The agility of the two men, as they run from one side of the rehearsal room to the other, is amazing. One second they’re carrying swords and doing martial arts, and then before you know it they’re holding hands with their female co-stars and singing. As they socialize with the ensemble in a market scene, the director meticulously takes notes on the movement of the actors. He doesn’t hear the press agent say “It’s a really scary practice”. Like students about to take an exam, the two men are showing off everything they have as they run around the practice room. This is the second interview with Yesung and Sungmin, who lack experience but are passionate and vivacious, and are returning in their musical story, Hong Gil Dong.
“Idol singers always get the lead role because they’re idols, right? I wanted to break this preconception.”
Lately amongst preparations for their 4th album, musical rehearsals, and their Super Junior colleagues’ difficulties, their hearts and minds haven’t been at peace. This is the most crucial moment for Super Junior since the pop group was formed. However, there is one reason why Yesung and Sungmin are able to completely concentrate on the musical ‘Hong Gil Dong,’ their second musical.
Sungmin: “Because this is my second stage I have to do well. If people who came to see my first show, Akilla, come to this show, I have to show them an appearance even better than they expect. To be honest, when I was preparing for Akilla, my schedule was much heavier. Therefore I wasn’t able to do this kind of intense practice. When I came to the rehearsal room, I had to try to absorb a lot of things.”
Yesung: “There are people who think that “this is only their second stage so how well can they do?” but for Sungmin and me it seems like it’s our second time so a lot of things have changed. When I did Namhansanseong, I didn’t really have a clue, and I was always busy trying to keep up with my sunbaes*. Lately I’ve had to make decisions on my own, and had to become independent.”
Last year both Yesung and Sungmin underwent harsh initiation, Yesung in Namhansanseong and Sungmin in Akilla. Despite the guarantee of idol ticket power in the musical market, Yesung and Sungmin have had to compete with actors of talent and years of experience, and through constant effort have managed to grab the opportunity to appear in their second show.
Yesung: “There is a prejudice against idols who attempt to break into musicals which says that ‘You only get the lead part because you’re an idol singer.’ At the time of Namhansanseong, I received my first casting proposal for the role of the young lead character Oh Dal Jeh. At that time, I thought I would get the role of Jeong Myeong Soo instead of Oh Dal Jeh because I wanted to break the conception that ‘Idol singers always get the lead role because they’re idols.’
I hope that now that I’ve become a musical actor in my second show, even if people still think I’m lacking, they won’t think it’s because I’m an idol star. I’d like them to see me just as a musical actor with lots of potential. There were a lot of things I didn’t know when I started on Namhansanseong, but I learnt a lot from Director Cho Gwanghwa, Lee Jeongyeol, and Bae Haeseon sunbaenim, and it became a type of genre that I want to do for a long time. When I come on stage, I don’t want to be thought of as Super Junior, but as a musical actor.
I’ve had a lot of experience on stage, but being on stage for musicals is very different.”
Sungmin: “I’m the same as hyung, when I was working on my first musical, I went through a lot of hardship. In Akilla, I didn’t have a lot of lines other than ‘Akilla!’, but I had to show the inner workings of my character. I went through a lot of hardship and it was very tiring, but I really liked the work. I was really proud of being in Akilla, and I’ll always have fond memories of it.”
Yesung and Sungmin, who both started appearing in musicals around the same time, share a closer bond with each other than their other Super Junior members because of their shared musical interests. They have both developed a passion for musicals, Yesung through his “Late-bloomer Musical Mania”, and Sungmin through “Musical Mania Since Birth”.
Sungmin: “My parents were very interested in musicals. Every since I was very young, I’d go to performances together with my parents; I still remember seeing ‘Sound of Music’. At the time, I didn’t know about the musical genre, but I enjoyed it immensely.”
Yesung: “Since we debuted as Super Junior, I haven’t had any time to think of other genres. I thought ‘Even though I want to try doing a performance, I want to continue singing’, but then I saw Xanadu for the first time, which starred fellow Super Junior members. That was the first musical I ever saw. After that, I consistently prepared, and appeared in Namhansanseong last year. When I was working on Namhansanseong, I was really scared to even set foot in the rehearsal room. Lee Jeongyeol sunbae and Bae Haeseon sunbae would always work with me and teach me everything bit by bit. Thanks to those two, who recognized me as a musical hoobae**, I could have pride in appearing as a musical actor. While I’m preparing for Hong Gil Dong, I reflect on the strength that I had at that time, in my first musical.”
