[News/Trans] Dependable actor Lee Junki “There are no limits, only challenges”

“I will give it my all”; Junki received praise for his passionate action and emotional acting in “Two Weeks”. 

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More than breaking the limits of his acting, actor Lee Junki steps forth to greater heights.

In all his works, Lee Junki has always managed to break away from his own image and make a perfect transformation into his characters. He has transformed from the shy and determined clown in “The King and the Clown”, to the tender youth filled with a strong sense of justice in “May 18”, the NIS agent filled with deep emotional scars and uncontrollable rage in “Time Between Dog and Wolf”, to the magistrate gifted with exceptional intuition and insight in “Arang and the Magistrate”.

It was the same in the recently ended MBC drama “Two Weeks”.  Lee Junki displayed soulful acting in his role as Jang Taesan, a good-for-nothing who belated discovers that he has a daughter who is suffering from leukaemia.

Although filming has since concluded, in which he received huge praises from both audiences and those in the media industry for his exceptional realistic acting, he seemed to be filled with more emptiness than relief when we met him at a restaurant in Itaewon.

After bidding goodbye to the tiresome days filled with ups and downs, where the feelings of “Two Weeks” cannot go away and tears well up even upon drinking a glass of alcohol, Lee Junki said with his unique charismatic smile in his eyes, “I become depressed for no reason when I am alone, so I am instead grateful to have such a packed schedule of interviews.”

Acting as a father was more difficult than intense action scenes…”I was able to do so thanks to Lee Chae Mi”

In the drama, Taesan was slated to donate his bone marrow to his daughter in an operation in two weeks time, but got framed for murder, and after making his escape with a stroke of luck, he ended up being chased by both the police and the culprits who are after his life.

Getting buried in the earth and fighting on the mountain slope are just the basics; scenes like getting shot by a gun, getting swept away by the rapids and jumping off a moving bus require lots of effort even for a master of action like Lee Junki, and such scenes were not limited to just one or two in this show.

“I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t tiring. I could have gotten into a great accident if I wasn’t careful when I fell into the water. But I have always liked action scenes, and I think such difficult action scenes are necessary in order to show the harsh predicament of Taesan, so I was never once unhappy about it. My fans say ‘there are many other characters where you can look handsome and film comfortably, why do you only choose tough roles like Taesan?’ and they feel sorry for me. (laughs). There are even staff who express dislike and say ‘looks like there’s going to be many tough scenes’ when they see my name as the lead in the list of actors. I guess I like heavy genres that’s why I always choose these kind of projects.”

In fact, Lee Junki was more worried about playing a father with a young daughter rather than the action scenes. Having just entered his thirties, he was uneasy about whether he would be able to fully act out the strong love of a father.

As the pressure of having so many people’s anticipation and attention grew, all these eventually disappeared when standing in front of the camera with child actor Lee Chae Mi, who plays the role of his young daughter.

“I think the real lead in ‘Two Weeks’ was actually Chae Mi. I was able to immerse in all the subtle feelings of a father and act naturally thanks to Chae Mi. Acting as a dad was a challenge that felt like a huge mountain that was very hard to overcome, so I was really filled with happiness when I received good compliments from viewers when the show aired. It is easy to get trapped in a character when I act in a similar genre every time, but I have the feeling of having gone beyond my limits this time through the role of Taesan. Because of Chae Mi, the lingering feelings also seem to be stronger than usual. My body feels like it has stiffened after exerting so much feelings of family and love for a daughter and I really miss the feeling of being human. Because I want to quickly pull myself away from the heart of Taesan and find my bearings again, I have purposely been going outdoors to meet people.”

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From the rookie actor who was engrossed with following the script, to a “leading actor” who receives the trust of his director and scriptwriter

In order to act at a level that makes him satisfied, Lee Junki’s hard work is indeed remarkable. Even if it’s just one action scene, he does not say no to re-shooting multiple times so as to get the angle that looks best on screen.

Even in emotional scenes, Lee Junki will actively express his personal opinions to the director and scriptwriter. For instance, although the script did not state the instruction to cry, if he thinks that crying will seem more natural when viewing from the standpoint of Taesan, Lee Junki will suggest different kinds of relevant scenes to the production team to film, such as a “without crying” version, a “crying slightly” version and a “sobbing version” etc.

