This interview came out before the big news that Park Min-young was in fact dating her City Hunter co-star Lee Min-ho, but maybe that’s a good thing; anything published after that is bound to be overshadowed by questions of her relationship.
But since that romance IS bound to attract the most interest, let’s get some of those details out of the way first. As noted when the news was first confirmed, the two actors had known each other before working together on City Hunter, although they hadn’t been that close until this project. They shot a CF together before either was well-known, and a few years later she was the lead in the 2007 high school drama I Am Sam. Lee played one of the supporting characters as one of her schoolmates.
A thwarted potential connection: Park was in the 2006-07 family sitcom Unstoppable High Kick with Lee Min-ho’s best friend Jung Il-woo, and Lee was set to guest on the show until he was in a severe car accident that put him in the hospital.
(Funny that Jung Il-woo’s character was so dismissive of Park Min-young’s — she was his hyung’s ditzy girlfriend — which gives me the totally manufactured impression that he’d be disdainful of her as Min-ho’s girlfriend, ha. That’s what happens when you cross real-world knowledge with drama happenings.)
In recent interviews that came out prior to the relationship announcement, both Park and Lee spoke favorably about each other, though they kept their dating under wraps. Apparently, things were awkward at the outset of shooting City Hunter; Park explained their first meeting in 2005, when they were paired for a pizza CF. “But when we’d run into each other, we’d just exchange greetings. When we first met for City Hunter, it was almost like we didn’t know each other. [Laughs] But after spending time together on the set, we became closer and I found that he’s a really good, hard-working actor I can learn a lot from.”
Park said, “When acting, the other person has to listen in order for my emotions to come out of the scene. In that aspect, I think I matched with Lee Min-ho the best. Maybe it’s because he’s so nice by nature that he’s even better when he’s reacting than in his own scenes. He’s so good at that that the director told him to do as well when it’s his scene. Our acting styles are similar.”
Asked about her ideal style, she said, “I think the best kind of man is one who values me, understands me, and is accepting. Someone who’s easy-going, who embraces and understands me rather than leading me.”
Lee Min-ho had similar things to say, which he expressed in a different interview: “I’ve known Park Min-young for a long time, but we weren’t close. But doing this drama, I found that she’s such a good person, more than I’d thought previously. Rather than insisting on doing things her way, she matches herself to her fellow actors and is someone I can learn from. Thanks to her, we were able to work comfortably together.”
He added, “To grow as an actor, whether you’re a man or woman, I think you have to meet [and date] a lot of people. In the past three years I haven’t had that kind of relationship, but if I fall in love, I think I’d pour all my energy into that love. But I’d keep the relationship a secret. I wouldn’t date someone while thinking of breaking up, but I’m still young so if we were to break up, it would hurt both of us and that wouldn’t be good for whoever came along next, either.”
Asked which of the love scenes from City Hunter she found most memorable, Park answered, “What stays in my memory the most is the scene in the bus where Yoon-sung leans on him. It’s something I’ve wanted to do, and it stays with me because I really wanted to experience it, plus the scene was full of a freshness that made it quite beautiful.”
The interviewer pointed out, “Nana chooses Yoon-sung over her work as a bodyguard. In real life, if you were forced to make that kind of extreme choice, what would you choose?”
Park replied, “I’d think really hard on what was really important to me in that situation. I might be so in love I feel like dying, like it would drive me crazy, or I might not. The decision could change depending on the stage of the relationship, or the type of situation. But I think I’d try to find some middle ground.”
Asked about her chemistry and working relationship with Lee Min-ho, she answered, “Lee Min-ho has a very distinct personality. He’s dignified and serious, and when he’s acting he takes it very seriously. That was a different Lee Min-ho than the one I knew. Before doing this drama, I actually wondered if we’d be a good fit because he’s younger than I am, and still felt like a youth, but I don’t think we could have suited each other better. I thought, ‘I should meet someone like this next time, too.’ In this drama, I met a lot of good colleagues, dongsengs, and really good people.”
