If Cha Seoung-won had another life to live, he would again choose to be an actor.
“An actor is an amazing career that allows people to represent and portray various lives,” he said. “Although I have been acting for a long time, there are still many roles and characters that I haven’t gotten a chance to try. Therefore, if I had to do my life over again, I would still choose to be an actor.”
Cha’s resume already includes a range of film and drama roles. He played a North Korean defector in the melodrama film Over The Border and a transgender homicide detective in the film Man On High Heels, as well as a popular star in the TV rom com The Greatest Love and s short-tempered police captain in the drama You’re All Surrounded. He recently appeared in the gangster film Night in Paradise and the disaster comedy Sinkhole. This year he can be seen in two TV dramas, playing the desperate Hansu in the hit show Our Blues and a money-hungry lawyer in One Ordinary Day.
His take on the character in Our Blues is a subtle portrait of a man caught up in a dream he can’t hope to achieve. Hansu is so desperate for cash to finance his daughter’s education, he considers asking his former high school girlfriend for a loan. It’s not exactly a role guaranteed to win over viewers, but Cha used the role to portray the possibility of redemption.
“There is something heart-wrenching about Hansu, but he is a realistic and relatable character at the same time,” said Cha. “I was particularly impressed by Hansu letting go of his greed and looking for happiness in the second half of the series, and I thought this transformation could bring a heart-warming sensation to the viewers.”
Eun-hui, the character played by Lee Jung-eun, has never gotten over her first crush Hansu. While Hansu is visiting their Jeju hometown, where she has a successful fish business, they take a trip together. The prospect of the trip revives all of Eun-hui’s romantic hopes, but makes the audience suspect the worst. However, it becomes a chance for the character to redeem himself and for her to move on.
“It may easily seem like Hansu went on the trip to use Eun-hui just for money,” said Cha. “However, Hansu was genuinely brought back to the most beautiful moments of the days when they were young during the trip. With Eun-hui’s pure support, Hansu is able to slowly put down the heavy burden on his shoulders. I don’t think Hansu would be able to ask Eun-hui for money after reminiscing about the good old days; instead he would find other ways to get money once he returns.”
The character’s transformation was part of the role’s appeal, but Our Blues also attracted Cha because of the convergence of star talent. The cast includes top actors Lee Byung-hun, Shin Min-ah, Han Ji-min, and Kim Woo-bin.
“This show is created by an amazing writer, producer and several of Korea’s most famous ‘go-to’ actors,” said Cha. “A personable story of each and every one of the main characters is told in an omniverse format. I am confident that this series will have a great impact on the viewers because they are able to enjoy a heart-warming story in deeper and various ways.”
When considering a role, Cha prefers stories with a twist.
“I define ‘twist within a story’ as a method that can refocus the viewers’ attention with an unexpected development when they feel less immersed in it, making the narrative richer. Shin Jung-han, a character I played in One Ordinary Day, was a third-class lawyer who only cared about money all of his life. However, as he becomes sincere to a client, he turns into a real lawyer who fights against the flaws of the judicial system. Shin Jung-han’s transformation strengthened the development of the narrative and perhaps became one of the factors that grabbed the attention of the audience.”
The model-turned-actor does not find any acting particular genre to be more challenging.
“Acting is never easy regardless of genre,” said Cha. “That is why I always challenge myself to try diverse genres and roles. Hansu from Our Blues was also a new role I had never done before. Of course, it wasn’t easy, but I immersed myself in Hansu’s situation and emotions in preparation to portray his character well.
For Cha, the reason to keep challenging himself is a persistent sense that he is somehow lacking as an actor and that he has not achieved his full potential.
“As an actor, the process of constantly doing something and achieving something is always necessary, and the force that drives me to do so is ‘lack.’ I always try to participate whenever I come across a great script in order to fill the incomplete parts of myself.”
Although it’s hard to imagine roles he has not yet mastered, the actor remains thirsty for new parts.
“I want to try characters that are unique, instead of ones that are conventional and common,” said Cha.” In the past, my main goal was to create and illustrate a given character in a new way—now I want to utilize the preexisting image and distinct persona I have in order to naturally blend into extraordinary characters.”
Our Blues, a Studio Dragon production, airs on Netflix