Korean actor Oh Ji-ho [photographed by Lee Jin-Hyeok/10Asia]
Oh Ji-ho says "I learned how to really use my eyes" on 'The Slave Hunters'
The time has come finally to bid farewell to KBS TV series "The Slave Hunters". What kind of ending will come for this extraordinary drama -- which showed off fantastic imagery from the start, breaking records in viewership rating with terrifying speed and at the same time carried a fairly weighty political discussion? One does not know but one thing is for sure; that the key belongs to character Song Tae-ha (played by Oh Ji-ho), who had lived his life being loyal to his master but now dreams of making a better world. Now that even one of his enemies Dae-gil (played by Jang Hyuk) has decided to help him, what kind of dream does he have and how will he achieve them? And what has Oh Ji-do dreamed and achieved during the eight months that he spent portraying Song Tae-ha and unveiled his new possibilities? In a joint press interview held on March 24 -- the day before the final episode of "The Slave Hunters" --- the actor talked about the past eight months he spent working on the show.
Q: The show will be ending at last. How do you feel?
Oh Ji-ho (Oh): I shot my last scene yesterday and it was the scene where Tae-ha and Hye-won (played by Lee Da-hae) are leaving and asking Dae-gil (played by Jang Hyuk) to come with them. Dae-gil and my character raised their hands up in the air and hugged each other, and I was moved when we filmed that scene. A couple of staff members even cried because it was the end, even though it felt like there would be more. I feel relieved now, not like how I felt when I finished other dramas. I am relieved because the show did much better than I expected and I did what I wanted to do, like playing a character I wanted to play.
Q: There were some concerns about you doing a historical drama. Why did you choose to shoot a historical drama at this point in your career?
Oh: Actually, I chose to play the character Song Tae-ha rather than choosing to do a historical drama and I had no fear about doing it. When people told me I wasn't the right fit for a historical drama, I was like "Whatever, I'll just do it". And I studied for the part by watching historical dramas, which I don't usually watch. What was hard was adjusting to the tone of a historical drama, rather than trying to decide whether I should take on the drama. If I was going to do it, I didn't want to be told I was awful.
Actor Oh Ji-ho [Lee Jin-Hyeok/10Asia]
Q: How do you feel now about your choice?
Oh: I have discovered the joy of shooting a historical drama. When you shoot a drama in new surroundings, go to many places with beautiful scenery, you start to feel new about yourself too. And I think growing a beard for my character in a historical drama helped my acting transformation. I have shaved off the beard now and feel a bit embarrassed, as if I have taken my clothes off. Like how an introverted person can start to talk when he puts on a mask to do a mask dance, I think I too was able to change my character by growing a beard.
Q: Speaking of characters, you played comical characters in your previous dramas -- MBC's "Couple or Trouble" and MBC's "Queen of Housewives". Why did you decide to play a different kind of character this time?
Oh: When I was doing romantic comedies, I played a man whom women would find adorable and would want to take care of. But just once I wanted to play a character that men would find truly loyal and cool and that is why I decided to play Song Tae-ha. Looking cool like [Korean actor] Choi Min-soo, who we admired when we were young.
Q: Then was there anything hard about acting the part?
Oh: I didn't worry about the action scenes or visual stuff because that is something the director would take care of. What was hard was that I myself found Song Tae-ha very stifling. I felt like Tae-ha should do something at certain points but he didn't. He was a character who lived with a certain cause but he didn't do anything and there was no space for movement. The articles about me speaking my lines as if I was reading a textbook may have come from such stuffy character of Tae-ha.
Q: Tae-ha is someone who created the specifications of a hero, but it must have been all the more stifling for you to play him because he didn't vent that out openly.
Oh: In the beginning, I played Tae-ha thinking that he was literally a hero who would make a revolution but it turned out that he wasn't. So then I reached the conclusion that he was just a military officer who just carries out orders. He had the strength to rescue the young royal king (played by Kim Jin-woo-I) to carry out the order of Prince So-hyun, whom he used to serve, but that was it for him. So whatever he tried to do more, it wouldn't work out. He visits Lord Bong-lim (played by Lee Joon) and asks him to spare the life of the young royal, which doesn't work out. He is close to a Chinese general (played by Yoon Dong-hwan) so he tries to entrust himself over to the Qing Dynasty, but still he wouldn't go to Qing. When the loyal solider meets Hye-won, he changes a bit. He starts small by protecting the woman close to him, then eventually dreams of making a better world which doesn't have boundaries of the nobles and commoners. I think that is why he began to feel that he wants to stay in the countries somehow and change the world little by little.
Reporter : Wee Geun-woo firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographer : Lee Jin-Hyeok email@example.com
Editor : Lynn Kim firstname.lastname@example.org, Lee Ji-hye email@example.com
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