After the big success of TV series Tuoi Thanh Xuan (Forever Young), a Viet Nam-South Korea production, Tran Nha Phuong is part of a joint project between Viet Nam Television (VTV) and Japan's TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System). A nominee for the most Impressive Actress at the VTV Awards 2015 (results in August), Phuong spoke to Minh Thu about her career and future plans.
Inner Sanctum: How did you become an actress?
You may not believe it, but I became an actress by mistake. I had a passion for singing when I was a high school student. When I graduated from high school and chose a university, my parents asked me to select banking. Actually, I tried to find a university with a vocal music programme to satisfy myself without their knowledge.
Let me introduce myself a little. I'm quite hotheaded and quick-tempered. On the other hand, I was an 18-year-old girl trying to be contrary to my parents' will.
When I read about the HCM City College of Theatre and Cinema, I noticed that it requires students to sing, recite a poem and act in a play at the entrance exam. My eyes were just glued on "singing", and I sent my application to the school without knowing that I applied to the faculty of acting.
I didn't realise the mistake until I joined the exam. After the singing part, I had to perform a poem and act. I cried badly when my sister picked me up at the school's gate, as I believed that I would fail and have to wait a year to apply to my dream programme.
Unexpectedly, I was accepted. I have worked for six years as an actress. I think good fortune helped me become an actress and brought me these film projects.
Inner Sanctum: When you were young, what was your dream job?
My father was a teacher. I often stood by his class's window, adoring him and wishing one day I would be a teacher. Now I realise that it's not easy to teach other people. Who knows, in the future I may become an acting teacher.
Inner Sanctum: Would you share something about your time filming Tuoi Thanh Xuan in South Korea?
The first obstacle for me was language. As Vietnamese and South Korean actors speak our own languages, we have to learn our dialogue and our partners' dialogue by heart to follow the story and emotions of the characters.
After six months working together, my partner Kang Tae-oh and I were in each other's pockets, despite the language barrier.
I'm not good at English and dumb at Korean, so we used body language at the beginning. Then we started getting close. When we talk, we use English, Vietnamese, Korean and body language to grasp each other's meaning. Other people on the film crew often smiled at us, as they don't understand what we're talking about.
Kang absolutely loves eating mangosteen. He's even addicted to the fruit and asks me for it every day. He ate mangosteen until he broke out in spots. Director Khai Anh and make-up artists had to strictly ask me to stop giving him the fruit. That's a funny memory.
I'm haunted by the weather in South Korea. When we came to Nami Island, it was about -5oC, so cold I thought I was gonna die. Everyone wore warm clothes from head to toe, but I had to wear thin clothes, as the story in the film happened in summer.
Inner Sanctum: You're among few young Vietnamese actors who have had the opportunity to co-operate with foreign film crews. What have you learned from them?
What impressed me most is the foreign partners always work as regular as clockwork to guarantee they stay on schedule. I appreciate their ability to work under pressure. Someday we worked from 6am to 6am the next day.
I also learned much from my partner, Kang. Before the scenes in which he has to dance, he often spent all night practising.
The South Korean film crew always created good conditions for actors to live with their roles and portray realistic emotions.
Vietnamese film crews often shoot scenes in contexts. For example, scenes taking place at a venue are shot one by one, and then we move to another venue. Meanwhile, scenes in Tuoi Thanh Xuan are shot following the order of the story, from the beginning when Linh (my character) and Junsu (Kang's) get to know each other and fall in love. Thanks to this method, we can get under the skin of the characters, live their lives and have their truthful emotions.
Inner Sanctum: Could you say something about the new film project?
I have finished my part in the 24-episode series Khuc Hat Mat Troi (The Sun's Song), the joint project with Japan. It will be broadcast in the end of this year.
My character, Yen Phuong, is a young composer with a beautiful voice who, tragically, suffers from a life-threatening disease.
This year I will also take part in some short films. I also want to change my image as a pretty, innocent, joyful girl. I want to try acting as negative or more complicated characters.
As I have had many beautiful moments in South Korea and with the local film crew, I wish one day I can work with them again. I'll learn Korean in the future with the hope that the opportunity will come again. — VNS