Song Sae-byeok [Beck Una/10Asia]
10: Then had you never thought of becoming an actor before joining the acting troupe in college?
Song Sae-byeok: Not even once. I hadn't even raised my hand to speak out in class before. But I joined the troupe when I went into college, not because I like plays but because I liked the people there and acting is something they just happened to do. Being amongst them was so much fun. To the point that I wondered how everyone could be so genuine. I still think of that time, when I was part of the troupe at age 20, as the best part of my life. The best.
10: So you started acting because you like the people and it was fun hanging out with them?
Song: Yes, that's how it happened. And little did I know about theater. (laugh) All the way up till I graduated from high school, I had felt bored, choked and was ready to go crazy but I let it out after meeting those people in college.
10: Is that when life started to become fun?
Song: Ah! That's the very expression for it. Life started to become very fun to live. So much.
10: But in most cases, what you do for fun has to come to an end and you have to start doing a good job with it. The saddest thing is not being good at what you like and have fun doing. So when is it that you started thinking that you can take up acting as a profession?
Song: I think it was when I was around 30. I had simply liked hanging out with the people, then started acting when I realized it's fun after appearing in a few plays and then joined a proper troupe after being discharged from the military because I decided that I want to start acting properly. I was in a troupe when I was in college as well but I was under a different mindset the second time. Guys in particular think about how they'll make a living after being in the military so I think that it's around when I was 30 that I started thinking of such things and felt I should be more responsible about my life.
10: Well you must've been faced with a lot of difficulties because being part of a troupe also means you'll be living away from home.
Song: That applied to everyone, not just me, although of course, you needed to have other part-time jobs as well to keep living that life. That's why I had a variety of odd jobs.
Song: Everyone in the troupe was having a hard time because it's hard to make money. Some people were married and had kids while some didn't even dream of getting married so I think I was able to share something with them that is deeper than comradeship at the time. I think us boosting each other's morales helped a lot.
A scene from film "The Story of Bangja" [CJ Entertainment]
10: Were there ever times you wanted to just give up and go back to your hometown?
Song: I could've... But not once did I think that. My mom once told me about what she went through while raising me and my sister which made me feel that what I was going through at that time was nothing compared to it. If you think about it, I was eating well and had a place to sleep. I might've felt more pressure if I had to get married and had a woman to take care of. So anyway, I realized I'm in a much better situation. Plus I was doing what I wanted to do. So it was good. I was happy. I was free.
10: I saw that you were in director Inan's "Ordinary Days" which was screened at last year's Busan International Film Festival. I was a bit surprised that the image you gave off from the screen through that movie was completely different from what we had seen from you so far.
Song: Oh... You telling me that you saw that... is making me feel embarrassed. (laugh)
10: The main male character has to live his ordinary days over and over again after having lost his child and wife. What was the experience like? Acting the role of a man who has no sense of humor and is always in a devastated state.
Song: When I first got the script for "Ordinary Days," I felt that he was similar to me in many ways. So I told the director that to which he asked how that would be the case when I'm not married and don't have kids. Then it was at the Busan film fest that I realized he is similar to a lot of Korean men. Sort of the son that society has bred. That is why I felt sad even more.
10: I can't forget the last scene where you asked, "Would it be okay if I hug you?" after your child appeared.
Song:... When I shot that scene... I was so sad that I kept crying while sitting on the ground even after I got the okay sign for it. Could I hug you may not sound like much but the tears kept coming. (briefly pauses) ... The director came to me and said he's sorry. I didn't ask why he was but I think that he was trying to say that he's sorry we're shooting a film like that, that we have to prove a story like that and for having to make me go through such sadness.
10: Have you ever been through the experience of having lost some presence completely?
Song: My grandmothers, on my mom and dad's side, both passed away in the same year three years ago and they had practically raised me. I had an extremely tough time that year. And it was after they were buried that I felt what it was like to not get to meet someone ever again. I felt my grandmother's forehead before her body was shrouded. The guy who worked there said I wasn't supposed to touch the body but all I could think was that her forehead was very cold. I remember crying for ages while touching that forehead. (looks up)... You're doing well, right? (laugh)
Song Sae-byeok [Beck Una/10Asia]
10: Your grandson has become very successful! 2010 must be a very special year for you. You practically swept all the awards for best new actor with film "The Story of Bangja" and shot television commercials. Your name could be heard everywhere.
Song: I really had thought that I would be happy to just get to attend awards ceremonies. I once did say it would be nice if I could get a nomination but I thought hard about saying it before I actually did because the prize for best new actor goes to new actors who've played main characters such as Lee Min-jung, So Ji-sub or Kang Ji-hwan. That's why I hadn't even imagined winning anything. But I got so many. I wondered whether this was allowed to be happening and why it was happening to me but reckoned this would probably never happen again. (laugh)
10: So after 2010, were there some changes you realized there had been to your life, other than just economically? I think you must've felt some pressure as well.
Song: Honestly, no change! Really. And since there's no change, there's no pressure. For example, I was walking a street earlier this year and ah... I wasn't wearing a hat but I'd won some awards so... I thought people would recognize me but nobody did. So I'm not expecting it to happen. (laugh) I mean, you need people to recognize to you feel that there's change. But things are the same. Of course, good changes are necessary.
10: Well it's a good thing that your life hasn't become burdened by such awards.
Song: I think I'm trying not to think of that. I've seen plenty of actors become too caught up with all that when they haven't achieved anything at all and bring themselves to ruins. I don't even want to live like that. I want to learn what it is to be truly modest, not try to be modest. I hate people who try hard to be modest.
10: Your way of speech is popular enough to have become sort of a trend among the public. But aren't you worried or concerned about that image of yours soon vanishing? Or do you have other cards prepared?
Song: I think it's a bit too early for me to make people think I have something that's unique of me. Of course I feel pressured when I'm given advice or people tell me that they're worried. I do think I was a bit stressed about such things. But I think I've reached the conclusion that I'll do that acting that I can do as Song Sae-byeok. That's it - nothing more, nothing less.
10: You actually might be referring to a wider spectrum then. (laugh) Are there any resolutions you have as an actor?
Song: That the first thing I should do is live a proper life off the stage. I think what I show on stage or in front of the camera will be an extension of what I do off stage. The audience will know whether I'm pretending to act innocent when I've actually been living like a dreg or gangster because it'll show ever so subtly in some way or another. And it's not that I want to live my life properly when I'm off the stage because I don't want people to notice it -- it just wouldn't make sense. It's my life. I think I'd be happy if what the audience sees is a heartwarming view of the truths that lie beyond what I show them.
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