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Jin Goo talks life, love and regrets

‘My acting came out very stiff. Although the drama was where I made my mark in the acting scene, it will forever remain a regret of mine.’

May 09,2016
Jin Goo [STUDIO 706]
Jin Goo, who portrayed Seo Dae-young in the latest record-setting KBS drama “Descendants of the Sun,” has been around for many years now. The recent show, the first real spotlight in his long acting career, seemed to have rejuvenated the 36-year-old star. The fiery passion expressed toward Yoon Myung-joo (Kim Ji-won) and the old-fashioned military camaraderie that Jin showcased were pivotal aspects of the show that kept fans’ eyes glued to the TV.

The Joongang Ilbo recently met with actor Jin Goo, who shared some of his joys as well as some of his regrets.



Q. How does your wife like your elevated popularity?

A. She is just delighted to see the overwhelming love I’m receiving from fans. She is even happier about the fact that I’m starring in her favorite genre: romance. She has been the biggest fan of the Goo-won couple.



Has there been anything uncomfortable that’s resulted from your elevated popularity?

No more shabby looks are allowed now, even when I go out to the small grocery market in front of my house. I do not wish to disappoint my female fans. I recently lost 5 kilograms (11 pounds) for the next movie, but it was also to ingratiate myself with my fans.



Your popularity skyrocketed. Isn’t it too much all at once? How are you dealing with it?

I have continued acting all along, thinking to myself that my fans are out there somewhere. I don’t consider this an aberration, but rather the result of my career-long efforts. So I will just sit back and enjoy it. But also, I won’t make the mistake of being complacent and full of myself again.



When did you make that mistake?

My role in the drama “All In” (2003) drew so much popularity, though it was short-lived. I really was one arrogant bastard (laughs). A kid who was going to be appearing in only a fraction of the drama acted as if he was something special and belittled the profession of acting. Obviously, with that mentality, I couldn’t pull off anything. Thankfully, I sank to the lowest place I could possibly be. I basically crawled my way back up and finally ended up where I am now. Lee Byung-hun, who starred in “All In” with me, congratulated me for all the props I was getting from fans. Had I not been let down then, I would not have been Jin Goo, the actor I am now.



Many fans surmised that Seo Dae-young would die in the drama. How would the show have been with Seo dead?

Many of the characters I played in movies died, so their surmise is well founded. If Seo did die, it would have made the whole drama more predictable.



How did your acting for Seo Dae-young come about?

Every man has one of those fantasies, risking their lives on the battlefield for the love of his life. Being another man of that kind, it really was not so tough a process to understand the fantasy incarnate that Seo is. And as you may have noticed, my previous roles all had serious personalities. The only difference with this one was that I had my female counterpart with me this time, Yoon Myung-joo.



Was your experience in the Marine Corps of any help for your acting as a soldier?

Yes. The rigid rules and discipline, which I had to abide by at all times as a military police officer, were of great help. Once, during my tenure, I was assigned the role of escort.



Speaking of rigid rules, were there any particular reasons as to why you volunteered to be military police despite its notoriety for requiring rigorous discipline?

Everyone around me was joining the Army. I just wanted to go the untrodden road by joining the Navy. I was fascinated by military policemen in the training center and decided to be one of them. I remember having my uniform always well-groomed and walking around with swagger.



Jin Goo plays the role of Sgt. Maj. Seo Dae-young, right, who falls in love with an Army doctor, Yoon Myung-joo, in “Descendants of the Sun.” [CAPTURE FROM THE DRAMA “DESCENDANTS OF THE SUN”]
Seo was a caring man toward his comrades. Was the same true of you back in the military?

I treated the underclassmen just like he did. After a sharp scolding, I always wiped their tears, gave them gentle pats on the back like a big brother. I still keep in touch with many of them.



What about your personality outside the military?

I do find his meticulous approach to the task similar. I also go all out like how Seo danced along the idol singer’s dance in the last episode. But I’m not as cold as him. I am always trying to be funny and make others laugh.



Seo Dae-Young and Yoon Myung-joo (Kim Ji-won) were affectionately named the “Goo-won couple,” using the first name of each. If given another chance, would you still play Seo in order to pair up with Yoon Myung-joo, instead of playing the lead, Yoo Si-jin?

Yes. The Goo-won couple is way more interesting and more relatable for viewers. Plus, with so little experience in the romantic genre, I can’t duplicate Song Joong-ki’s talent for mesmerizing female viewers. But one thing is for sure, Song can’t duplicate my work as Seo either (laughs).



How do you rate yourself?

When it comes to me, I am a hard grader. That is part of the reason I used to not watch Korean dramas. Watching the male leads in romance flicks made me jealous and also hurt my self-esteem. This time though, I learned a lot from watching how Song acted. “Ah, that’s how you earn female viewers’ love!”



Was there a thirst to star in romantic stories before “Descendants of the Sun?”

I’ve been surrounded by dark stories all my career. I felt my romantic intuition had evaporated. Right about when I was resigned from the idea of starring in any romance flick, I got the proposal for the drama. That totally dredged up a romantic nature that I didn’t know was still within me.



Speaking of dark stories, your acting in the movie “Mother” (2009) was very interesting. Your roles prior to Seo always had that darkness. Why is that?

I have never been trained systematically when it comes to acting. I’m not sure if that’s what precipitated it, but I enjoy acting in roles such as in the movie “Mother” - punks or bullies. I did it naturally, too. My expression naturally looks so dark that my wife sometimes asks me what’s wrong. As unfortunate a thing as it may sound, in some ways, I am thankful for it because that’s obviously what made acting those roles, including Jin-tae in “Mother,” easier.



Which line or scene is most memorable to you?

The scene in which I raised my hand in salute to Yoon, in the very first episode. That accurately summed up the relationship between the two that was then unexplained. The most memorable line was Seo’s last, said to her in the last episode. Before the show’s end, I picked another line when asked the same question because that episode had not yet gone out. I felt bad for telling a lie.



Which role or movie do you feel most attracted to?

I would like to try Inha of “All In” again. My acting came out very stiff. Although the drama was where I made my mark in the acting scene, it will forever remain a regret of mine. “Mother” was the movie in which I was praised a lot and from which I built a stable financial background. The actor Lee Byung-hun said, “My comment on your acting is no longer necessary.”



Are you ready to move on from being Seo Dae-young?

I am drinking with the acting crew today. For me, today is the official last episode of “Descendants of the Sun.” I’ll move on, but it’s still bittersweet.



BY JUNG HYUN-MOK [jeong.byungki@joongang.co.kr]



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