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[ENG TRANSL] Ahn Hyo Seop - Esquire (2020) Interview

March 19, 2020

Disclaimer: Article is roughly translated. It may contain inaccuracies. Please pardon any mistakes.

Ahn Hyo seop’s Worry

Q: How long has it been since you wrapped up Dr. Romantic 2?

A: It’s been exactly 2 weeks. We filmed it right until it aired.

Q: For two weeks, were you able to shed the character of Seo Woo Jin?

A: I got out of it without realizing it. Woo Jin became a lot brighter in the second half of the drama. His bright and positive characteristics stayed with me for a while.

Q: It seems like you’re not usually optimistic.

A: I’m more realistic. Since time has passed, I think I’m slowly going back to my original self.

Q: Compared to your previous role, this role might have used up more emotions. What kind of role is Seo Woo Jin to Ahn Hyo Seop?

A: All the roles I played had their own pain. In comparison to the other roles, Seo Woo Jin had relatively more challenges and pain. Woo Jin was someone I wanted to comfort and take care of. I felt attached to him right away when I first read the script. And I got curious about what kind of thoughts he had while going through a tough childhood. He was someone I especially liked.

Q: With Dr. Romantic, the ratings for Season 1 were high, and the drama was greatly received. It would’ve been a huge burden to be the main character in the new season of a drama with a solid fan base.

A: That’s right. Since the production crew, director, writer, and even the cast were the same, and only certain characters changed, I thought it would be inevitable to be compared. I felt a huge burden. I’m also a huge fan of Dr. Romantic, and after seeing the senior actors in Season 1 do well, I worried a lot about whether I could portray Seo Woo Jin well, or if I can adapt well to Doldam Hospital.

Q: I heard you prepared a lot for the role of a doctor. This is your first time doing this genre since your debut, was there any pressure?

A: Yes, there was. The role of a doctor is a challenge in itself. It takes at least 12 years to become a 2nd-year fellow. It was difficult because I had to prepare for that role within 1 to 2 months. So my conclusion was to do a good job at imitating even if it isn’t perfect. Actually, I went with the director and co-actors to a hospital to observe the doctors. I tried to learn not only the doctors’ behaviors but also how they think. I also learned the basics of CPR, and how to intubate or suture an organ, so I kept practicing those. I also practiced cutting and stitching meat at home.

Q: The line “How much will you buy me for?” was a rather impressive line because it seemed like it contained all of Seo Woo Jin’s life in that one line. If you were to appraise Seo Woo Jin’s value when he first joined Doldam Hospital, and Seo Woo Jin during the last episode, what would be his value?

A: Ha ha ha. What if you turn that value into money? That line implies Seo Woo Jin’s background. In the beginning, someone set a price of 10 million won. And if I’d put a price on Woo Jin at the end...a blank check? In other words, Woo Jin started to believe in his potential, and since he gained self-awareness, there are infinite possibilities. I just said that to sound cool (laughs). This line is also the most memorable for me. In other interviews, I also received questions about what line was most memorable, and I gave the same answer: “How much will you buy me for?”

Q: Was there a difficult scene to act?

A: Difficult scene? A lot, actually. I usually have dry eyes, so I rarely cry. I had a hard time trying to pull those emotions out. Also, Woo Jin changed from having a gloomy life to a brighter one, so it was difficult to do the cheesy acts or the cheesy lines. I had a lot of internal conflicts because that’s not how I am. But if I don’t do it, the work won’t be done. There was also a scene where I argue with Hyun Joon (acted by Park Jong Hwan), then I go to the locker room and bawl. Not only Hyun Joon’s pain, but the pain I endured, or rather, the pain I pretended not to feel, exploded in that scene. I remember that scene being difficult.

Q: There were quite a lot of different scenes.

A: Actually, I have regrets in every scene. I’m not satisfied with any of (my) scenes. There’s no right answer to acting. I think what I did was neither right nor wrong. When I monitor what I did, there are regrettable details. So, rather than being disappointed in one scene, I’m aware that I’m lacking overall. Also, I think it’s right to feel this way. I think that improvement comes with having regrets and not feeling satisfied.

