Gong Yoo is one of those actors who consistently takes me by surprise and I’m not really sure why. He’s good and he picks pretty solid projects. I’ve seen (ahem!) five of his dramas and three of his films over the years and every single time I’ve found something beautiful and moving in his performance.
I’ll admit that I still have an embarrassing soft spot for Biscuit Teacher and Star Candy, but Coffee Prince is the one that will continue to stand the test of time. I still recommend it to Korean drama neophytes when they ask me for recs.
Speaking of time, good grief, how can it already be TEN YEARS since Coffee Prince aired?! Elle Korea published a brief interview with Gong Yoo where he reflects on one of the most beloved Korean dramas of the past decade and as well as his most recent success with Goblin.
(Disclaimer: All copyright belongs to the original source. I am not profiting by this translation and cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
THE MAN WE LOVE
Gong Yoo’s Sincerity
Source: Elle Korea
Coming face-to-face with the sincere desire to breathe as himself rather than as everyone’s fantasy-packed star
This year, it will be 10 years since Coffee Prince (2007) aired. It was an incredibly popular show, and many fans associate it with summer and youthfulness.
I do too. There was a segment in the special broadcast where each actor had to describe the drama in one word. [Actor] Kim Chang-wan said it best. “Coffee Prince is Summer 2007.”
For the actor Gong Yoo, Coffee Prince probably held just as much significance as Goblin.
Indeed. I was 29 years old when I did Coffee Prince and 39 when I did Goblin. I was going through a really hard time when I was 29. Thirty-nine was hard too. I underwent an experience very similar to the one I had had exactly ten years later, but the pain was different. I found that interesting and it made me wonder what that pain might feel like at 49. Fortunately, perhaps because my body and heart matured over the past ten years, the pain I experienced at 39 didn’t last very long. It lasted a long time when I was 29. I worried about the uncertainty of my future as a man and as an actor, and whether or not I would be able to continue acting…. Coffee Prince helped me shake off that worry and pain, and gave me the strength to stand up straight. It helped me maintain my composure and say, “I think I can worry a little less.”
From 29 to 39, are you proud of how far you’ve come in the past 10 years?
I want to praise myself. I’m someone who’s really hard on himself, but this time at least I want to pat myself on the back. I tormented myself a lot back when I was 29. When the director of Coffee Prince Lee Yoon-jeong first met me on set, he saw me and was worried. I didn’t torture myself like that at 39. I only suffered for a short period of time. I want to tell myself that I did well then.
Many fans across Asia came to love you through Goblin. How did it feel when you met your overseas fans face-to-face?
It was surreal and exciting every time. I felt honored and happy, but fan meetings always make me anxious. I’m not the kind of entertainer who can put on a well-rounded performance, like a singer. The overseas fan meetings all charge for admission, so I was embarrassed that it was just myself standing on the stage as I am, without anything to show for it. Of course, the fans say they’re content with just being able to see the actor they like, but it made me anxious from my perspective. So after Goblin, I conferred with my agency and we decided to scale back. I decided that I would show people who I am as a person, as plainly and honestly as possible. I would get up on the stage for that reason alone.
Is it possible that the multinational fan love you received will have some influence on your future endeavors?
I don’t think so. I’m saying this hoping my fans won’t misunderstand, but I think those who truly care and support me as an actor would wish the same. I think year after year, the older I get, the more I’ll involve myself in the stories I actually want to tell. As I said before it’s not that the project definitely has to have a message. I like to choose films that have at least one thing that stands out about it. It could be the music or it could be the set. I like films that have a clear identity of their own. I’m not really interested in films that are made up of random things that the public likes. Of course, I know that film is a public art form and I know that we churn out far more films than we used to. But I want to maintain a certain level, a point of balance. I don’t want to concede everything. If there’s even just one thing I can save, that small difference can add a lot of color.
Other than film, what other topics excite you? Sports?
Of course. Middle-aged men of my age are all the same. When it’s baseball season, I watch Major League baseball and Korean professional baseball, and when baseball season ends, it’s time for the American NBA season…. Last year, I saw an NBA game live for the first time and it was a lot of fun. It wasn’t for a team that I really liked (I like the Golden State Warriors), but watching the game live was incredibly invigorating. I wondered why the tickets were so expensive when I first got them, but it was worth it (laugh).
Are you someone who can manage everyday life quite well even when you’re alone?
I’m grateful for my managers who support me when the need arises, but I try not to be completely reliant on them. I enjoy being alone. And I’m someone who needs time to be alone. I’m used to loneliness. Whether you’re friends or lovers, I think everyone needs their own space. It’s uncomfortable to have someone encroach on everything in the name of friendship or love. I don’t know when I’ll get married, but I think I need to be with someone who can respect personal space.
Have you shaken off the worries of a 39-year old and readied yourself for 2018?
I’m really at peace with myself these days. And I think it was a long time coming. To be honest, even when the new year comes around, I’m the type of person to be like ‘oh, that happened.’ I don’t get that excited about my birthday either. And I don’t really prefer a rowdy atmosphere for Christmas. In some ways, I’m a pretty boring person. Some people see this in a negative light saying, “Why are you acting like everything’s pointless?” But I’m comfortable like this. I just don’t attach a lot of meaning to trivial things.
Will we have to wait a little longer for your next project?
I wasn’t planning on resting for too long, originally. Even though I knew it would be tough, I wanted to move on to doing a film right away. Ultimately, I ended up not having a project on my hands. I think I longed to be on a film set again, to take part in creating a new story with like-minded people. Maybe if I just lie low and wait, an opportunity will seek me out.
Do you have any idea what kind of project you’d want to work on?
I want to try a looser kind of role. I want to do much more of the ‘lifestyle acting’ that I occasionally ad-libbed in Goblin. And maybe a role where I don’t have to care about my appearance, so maybe two things that are loose? Since I’m naturally someone who worries a lot, I’d want to try living a completely different life free from that.
Elle Thailand asks: “Tell us a flaw about yourself that would make us not love you anymore.”
I have a lot of flaws, of course. In reality, I’m extremely different from the romantic persona you see in dramas or advertisements. It’s not that I don’t have sweet side at all. According to the people around me, I do show affection in my own unique way. But I’m not good about planning things for birthdays or anniversaries. I’m not someone who can easily do the type of things most women expect. Was that being too honest?