Na In-woo turns KBS's misfortune into his own streak of luck
What was a misfortune for channel KBS and its drama “River Where the Moon Rises,” was a streak of luck for actor Na In-woo.
Na, whose real name is Na Jong-chan, replaced Jisoo in the main role of Ondal, after the actor admitted in early March to bullying during his middle and high school years. The reaction from industry insiders was that the 26-year-old is a “a note-worthy rookie” who is perfect for the role.
“River Where the Moon Rises” is a periodic romance based on the novel “Princess Pyeonggang” (2010) by Choi Sa-gyu, which is a fictional reinterpretation of the folktale of Princess Pyeonggang and the Fool Ondal. It first aired on Feb. 15 and after just four episodes saw its viewership rating hit 10 percent. Na previously played the role of a high-ranking military official in the Joseon (1392-1910) era who is secretly in love with the Queen in tvN’s periodic drama series “Mr. Queen.”
Na jumped out the chance to take on the role of Ondal. He quickly sat down with the director for a meeting, went straight into reading the script and began shooting the next day. In just the first two new episodes featuring Na, the audience applauded him for making such a smooth transition that had people thinking “he had been Ondal all along.”
Na has similar traits to Ondal, he's calm, peaceful, friendly and a slow talker.
Na sat down with the Ilgan Sports, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, for an interview to talk about his last-minute role. The following are edited excerpts.
Q. Why did you change your name to Na In-woo, instead of using your real name?
A. I thought about what names would be easier to remember and I had a list of a few. I chose Na In-woo among all of them.
How did you find playing a military official in “Mr. Queen”? Did you need to practice the action scenes a lot?
We had a lot of time so I practiced a lot for the first couple of months. The actors who had time got together and we really tried hard. But it was still hard to put together the choreographed scenes on the set. The strain on the body becomes more manageable as time goes on so I got used to it.
What were some difficulties you encountered during “Mr. Queen?”
I did have to try hard to get the lines across well. I usually talk very slowly but the lines for the characters in “Mr. Queen” weren’t slow, because it was a cross-genre drama [that had people from the future as main characters]. So I tried to get the pacing right with everyone else.
How well do you think you did in "Mr. Queen?"
I was cast in a different period drama once, and looking back, I moved so weirdly. I think I pulled off the action scenes quite well by myself, if I may say. I was injured once, which was unfortunate, but I was still happy to see that the scene turned out well.
Have you always dreamt of being an actor?
Don’t we all think when we’re young that actors seem “cool” and “I’d like to try that once”? I had those dreams, very vague ones.
When did that dream become real?
I was quite tall when I was young, and was already 185 centimeters (six feet) by the time I was in my second year of middle school. I was nearby Suwon Station [in Gyeonggi] one day and someone handed me their business card. That led to training [for a K-pop boy band], but I decided I was better cut out for acting when I was in my final year of high school.
People call you a rookie actor, but you actually debuted in 2013 in the musical “Mr. Chonggakne.” How do you feel about that?
I don’t really try hard to change that rookie image. I’m an actor, so I would like to take on every new character that I’m given. I’ve seen a lot of comments on my works saying, “Oh he was this guy.” I like this. I like the fact that people see me as the character first. It has to be good for an actor. I want to give a new and unfamiliar look to every new character.
Do you have any concerns these days?
I had been chasing around other people as both an actor and as Na In-woo, but I want to make my own decisions now. I’m really indecisive and I can’t make choices well, so I would like to change that.
What kind of an actor would you like to be?
I think I managed to come this far because I held on. I want to act well. I think every actor feels that way. I would like to be an actor with leadership skills, who’s able to express the essence of humans.
You seem very laid back and calm. Do you ever get angry or frustrated?
I don’t get angry that often, actually. I got in an argument with a friend when I was 20 and I was drunk, but that’s about it. I try to be kind to people. If you recognize me in the streets, please don’t just think of me as the bad guy from “Mr. Queen.” Say hello to me!
BY KIM JIN-SEOK [firstname.lastname@example.org]