Joo Jin-mo – Beyond Our Expectation

Joo Jin-mo – Beyond Our Expectation

Joo Jin-mo – Beyond Our Expectation

With sculpted features, captivating gaze and a baritone voice, the South Korean celebrity Joo Jin-mo has won the hearts of many fans worldwide.  He launched his limelight career as a male model in South Korea, and quickly became one of the most desirable models in the advertisement industry due to his handsome looks and tall physique.  After becoming an actor, Joo quickly rose to stardom and has played an enviable list of highly acclaimed roles.

Joo has won numerous film and television drama awards.  In 1999, Joo won the Dae Jong Film Award (Grand Bell Awards), the Korean equivalent of the American Academy Awards for Best Actor in his debut film Dance Dance.  In a subsequent film Happy End, Joo again won the Dae Jong Film Award for Best Supporting Actor.  For his leading role in the television drama Punch, Joo was awarded Best Actor in the SBS Drama Awards.  In the television drama Empress Ki, Joo won Best Actor in the MBC Drama Awards.  In the film The Warrior, Joo gave a remarkable performance alongside actress Ziyi Zhang.  And in the highly acclaimed romantic film Icon of Cool, Joo pulled off a stellar performance with top Korean A-list actress Kim Hee-sun.

In most of his films and tv-dramas, Joo has often been cast in masculine, tough-guy roles deeply devoted to the female protagonist.  But we were quite taken by surprise when we met Joo in person – he had a relaxed and pleasant aura that was in sharp contrast with his cool and broody image on the silver screen.  During our interview, Joo often took everyone by surprise and gave hilarious responses.  Joo’s sense of dry humor was also something we did not expect.  Eventually, our interviewer broke down laughing and gave up expecting “serious” answers from Joo.  “What a smooth-tongue this guy has!”  Our interviewer couldn’t help but comment.  Joo explained that “Since I’m an actor, I try to become my role as much as possible when I’m filming.  But when I’m myself, I don’t have to be like that.”  Seeing that the interviewer was still laughing, Joo then said, “Isn’t this much better?”

Speaking of the roles Joo has played, the television drama we must talk about is the fifty-episode Korean drama Empress Ki.  Empress Ki tells the story of how a Korean tribute lady Ki becomes the empress of the Yuan dynasty.  In the drama, tribute lady Ki (Ki Cheng-niang---played by Ha Ji-won) holds a humble position.  Yet her beauty and an unexpected turn of fate help her win the affection of the Yuan Emperor (Emperor Shundi—played by Ji Chang-wook).  The drama recounts the legendary story of how lady Ki gradually ascends the throne of Yuan.  As one of the leading actors in this widely watched period drama, Joo earned immense popularity for his perfect portrayal of King Wang Yu of Goryeo Dynasty korea, a character devoted to his love yet meets with a tragic fate.  The role of King Wang Yu in Empress Ki is one of Joo’s most memorable roles to date.

The making of Empress Ki took almost one year to finish instead of the more brief duration of three or six months.  During the course of that year, Joo lived as his character King Wang Yu.  Joo still recalled clearly his favorite scene in the drama: the first time Wang Yu meets Lady Ki, and through squabbling, the star-crossed couple gets to know each other.

Because Joo had put in great efforts in studying the character Wang Yu, he became so familiar with him, almost turning completely into the character.  Joo couldn’t help but see the flaws in his character’s personality and behaviors, but as an actor, there was nothing he could do.  He must plod on as the “devoted but helpless man” that Wang Yu is.  “Sometimes I run into dilemmas regarding my acting because I know my character too well.  But because I’ve chosen to play this character, I must learn to love this character.  Wang Yu’s character is indeed different from my other roles, because we have become so close, almost inseparable from the very beginning all the way to the very end.”  But Joo modestly told us there were many things he regretted for not having done better during filming.  

Interviewer:  besides the regrets, there should have been happy moments too right?
Joo Jin-mo: Yes! When we were eating!
But of course, Joo’s final answer was---the first time he had to shoot a scene with many extras.  It was both a new and very moving  experience.  As an actor, Joo had been in the business for quite some time, but he had never been in such a scene where there were so many extras.  The moment when everyone was in sync and everything was in harmony was so delightful and left Joo with a deep impression.

It’s been one year since Joo finished shooting Empress Ki.  And now Joo is back with a new role to share with us.  After giving a stellar performance of the devoted Goryeo king, Joo immediately travelled through time and began working on another role, a modern day pure-hearted man – Ji Eun-ho.  Joo’s latest drama, Beloved Eun-dong, tells the dramatic love story of a couple whose intertwining paths span the course of 20 years.  In this story, Joo plays the leading role, Ji Eun-ho, a man who cannot forget his first love, Eun-dong.

“I love this story so much to the point of being obsessed.  Because first of all, this is a very classic love story.  There are nostalgic scenes from the past.  There’re lots of warm-hearted and moving moments.  The story has a rich plotline and careful planning has gone into the production.  The acting itself is different from what I’ve done so far.  So I am very happy to have the opportunity to run into a role where I could come up with new ideas and ways to act.  It was very fun to play this character.  And as an actor, to be able to play any scenario feels very rewarding.  I felt very thrilled and excited while I was on the set shooting this drama.”  “The key point of this drama is about a man who loved someone and had a past with that person.  The memory with that person is supposed to fade with time.  But this man keeps it fresh after so many years.  He is a man who lives in his own world.  That’s how the story begins.”

Beloved Eun-dong is about a man who remains faithful to his first love even after 20 years.  Three actors were needed to play this character, one for his teen years, one in his twenties, and one in his thirties.  Joo Jin-mo played the character Ji Eun-ho in his thirties, opposite Kim Sa-rang, Miss Korea in 2000.  The character Ji Eun-ho becomes a star for the sole reason of finding his first love.  People today are used to “fast-food” relationships.  This refreshing story, instead of giving viewers instant gratification, is filled with warmth and sensibility.  

On the subject of whether Joo has plans to expand his acting career to Chinese-speaking regions, Joo has kept an open mind.  As long as it’s acting, it does not matter if it’s in Korea or somewhere else.  Because Joo is always prepared, even if he were asked to play a role by North Korea!  

But you have to put in a lot of work on your own if you want to hear that being said to you.  The director only says “Good Job!” when my acting meets his expectation.  That’s the best moment.  I don’t need anything else.”

Of course, there are other things about Joo Jin-mo that are beyond our expectation.  The fact that Joo became an actor is actually an unexpected, pleasant surprise for all of us.  If Joo were never to go into acting, we wouldn’t have the chance to see all of his great works.  “I wasn’t prepared to go into acting.  Some people say that success belongs to those who are prepared.  But that’s not the case with me.  I wasn’t prepared at all.  I sometimes tell myself that opportunity also favors those who are not prepared.  But the truth is, when you have an opportunity, and you realize that it’s yours, you need to really seize the moment, give it all you’ve got.  Then you’ll be successful.”

Joo Jin-mo said that he wishes to try different kinds of acting projects.  It doesn’t matter what the subject is or if it’s based in another country.  When Joo’s not working, he’s a lot of fun.  But Joo is serious and devoted about his acting career.  We hope to see more great works from Joo Jin-mo in the future.  


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