Lee Soon Jae talks his play ‘Father’ and acting, shows love for the likes of Kim Myung Min, Lee Seung Gi, Ha Ji Won…

Per twitter@MyDad2012, Seunggi and Jiwon plan to attend the September 8, 8pm showing of the play ‘Father’ starring Lee Soon Jae.  (Omg, if they show up together, Hearties will die!!!  But both aren’t grand entrance types?!  Please let them Jaeha-Hangah, at least be seated next to each other!  Sitting next to a ‘date’ in a darkened theatre for a live show is so romantic!!!  HA!  But, it really is!  I love live theatre!)

‘Father’ is an adaptation of Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman.’  The play ran earlier this year from April 13-29, and has an encore run from September 7-30 with Lee Soon Jae returning in the lead role.  More info at official facebook – 아버지.

Lee Soon Jae recently sat for a lengthy interview.  So fascinating…  growing up poor, making it into Seoul National University.  Pursuing acting against parents’ wishes.  Starting out in plays.   Even spending one term in the Korean Congress as an elected politician, but soon realized that acting was more his thing!

Known to be tough-love harsh with younger actors, he mentions and compliments a few junior (hoobae) actors, including Kim Myung Min, Seunggi, Jiwon, Bae Doona, Jang Dong Gun, Lee Byun Hun.  Not so shabby company there!

I always knew he was a super beloved and respected, but reading more about him, I see why Seunggi probably worships the ground he walks on!  Ha.  Strangely enough, I hear some of Lee Soon Jae (based on this interview!) in Seunggi’s recent interviews!  Now I want to see them together again!  Seunggi and bromances rule!  Hope there are some goodies from tonight!

An interview with Lee Soon Jae, currently headlining the play ‘Father’
Article excerpts [September 6, 2012]

English: LSGfan via Sisapress

From September 7-30, he plays the lead role in the play ‘Father.’  At the end of September, he’s planning to film MBC Monday-Tuesday drama.  Starting October 13, he’ll be filming a JTBC cable drama.  Through September 1, he was playing a supporting role in another play.  It is a super packed schedule  So who’s the person with a schedule like this?  Precisely, Lee Soon Jae, born in 1935, turning 78 next year.

Lee Soon Jae continues to work a lot as he gets older.  He said, “Although my muscle strength has waned some, since this is the occupation I’ve always had and I haven’t suffered any big damage yet, I’m staying strong and trying to keep up.  I don’t even have a particular exercise that I do regularly.  Aside from playing golf once a while, I don’t even go to the gym.  Memorizing lines is not a problem since I did this role back in April.”

He first began as a theatre actor.  He studied acting at Seoul University in the 1950s.  Having ‘Seoul University alumni’ attached to one’s name is a big deal today, but it was probably even more impressive in the 1950s. When asked why Mr. Lee chose the acting route, he said, “Being an actor was seen as lower class in those days and there wasn’t much respect nor money involved.  I chose acting because I discovered art and creativity through the capacity of acting.  If I wanted to do something more reputable at the time, I would’ve chosen another path much earlier on.  For that reason, I wasn’t very demanding.  And I didn’t get annoyed over unnecessary stuff.”

So, it is his talent that has brought him to where he is today?  Mr. Lee responded, “It wasn’t that I had talent, because if I had thought that, then I would’ve started a lot earlier in acting.  During my third year of college, I got into acting out of curiosity.  I’d watch good movies, and while watching good acting from foreign actors, I began to think that acting was an art.  That’s how I started, and over time, I couldn’t help but to go crazy over acting.  The acting occupation is something you have to be crazy about in order to survive.”

Having only walked the path of acting, he transformed into a politician.  After losing at his first attempt, he ran again and was elected to the Korean Congress in 1992.  He did not run again after finishing his first term.  He said he had spent a lot of money on his election campaign previously, and that there were things he was more aware about in politics.  He felt that it was time for him to return to the field which he had committed to – acting.

Mr.  Lee is admired by many.  Established actors in their 60s such as Park Geun Hyung and Lee Duk Hwa consider Mr. Lee their role model.  Having played such a diverse array of roles in both dramatic fare and comedy, in dramas, movies, and plays, how does he manage all the different settings?

