Ju Ji-hoon is looking forward to his 40s: He’s glad hormonal days are over, yet still enjoys action scenes

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Ju Ji-hoon is looking forward to his 40s: He’s glad hormonal days are over, yet still enjoys action scenes


Ju Ji-hoon [NETFLIX]

It’s an axiom among movie fans that dramas with actor Ju Ji-hoon never disappoint. No one can pinpoint exactly when that trust was built among Ju’s fans. Maybe it was the 2017 and 2018 movie series “Along with the Gods” or maybe it goes all the way back to the drama “Princess Hours,” also known as “Goong,” in 2006. That was his first lead role after his debut as a model in 2002.

The 38-year-old actor is in the just-released Netflix series “Kingdom,” as well as the ongoing SBS drama “Hyena.” In the former, he is a crowned prince leading the Joseon Dynasty in the 15 to 16th centuries. In the latter, he plays an elite lawyer at a large firm.

“My curiosity is stronger than the dread one feels for something new,” said Ju in a video interview, the safest kind during the coronavirus. He told the JoongAng Ilbo what his days have been like at a time of great productivity.


Actor Ju Ji-hoon. left, in the Netflix series “Kingdom,” as a crown prince, and in the SBS drama “Hyena” as a lawyer, right. [NETFLIX, SBS]

Q. Tell us about season two of the Kingdom series?

. It is very straightforward. The drama is very determined in what to show in its scenes. There is more action than in the previous season so I worried a bit that such spectacle may keep the audience from understanding what the show intends. But I think everything turned out well, given that I, not as an actor on the show but as one audience member, can’t wait to see the next season.

Do you think that decadent desires led the entire kingdom into chaos? Does that theme speak to contemporary audiences?

Human beings all have some decadent desire, whether romantic affection, wealth or power. However, if such desire reaches the level in which not only you but others are hurt or destroyed, there is no point in making your desire come true. I aim to make a life in which I eat something good with people I love, and encourage one another when we go through hardships.

It seems like you always pick characters that are difficult to act.

I had no idea this role would be so difficult. I like scripts that are easy to follow along with. So I really have respect for someone who can understand something difficult as if it is so easy, because that means that person really put a lot of effort into it to make [the script] read smoothly. The writer for the show was really cruel. She made the more difficult, higher-level acting seem like it would be so easy to act out [in the script.] In the show, my character kills his own father as well as another figure who raised him. That really drove me nuts. She was so good at writing that even I couldn’t guess what was going to happen later on in the show.

How do you feel about the action scenes you did?

Maybe because I’m tall [187 centimeters, or 6 feet, 2 inches], I looked like I was not running as urgently as I should have been. People said all the actions scenes looked so easy, but they were really difficult. We had to rehearse so many times. When I was filming a scene where I was running on a roof, we wanted to finish it all in one long, complete shot. Each time I filmed it, it felt like I was running out of oxygen. But what I had gone through cannot be compared to all the difficulties for the actors playing zombies. Zombies in the “Kingdom” series don’t move their arms, so it must have been difficult for them to keep their balance. They must also have a hard time looking straight ahead because of the special contact lenses they wore. I was worried a lot that they might get injured.

It is known that you meet with fellow actors as well as the production crew as often as possible once you start working with them. Is that true for the ongoing TV drama, with the romantic scenes with veteran actor Kim Hye-soo?

There is no reason for me to not do that. Her energy on the set is amazing. You just naturally get into a romantic mood when you look into Kim’s eyes.

It seems like you are very interested in taking care of your health. Any worries these days?

I wish there was a pill that kept me from gaining weight even when I eat a lot. If I have to do many action scenes in seasons 3 and 4 of “Kingdom,” I will need to manage my condition. I suffer from constant problems with my elbows and ankles, [and even though it couldn’t be helping my condition,] I want to be able to continue to drink. When I was filming the movie “Asura: The City of Madness” (2016), other actors like Jung Woo-sung and Hwang Jung-min said they would have wanted to play my role if they were a few years younger. Now I understand what they meant. When I look at actor Kim Sung-kyu, I feel the same way because his role is just too cool.

