Translator’s note: Lee Junki’s interviews are never ending! In part 1 of his interview with TVReport, Lee Junki talks about his close brush with death, the ridiculousness of Two Weeks, happenings on set, his “rivalry” with Park Hasun for their onscreen daughter, and is praised to the heavens by the reporter.
It has been 2 weeks since MBC Wed-Thurs drama “Two Weeks” has ended. Lee Junki is still unable to let go of Jang Taesan. Perhaps he was too immersed in the role, he now feels a big sense of emptiness and even feels depressed. “My emotions seem to have become impaired during these 2 weeks. Rather than feeling rejuvenated while resting at home, I feel neglected and discarded instead. I must’ve been living as Jang Taesan in the past few months and became too attached to ‘Two Weeks’.”
He said “I’m finding energy through giving interviews. Interviews give me healing. I feel apologetic instead because I’m being so excited and rambling away on my own.” From the start till end of the interview, he kept thanking the reporters unlike other actors. He seemed to be giving the interview not because he had to do it, but because he personally wanted to do so. When he is asked one question, he will give a long reply without stopping. His enthusiasm to speak more in order to help reporters do their job is obvious.
Acting as a father was more difficult than doing action scenes
“Two Weeks” is a drama about Jang Taesan who goes on the run for 2 weeks to save his daughter. Lee Junki who played the lead role of Jang Taesan had to run, roll and got injured in all kinds of ordeals. People even called this “Lee Junki’s hardship drama”. But Lee Junki smiled and said “I wasn’t the only one who suffered. The staff were tired because they had to endure unfavourable conditions. This was also something interesting that I wanted to do.”
Even more so, Lee Junki is famous for not using a stunt double and doing all the tiring and dangerous actions himself. Instead, the staff were worried about him. Lee Junki revealed his reasons for that, “If I use a stunt double, the audience probably would not find it interesting. My pride also tells me that I should do it myself. I have the desire to become a versatile actor who can do everything himself.” But there were scenes that would make even an expert action star think he was going to die. That would be the scene with the rapids. He described the scene vividly like how he had remembered it.
“There was a scene of me being swept away by the rapids. I could have died like this. It was a situation where even minimal safety equipment could not be used. The current was really very strong. Even though the scene could be done with a stunt double, I ended up doing it because I wanted to. I couldn’t breathe for almost 4 to 50 seconds once I went into the current. Before I began filming the scene, I thought how could someone die being swept away by the water, then I realised that one could really die doing so. The staff naturally thought that I acted very well, so I could not bring myself to tell them that I had thought I was going to die. Then I realised that if I got hurt because of my own ambition, I would end up inconveniencing everyone. As a lead actor, I ought to bear responsibility and take care of myself.”
Lee Junki’s similar enthusiasm can be seen on TV. Thanks to that, Lee Junki received praise for rediscovering himself through “Two Weeks”. However, this kind of reaction was not expected from him. “I still cannot forget the day of the first broadcast. I wasn’t able to monitor the first episode because I was filming on the mountain the whole night. So I searched the internet and monitored the comments from journalists and forum replies. Reporters, drama addicts and fans gave me very good compliments. I still remember myself shouting hurray at the top of the mountain.”
Lee Junki had in fact pondered long and hard over whether to star in “Two Weeks”. He was worried about whether he would be able to act as a father despite not being married and not having much dating experience. He eventually made his decision because of the trust of scriptwriter So Hyun Kyung.
“I said I couldn’t do it when I received the script. When I saw the script for the first episode, I wondered if I could understand a 32-year-old with a daughter. Even if I do well, if I cannot live up to expectations, then I will have to take a break for a long time, because I thought this project will deal a big blow to me. Senior Son Hyung Joo acted incredibly well as a father in ‘The Chaser’, so how could I, a fool who hasn’t even dated, know how to play my part? But writer So Hyun Kyung kept calling me. So I met up with her and from the moment I stepped in, she kept explaining her work in detail. She said confidently and perfectly, ‘This is different from what Senior Son Hyung Joo could do. It would be great if you could just trust and follow me. This can mould and change Lee Junki.’ So I ended up thinking for a long time even after I got home. After two days, I called her to say that I agreed.”
Writer So Hyun Kyung did not hold back her praises and criticisms to Lee Junki. Thanks to that, Lee Junki was able to be more alert and immerse in his character. “During the script reading, it was not easy to get past one page. I scolded myself for being an actor who couldn’t even read his script and I felt small. After the show aired, the scriptwriter would monitor every episode and send me text messages saying ‘Junki-sshi, it’s not enough, you are overdoing it’. Although she may seem demanding, it made me more determined. I realised I had someone who could help me find my balance. She also helped me to keep up with the director’s pace during filming.”
“Two Weeks” according to Lee Junki
The story of “Two Weeks” is very solid. I have no objections about this. Being a story set within the restricted time frame of 2 weeks, it has some scenes that will make people tilt their heads. As the story unfolds, Jang Taesan who cannot be killed gets smarter by the day and becomes a superman who is capable of doing anything. There were also moments where Jang Taesan was even smarter than top police prosecutor Park Jaekyung. Lee Junki acknowledges those parts and emphasized those as “dramatic requisites (necessary elements for dramatic effect)”.
