Is there anyone in Korea who doesn’t know actor Kim Tae-woo? Even if you don't know his name, you may think you've seen him a lot somewhere on television when you look at his face. Kim Tae-woo is a representative of Korea's veteran actors and impresses audiences in his great works. Debuting in 1997 and continuing his acting career, he is so deeply involved in acting that he says he has no particular interest but acting. He has a great affection for his job. He recently attended a bazaar at Chung-Ang University for students, as well as being the host of the event, showing his affection for his juniors. Let's meet him with CAH.
Hello! Please introduce yourself! And you recently starred in 'Huh-yoon' in <Joseon Romantic Comedy Tale of Nokdu> on KBS2. Could you give us a brief introduction about the role you play?
My name is Kim Tae-woo, and I was a student in the theater department of Chung-Ang University. I'm filming as Huh-yoon in a drama broadcast on KBS2. My character is a longtime friend and also loyalist of King Gwanghae. The relationship between King Gwanghae and Huh-yoon is a kind of relationship between the president and the chief of staff. The relationship between the two is overshadowed by the many intertwined stories in it, and Huh-yoon becomes an internally contrived character.
You've played a lot of roles so far, and you seem to have appeared in a lot of bad roles. Do you have your own special standard for choosing a work or role?
For me, the biggest criterion is the work rather than the role. As you can see from my filmography, I've chosen the quality of the work, rather than the weight of the role. I think the weight of the role is less important than the things that I find interesting when I read the work.
I made my debut through KBS public recruitment in 1996, and for 17 years, I was asked if I wanted to play the villain role with a question that ended the interview consistently. That's how time went by and I played the role of Cho Moo-chul through <That Winter, the Wind Blows> and I think I also played the villain role that people talk about, though not much. It's a much bigger field to play various roles. In fact, the role of villain was also very loved by the public, such as <That Winter, the Wind Blows>, <The Book of Corrections> and <Pirates>, and I have an image that I usually play villainous roles. But in fact, in my overall picture, there's a lot more good stuff. (Laughs) I think I always say the same thing. Since I'm dreaming of acting for the rest of my life, I think the most important thing is how I play the role I've given myself. That's what I'm about to be seen by the public.
What is the most enjoyable genre of acting for you?
I wanted to play comedy since I was in Chung-Ang University. I really like comedy. So, I really enjoyed myself recently when I did a work called The Romance Book. When I was asked if I wanted to play the villain role I mentioned earlier, I always liked the villain role, but I also wanted to play a comedy. But of course, I like comedy the most, but when I work, I choose the role for which I think I'll be the best fit. For example, for a swimmer, even if he likes free form, if he has a better record of competing in the backstroke, he should definitely do the latter. I think it's different from what I like and what I do. Comedy is something I like and want to do, but as a result, it's important to do my best in what's given to me.
There's a variety of rhetoric that describes the actor Kim Tae-woo. Some of the phrases that describe you say that you cross good and evil. What do you think about this?
In the case of actors, castings are often made through images. When we debuted, we focused on the roles of prosecutors, graduate students, and doctors. Then, I met director Hong Sang-soo's work and created a character that expresses the nastiness and truthfulness of human nature. And when it comes to the expression of crossing good and evil, it's too much for me. I don't think I've tried to play the role of an evil one in particular. Rather, I tried to have a sense of propriety in the actions of my characters. I think there were more potential villains than random ones in other good movies and dramas. It is my role to expand its relevance. Even in the case of good roles, even though the tendency to be foolishly good, it does not match the self of Kim Tae-woo; it is my responsibility to find a common denominator and to expand it. And when I'm actually acting, I think it's important to make people understand why I'm acting that way. To sum up, I don't want to play a role that looks worse on my own. I just think the actions I play try to justify, but they're judged by someone by their own standards of evil and goodness.
I heard that you have been a model student around you since high school because of your good grades and hard work. So, when you first chose the department of drama and film, I heard many people around you were surprised. Is there a special reason for you to dream of becoming an actor?
My first dream was to be an actor when I was in the second grade of middle school. At first, no one in my family worked in this field, and since I had a talent for studying, I thought I should just study hard. But when I was in the second grade of middle school, I suddenly thought about my career a lot. And I thought that I wanted to be an actor. I didn't have any particular reason. I just wanted to be an actor for no exact reason. Although I don't have religion, I don't think there's one thing that a divine being has given me talent as an actor in appearance, sound, and pronunciation. But if there's one thing, I think it's my talent as an actor that made me feel like I wanted to be an actor when I was in the second grade of middle school. What's really interesting is that since then, I've never changed my dream of being an actor.
Your younger brother, Kim Tae-hoon, is also an actor. Do you guys advise or criticize each other’s acting?
When we were young, there were times when we briefly gave each other advice and criticism about acting. But when Tae-hoon was a freshman in college, I suddenly thought that I have to stop advising him about his acting. Every actor’s acting style is different, but if I keep explaining my style to Tae-hoon, then he will lose his own style when acting. Since then, I don't give advice or counsel to my brother. We just respect each other's styles.
On September 7th, you were in charge of the CAU Performing Arts and Media Alumni Celebrity Scholarship Fund Bazaar Event. We are wondering why you held the event.