Mr Lee said, “These days there are more than 2-3 directors, producers, or writers on set.  They do not see me as a colleague.  We are complete strangers.  It’s not a sunbae-hoobae encounter.  If you demand to be treated like a sunbae on site, you get crazy over unnecessary things.  While I’m thankful if a director is considerate of the age difference, you have to participate thinking more on equal terms.  For now, since I follow along well on set, I think they have a need for me.  Once you think you’re at the top of things, that’s when you become stagnant.  You have to continue to evolve with hard work and creative discovery.  I think our young friends are expressing much of that.”

While he showed much pride for our Hallyu dramas gaining respect, he didn’t forget to make some harsh points.  “While there are high viewerships and many good writers, there’s a need to review scripts.  In the past, there weren’t writers like that.  Nowadays they start working after editing the drama three times.”

As for his junior actors, he mentioned and complimented them, one by one, by name.  “Kim Myung Min (40), whom I worked with on ‘Beethoven’s Virus’ has the best readiness disposition as an actor.  He’s punctual, has an abundance of energy, and is humble.  I told him ‘you should always do acting.’  Myung Min will show even better acting as he gets older.  The King 2 Hearts’ Lee Seung Gi (25) was wise.  And intelligent, therefore he studied things more in depth… I advised him to do plays too.  Ha Ji Won (34), there’s no change in her appearance.  She has an original personality.  She gave her all everyday without a frown.  I thought Bae Doo Na‘s (33) acting in the movie ‘Korea’ was good too.  She is in her maturing stage.  I often say to hoobae actors, ‘Even if you rest one year after finishing this project, things won’t go bad for you.  Go study somewhere like a New York Actors School for 1-2 years.  Go study as if you were just starting out and come back.’  Aren’t Jang Dong Gun and Lee Byung Hun filming movies in the United States?  The qualities of young actors these days are all-around good.  If they were to complement things just a bit more, things will turn out even better for them.  In acting, all around the world, nothing is hidden.  Everything gets exposed.  You have to study and put in effort.”


(with the production team behind ‘Father’)

Lastly, I asked about his family.

Having been born in Hoeryong, North Korea and living in poverty in Ahyeongdong prior to its liberation, he has distinct memories of being a student in 1950 when the war broke out.  “Although I was born in Hoeryong, I was sent to live with my grandparents in Seoul when I was 4 years old.  After the liberation, my parents came to Seoul.  As a 6th grader, I remember my grandfather selling soaps in Namdaemoon.  My classroom teacher came to visit my family because we were poor and could only pay for half of the tuition at Seoul Middle School.  After she saw our situation, no one at the school said anything even though we were unable to pay the tuition.  Our school was the best. (laughter)”

Mr. Lee later graduated from Seoul High School and entered Seoul National University, the college of liberal arts and sciences, and while he carried all the hopes of his family, he pushed back against his father’s wishes and chose to pursue acting.  “In my family, I am the only one who does this kind of work.  I come from a simple family.  My wife (Choi Hee Jung) studied dance so she understands my work.  I was able to continue my acting career because when we were younger, my wife understood what type of life this would mean.”

He has two children and two grandchildren.  “I’m not that conscious of age.  I’m surprised when actresses I worked with when I was younger tell me they have grandchildren, but I sense I’m getting older when I see my grandson and granddaughter growing up.   When you do a drama for like 6 months, and operate according to that rhythm, you forget age.  Although it’s hard participating in many projects, I don’t complain since that’s something I have to manage.  Thankfully, I think I’m less damaged since I didn’t drink since I was young and I quit smoking 30 years ago.  My mother lived until she was 96 and I think her genes were passed on to me.”

Here’s an official (BTS?) video clip from the play…

(video: Ari Interworks)

Images:  Naver, Official ‘Father’

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3 Responses

  1. When I see you translate this lengthy interview while you are so busy…I know this one is precious..

    Thank you very much Ann, very very precious

  2. Thank you so much , I’ve love coming here where I know I will get to read n understand wats being written.Thanks a million for the translations esp.LSG n HJW. I highly respected LSJ for his acting n commitments . He is a very wise man who’s knows wat is good for his body, stay healthy n strong LSJ!

  3. Thank you Ann…I really appreciate it a lot…his life story is very inspiring…he’s truly an admirable person

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