The character interview.
There were various virtues required for an actor to understand a character. One was to enhance the understanding of the character in the script. Director Shin Seonghyeon was preparing breakfast in the kitchen, and I was sitting across from his father. We were finishing our conversation from yesterday.
“There’s no good or bad death when it comes to dying, but what I’ve felt in my lifetime is that dying without sickness leaves no regrets for the remaining people. Once, I held a funeral for someone who died alone, and it was during the rainy season. Water leaked from the roof of the makeshift house. The body had absorbed it all. When the daughter who lived in another city came for the funeral, I couldn’t show her father to her like that. Not just the embalming, but I even told her not to see the encoffining, if possible.”
“Why on earth would it rain at that time? The body decays faster than when it’s on the ground. It would be a relief if it just rotted away. The limbs swell, and the skin opens like frog skin. I advise the family not to see the embalming if possible. The deceased would have thought the same. That’s why I wash the body longer than usual, hoping to find the appearance of their loved ones at least by the time of the encoffining.”
It’s a story as heavy as the thin smoky smoke. His wrinkled lips trembled as he recalled the past, but the story did not stop there.
“Ask me anything you’re curious about. If not now, when will you meet me again?”
“If a John Doe was found, did different religious people come for them?”
“Well, I don’t know these days. However, there used to be many John Does. So many gentlemen died alone that they were found several times a day. Some monks came out each time, and some priests chanted prayers for the dead. Even though the spirit has already left, that act was meant to comfort the deceased.”
After breakfast, I was preparing to return to Seoul with Director Shin Seonghyeon. His father sincerely retold his experiences. Thanks to that, I could better understand the character in the script. Director Shin Seonghyeon’s father didn’t stop there, either. He even handed me dried radish leaves hanging on the laundry line under the eaves.
“I told you yesterday, but please take care of my son.”
Director Shin Seonghyeon turned his head as if he didn’t hear it. After saying goodbye to his father, he hopped into his old car. He was a blunt man, even though he was not a man from Gyeongsang Province. In some ways, he might have resembled my past life. Since I only knew how to act, I couldn’t take care of my mother.
“Director Shin, your father is waving his hand.”
“Actor Jang, I asked him not to come out, and he’s doing it again. Just a moment.”
The old car stopped. The fall wind was cold, and his father aimlessly looked this way from the hill. He seemed to be worrying about something, but ultimately, Director Shin Seonghyeon got out of the driver’s seat and waved to his father. As if it was a fade-out, the father and son’s care for each other could be seen through the rearview mirror.
Wasn’t there a saying that the start was half the battle? The face of Director Shin Seonghyeon, who has taken the wheel again, was different from before. He was now smiling. The old car was moving on the country road again. As for his father, the silver grass in his mouth calmly saw them off.
* * *
How did I end up here?
The story was simple. After coming up to Seoul, I didn’t look for an agency. No matter how I thought about it, the only personal skill I could show at a fan meet was “singing.” But it was not a concert, so I couldn’t just keep singing. Eventually, CEO Kim Seonghwan made a decision.
– “I’ll contact CEO Hyewon in advance, so go there and learn some choreography. Didn’t you know? CEO Hyewon and I were schoolmates. Unlike our company, they have a wide range of singers and actors.”
To claim that going to another agency for help would not be embarrassing was a lie. But a familiar face greeted me. It was the manager of Actress Seo Minhye, Manager Song Jeongmin. He greeted me with a friendly smile.
“Director Song, weren’t you going to Phuket?”
“Another manager went to Phuket with Minhye. I stayed because I had work to deal with. The actor can take a break, but the manager can’t. By the way, Yeongguk, I heard you were coming today to prepare for a fan meet. Why don’t you move to our agency while you’re at it?”
“Hey, you make good jokes.”
Given how he sometimes looked at me on set, I knew long ago that it wasn’t a joke. But it was important to gloss over it playfully at times like this. If I refused firmly for no reason, it would just make things awkward. Either way, now I was in another agency to learn to dance.