What do you want your 40s to be like?

I want to be an actor whose face and eyes really show how I have lived. Since I started in my 20s with a drama that appeals to youngsters, I was worried people would only see me as someone young. Thankfully, I was able to expand my range and show what I can do with the 2014 movie “Confession.” It wasn’t too popular [about 400,000 tickets sold], but that was a kind of breakthrough role for me. That’s why I liked my 30s more than my 20s. I got much more comfortable than the times when I had to deal with some nervousness mixed with surges of hormones that got me in trouble. I have not yet experienced my 40s, but when I take a look at older actors like Jung Woo-sung or Ha Jung-woo, it looks like their 40s have been better than ever.

BY MIN KYUNG-WON [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

주지훈(38)은 언제부터 믿고 보는 배우가 됐을까. 첫 천만 영화를 넘어 쌍천만 흥행을 이끈 영화 ‘신과함께’(2017, 2018)일까, 아니면 2002년 모델로 데뷔 이후 첫 주연을 맡은 드라마 ‘궁’(2006)에서부터 될성부른 떡잎이었던 걸까. 현재 방영 중인 SBS 금토드라마 ‘하이에나’와 넷플릭스에서 공개된 오리지널 드라마 ‘킹덤’ 시즌2를 오가며 활약하고 있는 그를 보며 든 생각이다. 안방극장에서는 대형 로펌의 잘나가는 에이스 변호사로 두 자릿수 시청률(8회 기준 12.5%)을 지키고 있고, 190여 개국으로 송출되는 온라인 동영상 플랫폼(OTT)에서는 15~16세기 조선을 이끄는 세자로 화제를 모으고 있다. 그야말로 시공간을 초월하는 행보다.

신종 코로나바이러스 감염증(코로나19) 여파로 화상으로 인터뷰를 진행한 주지훈은 “드라마 촬영도 일찍 끝나서 집에서 쉬면서 온갖 소셜네트워크서비스(SNS)를 돌아다니며 반응을 찾아보고 있다”고 했다. 개인 계정이다 보니 필터링 되지 않은 언어도 많았지만 “넷플릭스 놈들아, 시즌3 빨리 내놔라”라는 글을 보고 안심했다고. “아주 직설적이잖아요. 원하는 바가 분명하고. 이전 시즌보다 액션도 많아지고, 스펙터클해서 본질이 가려지지 않을까 조금 걱정하기도 했는데 다행히 잘 표현된 것 같아요. 저 역시 배우이기 이전에 관객의 한 사람으로서 빨리 다음 시즌을 보고 싶은 걸 보면.”

‘킹덤’이 던지는 메시지 역시 명확하기 때문에 지금 시대에 통하는 것 같다고 했다. 핏줄과 혈통에 대한 집착으로 궁궐 전체가 풍비박산이 나는 모습을 두고 그는 ‘욕망’을 이야기했다. “인간은 누구나 욕망이 있죠. 그게 권력이 됐든, 애정이나 재물이 됐든 더 탐나는 게 있으니까요. 그렇지만 과유불급이라고 자기 자신은 물론 타인까지 파괴할 정도라면 그게 무슨 의미가 있겠어요. 저는 그냥 소소하게 사랑하는 사람들과 같이 맛있는 거 먹고, 힘든 거 함께 토닥여주고, 그런 삶을 목표로 하고 있어요.”

그러기에는 너무 힘든 작품을 골라 하는 것이 아니냐고 묻자 “이렇게 어려울 줄은 몰랐다”고 했다. “저는 쉽게 잘 읽히는 대본을 좋아해요. 어려운 걸 쉽게 하는 사람을 동경한다고 해야 하나. 얼마나 노력했으면 그게 가능하겠어요. 김은희 작가님도 참 잔인하죠. 고난도 연기를 아무렇지도 않게 시켜요. 낳아준 아버지인 왕(윤세웅)을 제 손으로 죽이는 것도 모자라 키워준 아버지인 안현대감(허준호)도 그렇고. 아주 배우를 돌아버리게 한다니까요. 한 치 앞도 예측할 수 없게 너무 잘 쓰는 거죠.”