City Hunter had a number of physical shoots, and the egg-throwing scene (where Nana gets pelted with garbage while defending Da-hae) was one that was challenging. She explained that the weather was exceptionally hot that day, and she was dressed in her bodyguard’s black suit while being hit with eggs, tomatoes, and flour, and it was unpleasant. Apparently the staff called her “Nana Pancake” that day, thanks to the ingredients involved.
Now with City Hunter behind her, Park is turning her attention to her next project. She’s been busy ever since the last drama wrapped, and on a recent trip to Hawaii for a photo shoot, she had no time to sightsee — in fact, all she did aside from the work was sleep in her hotel room. She owes her busy schedule to the fact that she’s already chosen her next drama, Man of Honor, and brought along the script for some reading.
Asked whether she has any time off before the new drama, she smiled and answered, “I always have something on my schedule. But after I wrap this up, I have about two weeks before I have to begin my new project. I don’t know what I’m doing on my break yet. But I’ll probably be working on the concept for the next drama and spending that time preparing.”
The drama co-stars Chun Jung-myung and comes from the PD and writer combo of mega-hit Baker King Kim Tak-gu; in fact, some are calling this a “Female Kim Tak-gu.” (If the title seems in conflict with that concept, it’ll help to know that the Korean words are actually a pun on the two leads’ names, and can also mean Young-kwang’s Jae-in — where the hero is Young-kwang and the heroine is Jae-in.)
Park describes her new character thusly: “Jae-in is three times brighter than Nana. Of course, merely being bright is uninteresting. Her emotional line goes from one end to the other, and is really exciting.” Thinking that her normal vocal tone is a bit low (and less traditionally feminie) and therefore doesn’t suit the character, Park is working to raise her tone to play Jae-in, which she also did for Unstoppable High Kick.
“I told myself that I should have an easy next project, but when I read the synopsis and script for Man of Honor, it was so entertaining that I ended up taking it. I usually prefer when the script is more interesting than the synopsis. It was so interesting that I thought I’d regret it if I didn’t do it. Then I met the scriptwriter and director, and they totally understood the tone of my acting and my voice. I felt I could trust them.”
Regarding her schedule, Park said, “I’m thankful for it. I have a simple personality, so with work that’s really fun, I work really hard and with things I don’t want to do, I really don’t do. I like acting, so if I like a character I immerse myself fully into her, and I think people look favorably on that. I feel like that translates to the screen. And I also think I’ve been fortunate.”
Her willingness to keep occupied is understandable, since she has talked in the past about the difficulty of facing a slump post-High Kick (which Jung Il-woo has also talked about). She shot to overnight fame, was the talk of the town, and then the show ended and she found herself with a lot of empty time on her hands. “Maybe it’s because I’ve experienced a slump before, but I don’t get easily excited by favorable reviews. I’m really thankful that there are people with favorable opinions, but I know that I could at any moment come up against a brick wall and hit another slump. So while I’m truly grateful for it, on the other hand I feel that I need to travel my path steadily. I’m thankful whenever I hear praise, but I know how many talented people there are out there with both star potential and acting skills, and those who haven’t yet gotten recognition. I feel I have to work even harder.”
Her slump seems to have left her with a lot of valuable thoughts, and she said, “There was a time when I didn’t know much about acting and just did it for the fun of it. But as I was doing the drama Ja Myung Go, I started learning about acting, but just around then it ended. While waiting for a project I wanted to do, a year or two went by. I was incredibly eager to work then — even now, when I’m facing tough times or feeling tired, I think back to how I felt then and get a grip on my feelings. No matter how tired or how little I’ve slept, I think back to that time and my eyes pop open. I think, ‘Back then, I wanted to work but couldn’t. Now they want me to work, so what’s so difficult?’”
Man of Honor is planned for an October premiere on KBS, which means it’ll be starting shoots soon, keeping Park busy for the rest of the year. That, and dating Lee Min-ho, of course. No matter how hard-working, one must always carve out time for that.