Q&A: Ji Jin-hee

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 January, 2011, 12:00am

Historical dramas seem to be just the ticket for Korean actor Ji Jin-hee. His portrayal of a heroic judge in the 2003 hit television series Dae Jang Geum made him a familiar face across Asia and later led to a starring role in director Peter Chan Ho-sun's acclaimed film Perhaps Love.

A photographer before turning to acting in 1998, Ji was named top actor at the MBC Drama Awards in Seoul last week for another period drama, Dong Yi. The series was the highest-rated drama in South Korea when it aired last year and was voted Drama of the Year at the same award ceremony.

Ji, who plays King Sukjong in Dong Yi, was recently in town to promote the series, which is being screened on Cable TV.

Was your role in Dong Yi a challenge?

While preparing for the character, I discussed with the producer how I should interpret it. Since there have been kings in many different dramas and movies, I don't want to repeat what people have seen before, otherwise it would be meaningless.

We put in some serious thought on that before the shooting began. I was inspired by how Hugh Grant portrayed a British prime minister in Love Actually. Although he plays a leader of a nation, his interpretation is full of energy and youth. I also watched Henry III to see how a young king could be played.

Dong Yi was shot over 10 months. How was the shooting?

While we were in production, the network's labour union went on strike and shooting had to be halted for 10 days. But that provided us, the actors, with some time to communicate more with each other. When shooting resumed, everything went much more smoothly.

Dae Jang Geum was also shown in Europe and the US. Dong Yi had high ratings across Asia. Are historical dramas are lucky for you?

I felt lucky to have the chance to make Dae Jang Geum, which was very popular in many countries and won a lot of awards and recognition. But I don't really have a preference for historical dramas. They are usually very long, up to 60 episodes in a series, and viewers can really get into the story and follow the changes of the characters from the start. They pay more attention to the acting. I think this is why my parts in historical dramas receive more feedback from audiences.

Many crew members from Dae Jang Geum were involved in the production of Dong Yi, so it was like a reunion with old friends. I was really happy to work with these great producers again. I think it was the largest drama production in the history of the network.

You just won top actor at the MBC Drama Awards. How did you feel?

Whether I receive an award is not really important. To me, what really matters is the process of making the drama. I'm content as long as I have fun during the shooting.

After making several historical dramas are you interested in history?

Yes, but not just Korean history. I think we all need to have some basic knowledge of world history; you need to know about the past to know about the future.

When Hong Kong actors appear in movies, few go back to making television dramas. But in Korea, it doesn't seem to be the case.

I have no special preference for movie, television or stage dramas. They are very different media, and I'm interested in all of them. In theatre, you have to perform with a strong voice, and you can see the audience reaction instantly. In movies, everything can be intricate and full of details. When making television dramas, there are many close-up shots and you are required to give dramatic expressions in some scenes. No matter what the medium is, I'm happy to try it if the topic is interesting and the script is good.

Your schedule is often packed with different projects. How do you balance your work and family life?

I bring my family along when I go overseas. While we can spend more time together, it's also an occasion for my family to have some fun. When I'm on set, I invite my wife and my son to come and see me work. This way he can see how hard his father works and my wife might realise that her husband's job is not so easy.

Do you have any new projects?

In March I'm going to be making a movie in the mainland. It's a romantic comedy but the actress has yet to be confirmed.

After Perhaps Love, do you want to take part in another Hong Kong movie production?

There are so many great directors and actors in Hong Kong. I like Infernal Affairs, and it would be great if there was a chance to work with its directors.

Dong Yi. 11pm, Monday to Fridays, Cable TV CEN Channel