Hyewon Entertainment was not only an agency for actors but also a place to train singers, so there were various kinds of posters. Moreover, the scale was three times as large as Kim Seonghwan’s Sonwon. Song Jeongmin showed me around and cautiously asked,
“Yeongguk, have you been to any other agencies?”
“No, Hyewon is the first. Why do you ask?”
“Actually, I’m not trying to brag, but our company is quite large in the entertainment industry. People who visit for the first time are usually surprised, but you, Yeongguk, didn’t seem surprised at all. Ahahaha, did I overdo the bragging about our company?”
“Not at all. A company of this size is definitely something to brag about. I am actually surprised on the inside. I just didn’t want to appear unsophisticated by showing it.”
What a lie. In my past life, hadn’t I experienced pretty much all the famous agencies?
Every time my exclusive contract ended, I moved to a different agency that fit the conditions, and I even had the experience of running my own agency. At this moment, the scale of Hyewon was impressive, but compared to the large agencies that will be born in the future, it was still at the starting level.
As Manager Song Jeongmin escorted me around Hyewon, we finally arrived at our destination.
“Hello, my name is Min Wonyeong. I am a choreographer for Hyewon.”
As I exchanged greetings with the choreographer, Manager Song Jeongmin moved aside.
The dance practice room.
Like when I practiced for musicals, one wall was covered in mirrors. I spread my legs on the floor to increase flexibility, and the choreographer gently pushed down my shoulders. Like a lie, my legs stretched out smoothly into a split.
“Yeongguk, your flexibility is incredibly good!”
The choreographer exclaimed. Well, in my past life, hadn’t I often taken on the role of a thug? Exercise was a must. Moreover, thanks to training my body from a young age, my flexibility could be said to be as good as a squid’s.
“Usually, people with good flexibility can follow the dance moves well, but uh, maybe it’s because it’s your first day. Let’s try a little more.”
No, I’ve been a “clumsy dancer” since my past life. Of course, this didn’t apply to action acting. Only when it came to dance choreography did I totally sucked. I sang well, so I wasn’t tone-deaf or rhythmically challenged, but for some unknown reason, I found dancing difficult.
“Now, try to follow. We’ll start slow.”
Following the choreographer’s movements, I moved my arms and legs. Even though I could picture it perfectly in my mind, my body was as stiff as a robot’s.
Seeing my struggles, the choreographer stood behind me and moved my joints like a puppeteer controlling a marionette. However, as soon as he let go of me, I turned back into a “clumsy dancer,” like a puppet whose strings were cut.
“Yeongguk, we still have a week left. Let’s take it slow.”
“I’m sorry. You must be having a hard time because of me.”
“No! I took on the job because I’m one of your fans. There were other choreographers available, but I insisted on doing it.”
“Is that so?”
“Didn’t you know? The drama Youth was super popular! The trainees I teach only talk about Yeongguk during their break time.”
“Ohh, there’s no way that’s true. There are so many actors and singers who are more handsome than me.”
“Being handsome isn’t everything. You’re kind and have a good personality. The directors praise you a lot. Even though you belong to a different company, they say they’re envious. Who would turn down a reward vacation to prepare for a fan meet? And aren’t you going into your next project soon? Actually, I saved the article where you were photographed in a priest’s outfit during your pre-production press conference. If you have time, could you please sign it for me later?”
When I recalled how I was called a “crazy bastard” with coarse language on the filming set in my past life, my mind was blown away. I didn’t have good human relationships and the number of colleagues I was close to could be counted on one hand. However, now, whether it was due to some butterfly effect or something, I’ve become a very kind and steady young man.
Life was indeed full of mysteries. While I was lost in thought, it seemed Choreographer Min Wonyeong felt awkward talking for so long and started a new topic.
“Yeongguk, aren’t you thirsty? I’ll get a drink from the vending machine for you!”
