Ha reflects on the success of ‘Secret Garden’

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Ha reflects on the success of ‘Secret Garden’


Korean actress Ha Ji-won touched hearts across Korea with her character Gil Ra-im in the popular drama series “Secret Garden,” which came to an end on Jan. 16. [JoongAng Photo]

The popular television show “Secret Garden” may have come to an end on Jan. 16, but actress Ha Ji-won’s character - heroine Gil Ra-im - still lives on in viewers’ memories.

The show is centered around Gil - a poor but talented stunt woman - and Kim Joo-won, a department store owner (played by Hyun Bin), who does not believe in love. Their souls swap after drinking a love potion and they eventually fall in love.

Since production of “Secret Garden” ended Jan. 16, the day of the finale, Ha has had only one day off.

“It feels like I just woke up from a dream,” Ha said during an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo. “I’m still waking up.”

She also said it was stressful shooting the show.

“I was tired and tense during production,” Ha said. “Until the director yelled ‘cut’ and the tension melted away, the stress became sickness. But the tension still lingers.

“I need some time away. A trip would be great. I like being in unfamiliar places and looking at unfamiliar skies.”

“Secret Garden” ended with Kim Joo-won and Gil Ra-im getting married and having three kids, despite strong objection from Joo-won’s mother. The ending could be considered rather flat for a fantasy story, but weeks after the finale, the show still has people buzzing.

“If ‘Secret Garden’ didn’t have a happy ending, I would be in even worse condition. Thank God,” Ha said.

“I related to the character so well that my friends even texted me saying ‘Gil Ra-im, you have been making my life bright lately,’” Ha said. “From 80-year-old women to 5-year-old children, people recognize me on the street. I get big smiles everywhere I go - like how Kim Joo-won smiles to Gil Ra-im in the show. I went to the sauna a couple days ago and people there told me how much they enjoyed the show. Then I realized how popular it was.”


In “Secret Garden,” Ha Ji-won (right), and Hyun Bin, fall in love with each other after their souls are repeatedly swapped. Provided by SBS

Ha immediately fell in love with the story when she read the script.

“I like fantasy movies like the ‘Twilight’ series and ‘Alice in Wonderland,’” Ha said.

The plot of “Secret Garden” was unrealistic in every sense of the word - but viewers seemed to relate with the characters.

“I worried at first if middle aged women would like the story. I wanted to bring them into a fantasy world and have them fall in love,” Ha said. “I thought if I acted real enough, I could blur the boundary between fiction and reality.”

To prepare for scenes when the characters’ souls get swapped, she would listen to recordings of Hyun Bin’s voice for hours on end. She studied him endlessly. She observed Kim Joo-won - everything from the way he sits to his peculiar smile.

“Every time I looked into a mirror, I hypnotized my self, ‘I am Kim Joo-won.’ I don’t know if people noticed, but I tried to imitate Hyun Bin’s eyes,” she said.

Viewers connected with the down-to-earth actress.

“It was exactly what I was going for. If a female character is too perfect and pretty, viewers will be jealous and they wouldn’t have sympathized with Ra-im as much as they did. So I tried to be as ordinary as possible. If I wanted to look pretty and gorgeous, I wouldn’t have picked this character,” she said. “People say I make the male character more likable when he makes my heart ache.”

Television viewers are envious of her, often telling her that she “must have saved the world” to have the opportunity to work with Korea’s top actors.

“When I’m in front of the camera, I only see the character, so I don’t see it in terms of working with famous and beautiful people. Only after I see the end result do I realize how lucky I was to work with them,” she said.

Looking at her filmography, it is clear that everything Ha touches turns to gold. She was involved with hit television shows on all three major broadcasting stations, MBC’s “Damo” (2003), SBS’s “What Happened in Bali” (2004) and KBS’s “Hwangjinee” (2006).

Ha said she is carefully picking out her next role.

“The script is the most important thing for me when I am picking a role,” she said. “I choose what I can really enjoy. I never have second thoughts after I make up my mind.”

Ha’s best attribute - the reason directors seek her out - is her character versatility.

“She is a tomboy type but has sexy eyes. She can play anyone,” said director Yoon Jae-gyun, who worked with her on three movies.

Ha said she likes the action involved in acting, setting her apart from many other actresses. She even does her own stunt work, which she had a lot of opportunities to do in Secret Garden because the main character was a stunt woman.

“My ideal female role model is someone who is not fragile - someone who is independent and charismatic. I want to keep doing action scenes like Angelina Jolie.”

By Kang Hye-ran [estyle@joongang.co.kr]

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“세 아이 엄마 ? 저도 깜짝 놀랐어요”

드라마 속 김주원(현빈)의 대사를 빌려 이렇게 되묻는다. “왜 자꾸 그 여자 생각을 하지?” 그토록 무수한 패러디, OST 리플레이, 트위터와 버스 안을 가리지 않는 ‘깨알 같은 수다’를 뒤로하고 아직도 불쑥불쑥 눈앞에 나타나는 여자. ‘언제부터 예뻤는지’는 몰라도 액션에서 라벤더 향이 묻어나는 그녀는 어디까지 길라임이고 어디까지 하지원(33)일까. 석 달간 우리에게 폭풍 같은 ‘앓이’를 선사한 그 여자를 만났다.

마실 것으로 딸기 주스를 주문한다. 19일 오후 서울 영등포 타임스퀘어 카페 ‘파크 앤 느리게’였다. “라임 주스 시켜야 되는 거 아니냐”고 했더니 ‘푸핫’ 웃음을 터뜨렸다. 길라임의 웃음이다. ‘학벌·집안·외모 되는 여자 사진만 쌓아도 빌딩 한 채가 되는’ 까칠하고 도도한 재벌3세 김주원을 반하게 한 ‘신기하고 얼떨떨한, 어메이징한’ 여자. 드라마 최종회 날(16일)까지 촬영하고 종방연 등을 매듭짓느라 전날 하루 쉰 게 전부라고 했다. 종영 소감을 문자 “자다가 깼는데 꿈이 덜 깨서 비몽사몽 같은 느낌”이라고 했다. “아직은 벗어나는 느낌이 아니에요. 일탈을 해야 하는데…” 하고 말을 흐렸다.

Q. 무슨 일탈? (나이트)클럽이나 한잔 같은 거요?

“네? 하하. 한잔은 좋죠. 음, 여행 같은 거요. 새로운 공간에 가는 것. 새로운 하늘 보는 것 좋아요.”

Q. 아직 길라임에서 빠져나오고 있지 못하단 건가요?

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