“I know very well that I’m still not perfect as an actor. But even if I can’t give a satisfying performance straight away, I will give it my all, so at least I won’t have any feelings of regret this way. I don’t want to have doubts such as ‘I could have done this in a different angle, I could have expressed this feeling in a different manner’ that might make me feel regretful later. Actually, I meticulously made notes in order to perform all the action directions in writer Son Hyeon Kyung’s script, so I probably would have been able to comfortably act if I am determined enough. All I needed to do was to follow what was instructed. But rather than playing safe, I think I will be able gain much more as an actor if I sufficiently express my opinions. I was able to present all the flexible details thanks to the scriptwriter, director and all the staff who placed their trust in me as the lead actor.”

What made Lee Junki most delighted was the moment when even the notably meticulous writer Son Hyeon Kyung asked him “what kind of ending would you like”.

In the drama, Taesan successfully proved his innocence and went camping with Seo Inhye and his daughter Soojin as a happy family. Taesan made a promise to be a good father to Soojin, but could not bring himself to tell Inhye that he would stay together with them.

“Personally, it was an ending that I liked. Actually, I initially thought it would have been sadder and more memorable if the story had ended with Taesan giving his everything to Inhye and Soojin and died. The scriptwriter also pondered a lot over whether to end it that way. The script was still being revised even on the last day of filming, then the scriptwriter suddenly gave me a call and said ‘I want to hear the opinion of Junki who brought Jang Taesan to life’. After pondering for awhile, I replied that ‘an open ending that hints of the family of three being happy might be able to give viewers a sense of healing’. To that, the scriptwriter said ‘tell me if you have any lines that you would like to say’, and I even got angry with her, saying ‘I’m already busy memorising my lines, how could you ask me to even write the script myself?’ (laughs) This was something that I could not even imagine in the past, but the fact that I could now earn the trust of one person really made me very excited as an actor.”

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My position as an actor is granted by the public…I want to take on a romantic comedy for my next project

Although Lee Junki holds the hearts of many female fans, it feels a waste to call him a very hot youthful star, yet it also feels insufficient to only compliment him on his acting alone and call him a veteran actor.

Despite having started his acting career through movies, apart from “The King and the Clown”, he has not shown such brilliance in any other movies. Instead, he has left more of his famous works on the small screen.  When we say that he is an actor in an ambiguous position, he smiles coolly and says ‘that is right’.

“Because movies have a style that provides more breathing space for acting and freedom in expression, I think I’m an actor who is more suited for movies than dramas. But it was not fated to be and while waiting, I somehow found myself wanting to act in dramas.  Filming of movies proceed at a relatively more leisurely pace so there are many opportunities for learning, but it is hard to find the intensity that can be felt when filming dramas.  After resting for 5 to 6 months, I am able to return with a new image in quick time, which may be why I end up choosing dramas. Of course, I do have a thirst for movies. I also have a desire to show a good image as a lead actor in movie.  I am still waiting for a movie project that I really like, a movie that I want to do, a movie that I can do well.”

Asked if he has a desire for any role among the recent movies he has seen, Lee Junki said it is hard to choose one and was unable to provide an answer.

But from the standpoint of a male actor, he says with a bitter smile that he is very envious of actors such as Lee Byung Hun, Kim Yun Seok and Ha Jung Woo who have received acclaim for their solid acting and stand out in the movie world.

“I think I am still waiting for the right timing. I also wish to build a definite career as an actor myself, and it would be good if a definite qualifier or position comes to mind when it comes to Lee Junki. But this is not something that I can achieve on my own. I believe the general public will one day give me the appropriate position/recognition if I continue to play my roles sincerely and genuinely like how I am doing now. That’s why, I do not intend to show my greed or anxiety now. It all depends on how I build up my competency in the future.”

Asked what kind of project he would like to do next, Lee Junki says “romantic comedy” without hesitation. Although he likes heavier genres similar to that of “Two Weeks”, nobody knows better than Lee Junki that a commercial actor cannot stubbornly stick to his own desires.

“I once thought that I should do many action shows while I am still physically healthy. But on second thought, this also applies to melodramas. If I do melodramas as I get even older, it is no longer melodrama but adultery right? (laughs) I think my fans will be happier than anyone else. It seems like I treasure my fans alone more than other actors? Definitely. I am thankful not because I have fans, but I think my fans are the reason why I exist. They are friends whom I can trust and rely on more than anyone else. When I feel tired, I will think ‘my fans are looking at me, I can’t be tired like this right?’ If I happen to make a mistake, my fans will be the ones who will be saddened the most, so I am closely watching myself in order not to forget my dignity as ‘my (fans’) actor’. (laughs) I will soon be holding fan meetings. I want to meet my fans quickly and receive ‘healing'”.

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Translated from Korean to English by Gabby. Take out with credits.

Source: [인터뷰] 신뢰할 수 있는 배우 이준기 “한계는 없다, 도전만 있다”  http://news.nate.com/view/20131018n03137

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