Q: Speaking of monitoring, some actors couldn’t watch their own acting. Are you good at watching your own acting?

A: I’m not good at it. I tend to watch it after having a drink. When you’re a bit drunk, you become more tolerant. I was actually drinking while watching Episodes 1-6 of Dr. Romantic 2. I did that on purpose. I couldn’t watch it if I’m sober.

Q: You seem to be quite a good drinker (laughs).

A: I like it.

Q: You were named alongside Han Suk Kyu as the main character this time. How was it working with a veteran actor? I think meeting him alone would have been a great help.

A: When Han Suk Kyu starts talking, he has a lot to say. I think he is the best senior actor and he is someone I have so much to learn from as a person. I was scared at first because I saw him on TV when I was young, and we filmed so many scenes together. But the moment I saw him, he smiled brightly. In all the scenes, he gave me acting guidance, and also shared some detailed experiences and acting tips. It felt more like he was helping me rather than teaching me like I was being respected. Instead of saying, “Do it this way!”, he would say, “This is what I think, what about you?” and respected my interpretations. He helped me improve. The ‘person Han Suk Kyu’ felt like a father to me.

Q: Isn’t he the same age as your father?

A: He says his son is my age. Every time I see (Han Suk Kyu), I smile. He’s warm, and should I say it’s like he has a halo over his head? He became a guide for me. Not only as an actor but as a person.

Q: It’s been 6 years since your debut, yet you played the lead role in many of your dramas. You became a male lead quite quickly for a rookie actor. Did your mindset change from when you first started to when you became a male lead?

A: What’s certain is that I did my best in every drama. If there’s a difference, it’s that I only knew little back then, so I only did my best. But now that I know more, I can see more as I grow while I film more dramas. I think the more I do it, the more I have to do it. As a person who holds the larger weight in the drama, and as a person who leads the drama, I keep finding things that I don’t know or didn’t know.

Q: Of all the dramas you filmed in 6 years, what do you think is your representative work?

A: I can’t choose one. I think the one I’m filming is my representative work. I cherish all my projects equally. Although of course I had a hard time in some, or there are characters I’m more attached to. If I have to pick one, I’d feel bad for my other dramas.

Q: Do you usually watch dramas?

A: I don’t really watch Korean dramas. I watch a lot of American tv shows. My favorite is Breaking Bad. Did you watch it? I think it’s a perfect drama. I swear, I would binge-watch Seasons 1-5. And after I watch the last episode of Season 5? Then I’d watch it again from the beginning. I watched it ten times. It’s different when I watch it as I get older. Script, acting, editing, directing, music — Everything’s the best. For me. Did I get too excited? (laughs).

Q: I can tell you’re a fan. Do you remember the first drama you ever watched?

A: Rustic Period! It was Rustic Period.

Q: Do you have a memorable scene from Rustic Period?

A: The scene where the characters fight in a circle (laughs).

Q: Apparently, you first stepped into the entertainment industry at the age of 17. That you were cast by a Korean agency while you were living in Canada. Was there a reason why you wanted to be a celebrity?

A: When you live abroad, you tend to watch more Korean TV programs. I loved watching dramas and movies. I didn’t think of being a celebrity per se, but I thought that if an opportunity comes, I shouldn’t miss it. Actually, I didn’t want to be a celebrity. Rather than become a celebrity, I wanted to try acting. It sounds the same, but they mean different. Rather than being known and gaining fame, I wanted to try the job (of an actor) itself.

Q: What was your dream when you were young?

A: When you’re young, your dream is whatever your parents tell you to do, right? At first, I wanted to be a diplomat. You can sense what kind of parents I have, right? Then, I dreamed of becoming a consultant, then an accountant. But in the end, my sister became an accountant, and I came to Korea.

Q: It seems like you listened to your parents well.

A: I was just a nice kid. A kid who didn’t upset his parents. I also studied hard and improved myself. I think that’s how I spent my childhood.