자신이 착호군 출신인 영신(김성규) 못지않게 뛰어다녔음을 강조하며 억울함을 표하기도 했다. “키(187㎝)가 커서 그런지 별로 열심히 안 뛴 것처럼 나오더라고요. 액션도 제가 하면 쉬워 보인다고 하는데 엄청 힘들었어요. 리허설도 많이 하고. 지붕 추격신 같은 경우는 원테이크를 목표로 해서 한번 찍을 때마다 산소 부족이 올 정도로 힘들었어요. 그래도 생사역(좀비) 배우들이 고생한 거에 비할 순 없겠죠. ‘킹덤’ 좀비 특징이 팔을 움직이지 않는 거라 균형을 잡기도 힘든데 특수렌즈 때문에 앞도 잘 안 보이니까 행여 저 때문에 다치진 않을까 걱정이 많이 됐어요.”

한번 작품에 들어가면 동료 배우는 물론 제작진과도 최대한 자주 만나 대화를 나눈다는 그는 ‘하이에나’ 역시 “하지 않을 이유가 없었다”고 했다. ‘별에서 온 그대’ 등을 연출한 장태유 PD나 압도적인 존재감을 자랑하는 김혜수와 호흡을 맞추기 때문이다. 두 사람은 각각 집안ㆍ학벌ㆍ외모 어느 하나 빠질 게 없는 금수저 변호사와 맨손으로 시작해 하이에나처럼 올라온 흙수저 변호사 역할을 맡아 팽팽한 기 싸움을 벌인다. 띠동갑이라는 나이 차이가 무색할 만큼 아슬아슬한 로맨스도 시청자들을 붙드는 매력 포인트다. 주지훈은 “김혜수 선배님 눈빛만 봐도 멜로가 절로 나온다”며 “현장에서 주는 에너지가 어마어마하다”고 했다.

실제 삶은 멜로보다는 느와르에 가깝다. 연애보다는 건강에 더 관심이 많단다. ‘킹덤’에서는 갓을 쓰고 도포 자락을 휘날리며, ‘하이에나’에서는 똑 떨어지는 수트 차림으로 사랑받고 있는 데 대한 부담감일까. 그는 “많이 먹어도 살 안 찌는 약이 나왔으면 좋겠다”는 말을 여러 차례 했다. “시즌 3, 4 계속 액션 연기하려면 체력 관리를 잘해야죠. 팔꿈치, 발목 염좌를 달고 사는데 또 술은 먹어야 하니까요. 영화 ‘아수라’(2016) 찍을 때 정우성ㆍ황정민 등 선배들이 ‘내가 몇 살만 어렸어도 네 역할 하고 싶다’고 했던 말이 이제 좀 이해가 돼요. 저도 영신(김성규)을 보면서 그런 생각이 들거든요. 너무 멋있어서.”

그렇다면 그가 꿈꾸는 40대는 어떤 모습일까. “그동안 쌓아온 시간이 얼굴, 또 눈빛에 잘 묻어나는 배우가 됐으면 좋겠다”고 했다. “20대에 청춘물로 시작해서 너무 어린 모습만 보여지는 건 아닌가 걱정이 많았어요. 다행히 영화 ‘좋은 친구들’(2014)을 시작으로 연기 폭을 넓힐 수 있었죠. 관객(40만)은 별로 안 들었지만, 저한텐 새로운 시작 같은 작품이에요. 그래서 20대보다 30대가 훨씬 더 좋은 것 같아요. 막연한 불안감과 호르몬이 폭발하면서 원치 않는 감정의 소용돌이에 휘말렸던 때에 비해 조금 편해진 것 같기도 하고. 근데 아직 안 겪어봐서 모르겠지만 (정)우성이 형이나 (하)정우 형을 보면 40대도 좋은가 봐요.”

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