Shinhwa member Kim Dongwan (32) and the actor Kim Dongwan are two different people altogether. Although he’s an idol star with the popularity that has hordes of fans running after him, when one meets him as an actor, he is all seriousness. After completing his military service late last year, he chose to work on the musical ‘Hedwig’ and the drama special ‘The Vertex’. He challenged himself with ‘Hedwig’, the transgender role that’s not easy even to veteran actors, and then went on to play the independence activist and poet Lee Yuk-sa in the Liberation Day drama special ‘The Vertex’. The route he has chosen to take can’t get any further from the recent trend of idol stars playing the male leads in sweet romantic plots. “I like the expression ‘actor of life’. It’s not wrong to say that acting should be natural like living. This year, my goal is to complete the outline of the actor Kim Dongwan.” With his shock confession about breaking up with his girlfriend, whom he dated for a short while, because he was too focused on the musical, shows that he has completely gone into ‘actor mode’.
Q: ‘Hedwig’ and ‘The Vertex’ are difficult projects. How did you come to the decision (to work on those projects)?
A: I chanced upon these two projects after I completed my military service and had a thirst for acting. I was even more attracted because these two characters are strong and difficult to portray. As much as it was difficult, I was looking forward to the opportunity for me to grow and develop. Of course it was difficult. I’m just thankful that the opportunity came my way.
Q: You played a transgender in ‘Hedwig’.
A: Actually in my acting projects so far, bits and pieces of Kim Dongwan come through every now and then. But in ‘Hedwig’ I can’t show even one second of myself. Because he’s a transgender. His gestures, expressions, how he blinks, all these have to be done like a woman. I put in so much effort that even though the performance has ended, I sometimes get shocked when I find myself still moving like a woman. Moreover men usually sit with their legs apart, I was like that too but after ‘Hedwig’ I often sit in a coquettish manner with my legs together.
Q: You played the role of the poet Lee Yuk-sa. Were you interested in poetry or history to begin with?
A: No. I didn’t have much interest in poetry and when I was still studying my least favorite subject was history. Although I know the name ‘Lee Yuk-sa’, I didn’t quite know who he was. At first I was attracted by the interesting script. As I was acting I realised, “This is how you learn about history”. It would be an exaggeration to say that I’m conscious of history but I will think about why future generations must know about history. Because we have to know about the people who protected the way we live now and we have to live with dignity.
Q: You seemed to have become more serious than you did before you went to the army.
A: Rather than becoming more serious, I think I’ve become less impetuous. I take things more easily too. Even if I see injustice I control my anger better than before. Haha. Before going to the army I was always impatiently thinking that I have to achieve something quickly. But after completing my duties I can’t achieve anything if I’m impatient. The fundamentals are the important things. So when I have time, I read and I travel, and I think about things a lot.
Q: During the filming of the drama, did your colleagues see you differently because you’re the singer Kim Dongwan?
A: No. It was like that in the past, but now they see me as their colleague. When I was filming for ‘The Vertex’, the feeling of camaraderie was even stronger. Compared to miniseries, one-act dramas are filmed under even harsher conditions. Perhaps because we all have to overcome the difficult filming together, everyone treats me with ease as a fellow actor.
Q: I can feel that your ambition for acting has become stronger.
A: This year I would like to be recognized as an actor. That’s also why I chose to work on ‘Hedwig’ and ‘The Vertex’. I’m at an ambiguous age right now. I’m not a newcomer and it’s been some time since I started acting. It’s strange for me to take on a young idol role too. I have no other way than to rely on my acting abilities.
Q: You’re a big senior among the idols. Thoughts of yourself back then must surface when you look at the idols these days.
A: When I see the juniors I think to myself, “It was really hard for us then”. Haha. Although we suffered because we didn’t get to sleep, there are more fun memories than difficult ones. Actually back then we’d take time off from our schedule to go out to drink and play. Things like work were instead like the remaining stuff.
Q: You’re already in your 30s. It should be time to think about marriage.
A: I want to get married at 35, and have a child born in the Year of the Goat, like myself. But I don’t even have the time to meet girls. To be honest before taking on ‘Hedwig’, for a short while I was dating someone I was introduced to. But because I was too focused on the musical, we drifted apart, and things naturally ended.
Q: I also hear that Shinhwa will be making a comeback next year. It’s already been 13 years, what’s the secret to the group’s longevity?
A: The members are all hot-tempered so we fought a lot. But we’re also impetuous people who can’t hide things so we’d just meet and work things out. The most important thing is not to take sides. We aren’t people who think highly of ourselves and try to split the group. Looks like that’s why we haven’t split. Haha.
Q: Shinhwa Company has been established too.
A: It’s a company that belongs to us, where the members are the major shareholders. President Mun Jung Hyuk (Eric) has worked very hard. We don’t know if the company will turn out well. Maybe we might even fight from the start. Even so, with Eric’s leadership, I think things will go well. I smile just thinking about our activities next year. It’s going to be really interesting. Not too long ago, Junjin and I were just saying, “As Shinhwa, let’s not just make do with things, we have to play like we’re crazy.
Q: What are your plans for the rest of the year?
A: Before starting on Shinhwa activities, I’m thinking of doing another acting project. I’m mulling over a few drama scripts now. I want to act about life. It will even better if it’s a drama like “Three Families Under One Roof” (an MBC morning drama that ran from 1986 to 1993), that talks about the lives of ordinary people.
Credits: ISplus + Absolut Shinhwa