is also a complicated person. A lot of good actors had gone through the role. There is also an original movie. I'm still in the process of learning what kind of character Hedwig is.

Have you seen any previous performances?
I was interested, but I've never seen it. When I started preparing for the role I thought that was a good thing. I thought at least I wouldn't imitate any previous actors. And now, I'm looking through all of the videos. (Laugh) I regret not watching it... It's not an easy role.

Your first musical, you're probably looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time.
I thought that one of my strengths was my constant self-confidence, but when facing musicals I saw it became a reckless self-confidence. There are a lot of calculations you have to keep in mind. The producer said that acting is a technical job also. The more you repeat it, the more skilled you become in it. You have to become the expert of that role; the probability of success diminishes when you just take it on with a good mood relying on your gut feelings. I think that's right.

Of course singers and idols work hard on stage, but most of their popularity comes from the energy they get from the audience onstage, and also from whatever they have to show because they were born with it, but with musicals if you don't prepare everything from A to Z, it's difficult to even receive approval. Popularity aside, you just get caught at some point.

Won't your experience on many stages be of help to you?
Perhaps my experience as a singer, actor, and the various other things I did were all preparation for musicals. (Laugh) Everything helps. In the case of , it feels like i'm performing in my own show. Because it's a monodrama I have to converse with the audience and keep an eye on their reaction. I believe that my experiences as an MC and DJ helps with this aspect.

What preparations are you undertaking physically and mentally to transform into Hedwig? There is talk that you are trying to 'lose your muscles.' (Laugh)
The thing is, my muscles won't get lost easily. (Laugh) I exercised to lose them but I just got more. Because I lost my fat my muscles started to stand out more. (Laugh) We decided to have me lose as much of the fat in my face as possible, decorate it like a woman, and go with a muscular body.

I learned some gestures from Ha Risu and I visited some transgender bars for advice. But Hedwig isn't really a perfect transgender. The more I try it I can see the slight differences.
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I am curious as to the reactions of the people around you, including the Shinhwa members, on 'Kim Dongwan in a musical.' Andy is also a musical senior to you.
They didn't care much. (Laugh) I don't meet people often. I've never seen any of Andy's musicals. He acted in a lot of beautiful and happy works but they weren't my type. (Laugh) That is why I wanted to do , because you can't meet these kinds of roles in dramas.

The music of is also very distinct. Rock is different from the style Kim Dongwan has shown as a singer.
The OST is very popular. I love it. I think the person who wrote these songs likes Kurt Cobain. The musical talks about him a lot and the style is similar. It talks about Phil Collins too, and the style is similar to Radio Head. Its taste in music is similar to mine.

When I was in high school I was in a band called 'Impact' which was an imitation of Nirvana. Also, I was originally a bass guitarist for a band in SM called 'Bad Boys.' But one day president Lee Sooman told me that "you would do well as an idol," so I told him "I don't go well with idols, I want to be in a band." Then he showed me videos of the other members of Shinhwa, and they were so cool. I told him I would do my best. (Laugh)

Do you have any numbers in the musical which you like the most?
'Wicked Little Town.' You empathize a lot with the song in the context of the story. I also like 'Origin of Love' because it has a message.


A Definite Point of My Life

How did you spend your time while you were serving as a public service officer?
I used most of my weekends travelling, like in-country picture trips. If you just avoid being late and work hard while you're serving, you earn plenty of time. I used the same days off other people used being drunk or sleeping until late. I never did that. I didn't think it was me being diligent, I thought it was a natural thing. I could only rest if I did it that way. I visited Spain, Japan two times, and in Korea, Jeju Island, Jungeup, Muju, Sokcho, Seosan... Kangwon-do, Jeolla-do, Chungchung-do, Jeju Island.. I travelled with another friend serving with me who liked taking pictures, and we ate and took pictures. It was fun.

You seem to have been sincere with your work, like the rumors say.
I think working as a public official goes well with me. I like life which repeats a routine endlessly. I think I liked it more because I had never had a life with regular hours. I learned that my insomnia came from my sleeping too much. My weariness cured my insomnia. (Laugh) So I still try to keep regular hours. Only drink on weekends, wake up before 10 in the morning.
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So serving as a public officer became a big opportunity for you?
I think so. Like living by the clock. And I think my little troubles have gone away too. You know when you think 'why I am I like this,' like little jinxes behind your confidence. Everyone has the same worries but still they live on, but before I was pained with the thought that I was the only one who had these worries.

