|Actor Kang Tae-oh|
Kang Tae-oh has amassed a large following in Việt Nam after playing Lee Jun-su, a talented K-pop star in the Forever Young series that was screened on VTV3 in 2014. Co-produced by Việt Nam Television’s (VTV) Film Centre and South Korea’s CJ E&M Pictures, Forever Young earned the highest ratings among programmes aired at the same time. A story about the lives, dreams, and struggles of young Vietnamese students studying in Seoul, the series followed the conflicting emotions inherent in love and friendship. His portrayal earned Kang the title of Impressive Actor at the VTV Awards last year. Minh Thu talks with Kang, who continues to play Lee in Forever Young Season 2, currently on air on VTV.
Inner Sanctum: What do you think about your portrayal of Lee Jun-su in Forever Young Season 2?
It was really difficult for me, much more difficult than playing Lee Jun-su in the First Season, because in this part Jun-su is older than me (I was born in 1994).
After many upheavals, Jun-su begins to mature as a character, with a complicated psychology. He was involved in a serious accident, causing him to forget his lover Linh (played by Nhã Phương). After four years apart, Jun-su meets Linh again in Việt Nam. But by now he is in a relationship with Cynthia. The story becomes complicated as the three characters fall into a love triangle. I haven’t experienced that situation myself, so I had to work hard during the filming process.
Inner Sanctum: This is the second time you have come to Việt Nam to shoot the series. Does it feel different from the first time?
I had previously come to Việt Nam in 2014 to shoot some scenes for Forever Young Season 1, but that time was so short I didn’t get the chance to discover the country, although I knew that Việt Nam has many beautiful sites.
This time around, we had the chance to shoot in famous places such as Sword Lake in Hà Nội, Hạ Long Bay, Hội An City and Bà Nà Hills. So I was delighted to finally enjoy the spectacular landscapes. You can see the beautiful scenes when you watch the show, but I think that the landscape I saw with my own eyes is even more beautiful.
The local cuisine was varied and consistently delicious. There were so many tempting dishes that I couldn’t enjoy them all. When I return to South Korea, sometimes I remember the taste of bánh mì (baguette), a special street food from Việt Nam.
I have so many memories with the film crew. Once, having dinner at a small shop after a long day, they brought out a cake and wished me a happy birthday. That was really sweet and memorable for me.
Inner Sanctum: What did you think of the Vietnamese members of the film crew?
They were friendly and helped me a lot during the process. They always created a good atmosphere for me to fulfill my role. Language was not even a barrier between us.
Directors Bùi Tiến Huy and Nguyễn Khải Anh are smart and sensitive people. They spoke a lot before each scene and instructed me to feel what the character feels and think what the character thinks. They were also patient, listening to any troubles I had and helping me to solve them.
Inner Sanctum: In the second season, there are a number of kissing scenes between Linh and Lee Jun-su. Would you share your feelings about shooting these takes?
Both Linh and Jun-su are grown-up and stronger in expressing their love than they were in the First Season. So the kisses happened more often than the First Season, when they were young students.
The directors paid special attention to these takes. Kisses between Linh and Jun-su were arranged in romantic and poetic contexts. But in reality, it was like kissing a sister who is older and shorter than me. Phương who played Linh often stood on a platform to make our height difference a little more equal!
Seriously, kissing was difficult for both of us. You know, an actor has some ability to express a character’s feelings and thoughts through words, facial expressions, and body language. But while kissing, we aren’t saying anything and we close our eyes. So making a passionate and inspirational kiss can be very difficult.
Inner Sanctum: You have many fans in Việt Nam who are eager to see you back in Forever Young Season 2. It’s expected that this season will beat the ratings of the first one. Does this make you happy?
I’m grateful for the Vietnamese audience who love the series in general and me in particular. I was more than happy to receive the warm welcome of the audience when attending the showcase and other events.
However, during the filming process, I felt pressure to give an even better performance than the one from the First Season.
Inner Sanctum: If you were not an actor or a singer, what would you be doing?
Well, it’s hard to imagine how I’d be able to live without singing or acting. But I love sports. So I think I’d be an athlete or trainer, or any work in the field of sports.
Inner Sanctum: Would you reveal something about your work after Forever Young?
I’m also a member of 5urprise, a five-member group launched in 2013 by talent agency Fantagio, which has branched out into acting, music, commercials, and variety shows. So my main work is with the band.
Currently we are busy promoting our latest single Shake It Up, which was released in August.
The success of Forever Young Season 1 in 2014 offered me the opportunity to participate on five film projects, including Queen’s Flower, To Be Continued, Twenty Again, Best Lovers and The Dearest Lady.
My band and I want to have the chance to perform for the Vietnamese audience. We hope that we can organise a concert here in the future. VNS