Ex-Girl's Day member Bang Min-ah is ready to move on, but not forget
“I don’t ever want to erase the fact that I was part of the girl group Girl’s Day, nor do I have any power to do it. If I erase that, there isn’t any part of me left.”
When the Korea JoongAng Daily asked if she wanted her persona as a girl group member to be forgotten, this was how singer-turned-actor Bang Min-ah answered.
In 2019 the members of Girl's Day went their separate ways and each found new agencies represent them, although they emphasized that the group had not disbanded.
This was the beginning of Bang's foray into acting. Her most recent project is director Lee Woo-jung’s feature debut “Snowball,” which will be released in local theaters on Sept. 1.
In the film, the 28-year-old actor rewinds 10 years to portray a high school student named Lee Kang-yi who is dealing with the complexity of her relationships with her friends Ah-ram and So-young.
The film’s Korean name, which can be translated to “The Best Life,” is based on a novel of the same title which won the 4th Munhakdongne Novel Award in 2015, one of the most prestigious literary awards in the country.
Bang's appearance can certainly pass for 18-year-old Kang-yi but it was her wavering gaze as she tries her best to figure out the correct response to her friends' unpredictable actions that earned her the Rising Star Award at this year’s New York Asian Film Festival held last week.
When Bang first read the script, she was reminded of the fears and mistakes she made in her teens.
“I had a phase [just like Kang-yi] in my life, so when I read the script it was from her perspective,” she said during the online interview Tuesday. “And [as I read it], all these emotions swirled up inside me as I thought about the mistakes I made. My heart ached for her. As much as I wanted to portray her, however, I deliberated on whether I was the best candidate — maybe there was someone else more capable. And I feared my image [as a girl group member] might get in the way of delivering Kang-yi’s mood or emotions.
Nonetheless the actor felt that taking on the character could prepare her for more challenging roles in the future, and also get her some closure for the pains of her past.
“Kang-yi is super sensitive to everything happening around her,” Bang said, “as we all are at some point in our lives. Portraying her meant that I had to reopen my own wounds and relive my memories of regret. Sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about them. I started on this journey wondering if I could finally close this chapter of my life.”
While the actor did not specifically dive into her personal pains, she did share why she related with Kang-yi so much.
“I thought I’d forgotten about hurtful memories in my school days, but I haven’t,” Bang said. “In our teens, we are vastly influenced by our friends down to the smallest matters of our lives. For instance, imagine that your friend whom you always go to the bathroom with suddenly starts going with someone else during that 10-minute break. That complexity of emotions one feels from such happenings crept up on me as I prepared to portray Kang-yi.
“For me, I survived my school years by trying to get on the good side of the bullies,” she said. “When you look at the relationship between the trio, Kang-yi is the weakest of them all. I was like her. I knew that I was a weakling, and my tactic of survival was sucking up to them. For instance, if they forgot to bring gym clothes, I would voluntarily lend them mine, or if they forgot to bring their textbooks, I would borrow one from my friends in other classes to lend them.”
But the actor confessed that she didn’t completely understand every motive behind her character’s actions.
“As I shot this film, the question remained, why did she continue to run away from her home?” Bang said. “Although her family is far from being affluent, it’s not like they didn’t love her. She wasn’t suffering from domestic violence or facing any pressure from them.
“It was about a year after we wrapped up filming that a thought came to me: Was she suffocating from her ordinariness? Or from being placed within that boundary of being average? As I pondered on my revelation, I became more cautious of using words such as ‘ordinary’ or ‘normal.’ I suddenly became very aware of the fact that we were placing ourselves within or outside of that boundary of normalcy set by society. For instance, social prejudice enforces an invisible pressure that families have to love each other and get along when there are so many different forms of family and people. I think Kang-yi felt stifled under that set of social standards, and that’s why she ran away.”
Although Bang sought to find some closure through Kang-yi, her 10 years as a singer in Girl’s Day is still very much part of her.
“[The members] are my colleagues, my friends, my unforgettable family,” she said. “Sometimes people ask me if I’m worried that my time as a girl group member might earn me the label of an [incompetent] actor. I'm sad that they view this part of my life negatively. Girl’s Day was, and is the foundation of everything I do. If given the chance, I would like for us to get together again and sing on stage. We still share various parts about our lives together, the four of us. When any of us start a new project, we like to get together to talk about it. Due to the pandemic, however, we couldn’t meet each other as much as we liked, but we share whatever good news that comes our way. The members were very happy for me [that I received an award].”
BY LEE JAE-LIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]