As the interview progresses, the sound of her laughter changes from a demure trill to a distinctive chuckle tinged with the hint of a snort.
And when the interview with actress Hong Soo-ah
(20) is over, her characteristic, half-restrained laugh still seems to ring in one's ears.
The name "Hong Soo-ah
" might not immediately recall a corresponding face. But many are familiar with her TV personas: the quirky girl from the MBC sitcom "Nonstop 5" (director: Jeon Jin-soo
), with her incessant high-pitched prattle; and the regular host for the "Six Women" segment of KBS's "Happy Sunday", who captivates her male guests with her large eyes, a mischievous laugh, and flashy dancing.
"Actually, my character in 'Nonstop 5' was designed to liven up the atmosphere. So I tend to overact a lot, speak out of turn, act impertinent, and otherwise maximize my bizarre and quirky side". (She trills demurely. Five minutes elapsed.)
The Hong Soo-ah
who turned up on July 4 at the Dong-A Media Center in Jongno-gu, Seoul, was quite a contrast from her usual quirky personality. Her earnest expression, her shoulder-baring white top and skirt, and well-defined makeup almost had one asking if this was really Hong Soo-ah
. Her slate is full these days, with commercial, film ("Wishing Stairs"
, "She's on Duty
"), and TV commitments.
"There were times when I was crying with frustration. I was only doing my best in the roles that I was given, but when I heard people say, 'Hong Soo-ah
? She's not an actress, she's a comedian', that hurt a lot. But there are more people who like my bright and cheery side. Even my mom encourages me, saying that it's all experience". (She giggles. 15 minutes elapsed.)
Her expressionless face and calm air begin to change.
In 2001, Hong was a normal student (Suwon Girls' Middle School) with dreams of becoming a dancer. She was "discovered" while shopping for clothes with a friend at the Dongdaemun market, and took her first steps in the entertainment industry.
"I never thought that I'd be an actress. I do seem to have had the knack for it, though. I was always the class monitor, and took to the stage at every school event after I learned to dance". (She chuckles conspiratorially. 20 minutes elapsed.)
With each passing minute, the Hong Su-a sitting opposite us continues her gradual change from the bright and cheery girl of her sitcom into the audacious host of "Six Women".
"There's nothing I do particularly well over other people... Actually, I do everything well", she says with a playful glint. "I was good at sports, and always got top scores in athletic exams. Speaking of which, I want to go to school (she's a freshman in the college of fine arts at Konkuk University), to see my friends and attend classes. But I try to suppress my desire for other things by concentrating on my work". (She chortles, her nose starting to get into it. Thirty minutes elapsed.)
The familiar Hong Soo-ah
begins to pop out more and more. While filming "Stakeout", Hong says that she spent a sleepless night before shooting a scene in which her school bully character beats up an actor who has far more seniority in the business than she does. Her voice escalates as she declares that it's time for her to seek out new challenges.
"The kind of role I really want to play is a tragic heroine, like Song Hye-kyo
's in "Autumn in my Heart
". Most people would say, 'She couldn't pull that off', but I'm confident. I'm ready whenever the challenge presents itself". (Her laugh is full and loud by now, with a distinct snort behind it. Forty minutes elapsed.)