Ji Chang-wook hopes to make people believe in magic again in 'The Sound of Magic'
“Do you believe… in magic?”
Actor Ji Chang-wook says that it’s half and half for him, at an online press interview Monday for Netflix musical drama series “The Sound of Magic,” in which he portrays a mysterious magician named Lee Eul who restores teenagers’ faith in magic, hopes and dreams.
Adapted from Naver Webtoon “Annara Sumanara” by famous Webtoonist Ha Il-kwon, the series revolves around a high school student named Yoon Ah-yi, portrayed by Choi Sung-eun, who used to dream of becoming a magician as a child, but gets a cold splash of reality when she realizes the limitations from her poverty. She eventually rediscovers her hopes and childhood dreams from her encounters with magician Lee Eul, who shows her his magic spell “Annara sumanara.”
Since its release on the streaming platform Friday, the series currently ranks No. 4 in the Top 10 TV Shows on the Netflix global chart for May 9.
Ji said that he had practiced performing magic for three to four months beforehand and performed nearly all of the magic stunts that his character Lee Eul performs in the series. All of the tricks were designed by the famed magician Lee Eun-gyeol.
“Lee Eul is not an extraordinary magician, just good enough to entertain the children who visit the abandoned amusement park [where he lives],” Ji said. “But since this is how he makes his living, I didn’t want it to come off as awkward for the viewers, so I practiced a lot. There’s no special secret up my sleeve for performing magic well — it’s just all about getting your hands really used to the practice until it feels natural.
“Because I learned how to perform magic, it’s half and half for me on whether or not I believe in magic,” Ji said. “I think the power of magic, in essence, is about how much you can purely enjoy and have fun watching it in the moment rather than believing in the phenomenon itself. From a performer’s point of view, I do sometimes think about what device the magician used to deceive the audience, but sometimes I'm also amazed by it too. That’s why it’s half and half.”
The actor had come across the script for the series last December and felt that it was a role he should take on because it was “his story as well as one that everyone could relate to.”
“The stories of Ah-yi and Il-deung [another student, portrayed by Hwang In-youp] deeply moved me,” he explained. “Like Ah-yi, there was a time when I was financially deprived, and like Il-deung, I was pressurized to do well academically. I related to their stories because I was forced by others to do things that I did not really want to do, or just did them without knowing what I really wanted to do. I changed my course to acting in 12th grade when I began asking the question to myself, why do I want to study and was I really happy doing it. I began to think about what I wanted to do, my aptitudes and what I enjoyed doing.”
Although it was adapted from a highly popular webtoon, the actor chose not to see the entire original work.
“I did not see the webtoon till the end,” Ji said. “I didn’t think that seeing the whole webtoon would help my acting or the live-action series. However, I did feel very much burdened by the fact that we are adapting from the popular webtoon, but I thought it was impossible to exactly bring the magician from the original work to life. However, we did try to preserve what the original webtoon was trying to say.”
Ji believes that incorporating the original intention of the webtoon is what led to the global popularity that “The Sound of Magic” is enjoying.
“It is miraculous that so many people are seeing the series, although I think it’s a little bit early to say that the series is successful,” he said. “What we wanted to convey to the audience is to look back on their innocence as a child, what they dreamed of doing, and to ask themselves what happiness is and how one should live their lives.”
Ji believes that the core message of what Lee Eul is trying to say to Ah-yi, Il-deung and the viewers is told in Episode 3, when he tells Ah-yi to “do whatever it is you want to do, just as much as the things you don’t want to do,” as he tries to sway Ah-yi to come to visit him time to time to learn magic.
“This series is not just about giving off some vague and unreachable hope,” Ji said. “However, under the reality that you’re living in, I think that it’s necessary to find your footing by finding out what you really want to do.
Ji says that he’s learned to balance his priorities in his personal life.
“There are days when I really, really don’t want to go to the set,” he admitted. “But it’s work, so it’s not like I don’t go when I don’t feel like it, and when I actually get there I can’t just slack off. But I do reward myself by doing things I want to do in my free time. For instance, I love to bike, so when it’s my day off and the weather is nice, I go out for a ride or get together with my friends and drink up to our necks. I try to put what I like to do in between [what I have to do], and that helps me to keep my peace of mind.”
BY LEE JAE-LIM [email@example.com]