For a long time, he was the gentle and candid, at times the quite sweet gentleman. His good-natured smile and mellow voice which rang like a tuning fork was the image viewers long had of Lee Sun-kyun from TV series “The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince.” But after “Pasta,” he is the stingy, caustic, even frightening chef. Lee took over the small screen as Choi Hyun-wook who, with a devilish appeal, drew us into the world of masochism.
10Asia met with this humorous and straightforward man who knows what he dislikes more than knowing what he likes.
Beck Una (Beck): I heard that you recently won the award for best male actor with “Paju” at Spain’s Las Palmas de Gran Canaria International Film Festival. Congratulations on your win.
Lee Sun-kyun (Lee): Oh, thank you. To celebrate it, I watched it again with my wife on IPTV over beer. Although I ended up falling asleep in the middle. (laugh) But the process of how I actually received the award itself was very funny. Director Park Chan-ok had suddenly sent me a text message saying she has something to give me. I asked what, and she said it was an award so I thought she was going to show off the prize she won at the Deauville Asian Film Festival. But when I met with her, she said the award was mine. Goodness, even the head of the production company had heard the news for the first time there. So that’s when we rushed to tell people. It was unexpected so I was in a fluster but it felt good too, so we ended up drinking till the next morning… (laugh) It’s already been two weeks since “Pasta” ended but my life pattern has been set to rotate on a three day cycle. I drink till morning, feel apologetic to my wife so I’ll be nice to her and look after the baby, then the third day I’ll be in a pensive mode. (laugh)
Beck: Unlike the amicable atmosphere we see in “Pasta,” we heard you had to actually work intensively, as if you were almost shooting live.
Lee: Wow, I wanted to die. Really. And I was grateful when our show got extended but me and [Kong] Hyo-jin were going nuts. We were shooting as if on a live schedule starting with around the seventh episode and from about the ninth episode on, I only slept a total 11 hours during a whole week. I was in a near-panic state too because I was in almost every scene and had so many lines. I would hallucinate and hear my own voice when I lie down after being in shoot for eight hours straight in the beginning. I really wanted to cry sometimes.
Beck: But as the show developed, not only the ratings but the response by viewers became hot so I’m thinking you were able to keep encouraging each other to keep going.
Lee: Yes, the atmosphere on set got much better and as much of a hard time we had, I think that helped the staff and actors become very close. Some of the scenes even turned out better than we had thought we’d shot them so that helped us too. (laugh)
Beck: Your character Choi Hyun-wook in “Pasta” was completely different from your character in “The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince” through which you became most publicly known.
Lee: Everyone around me said that character was the closest to the real me. Although I don’t have a disposition that is as screwed up as his. (laugh) But I was at a bit of a loss about what to do in the beginning after receiving the script for “Pasta.” I couldn’t get a picture of what I should do. The Choi Hyun-wook that the scenarist had visioned was an unyielding, stiff soldier-like person but I had felt that he was actually more devilish during the first two episodes. He actually spoke quite a number of funny lines but they were expecting me to say them in a charismatic way so that was a bit frustrating. One thing for sure though, was that if Choi Hyun-wook, if I do not do well, the show would flop. When I look back on the situation it was in, my child was born on the first day of shoot, I had a bit of filming left for director Hong Sang-soo’s movie, I had to learn to cook, I wasn’t sure of my character and yet I didn’t have time. So I was quite sensitive in the beginning. I heard later on that Hyo-jin had been very scared of me. I’m not the friendly type and wasn’t in the mind to approach someone either.
Beck: Well before watching the show, I couldn’t quite picture you and her acting together.
Lee: I heard many people had been against it in the beginning. And once we actually went into shoot, Hyun-wook has a large energy and he is overly expressive so I was expecting Hyo-jin to play her part well too since she had been playing a lot of strong-willed character too. But rather, she took in everything which got me thinking she has a smaller energy than I thought. But when I watched the show on TV, I saw that the balance and pace that Hyo-jin had selected worked well with the drama. Unlike my acting which in the beginning was constrained, I realized that she doesn’t make any unnecessary moves. I realized a lot looking at her. Time-wise, it became much more comfortable to act with her after we got back from Uljin. That’s the first time we talked for a long time and drank. Before that, we just had no time to rest so we hadn’t even been able to eat together. According to Hyo-jin, she had wanted to approach me but felt uncomfortable because I would always give short answers.
Beck: But the characters you two portrayed was done so well that it made me almost think that you two are almost dating. The famous ‘eyelid kiss’ seemed like the producer had kept the camera rolling on purpose. It did well in delivering the fluttery feelings at the beginning of a relationship.
Lee: We had no rehearsal since our shooting schedule was so tight. We hadn’t rehearsed our lines together so we had no idea what would happen. With that scene too, somebody was supposed to cut but the camera kept rolling so I could see Hyo-jin’s face become increasingly red. That’s when we started playing weird jokes and I stared at her without blinking on purpose to make her face grow even more red.
Editor in Chief : Beck Una email@example.com
Editor : Lee Ji-Hye firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor : Jang Kyung-Jin email@example.com
Editor : Jessica Kim firstname.lastname@example.org