The mere mention of Ji Chang-wook’s name can conjure up varied emotions among fans. His drop-dead good looks and charming smile are matched by his charismatic screen presence. He is the ‘Healer’ for some and the ‘K2’ for others. From a Suspicious Partner to Lovestruck In The City, Ji Chang-wook is truly a heartthrob among all K-drama fans around the world.
Now, he is back as a hyper but bright weather forecaster Cho Yong-pil, in SLL Productions’ slice-of-life drama, the rom-com Welcome To Samdal-ri.
The upcoming movie has scored high on the popularity charts due to the onscreen pairing of Shin Hye-sun and Ji Chang-wook, and its heartwarming narrative.
In a chat with HELLO!, Ji Chang-wook talks about the show, and his return to the action genre, as well as being a fan of the Indian superhit film, RRR.
HELLO!: We have seen an exciting lineup from you: cold-blooded and high-octane action in The Worst Of Evil and now, a feel-good rom-com like Welcome To Samdal-ri. What was it like to switch gears between two vastly different genres?
Ji Chang-wook: “They are very different genres but both fascinate me. The Worst Of Evil has a harsh charm that is tense and involves body actions, while Welcome To Samdal-ri is relaxed and warm. I enjoyed playing opposites.”
H!: Your character Jo Yong-pil, in Welcome To Samdal-ri, is a man who is a weather forecaster, he is upright, a bit strict and selfless, going out of his way to help everyone around him. What drew you to his character? Did you face any challenges in playing him? Did you pick up any skills?
JC: “There was nothing particularly challenging. Yong-pil has his own standards when it comes to work, but he is sociable towards the elderly around him and he’s warm-hearted. Since it’s not a story about the Meteorological Administration, I looked up the meanings of the terms used and checked what Yong-pil could do there rather than learning new things. As the director has done projects on the Meteorological Administration, he taught me about it, and a consultant did as well.”
H!: What was it like working with director Cha Young-hoon whose dramas, though blended in romance and comedy, also pack in a powerful message?
JC: “The director is a pleasant and sensitive person. He is very empathetic as well. I reckon that comes through in his work. His energy was bright, so the atmosphere on set was good.”
H!: This is the first time you and Shin Hye-sun are sharing screen space. What was it like to work with her and the rest of the crew?
JC: “I can see why she is such a beloved actor. I thought she was the perfect Sam-dal (Hye-sun’s character) and I actually enjoyed shooting with her. There are different parts of each project where the crew gets to know each other, but in this case, while shooting, we got to spend time together, laughing and talking.”
H!: It has been nearly ten years since Healer, you carved a niche for yourself as the perfect action hero giving us dramas like K2, what was it like coming back to the action space again in The Worst Of Evil, will we see you do more of it in the future?
JC: “The action genre is hard on the spot, but there’s something about it that makes it so compelling. The action in The Worst Of Evil was hard, but it was also rewarding and satisfying to see the outcome. There’s a joy in there. In the future, I will continue to struggle, but I might to do it again if necessary.”
H!: You can switch genres and characters, from Bachelor’s Vegetable Store To Five Fingers, Healer, Suspicious Partner, If You Wish Upon Me and now this. In the last 15 years, has your process and method changed? Is it important for you to relate to the character on a personal level to take on a role?
JC: “There definitely are changes in my process and method. I used to put in a lot of time working on the script, but now I spend more time sharing ideas with directors and key staff. It is very important for me to relate to the character because it’s hard to correctly play something that I don’t understand and can’t relate to. That’s why I always contemplate and think about it a lot before accepting any role.”
H!: What are the most important factors that you take into consideration when accepting an acting project?
JC: “There are many factors. Do I want to do it, can I do it, is it fun, etc. When I read the script, the parts or the elements that captivate me are always different, but the decision is made for complex reasons.”
H!: K-dramas are hugely popular across the world. Your shows (previous and new ones) continue to top viewing records. How does it feel as an actor and does it challenge you more?
JC: “Thinking back over my career, Korean culture (K-Pop, K-Dramas, etc) are more popular now than it has been before, and I appreciate it. Therefore, in some way, I feel the pressure to do good work. Since both the audience and the market for K-Dramas have expanded globally, I think the scope of viewing and thinking about the projects I take on has also expanded. I find it good as an actor as it seems the options for genres have widened as well, rather than the ones we were limited to before.”
H!: There is a lot of anticipation when your dramas come out, given your fandom across the world, does it overwhelm you or make you anxious?
JC: “Of course, it overwhelms me and makes me anxious. Rather than having a fandom or not, I always care and worry about whether I can resonate with the audience.”
H!: What is a profession or genre you haven’t tried yet and would like to try portraying for a role?
JC: “Rather than a particular role or a genre, I’m more interested in exploring the new me. If I find something new, I’ll keep trying.”
H!: You have a huge fandom in India, are you familiar with any Indian movies or have you tried any Indian food? Do you have any plans to visit?
JC: “I am grateful that so many Indian people give my work and me so much love, even though I have never been to India. I have watched a few Indian titles like 3 Idiots and RRR on Netflix. I am curious about India. If I have a chance, I want to visit India, experience Indian culture and meet my fans.”