Seo Ji-hye appeared as Kim Rae-won’s junior prosecutor Choi Yeon-jin in the drama Punch which aired last year and she’s striking a chord with viewers through her role as the observant reporter Hong Hye-won in Jealousy Incarnate. Hong Hye-won has the persistence and loyalty of Choi Yeon-jin and also a chic charm to her. Despite having limited screen time, her screen presence is unrivaled. The appeal of the character does not even lose out to the love triangle of Jo Jung-seok, Gong Hyo-jin and Go Gyeong-pyo. Her brilliant dialogues with “beeps” mixed between profanities have captured attention and Hong Hye-won is truly a girl-crush-worthy character. To the senior announcer who refuses to be drawn in by her, she says “let’s go for a drink together.” and when subjected to a drunken confession, she returns it with “do you know who I am?”.
Having met and seen Seo Ji-hye in person, she’s really pretty. That can of course be attributed to her fancy good looks but above all it’s her amicable disposition which makes her even more attractive. Even though she’s stifling yawns due to a lack of sleep, she still smiles brightly in front of the camera. There’s no one who can be immune to the charms of the professional Seo Ji-hye.
You look tired.
I’ve been filming the drama, going for various photoshoots and even variety programs one after the other and so I haven’t had enough sleep. But I’m trying not to show it, is it still obvious? If I look tired it’ll incommode others around me too…
I heard that you’re filming Running Man after the photoshoot.
I’m appearing together with Kim Joon-hyun, Shinee’s Minho, Yang Se-chan and others. Even though it’s tiring running around but it’s also fun. I was really worried that I’ll be awkward since I have virtually no experience with variety but I’m appearing alongside veterans (in the field) and they took good care of me so we were able to wrap up well.
Is there any reason why you haven’t been on many variety shows?
There isn’t a specific reason but I think it’s stressful if the attention is all on me. It’s a different field compared to acting. I’m afraid because I have no idea what to do. I avoid it because I won’t be enjoying myself but it seems like it’s enough if you show that you worked hard. It’ll be good if this opportunity to appear in Running Man leads to chances to appear in other variety programs in the future.
Many people like your character in Jealousy Incarnate as a girl-crush. How’s the atmosphere on set?
It’s unbelievably good. The ratings are good, the public reception is good and so we’re filming very happily. Compared to the other actors my screen time isn’t that much so I’ve been filming comfortably. I’m almost apologetic for being so relaxed.
What made you decide on taking up the drama?
The character is sort of similar to the ones I have done so far but I liked that there are some subtle differences. I met with the scriptwriter after the casting and the character reflects my own character with her straight talk and chicness. Even though I may look coy but in reality my personality is very much like a guy’s. (Laughs) It’s fun to create a character like this, she’s very unique and the script is good too.
So the character is similar to the actual Seo Ji-hye?
Just that I don’t curse. Except on occasions. (Laughs) Overall we are very similar. It’s just that in the drama those personality traits are amplified.
How are they amplified?
Hong Hye-won is someone who isn’t concerned about what others think of her. She says what she thinks, and she dives straight in when she wants to do something. That’s her style. That part of me was highlighted.
Easy-going female characters seem more likeable.
My image is rather feminine so all this time I’ve mainly been taking up stoic characters. I’ll like to act in roles which require more expression. Easy-going, more “masculine” type of characters. Action is good too.
(I realise that SK actresses all have this inexplicable desire to do action. WHY?)
Even though you’re easy-going, you don’t seem like the type who will say harsh words.
My problem is that I’m too harsh toward my friends. (Laughs) I don’t really think over it and I just say things bluntly. In that aspect I’m similar to the character.
What is the first thing you want to do after the drama ends?
I want to go on a vacation (overseas). So much that even though filming hasn’t ended I’ve already started making plans. The weather is cold so I will be going to a hotter country. I’m also planning a domestic trip.
There are a lot of tourist destinations even in Korea.
That’s right. There are places which may be better than going overseas too. I especially like Jeju Island. I go there almost once every year.
Seems like you’ve caught the travel bug.