Q: And then you came to Korea alone at the age of 17. I heard you weren’t good at Korean, so it must’ve been hard to adapt.

A: I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard. I looked Korean, but I acted differently. It was difficult at first because of the cultural differences. It took me a while to overcome those, and fix my pronunciation.

Q: I don’t think it would’ve been easy to convey emotions in Korean instead of English.

A: The hardest thing was intonation. For example, the sentence, “I don’t love you” (in English). I would translate that in my head. So in Korean, it is “I don’t love you.” For me, to emphasize this, I would say “I don’t love you!” but it’s actually “I don’t love you.” The biggest problem is when I don’t know that. Honestly, I still get confused. There are times when the directors go into the details, and since I’m still learning, I think I’ll gradually get better.

Q: Right now, are you more comfortable with Korean or English?

A: Dialect-speaking people use the dialect when talking to their friends who speak it, and use standard pronunciation when talking to people from Seoul. I’m the same. Right now, I live with my older brother, and we mostly speak English.

Q: I thought you were living alone, but you’re not?

A: I was living alone, but my brother invaded my house (laughs). He graduated in Canada and came to Korea for work.

Q: Your debut work was the music variety show Cantare 2 (2015). As a celebrity, the first image that got imprinted on you was your violin performance. How do you think that affected your career?

A: It seems like you saw me from the very beginning. If you’re asking how this affected the life of actor Ahn Hyo Seop, I’d say there wasn’t much. It felt like I only had a taste of how this industry works. But I remember working hard and doing my best to practice. Even when the camera wasn’t rolling, we’d meet up separately and practice.

Q: I heard when you had your first script reading for Happy Home in 2016, you wanted to go home. Are you still that nervous?

A: I don’t get nervous that much these days. I think I was afraid at that time because I didn’t know anything. Should I say it’s the fear of the unknown? I said I watched Rustic Period, right? Kim Yeong Cheol, who starred in that drama, was sitting at the end. I can still remember it. I only had one line, up until the third episode: “Yes.” It was a new environment, and I was cautious about my real personality coming out. I was also pressured to do well. So I remember wanting to go home.

Q: Did you eventually do a good job at saying your line “Yes”?

A: I couldn’t. Kim Yeong Cheol even told me this later on: “Don’t say ‘Yes’ like that.” He told me that even if my only line was ‘Yes’, I should say it in the right direction. I didn’t know what he meant back then, but looking back at it, I understood.

Q: Then do you remember the first compliment you received as an actor?

A: I think it was when we were filming Still 17. I was always dispirited. I think I was very much aware that I wasn’t good enough, although I worked hard. After I filmed a scene, I heard someone say, “Hyo Deop, you’re good.” I don’t remember who said it. Was it Se Jong? That one sentence really comforted me. Although they were probably just empty words or words of comfort, I took it with sincerity at that time. From then on, I had this thought: “I guess I could look good in someone else’s eyes.”

Q: Do you usually evaluate yourself with “I’m good at acting” or “I’m not good”? What’s your standard for that?

A: Yes. I’m hard on myself. I think it’s important whether the emotion is probable, or whether that emotion is widely conveyed. When someone compliments me, I only believe that much because if I do better, I thought I’d get another compliment. There’s a difference between compliments such as “Hey, you did a good job” or “Hey, you did a really good job.” I tend to observe those subtle differences. For example, when a director says “Cut!” or “Cut! (pauses) Okay!”, I feel anxious. But when they say “Cut! Okay! Next scene!”, then I feel relieved.

Q: You’ve been under the spotlight for being a “young and handsome actor.” This modifier can be a stereotype for actors. What do you think?

A: That is one of my worries. When I first started, my roles required my face to stand out. I’m not good at handsome roles. I don’t have that much self-love, and I think that shows in acting. So there was something I can do better, but I was frustrated and wanted to show it right away, thinking that time can solve it.

Q: Looks like that will be resolved through this drama.

A: I’m still regretful. But I’m looking at it now from a different perspective. And it’s not only about things regarding talks about looks.