“Watching as a drama, Jang Taesan was that desperate. He needed to survive and free himself of the murder charge. From the perspective of the prosecutors, even though they could come up with ideas, they seemed to be gathering opinions from Taesan. The prosecutors listened to Taesan not because they were useless. Within this short period of time, there were many things that the prosecutors had to carefully approach and investigate. I wondered how good it would have been if the show went for realism and have Taesan agree to everything that the police wanted.”
He laughed and revealed that he and Kim So Yeon had bickered over having too many lines. “So Yeon noona really had a lot of lines to say. So telling her to go to rest should apply to me too right? Although the scriptwriter wasn’t late in giving us the script, it takes time for the full script of an episode to be released, so we will be fiercely memorising at the last minute. We joked that if we study so hard like that, we would have graduated from the Seoul National University as a law graduate.” (laughs)
In the show, the scene of Jang Taesan recognising his daughter Seo Soojin at one glance was understandable but not quite realistic. Lee Junki revealed his thoughts on this, “Because he was told that he had a daughter, he was filled with so much concern and emotions, so he must have had a feeling upon seeing Soojin.” Lee Junki explained that the moment where Jang Taesan experienced his first feelings as a father were very difficult.
“While acting as a father, I discussed a lot with the director. There was a need to create a right sense of bonding, so expressions were very detailed. The different kinds of subtle feelings had to be expressed. I had to act by thinking how I would feel if my daughter was standing in front of me and the feeling of mutual attraction towards one’s own flesh and blood. Episodes 1 and 2 were really difficult, because those two episodes would explain what kind of character Jang Taesan was. From the time of the first script reading onwards, I received a lot of necessary stress that enabled me to concentrate and create the character Jang Taesan.”
However, Lee Junki’s acting was different from his worries and brought surprises each time. It was difficult to find awkwardness and unfamiliarity in Lee Junki as a father. He had exceeded expectations. Lee Junki’s most memorable scenes were those where he showed his love as a father. His earnest acting even put the staff to tears.
“It is very difficult when staff cry in silence during filming. But this happened 3 times in this production. There was this scene where I watched my blood flowing into Soojin during the bone marrow transplant. There was no acting direction at all other than ‘watch’. But there was this feeling that came unexpectedly and even the director was surprised. During this scene, the scene where Soojin wished me ‘Happy Birthday’, and the scene where I cried while begging Han Chigook, the camera director, director and FD cried. Even the lighting staff had eyes welled up with tears. It was great to have such genuine feelings while filming and they remain etched in my memory.”
Lee Junki really doted on child actor Lee Chaemi who acted as his daughter in the show. He would show his fatherly smile each time Lee Chaemi’s name was mentioned. Lee Junki was full of praise for her, “She is the real lead actor of our drama. Her feedback reactions were really helpful to me.” Lee Junki even worked hard and took action using gifts to win over Lee Chaemi’s heart. He and Park Hasun who acted as Lee Chaemi’s mother were rumoured to have quarrelled fiercely over Lee Chaemi.
“Hasun and Chaemi were always together every day. But all I did each day was think of her, and I thought I ought to buy something for her at least. It was not even a war, but I think I was the winner. Chaemi sent me a voice message saying ‘I miss Lee Junki daddy and Park Hasun mummy.’” Lee Junki even bought a huge teddy bear for Lee Chaemi. “It was the final stage but Lee Chaemi wouldn’t open her heart to me. I thought a big present would be good, so I gave her a huge bear. Moreover, I kept thinking of her during filming so it was a pity to be separated from her. A special memory was necessary. Although I did tell her I will buy 100 pieces of fried octopus for her, but it was not a novel idea because Hasun had already bought it for her.” (laughs)
“Two Weeks” finished with an open ending. Although Taesan saved his daughter Soojin, he still left his family. During the past 8 years, he only lived as a father for 2 weeks. The ending hinted that he would return as a better father in the future. In fact, scriptwriter So Hyun Kyung had asked Lee Junki how he would like the last episode to end. Lee Junki could not forget that moment, because the difficult scriptwriter So Hyun Kyung whom he respected so much actually acknowledged him as “Jang Taesan”.
“The writer had asked me. From Lee Junki’s perspective, it would be good if I was compelling as Jang Taesan. That would be the biggest consolation to me. Although I said that it would be good if Jang Taesan died, the writer would feel so upset. Being overwhelmed with sadness, it would also bring great hurt to the audience and could become a burden. She asked how Junki would feel about an ending that brings hope about life and healing to the audience. I said I will abide to the writer’s wishes of course. Thanks to that, we had the most ideal conclusion for the show.”
In other words, Lee Junki acting was acknowledged by audiences, the staff, the director and even scriptwriter So Hyun Kyung. Those compliments can be deemed as rewards for his past 3 months of hardship. Definitely, if it was not Lee Junki, the character Jang Taesan would not have been acted with such charm.
Translated from Korean to English by Gabby. Take out with credits. Translation may contain inaccuracies.
Source: ‘투윅스’ 이준기 “32세 연애바보의 아빠 연기, 어려웠죠” (인터뷰1)