“No, I’ll get it. You’ve been working hard because of me, so I should be the one to do it.”
I felt a burning shame. I wouldn’t have felt this sorry if I had learned to dance sooner. But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get better at some things. Seeing this, the choreographer rather liked it, saying it showed my human side.
Amidst my mountain of worries, the moment I pushed open the practice room door…
Beyond the door, women fell down at an unexpected time. Judging by their looks, they were eavesdropping on the dance practice room. They lifted their heads, and as soon as our eyes met, their faces quickly turned beet red, and they ran away.
That’s when the choreographer…
‘See, I wasn’t lying, was I?’
His shoulders shrugged as if to say so.
* * *
The music director.
“Director, don’t we have the Mong-Ran footage filmed in Jangseong? The film director over there wants the track to be more dynamic. What should we do?”
“Tell them not to spit out nonsense—since before the crank-in, I’ve told the director and the production company that this isn’t possible. If it becomes more dynamic, the narrative will become absurd. If they were going to tamper with my music, they shouldn’t have hired me in the first place. Tsk, when did I ever ask for a revision because I didn’t like the direction? If they don’t like it, tell them to cancel the contract!”
Director Choi Yul was an excellent music director who won the Grand Bell Award for music for his debut work. He was a pianist who majored in piano in his youth, but his dream was thwarted by tendonitis.
But if there was such a thing as fate, this must be it, for the disheartened pianist turned into a music director, making his name known all over Asia.
“And there’s a call from Chungmuro.”
“Where? If it’s that production company from last time, just tell them I’m in China—no, the U.S.—on a business trip. That way, they can’t even bring it up. Working with them is hard because they’re stubborn. Most are old people who don’t know the difference between sound and music.”
Sound. In films, music and sound had similar but different directions. Since the era of silent films ended, “sound” became an important medium in commercial films. If the sound director handled the engineering part—Foley (sound effects), ambiance (environmental sound), mixing (sound work), and effects (special sound effects)—
The music director served as a conductor, using the script as the staff and guiding the actors with notes to create a grand narrative symphony. It may seem similar if someone unfamiliar saw it, but it was a completely different profession that performed a unique task.
As films evolved, the music gained even more power.
It was not wrong. As the theater screen’s size grew, music became a more indispensable entity. If the actor’s acting helped the audience immerse themselves in the movie, it was not an exaggeration to say that the atmosphere created by the background music enhanced their excitement.
Therefore, Director Choi Yul’s stock price was rising daily. As a testament to that, he was receiving love calls from famed film directors all over Asia.
“It’s not from there. It’s a man named Director Shin Seonghyeon who contacted us before. He’s going to start his next work and called again asking you to take care of the music.”
“Who’s the actor?”
“The lead is a currently famous actor in Korea named Jang Yeongguk.”
As he had been working on a local Chinese film, he hadn’t been keeping up with domestic news. So, there was no way he’d know the actor named Jang Yeongguk, especially since love calls were already pouring in like a flood. Director Choi Yul tilted his head and was about to say, “Okay, put it away” when…
“Oh, they sent a tape, and it’s said to be the actor’s personal audition video.”
It’d be a lie to say if one was not intrigued by it. Whenever Chungmuro sent love calls before, there was never a case this proactive. Well, how high must the noses of the Chungmuro directors be? Director Choi Yul leaned back on the sofa as if to lie down and added,
“Let’s see it.”
* * *
It had been a tough day.
After finishing dance practice at Hyewon Entertainment, a fan signing event took place. Whether they heard a rumor or something, not only the trainees but also the employees came down, and I diligently moved my pen with my worn-out body.
Eventually, Manager Song Jeongmin appeared and yelled at them. Only then did the fan signing event end. I felt awkward at how sorry he looked.
When I arrived at Grandpa’s house, I showered as I sweated a lot during practice. With a towel around my neck, I opened the script once again. The script for The Priest’s Confession had a knack for always stealing my glances.
