Photos: Joanna Goh & Teo Sijia
Videos: Vina Chia
She’s always game to do an action-based drama or role, has no qualms roughing it out on a horse’s back for hours or sparring with her co-actors with sword in hand. That’s the Ha Ji Won we’ve all grown to know from her masculine-type roles on TV and movies that she’s so popularly known for in recent years, as seen in Secret Garden, Sector 7, The King 2 Hearts and, Empress Ki – just to name a few.
But beneath that steely stare and masculine image she masquerades herself in, Ji Won is evidently characterised by these two words in real life: giggly and girlish. She’s easily tickled by the slightest remarks and self-proclaims to be the “most feminine” person amongst her school mates while growing up, during her Empress Ki press conference yesterday, at Conrad Hotel.
Sharing a few comments made by her friends, whom she said were all surprised by her tough image on TV, Ji Won quipped: “If you talk to my friends who were with me through primary school, high school or university, they’d know that I’m nowhere near all the roles I play. And my friends tell me ‘what a surprise that you’re doing this’ and make remarks like ‘this is really not like you.’ But this is something I want to do as my career because it’s something I can be and I’m not, and I probably long for.”
Candid in her words, Ji Won was very genuine and thoughtful with her answers, and she was more than ready to share a few beauty tips and tricks with the media, when the topic of her smooth complexion was brought up.
She even spoke about coping with sleepless nights (five nights a week, she says) for the 6 to 7 months of filming Empress by maintaining a good diet which consisted of “a lot of nuts, fruits and yoghurt and homemade lunch boxes” from her mum, and dealt with stress by healing herself with “good music, books and design magazines I enjoy to read.”
And of course, filming in the great outdoors helped too, said Ji Won, with the copious amounts of fresh air she got at work.
Playing a character who is caught in the middle of a love triangle with two kings (played by Joo Jin-mo and Ji Chang-wook) of two warring countries in Empress Ki, Ji Won was put in a spot when she was asked to name a fellow male actor whom she shares the most chemistry with.
“That’s a difficult question,” she mused in reply, “I can’t really say who is better or worse, probably because I had great chemistry with all the actors I worked with.”
Explaining that she’s friends with her co-stars and still keeps in touch with them, she surmised, “I never had trouble with them or fought with them. So to really point out one person would not be nice to the rest (laughs) so I think I’d keep the comment to myself,” shrouding her answer in complete secrecy.
While that’s a mystery we’ll never know the answer to, Ji Won namedrops a male actor whom she hopes to collaborate with again, to satiate our curiosity, in our interview with her after the press conference. Read on to find out who this lucky guy is.
WATCH: Is Ha Ji Won a stunt woman in real life?
xinmsn: Bringing the question back to what was asked in the press conference, if you had a choice to choose - which male actor would you like to work with again and in what setting?
Ha Ji Won: Kang Dong Wan. ‘Cos I met him previously for a movie (the upcoming Chronicle of a Blood Merchant) and it was in a period setting. I think during that time there were a lot of restricted emotions ‘cos of the story setting. So I want to move forward in time and come back to the modern times we all live in and experience different kinds of acting. Back then we practiced a lot [together] and we had a lot of chemistry. I want to go back to that and have that working relationship again.
Amongst your co-actors, who best resembles your ideal type in a partner?
The most important thing is that the person has to be funny. Of course, I would like good looking men but as long as he is humourous, the looks don’t really matter as much. I’m a person that’s full of laughter and I like being around people who can make me laugh. On the set of Empress Ki – I have two co-stars who like to take turns to challenge each other to see who can make me laugh more. So they actually find ways to make me laugh and that makes the whole atmosphere on set more enjoyable. My co-star in the movie, Ha Jung Woo, also likes to make me laugh. So it makes me happy with them.
You’ve partnered a fair bit of younger actors in your shows. Would you ever consider dating someone much younger in real life?
(Laughs) Well, I’m not mentally old or very mature myself. So I think working with them sometimes they feel that they’re older than me and come across like my oppas instead and take very good care of me. They’re really considerate and very helpful and I can depend on them. If I think about it that way, dating a younger guy wouldn’t be so bad after all.
There have been reports about your meetings with movie firms in Hollywood. What would be the deal-breaker to saying “yes” to a Hollywood production?
For a particular role, it doesn’t matter if it’s in Korea, or Hollywood, or other parts of the world. What I’m looking out for is if there’s something I’m looking for in this character and will I be happy to live it out? That’s something I’d focus more. If I were to go to Hollywood I want to show off more off the oriental beauty and oriental charm that I think many of the Asians could give out to the western side of the world. That’s something I’m very willing to take on.
At the press conference, you said you are a fan of the Transformers series. So is there a Hollywood director or actor you want to collaborate and work with?
I think for foreign films like blockbusters – we do have some in Korea but the real big time blockbusters are usually from Hollywood, to be part of such production would definitely be a great honour. And if any director approached me, I’d be more than willing [to say yes] as it’d definitely expose me to more things, so I’d definitely be willing to do so.
Are there any other female actresses that have the same acting style as you?
Nobody has really similar acting style as me. The way everyone conceptualises things are different. If this character has to be very charismatic, I’d think of what kind of charisma I want to show. If the person has to be a cute character, the way I bring out the cuteness is to think what a cute person would do alone at home and from there that’s how I develop my cute characters. Everyone has a different way of bringing out the X-factor and thus I feel I’m unique in that sense (laughs).
But I feel that in the industry, I’m the best at tomboyish roles (laughs).
You’re an established actress in Korea and have achieved a lot in your work. What’d be your next goal in your career?
Well, as I move up my career, one year after another, there’s something I can give out as an actor, as I live a particular age. It’s very important for me as an actor to give out the best in the prime condition I’m currently in and that’s something I’d continue to do best in. My role model is Audrey Hepburn and I’ve been reading a lot of books about her and finding out more about her recently. She really gracefully, aged elegantly, and was doing a lot of things before she passed away. Seeing that, [makes me] wanna do more for others and follow her path. I probably want to age beautifully [too].
What about settling down and having a family of your own?
If I had the chance (laughs), yes, I’d love to have a boyfriend and get married and even have a cute kid. This [relationship] and work are completely different. For the matter, I can make a choice on what type of roles to do, which one would work for me and which one would not. But relationships are completely different.
WATCH: Ha Ji Won tells us about her 'ideal partner'
Ha Ji Won will be holding a meet-and-greet for fans at Plaza Singapura on Sat, Sept 27, 5pm.
The Empress Ki is currently airing on VV Drama (StarHub TV Channel 855), every Monday to Friday at 5.45pm. It is also currently screening on VV Drama on Demand (StarHub TV Channel 857.