The actor Son Hyun-joo is the 15th President of the Performing Arts and Media Alumni Association for now and I got to be one of the executives. I declined several offers to become an executive. But at the end, I took the offer. Once I decide to do something, I try to do my best. My job has been to deal with the student scholarship. Since the Performing Arts and Media is a special field of study, I thought that we could use this point to help raise funds for scholarships. What I came up with was to collect some goods from actors and actresses and to raise funds from selling the donated goods in the bazaar event. Many paid attentions and our achievements were way beyond the initial expectation. Over 50 alumni donated more than 300 goods in total and thanks to that, the event succeeded. Again, I would like to appreciate to all those who participated. Personally, I feel achievement at the fact that the scholarship was sourced from the bazaar event, unlike any other scholarships.
What motivated you to continuously act for over 20 years?
Except for watching baseball games, I really did not have something to be immersed in. I just love acting. The preparation process is very difficult but acting itself is really fun. I believe that there could be moments of monotony regardless of job proficiency. I, too, have felt bored with my career but for living, I continued. What I want to emphasize, however, is that I love acting and its environment. I still love to watch the moments of preparation for shooting scenes because I can then realize that I have fulfilled my dream.
Other than my acting skill, my strength is that I know what I lack. I hated acknowledging my weakness in college years. “Why do I look like this? Why does my pronunciation sound like this?” These were questions I used to ask myself. As I aged, however, I think that these thoughts motivated me not to be arrogant and to make efforts. To conclude, my strong point as an actor is that I know what I lack, and I can acknowledge that. Even now, I enjoy acting and the probable reason is that there are no definite routes for acting. Plus, there always could be spaces for improvement. For me, lack is the same as hope.
There are lots of works that you participated in. Are there any special works or episodes that you remember?
This is like the question of choosing between mom and dad. As I have mentioned before, all characters are made through thoughtful processes. Thus, all are special to me. Some remember film works that sell well and others may remember works that did not sell as much. For me, the first work that I participated in has been significant. However, I think that those who have acting careers would agree with the statement that all works are precious. For each work, there is a different meaning embedded. To be honest, I ponder on specific scenes or character’s actions even now when I sleep. I have poured myself into the role whenever I acted and for that, all the works have been memorable.
Are there any actors or actresses that you favor acting with?
Acting-wise, there are actors or actresses well-known publicly. When acting, there is a fixed script and actors need to act accordingly. Within this artificial setting, good acting should convince its spectators to feel that the artificial is real. The very basic of acting is speaking and listening. When you act with actors or actresses who act well, you do not need to create artificial responses. Their acting is so good that natural reactions follow. Actors who induced such experiences make me think that I would like to act with them again. Of course, I try to be a good actor like that myself.
21 years passed since your debut. Acting for so long, have you built on your own beliefs or value sets? We would like to know that.
I always feel that the produced films should be better than the original scripts. If the script is better than the recorded production, why not just publish it as a book rather than producing it into dramas or movies? In order to make recorded productions better than the scripts, actors, camera directors and other staffs in combination. They all need to play a role in enhancing the quality. Specifically, as an actor, I feel the need to present characters more and more alive. One of my beliefs is that I should act so that I would have no regrets to think that other actors would have played the role better than I. To abide by my belief, I try my fullest.
Besides acting, how do you spend your time? You said that your only hobby is to watch baseball. Do you usually go to stadiums for watching baseball?
I love going to the stadium to watch baseball. My favorite team is the Doosan Bears. I came to like the team because my father liked the motherhood group of the Doosan Bears. Also, I have liked sports a lot since childhood. I was a handball player in elementary school and our team placed second in the national tournament. I guess it was natural for me to like baseball. I just love baseball as a sport. I feel as much happiness when underdog teams improve themselves to the winning place as well as when the Doosan Bears win. I feel that the field of baseball is improving overall. Thus, I feel happy.
While attending CAU, are there any classes or professors that were memorable? What is most memorable from your college years?
When I was in college, all the professors in the Performing Arts and Media Department were the best. Thanks to them, I am able to act until now. Besides professors from my major, Korean Language and Linguistics professor Lee Chan-kyu is memorable. I heard that he even became a vice-president of the university. He was nice to me during my freshman year and I came to think of him last year when I was lecturing at CAU. Roughly 20 years have passed since my college years but surprisingly, he was still in the university and I visited him. A few months ago, we even drank beers together. I asked him why he liked me so much when I was a freshman. He simply answered back that I was a humorous person. For now, the Performing Arts and Media Department is located in the Seoul campus. Back then, however, the department was in the Anseong campus. The professor had to travel back and forth from Seoul to Anseong. While on the bus, he coincidentally saw me talking about acting and my passionate attitude made him think that I was humorous.
Last but not least, please leave a parting note for the CAU students who will read this interview article.
Do not feel forced to be just diligent. If you have something that you want to do, go beyond being diligent, and be immersed in. There are lots of people who try hard so being diligent like other people is meaningless. Plus, people often self-rationalize that they have worked hard. Therefore, I suggest that you pour all you have got. And this could be applied to not only studying and acting but also love and things that you could experience in your twenties. Time cannot be rewound so spend it wisely.
It was a great honor for CAH to meet one in a million Kim Tae-woo, the experienced and the professional. His passion toward acting was amazing. His effort to achieve success in his field was endless and he is still eager to develop himself. Also, it is recommended that he not only works for himself but also volunteers to his surrounding by such actions like being in charge of the CAU Performing Arts and Media Alumni Celebrity Scholarship Fund Bazaar Event. We appreciate Kim Tae-woo’s support and encouragement to his juniors and once again thank for him to give an interview while busy shooting <Joseon Romance Comedy, Nokdu-jeon>.
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