Though it has been 10 years since Ko Soo made his debut, the man with the lavender scent who greeted me so guilessly at a coffee house in Seoul is still the same young man from 10 years ago. Those who returned from London with him for the Bazaar photoshoot talked happily about him and were full of praise for his kindness and humour. Ko Soo treated me as a long-lost friend and started answering my questions without hesitation. He chatted enthusiastically about his new movie.
Before meeting him, I don’t really understand Ko Soo, to be honest. Through the years that he has been emerging steadily before our eyes, do we really know what he is thinking about, or what are his goals? Nobody really knows. We could only guess from his screen performance but we still don’t understand him.
Once, he has dropped his romantic hero persona to take on a more ambitious role in “SOME” which was directed by Jang Yun Hyeon. Director Jang with his own unique style was the director who created Han Seok Kyu. And to Director Jang, the only actor who can become the next Han Seok Kye is Ko Soo. So Ko Soo happily accepted a part in the movie “SOME”.People were interested to know whether he could be the next Han Seok Kyu, but in the end it was still questionable. The movie randomly switches between reality and delusion but it was the movie’s loose plot which contributed to its failure.
For the movie, Ko Soo had his hair styled to an afro hairdo, cursed in foul language and all these were detrimental to his clean image. It was therefore a disappointed Ko Soo who went into the army with a failed screen debut.
“I truly worked very hard, but despite this I regret that I did not really understand the true meaning of values at that time. I was naive and I was a person with a lot of inadequacies. I only thought of the movie theme and did not have a thorough understanding of the script. To be honest, I really feel embarrassed when I think of myself at that time”. (laughs).
I remember when he was interviewed before joining the army, he said, “I must learn something from the army and do good.”
When asked what has he learned from the army, he said, “I’m less ambitious now. On the contrary, I’m more open but this is not because I’ve undergone military service. The change is a natural process through time.”
It is not difficult to guess from his answer that contrary to what he had gained from the army, what is most precious is the strength and the turning point which are within his grasp.
“In fact, it is not correct to think and accept the fact that acting belongs to me. When I was in the army, I was watching other artistes perform while I can’t. Subsequently I felt unwell. I realize then that if I don’t do things that I like (to do), I will fall ill. I realize that I have a deep devotion for my work as an actor. Hmm… this is how I feel.”
Through the introduction of senior actor Jo Jae Hyun, Ko Soo entered the theatrical world as a newbie. He diligently went on to do his play despite the inevitable ‘bullying’ from his theatre mates. Because of his sincerity, Ko Soo was gradually accepted as a member of the team. There were a lot of fruitful exchanges and he made a lot of new friends. The experience was like an acting workshop for him.
“Actors tend to become very close when they are involved in a project together. But it is unavoidable that when the project ends, we will each go our separate ways in search of the next project. It’s like moving house. When I’m working, I will focus all my energies on the job. When it ends, my sense of responsibility will then switch to selecting my next project, and thus release.
We talk about everything – from acting to the ups and downs in life. From the theatrical world I learned from discussions and exchanges with my theatre mates that there are actually a lot of people who have the same interests and goals as me.”
Early last year, after the end of the stage play “THEATRE WARS 2”, I interviewed Director Park and he praised Ko Soo for his decision to do the stage play 'THE RETURN OF PRESIDEN EOM', “He was truly our unexpected accomplishment!”
Ko Soo played the part of the President’s wayward son and was only told by the Director at the start of the play that he was to die at the last scene.
“Nobody likes to die. I was worried for a long time how I was supposed to 'die'. Maybe I’ll just simply lie down by the side. So I just went with the flow. Afterall, it doesn’t matter whether I lay dead horizontally or vertically (laughs)".
Also, in the latter part of this year and 5 years after “SOME”, Ko Soo will return to the big screen with “BAEK YA HENG”. It is a beautiful and sad story about a man and a woman who had to conceal the death of their parents and the detective who tried to uncover the truth of the murders.
This movie which is based on a Japanese best seller is screenplayed by Park Yeon Seon (Alone in Love). Ko Soo plays Yohan who left his family after the death of his father and had to live a life of loneliness in the darkness.