When my head’s really tangled up (confused), or when I want to take a rest, I like to grab my passport and go on a trip. Because of the characteristics of this job, I can go only when there is a break between schedules. I have a lot of friends around me who are married too so it’s not easy (finding a companion). So whenever I have the time, I’ll gather all my friends who are free and go on a trip.
You don’t seem to gain weight at all consider how you travel around a lot (and presumably eat a lot is probably what the reporter is asking).
I put in a lot of effort actually. I’m the type to gain weight easily if I stop exercising even for just a while. When I’m resting (there is no work) I exercise for the whole day. That’s the extent to which I work. I used to do boxing, weight training and all sorts of stuff but the one which suits me most is pilates. I like workouts which build muscles. I also control my diet. There are times when I just eat tofu and salad.
How do you take care of your skin?
I’m really careful about skincare. I drink a lot of water and make sure to rinse my face properly. It’s more important to remove your make-up thoroughly than to put on your make-up well. (Laughs) I sometimes go to the dermatologist for treatment as well. Acting is a job where you show your face to others so you really can’t be lax about it.
Acting as a career seems really bothersome if you have to take care of yourself, and constantly be uptight about things.
It’s true that it’s bothersome because you can’t really be free to do what you want because of how others may perceive it. And because I’m a female actor, I have to be careful about my image, I can’t drink to my heart’s content, and I can’t be open about my private life too… Now it’s much easier. I’ve learnt to put down all these burdens and give myself more freedom.
What kind of burdens are there?
When I debuted in my 20s I worked non-stop. ‘I have to succeed’ was my goal and for that I just kept running (working) crazily. I didn’t know that I was only confining myself more.
And now you’ve let go of those?
Compared to then I’ve aged, and now I think ‘So what? It’s my life!’ so the pressure to do well isn’t there anymore. I’m starting to do something interesting. Compared to rushing for success I’d rather enjoy what I’m doing.
When did you start to change?
When I was in my mid-late 20s I took 2 years off (this may be in between Chunja’s Happy Events and Kim Suro). When I was planning to start work again, my friends who entered the industry at the same time were all further ahead already. I made up my mind then. I said to myself, ‘Let’s start over. Enjoy myself this time.’
What was the biggest impact this brought about?
It had the most impact on me. Everything eventually is about what I do. Because I was lacking, I wasn’t working hard enough, I have to look for the reasons in myself.
How do you want people to view you?
I have never thought about that. I just want to show my acting. I’m working hard towards my dream…
Do you have a lot of friends?
Instead of knowing a lot of people I’m the kind who has very deep relationships with just a few people. I still meet my friends from when I was younger, my stylist is someone I’ve worked with for over 10 years too. My friendships once forged just keep going.
(Tidbit: She and Kim Ok-bin have been very good friends since their debut in Voice.)
Do you not look forward to meeting new people?
I’m not looking forward to it, but it’s not like I’m opposed to meeting new people. I used to think ‘What does this person think of me?’ and ‘What should I do and how should I accept this (friendship)?’. I worried about these things and so I was afraid of meeting new people, but now I think ‘I can be the one to give’. Sincerity is the key, if I present my sincerity the other party will return the same.
Are you the one to “give” when you date?
I’m that type. I don’t have much aegyo and I’m not the type of girlfriend that the average guy wants. (Laughs) But when I love I love with all my heart. I’m the kind to give unconditionally. I feel happier when I give than when I receive. Ah, I don’t know. Dating is the most difficult thing. (Laughs)
What is your dream family like?
To be honest, I don’t have one. I want to get married if I meet a good person but right now there isn’t anyone and so I have no fantasies about marriage.
What kind of actor do you wish to become?
A silently hardworking actor. An actor who won’t be swayed by other’s opinions; an actor who walks her own path. It’s good to act well and not hear criticisms but even if I am reprimanded I try not to let those bug me.
What kind of projects should we expect to see Seo Ji-hye in in the future?
After Jealousy Incarnate I plan to rest for a while. I’ll be back next summer. I really want to do movies but I haven’t had the opportunity. I hope that my next project is a movie. (Laughs)