Shinhwa’s Eric celebrates his 16th year as an idol, no, ‘pioneer idol’. His talents include his charismatic rapping and dance. He still commands a legion of oppa troopers, and maintains the dignity of a member of the longest-running idol group.
But as the actor Eric… It has been more humbling. Starting with his debut in 2003’s ‘Breathless’, he went on to appear in dramas including ‘Bulsae’, ‘Super Rookie’, ‘Strongest Chil Woo’, ‘Spy Myungwol’. But comments from the public were harsh. He even suffered controversies surrounding his acting ability.
But Eric has changed. Because of the drama ‘Discovery of Romance’. Right from the start he got to know about the essence of acting, and he has found his confidence again. He has received recognition not as an ‘acting-dol’, but as an ‘actor’. Furthermore, he has now developed a passion to become a good actor.
“The moment I received the script, I thought that I had to take on this project. Right from the start I stuck to my guns. I also told the members that I really wanted to do it. And so I acted with this ambition. Perhaps thanks to that? For the first time, there weren’t any bad reviews.
◆ “All this while, there was no pressing reason”
There are no pressing reasons for a person who has somewhere to return to. That’s how it is for Eric, who’s into his 10th year as an ‘acting-dol’. Even though he hasn’t had a hit drama since ‘Bulsae’ in 2004, he had nothing to worry about. He would just return to his day job as a singer. All this while, to Eric, acting was nothing more than a second job.
“Honestly, there wasn’t any great burden. I’m saying this very cautiously, but I thought acting was just one of many occupations. It was something I had to do periodically for the sake of the company. To me, since there were Shinhwa activities… It’s true that my mind was relatively at ease.”
What fired Eric up was ‘Discovery of Romance’. He explained, “Frankly speaking, I didn’t have a strong ambition towards my works or a strong aspiration towards acting. But I changed my mind the moment I saw the ‘Discovery of Romance’ script. I really wanted to be in the drama. It was the first time I ever had such an experience.”
This explains how he was absorbed in the role from the time he read the script. Eric emphasized, “There were many parts where I thought ‘this is my story’ when I read it. I wondered, if I could identify with the role to this extent, how would it be for other people? I wanted to convey the emotions that I felt to others.”
◆ “Somewhere along the line, I discovered persistence”
His ambition for acting was sparked off when he could identify with the character. More than ever, Eric was passionate. He cut down on his sleeping hours, and increased his hours of acting practice. To make Kang Taeha’s lines fully his own, he practiced and practiced repeatedly.
“I’ve never been this persistent about a project before. There were even instances where if there was a scene that I really wanted to do well, I would skip sleep altogether the night before. I prepared each gesture, expression and line in detail. Because I wanted it to be as natural as wearing my own clothes.”
He set a goal too. Which is to achieve more than 90% of what writer Jung Hyunjung has envisioned Kang Taeha to be. Eric explained, “The script was detailed and good to start with. I wanted to convey the feelings that I thought of when I read the script, in a realistic manner. If I could do that, I would really be able to become Taeha.”
Perhaps because of his excruciating efforts, Eric experienced moments when he became one with his character. “As we went on in the second half of the drama, I felt like I was turning into Taeha. Even when filming ended, I wanted to give advice to Yeoreum (played by Jung Yumi). That was the extent of how far I was into the character.”
◆ “Now, I want to be greedy”
The result was that for the first time in his life, he received recognition not as a singer, but as an actor. There were viewers who were afflicted with the ‘Taeha Syndrome’. His jealous gaze when he sees Nam Hajin (played by Sung Joon), his resentful tone towards Han Yeoreum, even the smile that tugs at the corner of his mouth after a kiss has earned him compliments for being really like Kang Taeha.
With all the good reviews pouring in, there’s every reason to be proud. But Eric isn’t so. Instead he says with a smile that he has developed a stronger desire. He hopes to be able to receive the good reviews he received as Kang Taeha even for his next project, to exceed the character.
“What is my next goal? I hope to give a favorable impression for whatever roles I do. To do that, I need to back it up with acting ability and be able to let viewers identify with me. I want to be remembered by the public as a good actor, and a good man.”
Of course, he has no intention of neglecting Shinhwa activities. He plans to balance that with his acting work. Eric added, “Shinhwa is something that I would never separate myself from. It’s a firm source of support for my individual activities too. As a singer, or as an actor, I would like to show the best of me. Please watch over and support me.”