Although he has grown as an actor from his stage experience and is familiar with exaggerated physical performances, it is not easy to appear before the cameras again. “Because it’s been 5 years years since my last movie, everything seems strange. I feel strange at the film set. I even feel strange at my own appearance when I’m performing. It’s so embarrassing. I think it needs time to get adjusted again.”
Especially when Yohan is a cold blooded murderer who hides his appearance and emotions well… Would the audience feel the underlying meaning with the suppressed emotions? This is without doubt the biggest difficulty for the movie.
“How to portray the subtle emotion of each character is really worrisome. I tackled the role with the most basic and independent manner. In my opinion, the best way to portray a character is to narrow the gap between the real me and the character I play in the movie. This is the only way I can convey my sincerity and have similar thoughts with the character I play.”
So he did it his way and losing some hair along the way due to fatigue. Though acting needs certain skills but being submerged in darkness and depression for a considerable time makes it difficult for him to detach himself from the situation.
However, despite playing such a dark character, his face still brims with a firm expression. Kind and pure, with a slightly pessimistic disposition, a loving guy who will protect his love with his life, Ko Soo is, at the same time, a righteous and proper kind of guy.
Among the many actors who have emerged over the past few years, Ko Soo is undoubtedly the one who is kind and gentle. And behind this gentle face is his track record through the years.
But no matter how good looking an actor is or how modest or gentlemanly he is, nothing is as lasting as the old pine tree. Lots of actors were forgotten by audiences. "Perhaps there is such a rigid concept. In fact, I do not like to have a clear definition of things, whether it’s work, people, place or even lifestyle. If we can click, all the better.So as an actor (I have a lot to talk about), take one step at a time. What kind of role will I be competent in? I don’t myself have an answer to that”.
After that is the start of a conversation with an unfathomable philosopher.
“I do not really have a clear characterization of myself. I don’t even understand myself, so how do I expect people to characterize me? I will not be happy regardless of whatever words they use.
Because of the definition of “friends”, people will have a lot of restrictions when they are together. But these are only definitions given in the dictionary. As long as I convey my feelings with sincerity, it should be alright.”
Apart from that, he has his own steadfast principles in his daily life.
“I have been thinking about how to become a man of wisdom. I often ponder over the term “wisdom”. If people are wise, they will not meet with difficulties and they won’t have problems which cannot be solved.
However, what is ‘wisdom’? How much do you know about ‘wisdom’?”
He explores the question which originates from the academic faculty in his middle school textbook. “That cannot be obtained from books and knowledge.”
His face suddenly lights up with excitement and asked, “Do you like Socrates?”
At this moment, I realize that this is Ko Soo’s four-dimensional self which people are talking about!
"Socrates once said this: My body holds a myriad of things.
Regardless of whether it is knowledge or wisdom, these are easily accessible. Don’t be tied down by books. Try to think and learn to study.”
In the early days of his career, because of his slightly pessimistic nature he had to drink liquor to embolden himself before facing the camera.
Where is that shy boy now? Where has he gone? The guy who now sits before me speaks eloquently about Socrates and his trip to London.
To clear my doubts, I asked him for the reason why he wants to act. He did not give me an immediate answer, but ordered a piece of chocolate cake instead. Perhaps he feels that he has talked a lot and wants a change of atmosphere.
He started to eat. Maybe he finds this a difficult question to answer.
“Actually I am confused about performing. Specifically, it depends on the concept of performing. As I do not have any new releases so far, I have to be prudent in expressing my opinion with regard to acting. I am sorry.
My worse experience was, even when I covered my face, it still turned red. When people look at me, my face will turn red immediately. When I first started in this business, I always woke up with inverted feelings. I always tell myself 'I have to go to the film studio in a while'.
From then on, my afternoon shooting sessions were filled with fear, which stimulated the sensory cells. I felt like crying. But look at me now. I have changed. My character has changed along with the job.There are many changes in my life too. With this thinking, I rewrite my life.Acting is my career. Therefore I have to do my best unconditionally. My very best… This is my achievement in my acting career. Do I still have to give an explanation as to why I choose an acting career? Is there a necessity to provide more explanation?”
It is difficult to separate the relationship of 'actor' and 'performing' according to Ko Soo. So do we dare give them a suitable definition? All we can say is we will witness the relationship of both in future days.
An Interview from Bazaar Magazine
Photos : Bazaar with Hazzys
Caps by Wid Kosoo
Translated by Rayvon and Elsie