Korean actress Kim So-yeon [photographed by Lee Jin-hyuk/10Asia]
Actress Kim So-yeon says "feels like I am back at the starting line"
Out of three Wednesday/Thursday evening dramas, which all premiered on the same day last March, SBS TV series "Prosecutor Princess" never scored the No. 1 viewership rating during its run. However, the show remained a well-made drama till the end with its tight storyline and unique characters played by all the right actors. It would not be an exaggeration to say that actress Kim So-yeon, who played the title character, displayed such impressive acting skills that it might perhaps be the biggest achievement anyone has made in the first half of the year. Even though it wasn't the so-called 'possessed acting', Kim So-yeon created an interesting chemistry seen in the perfect match-up of an actress and her character. After a long hiatus and challenging times, the actress, who used to be the representative star of trendy dramas in the 90s, is back at a brand new starting line. And she is more hungry for acting now more than ever, she says. 10Asia interviewed Kim So-yeon, whose sincerity shone through during the interview and was moving at unsuspecting moments.
10: It has been quite a while since "Prosecutor Princess" ended but its popularity still seems to be lingering.
Kim: Yes, the show ended with the sixteenth episode but fans posted a trailer video for episode 17! I heard that they are still writing fictional scripts, haha. When I first started working on the show, there was so much responsibility and stress that I was very worried. But I am really grateful that so many people are still in love with "Prosecutor Princess".
10: The expectation for "Prosecutor Princess" was very high because it was going to be a collaboration between director Jin Hyeok and writer So Hyeon-kyeong, who worked together on SBS TV series "Shining Inheritance". How did you feel when you were first offered the role?
Kim: When KBS drama "IRIS" ended, I really wanted to do a completely different character, a very cheerful one. But I thought I wouldn't get offers to do a cheerful character because I played Sun-hwa in "IRIS". In fact, there was a role that I turned down because she was so similar to Sun-hwa. I was worried about my next acting project because I didn't want to take a break from work, and that is when I got the synopsis [for "Prosecutor Princess"]. Director Jin Hyeok was actually an assistant director on SBS' "2004 Human Market", in which I played a cold, femme fatale character. I loved the script and I was so happy that someone who knew my real personality sent it to me, so I said I would do it right away. I had to wait about a month afterwards and I knew why. Not everyone regards me as the main lead so there must have a lot of worries about hiring me as the title character. So even when I heard rumors that someone else was cast for the role, I thought, "Ah, I didn't get it", but I wasn't disappointed. Then when I heard that I got the part, I felt like I had received a huge gift.
10: It is surprising that you thought to yourself, "Not everyone regards me as the main lead".
Actress Kim So-yeon [Lee Jin-hyuk/10Asia]
Kim: When you look at comments on the Internet, you could see that many people were worried whether I could really play a cheerful, adorable female character which is the essence of a romantic comedy. When I was in middle schol and high school, I too grew up watching Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts movies and I loved them. Romantic comedy was a genre that I really wanted to take on but I can't judge what I'm like as an actress so I had doubts and worries about whether I could do a good job. And in a way, I'm not what people call a lovely-faced actress because I have strong facial features. So from a certain point on, I began to think that romantic comedy was not something that I could dare dream of doing.
10: The success of a romantic comedy definitely depends on how convincingly the loveliness of its main character is conveyed to viewers.
Kim: I really loved the character Ma Hye-ri and that is why I was even more worried. That I wouldn't be able to convince people of playing this character because Kim So-yeon has a certain fixed image. I played a North Korean spy [in "IRIS"] and the character Heo Young-mi in MBC's "All About Eve" followed me around for ten years.
10: So then how did you try to approach the character Ma Hye-ri?
Kim: My biggest concern was to break free from conventional stereotypes. Every character is different but there is a certain fixed rule about the characters in scripts. In the past, I tended to stay faithful to these rules and played my characters according to how they were written in scripts. But this time I think I ignored all those rules because I wanted to try stuff that was only possible when playing Ma Hye-ri. I would try to soften some aspects, go up a notch sometimes, and even applied my usual way of speech and my own laughing too. I was scared whether it was okay to do that but the writer used my speech style in the script and the director was very open to my attempts as well. I think that is why I was able to feel comfortable in front of the camera for the first time. In that sense, "Prosecutor Princess" is a coming of age story about Ma Hye-ri but it also made me very happy because I had a hard time over what people thought of me as an actress.
10: You are well-known for playing cold, arrogant characters like you did in "All About Eve" and "IRIS". But you also showed an off-the-wall, cheerful side to you on variety shows "Happy Together - Variety" and "Win Win", similar to your character in "Prosecutor Princess".
Kim: To be honest, I was scared of going on such variety shows. I thought an actress should show herself through her acting and often times I didn't like my hectic personality. My first "Happy Together - Variety" appearance was in 2008, but it took me a year before I actually went on the show. My manager told me, "You always say that you want loosen up and do a romantic comedy, but you are always hiding yourself from people. Who is going to use you when they don't see that side of yourself?" That is how he convinced me and I got the courage to do it. Before the show I kept telling myself, "Just be myself. Even if people hate it, I would feel less bad if I was just myself. If I think something is funny, I'll laugh. If not, I won't. And if I don't get it, I'll just say I don't get it". I had a really tough time shooting the episode but I was surprised that people thought it was entertaining. And that is when I started to reveal other parts of myself, little by little, and that is how I came about doing "Prosecutor Princess".
10: You had some romantic storylines in your previous dramas, but in "Prosecutor Princess" the storyline between Ma Hye-ri and lawyer Seo (played by Park Si-hoo) was particularly intense. Is there any difference in how you expressed your emotions?
Kim: I was totally absorbed in my character so it wasn't too difficult. And sometimes I think, I don't like being this old. (laugh) My ability to express emotions would have been different a year ago or any time before that. You can't ignore your previous experiences or your one-sided loves. But I remembered some things while I was shooting, and I think those helped me a lot. If I do something next year, it will probably be different too. Haha.
Reporter : Choi Ji-Eun five@
Photographer : Lee Jin-hyuk eleven@
Editor : Lynn Kim lynn2878@ , Lee Ji-Hye seven@
<ⓒ10Asia All rights reserved>
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2015 51st PaekSang Arts Awards