Hong Gil Dong, Second Stage
With the opening of their musical only a few days away, you can see Yesung and Sungmin in costume on posters, buses, and billboards. It’s their second musical, Hong Gil Dong, and they will be performing along with Yeowoon and Cho Beomjoon.
Yesung: “I finished Namhansanseong, and when I was worrying about what production I’d do next, Hong Gil Dong appeared in front of my eyes. Hasn’t everyone at least once thought of being a hero? Hong Gil Dong isn’t an unbeaten hero, we’re drawn to him because he was an important figure that lived before 500 AD. The opportunity to bring to life a person from our country’s history is amazing. That’s the feeling I get when playing Hong Gil Dong.”
Sungmin: “Hong Gil Dong that appears in this musical isn’t a hero with no rivals. Instead he’s damaged, love has made him sad, he’s lonely and humane. Previously in Akilla, I didn’t really have a lot of lines other than ‘Akilla’, but in this one the number of lines has increased several times [laughter] so it’s difficult but I can portray a lot of different emotions so I’m glad.”
The two are two years apart. The elder Yesung has cautiously entered into Hong Gil Dong through cautious steps, while Sungmin is soaking up Hong Gil Dong through much more energetic, strong strides. Yesung, who has an abundance of sensitivity, shines best in emotional and mournful tearjerking scenes, while energetic Sungmin’s personality is best fitted for showy martial arts scenes.
Sungmin: “Since I was young I liked exercising, so it seems like I pick it up faster than other people. In the musical Hong Gil Dong, people who’ve specialized in taekwondo appear. When you see the show, you’ll be able to see a lot of stunt action and taekwondo tricks.”
Yesung: “There is a scene where Hong Gil Dong and the actress Bae Soojin hold hands and sing a song. Expressing the emotion of really falling in love with a person is harder than you would think [laughter]. When we practice that scene, I always watch Yeowoon and Beomjoon Hyung, who are also cast as Hong Gil Dong, with my eyes wide.”
Hong Gil Dong is expressed in a single name but Yesung and Sungmin have showed off their own charms steadily as Hong Gil Dong, portraying two different shades of the character.
Sungmin: “This is because the personalities of myself and Yesung hyung are the complete opposite. They’re different so it’s more interesting. Hyung’s portrayal of Hong Gil Dong is cold hearted and charismatic. He’s sensitive to the loneliness but he doesn’t show it on the outside. Yesung hyung’s performance of Hong Gil Dong is addictive, I’m sure I’ll go see his shows often.”
Yesung: “Sungmin’s portrayal of Hong Gil Dong is a feisty appearance. It has a uniquely comfortable and soft feeling to it. Most of all it seems like the most charming, lively portrayal of Hong Gil Dong.”
I asked them a question about whether there wasn’t a rivalry between them, since they’re playing the same role with different colours.
Yesung: “We’re really not conscious of any rivalry. We’re on the same team, so we can help each other. We can even practice together in the dorms; we’re the same Hong Gil Dong but when I watch Sungmin I get the feeling that we’re portraying the character differently. Doing things together with Sungmin relieves stress and makes it fun.”
The two who live together in their dorm descended into the world of Hong Gil Dong, practising their lines together, exchanging morning greetings, and singing musical numbers while riding in the car. As the affection and emotional support from other Super Junior members and their family members grows – for example, Yesung’s mother watched his musical more than 10 times out of the total 13 performances – the dreams these two have about musicals have become larger.
Yesung: “Currently my biggest dream is to successfully wrap up Hong Gil Dong. When I saw the musical ‘Notredame de Paris’, I become captivated by “Sung-through” musicals***. If I was cast as Quasimodo, I wouldn’t put on the makeup and would just appear on stage! [laughter] One day I’d like to be in ‘Notredame de Paris’ or ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’.”
Sungmin: “I’m currently majoring in Film and Musicals at Myongji University, and learning a lot of things at school. It’s really good that my professors are also musical actors. After this I really want to act on a big stage, I want to gain a lot of experience. I have a lot of goals about musicals, but right now my biggest dream is to do well in my current roles, that’s my goal.”
The two have received many compliments from those with interests in musicals about their well mannered and hard working nature. The second stage of these two honest and hard-working young men has begun.
*Sunbae = a senior, or someone of higher ranking or experience, in a profession or school.
**Hoobae = a junior, or someone of lower ranking or experience, in a profession or school.
***Sung-through is a type of musical/opera where there’s no spoken dialogue, everything is sung.
Translated by ♥ jubee ♥ @SJ-World.net
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