“Brother, what you’re receiving is not pain. It’s retribution brought on by a life of wickedness. Don’t struggle against the suddenness of it. Your victims must have also faced such abrupt anguish. Compared to them, aren’t you merely following a predestined path?”
I recited the lines and did a solo act. Of course, it would be great if there was someone to respond to the lines. But acting was a lonely job.
Looking back, I had spent countless hours practicing acting in front of the mirror. From the subtle expressions on my face to handling my gaze, I persevered to change the tone and inflection of my dialogue using a recorder. It was then.
“Yeongguk, you’ve grown quite a bit.”
I wondered when he arrived. Uncle Ahn Junghyeon was leaning on the door, watching me quietly. His face was filled with a proud smile as if looking at a mature son.
“How can you just barge in like that? It’s really embarrassing.”
“Didn’t I knock? You were so engrossed in your acting you didn’t hear me, Yeongguk. And about being embarrassed… what’s wrong with that among fellow actors? Anyway, when I was your age, I thought I would only be reading risqué magazines. I never even dreamt of acting out in thin air while reading a script. Alright, I’ll give you a pass as your sunbae. Please, continue.”
He had a knack for making fun of me. In the past, he was like a star in the sky, a legendary figure to me when I was nurturing my dream of becoming an actor. But now, he was too familiar. He really felt like the uncle I shared blood with.
“Get dressed quickly and come down. I brought a whole chicken packed in a plastic bag for you. It’s very crispy and delicious as it was fried in a cauldron at a traditional market. I originally planned to have it as an accompaniment to our drinks, but since you’re here too, have some. It’s first come, first served. If you come down late, I might have eaten it all.”
With a content smile, Uncle patted my backside and turned around to leave. Despite his stern image in movies, he was the polar opposite in reality. Yet, his relaxed demeanor was rather comforting. After drying my hair with a towel and changing clothes, I went down to the living room.
“Brother, what you’re receiving is not pain. It’s retribution brought on by a life of wickedness. Don’t struggle against the suddenness of it… Compared to them…!”
“Yeongguk, you’re already down here, huh? I was having such a good time. I wonder what our hyung will do next. It’s a shame I can’t see that scoundrel’s face since he’s turned his back. He must be clutching the script like it’s tearing him apart, with his voice dropping to the floor.”
“Stop teasing me already.”
“Why, you bastard? This is the joy of my life. No, instead, should I tell your friend, Kwak Myunghwan? Actor Jang Yeongguk, referred to as the nation’s first love, practices acting at home with a towel around his neck, wearing only underwear after showering.”
Grandpa was looking at our bickering with a pleased expression. Not too long ago, this mansion was so quiet that finding a sign of human life was hard. But now, it was as lively as if it was a holiday. The wind chimes hanging at the eaves added to their quarreling, making a cheerful sound.
At that same moment, somewhere else…
Director Choi Yul leaned forward with a shaking throat.
The quality of the video was not good, as if it had been filmed with a camcorder. The shabby office in the background hardly seemed to be a place for a private audition. Yet, he could help but be drawn to the young man in the video. As soon as the young man’s audition began, Choi Yul unknowingly opened his eyes wide. In the end, words of admiration flowed from Choi Yul’s mouth.
It was a short video, not even thirty minutes long, but Choi Yul kept replaying it until the tape wore out. The same was true for others. Before he knew it, everyone’s mouths were agape, engrossed in the screen. As if to disturb their concentration, Director Choi Yul moistly licked his dry lips.
“Hojin, when will our work be finished this time?”
“Well, since we’re wrapping up, it might take about a week.”
“Finish it in two days.”
Director Choi Yul’s firm gaze was still directed at one place. His voice trembled grotesquely, his lips were pleased, and his eyes were slightly pale. Watching the mad actor, Jang Yeongguk, on the TV screen, Director Choi Yul felt his heart pounding.
Love the series? Share your thoughts on Novel Updates by rating and reviewing it now!