Also, I felt that there are many stressful moments when working as a celebrity, but I realize now that it also has a lot of perks and that I'm benefiting a lot from it, so I'm now very thankful. We can rest on weekdays sometimes and if I want to I can play around without being stressed. I can also plan what to do on my own. I didn't realize before, but these were the big benefits of being a celebrity.

You seem to be a different person from the Kim Dongwan you were before you started serving. You've become more composed in a way?
Back then I really wanted to start serving right away. Everything was stressful. I was skeptical about being a celebrity as a whole. There is a passage in Gong Jiyoung's 'I Was as Alone as the Raindrops' that says 'there are cowardly heroes and loyal hypocritics.' Now I know. There are many instances in which what we thought would happen doesn't turn out right; it's not like if you work hard everything will turn out right, and if you don't work hard nothing will work out. I'm not saying I'm going to live only adequately, but I've learned not to become obsessed about it.

Does that mean you lived an obsessed life before?
I obsessed over everything. But it's not like if you obsess over it it will come to you. Life can't be calculated, but I kept trying to do so. For example if there was something I didn't know, before I put everything aside and tried to find the answer for that thing only, so that made everything painful. But now I think that I'll live my best and let's leave be those things I don't know for now; I might come across it like you find a lost object by coincidence.


Do Not Imagine Kim Dongwan to Be Of One Type

These days on TV programs you say that Shinhwa and Kim Dongwan are all 'free souls' (Laugh), but you also have a very sincere and neat image.
I think I look relatively good-natured because I don't play around as much as the others, and also because whenever I do something good it's emphasized so much. (Laugh) I used to play around a lot too. Whenever I met drama writers they would say "Dongwan, you should start relationships, start drinking, and play around to become more attractive," and I would think 'how much more do I need to play around? Why do they say that to me?' (Laugh)
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I'm not all good. If I really was, I wouldn't have thought of doing . I have a lot of things I need to escape from through this work. There are scenes in which I have to talk about flirtatious ways and the mixture of genders in a witty and expertly way. I didn't think it was that hard, but when I showed the script to other people they said "oh, how can you do this?" When they show these reactions I'm thankful that I played around a lot before.

Shinhwa feels more familiar compared to other groups, but still, may become a point in which you can transform the image of Shinhwa as an 'idol' into a new image.
I really think so. I have to wear a lot of revealing clothing. The story of Kim Dahyun scared me. I heard that after he announced his marriage a lot of tickets for his show was cancelled. Of course now he's doing well regardless of things like that. But I sort of want to escape from this kind of popularity. Keep on showing that I'm not the person you thought I was and escape from my original image. Of course, I am thankful for it, but they keep becoming disappointed because I'm not the person they imagined me to be. When I see things like that I think 'this IS me, what should I do about it?'

A singer's debut in a musical; there are of course many concerns being voiced.
Well there are people who love me like sunflowers. Shinhwa fans are famous for being those fans who tell off their singers the most, but still they like whatever we do. So these new skeptical views may be the real opportunity for me to grow. Regardless of whether I succeed or fail. Now, only (Kim) Jaewook and I are practicing, and Jaewook is really manly. He felt feminine, but he's a real man. Really off the wall and unique. He is going to be a totally different Hedwig. He's a person people view as a transgender, and I'm a person who insists that I am. (Laugh)

I heard that next year Shinhwa will come together again.
March 24th of next year is Shinhwa's 14th anniversary, and we've all agreed that we should have a performance or release an album then. Before that I believe I will be concentrating on acting. But then I'm always a person who adjusts to my environment and atmosphere, so I might go a different way.

Is there a passage from your script that comes to your mind now?
"If you really love me, then love the front of me."* Oh, it is a line that even fits me as Kim Dongwan.


Sources: orisic@Shinhwa.biz and PlayDB


I wish him nothing but the best in performing this musical. ♥
Tags: shinhwa
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