Q: We saw your shy side when you went out on variety shows. Whenever you got any attention, you would be nervous and sweat a lot. I thought, “How can someone who concentrates well when acting, be this shy when he gets out of character?”

A: I think variety shows and dramas are different. When I’m acting, I only think about the character’s emotions, but in variety shows, I’m myself. Nothing is set. Also, I never liked getting attention since I was a child.

Q: And yet you wanted to be in front of a camera?

A: I slowly got used to it. Being an actor means I have to always show something to the people, so it wouldn’t help if I hesitate. In the end, it’s my job. I thought I should be bold, and even if that wasn’t my personality, I still have to do my job. From that point, even if by force, I think I’m able to find freedom.

Q: You matured at an early age.

A: I think I matured earlier than others.

Q: Have you ever done an act of defiance?

A: I’ve skipped piano classes and went to an arcade? But even then, I was scolded a lot, I thought my life would be over if I rebelled that much.

Q: What do you think about these days?

A: Recently, I attended the SBS Drama Awards to present the Rookie Award of the Year, and I was reminded of when I received the same award in 2018. I was really nervous at that time. Why was I nervous? Where was my anxiety coming from? In the end, it was this: I worried about how Ahn Hyo Seop will be perceived by the public. How will others look at me? What if they look at me in a bad way? I’ve always paid too much attention to what others think of me. Of course, there are times in our social life when we have to make concessions and make adjustments, but I think even for those things, we have to be honest about how we feel. I want to say that even if someone doesn’t like me, I’ll live my life the way I see it. That’s what I think these days.

Q: You’re more serious than what is seen on screen. Is the ‘person Ahn Hyo Seop’ the same as the ‘actor Ahn Hyo Seop’?

A: They’re the same. I’m a bit more boring than what the public sees. I’m a serious person. I also don’t talk a lot. There were many times when I wouldn’t say anything for three to four days when I’m at home.

Q: If you appear on observational variety shows like I Live Alone, what do you think the public will think of when they watch you?

A: Boring? (laughs). I have fun... but I don’t meet a lot of people. I enjoy being alone, and I mostly stay at home. I’m a bookworm, so I read a lot of books. I used to keep my distance from books. Should I explain in detail? These days, I wake up at 9 am, then I lay on my bed looking at my phone for about 5 minutes. I then wash up and clean the house. Then I’d go to the sandwich store below my house, buy a sandwich and coffee, then go back up. I watch Netflix while eating my sandwich, and when I’m done eating, I take a shower. I pass a bit of time, then I go to work out. When I get home, I read a book, or be on my computer, or play with my cat Baul. By the time I give Baul snacks, it’s 7 pm. I order my food then. I also think about what food will be good with alcohol. I always drink by myself. When I feel tipsy after eating, then I go to sleep.

Q: What do you usually drink?

A: Soju. I live a really boring life, right? (laughs)

Q: Aside from work, what else do you work hard on these days? Whether it’s resting or dating?

A: I tend to enjoy getting to know myself. Knowing yourself is the most difficult thing in life. It seems like the more you live, the more you don’t know. I always remember where a thought came from, or what made me do something. The same is true as to why I started liking books. I can’t find an answer just by thinking, but when I read books, I can see the answers.

Q: You said you enjoy getting to know yourself, how much do you think you know about yourself now that you turned 26?

A: I’m not sure, but I know that I have a long way to go. And I don’t think it’ll ever be 100% because I’m always changing.

Q: What’s your biggest worry right now?

A: What to eat after the interview. Also, where should I move to? I need to move houses, and I’m thinking about where to go. The neighborhood is important.

Q: Do you have a standard for choosing a neighborhood?

A: I’d love a neighborhood that isn’t too busy. A relaxing neighborhood?

Q: Next year, it will be 10 years since you were first cast. Do you think the image that 17-year old Ahn Hyo Seop drew of himself in 10 years is the same?

A: I’m not the type to set goals. I’m someone who stays in the present. I don’t think much about what I’ll be doing when I’m 30, or what I’ll be doing at a certain age. So I never thought about it, because it’s not important to me. What’s most important to me is the present. This moment is the most important.

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