[Interview] Jang Hyuk, Lead Actor of "IRIS 2", an Epitome of Sincerity and Style.

Actor Jang Hyuk during a photoshoot with TenAsia English. [TenAsia/Lee Jin-hyuk]
Actor Jang Hyuk during a photoshoot with TenAsia English. [TenAsia/Lee Jin-hyuk]

[Interview] Jang Hyuk, Lead Actor of "IRIS 2", an Epitome of Sincerity and Style.Cr. - kstar10

We have a saying here in Korea about men from Busan, the coastal city in the southern part of the country. They’re said to be quieter, can be gruff at times and rather less smooth compared to their Seoul counterparts ,but they also have a reputation for being sincere, loyal and, most importantly, manly, in the best sense of the word.

Jang Hyuk, whose real name is Jeong Yong-joon, spent most of his life in the city before he made his debut in a TV drama aged 20. Onscreen and in person, he is the epitome of style. We found that after having been in the spotlight for the past 16 years, his genuine passion for acting and quiet intensity for his work stood out more so than his much-famed chiseled good looks. He is a man with all the genuineness of a true Busan guy and the cutting-edge style of Gangnam.

TenAsia English met Jang Hyuk at a quiet café in Gangnam ahead of the Korean broadcast of “IRIS 2” in which he plays the lead.

There is currently a lot of anticipation for “IRIS 2” in Korea but many fans overseas are already talking about it with excitement. We notice it firsthand whenever we put up articles about “IRIS 2” on our TenAsia English website. Expectations are high everywhere. Tell us about your decision to star in “IRIS 2”.

Jang: “IRIS 1” was one of the first spy thrillers on Korean TV but it had a strong element of melodrama. “IRIS 2”, on the other hand, is a spy thriller above anything else. That was one of the reasons for my involvement. Also, I am fond of American TV series such as “24” and “Homeland,” and I wanted to be involved in a project that would depict Korean-style intelligence strategies and the related agency more realistically. I know that if I put my heart in whatever I do, if I’m sincere about my work, it will move people wherever they may be.

Tell us about “IRIS 2” and your character Jung Yoo-geon.

Jang: “IRIS 2” is much more realistic compared to “IRIS 1” with more details compared to “IRIS 1,” The plot will hopefully satisfy the sensibility of Korean viewers as well as that of international audiences. This one is more true-to-life.

It is set at a terrorism prevention agency called NSS, a place where different kinds of people work. So it has elements of the melodrama as well as human drama as characters interact with each other. You’ll literally be able to “smell” the characters.

My character Jung Yoo-geon, a team leader at NSS, is a man who tends to hold things in. He doesn’t like to reveal things about himself. He is a leader at work but, as you watch the drama, you’ll find out more things about him, such as the circumstance of his birth. Even when he falls in love, he’s not all that expressive. He’s a great tactician in his field, though. He’s a fascinating character. 

Actor Jang Hyuk during a photoshoot with TenAsia English. [TenAsia/Lee Jin-hyuk]
Actor Jang Hyuk during a photoshoot with TenAsia English. [TenAsia/Lee Jin-hyuk]

 “People shouldn’t pigeonhole idol stars. The focus should be on their good work.”

Although there were many action scenes with computer graphics in “Volcano High” (2001), “IRIS 2” was your first time being part of realistic gun-shooting scenes. There must have been many exciting yet tough moments.

Jang: Actually, I had a ringing in my ear for a couple of weeks after shooting those scenes. I thought blanks wouldn’t make such big noises but they did. I used guns in the military but when I was doing those scenes, it was in a closed space so the noise couldn’t go anywhere else. Shooting guns wasn’t such an issue, though but team play with other actors was very important and we trained using guns as a team.

I heard that it is important for actors to work in perfect harmony when shooting action scenes. You worked with actress Lee Da-hey in “The Slave Hunter” so things must have been easier this time round.

Jang: It was my third time working with her [the first time was in 2007 in the SBS series “Robber”]. Aside from the action scenes becoming easier with familiarity, communication becomes easier with people you know well. I also place a lot of trust in her opinions on melodramas as well as action scenes. I know that what I do with her will end up being good because we communicate well each other.

We are seeing frequent participation of idol-turned-actors in TV series these days but there is quite a controversy about whether idol stars should or should not act in big-scale projects. “IRIS 2” has two idol stars in it, Lee Joon and Yoon Du-jun. What’s your opinion of idol actors?

Jang: I consider them as actors, not just idols. Just because they started out as idols, it doesn’t mean that people can pigeonhole them. What’s important is the kind of attitude they have as they act and how well they portray their characters. The focus should be on the result, not on their job descriptions. 

I’ve only worked with Yoon Du-jun so far and I’ve found him to be very hard-working. He thinks incredibly hard about his character and listens to advice from others. From what I’ve seen so far of him, I think Du-jun is a fine, young man with the right mindset.

“I know sincerity will move people, wherever they may be.”

With its idol actors, “IRIS 2” is set to have more audiences and a bigger possibility to become a Hallyu drama. You mentioned earlier a point about sincerity moving the hearts of people wherever they are. But do you think “IRIS 2” has particular elements that could be attractive to overseas audiences?

Jang: When we talk about films from abroad, we say a film is well-made when we’re drawn into the story despite it being set in such a different environment from ours. It’s all about persuasive storytelling. That’s what will draw people to a drama. Likewise, “IRIS 2” could be fun for people for the topics it deals with but if it fails to draw people into the story, there’d be no use. If there is sincerity in the drama, everyone will enjoy it no matter where they are in the world.

It seems that gritty, realistic dramas such as “Homeland” are leading the trend these days and you mentioned “IRIS 2” is also one such drama. Do you feel any pressure about getting more exposure overseas with “IRIS 2”?

Jang: When I concentrate on the visual part of a drama or movie, it’s hard to keep my internal balance. It’s not about how to express emotions or what to show, it is more like delivering the story more densely to audiences by absorbing the character precisely, showing the character and persuading people. Therefore, for me, it is more important to understand the character as best as possible and hopefully the rest will take care of itself.

Actor Jang Hyuk during a photoshoot with TenAsia English. [TenAsia/Lee Jin-hyuk]
Actor Jang Hyuk during a photoshoot with TenAsia English. [TenAsia/Lee Jin-hyuk]

I understand that you shot some scenes abroad. Tell me more about it.

Jang: Yes, we shot in Budapest, Hungary. I gradually became used to the as days went by. It was fun shooting abroad though I had to make an effort to calm myself down. You know, you get this particular feeling when you go abroad, you become more excited but my character wasn’t supposed to be that way. I tried to calm myself down because my character wasn’t supposed to be high although my real self was quite excited to be abroad.  

What was the atmosphere like in Hungary?

Jang: It was fascinating. I even picked up a few songs in advance.

You mean Hungarian music?

Jang: No, I took a few songs I wanted to listen to during my stay in Hungary. When I’m on a set, I always listen to songs which I feel match the mood of the drama or film. When I was in Budapest, I watched the film, “Gloomy Sunday” It felt quite different because it’s set in summer to autumn whereas we were there in winter. But the film helped me tremendously. I found myself focusing better after watching it. The city had a fascinating atmosphere. In the middle of shooting a scene in Budapest, we suddenly heard someone playing the music from the original soundtrack from “The Godfather”. It was a street violinist. The emotions in his music matched perfectly with those of the scene. It was a pretty amazing experience.  

[End of Part One of Interview with Actor Jang Hyuk]

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