"Hate, hate, hateful Sukbong. Un, un, unstoppable Jubong. Anyway, they have the ability to surprise people."
On the morning of the 17th at the PMC production rehearsal room in Seoul's Daehakro's Woori Theater, a run through was taking place for the musical "Brothers Were Brave" that will start April 1st. While the main characters Sukbong (played by Kim Jae Man) and Jubong (played be Lee Ji Hoon) rehearsed in the center, SHINee's Onew (21) was sitting to the right. Onew has been triple casted along with Lee Ji Hoon and Trax's Jay for the Jubong role.
A script instead of a mike, baggy sweatpants instead of skinny jeans, a dark gray hoodie zipped up to the neck instead of jackets of diverse colors...there was no appearance of the "ring ding dong~" singing Onew. He followed the two sunbae's acting and mouthed along to the songs, trying to learn as much as possible. We met with "new musical star" Onew after his practice.
▶ Cast as a main character without an audition due to confirmed singing and dancing skills
- How did you get the chance to star in a musical?
"I thought all the musical actors were very cool since I was young. When I heard I would get the chance to stand on stage, I was really excited. Jessica, who was in the 'Legally Blonde' musical, recommended me so I got the opportunity."
'Brothers were Brave' is produced by PMC Productions who also did 'Daejanggeum' and 'Legally Blonde.' It is the story of a father whose sudden death brings two brothers together for the first time in three years. The two brothers, who were more interested in their fortune more than their father's death, discover their parents' love too late. The musical was created in 2008 and this will be the fourth time it is performed. PMC Production's Lee Dong Hyun stated, "Jessica recommended Onew, and because we already knew he was great at singing and dancing from his group activities, we felt that he didn't need an audition."
- The opening night is soon, have you practiced a lot?
"I first got my script when SHINee went to Cambodia in late February. Since then, I've been carrying and reading my script every day but it's only been a week since I've rehearsed with my fellow actors. The run-through yesterday was my first as well. There are a lot of parts that I haven't fully gotten used to yet because of the lack of practice time, but the other actors have helped me a lot, and cue signs have helped me as well. I think it has ended on a good note."
When asked if we could see his script, Onew flipped through the pages of the book that he hadn't let go of since the interview started. He said, "I looked at the script as if it were a textbook during my high school days." And true enough, the script was highlighted all over and there were notes in red pen in the margins. Since he had a habit of underlining every time he read the script, there wasn't a blank spot on any of the pages.
▶ Changed his talking and walking style to be more like Jubong
- You have the role of the second son, Jubong. He is a pessimistic, antagonistic 31 year divorcee who graduated Seoul University. It could be hard for 21 year old Onew to take on this character.
"Jubong's personality was so different from mine, so at first I felt a lot of pressure. It was hard to understand the character at first. So I got a lot of advice from the people around me. I pretended I was Jubong and tried to understand his character. I don't usually answer punctually but since Jubong's personality is like that, I fixed my talking style to match his. I was also told my walk wasn't heavy enough, so I changed that to match the 31 year old Jubong's as well.
- Anything that the two of you are similar on?
"We studied well when we went to school? Hahaha."
It is a known fact that Onew was second in his class during senior year.
-Jubong is rude to his parents. What kind of son are you?
"Well first, Jubong is a second son whereas I'm an only child. I can't visit my parents often because of my busy schedule but I try to be as filial as possible. Since it is a family musical, I think of my parents a lot."
- The musical is 140 minutes long. What is your method to maintaining a healthy stamina? You said yourself that you had 'poor stamina'...
"To build my stamina, I've intended to exercise but I have no time. I only do basic things such as pushups and jump rope in the rehearsal room. I don't get enough sleep so I'm tired, but since it's fun I don't even realize that I'm tired while I'm rehearsing."
Onew is also preparing for SHINee's comeback while rehearsing for his musical. On the 16th, he recorded until 4 and then rehearsed for the musical as soon as he woke up. He remarked, "We haven't chosen a title song yet so we don't know when we will have our comeback, but we are in the final stages of recording."
▶ First kiss on TV, second with Sukbong hyung...
- There were rumors that there would be a kiss scene. Is there one?
"(Surprised) There is no kiss scene. I try to kiss Aurora (Lee Ju Won) but we were about 50 cm apart, and I stick out my lips but Aurora blocks it with her finger. Oh, but there is a kiss scene with Sukbong hyung. We were holding hands and we coincidentally turn our heads and touch each other's lips."
- Your first kiss was on TV too, right?
"It wasn't my first kiss (since he didn't initiate it), but I was kissed by gagwoman Jung Joori sunbaenim. If you look at it like that, Sukbong hyung is my second, but since we grazed lips so many times during rehearsal, it's hard to say it's just the second time...maybe it was because it was a man, but it was pretty calm. It didn't feel good though. Hahaha."
- Did you do ad libs as well? Do you have anything prepared?
"I plan to devote myself to the script rather than ad libbing. It's not as if I perfectly understand Jubong, so I can't really ad lib either. If I suddenly ad lib, it's breaking a promise with fellow costars so I am going to be cautious of that. I could prepare ad libbing in advance with a costar but I wouldn't do it on my own."
- Any advice that "sunbae musical star" Jessica gave you?
"She gave me lots of advice. The most memorable was that she told me to get along well with my fellow costars."
Maybe it was because of Jessica's advice, but Onew really does get along with his costars as if they were family. Managers aren't even allowed in the room in case the celebrities might get bothered, so they hang around outside.
▶ First musical, more anticipation than pressure
- You're the hyung and leader of SHINee, but the magnae of the musical. How do you get along with your sunbaes?
"They guide me a lot. I talk a lot with both Hong Lok Gi and Kim Jae Man hyung who play Sukbong, and Lee Ji Hoon and Jae hyung who play Jubong. We discuss every detail from emotions to our surroundings, so I am very grateful.
- You've stood on many huge stages as a singer, but it's your first in a musical. The differences would be..?
"I think they're pretty similar. When I first debuted as a singer I was really nervous but after getting on stage, it was very comfortable and natural. I think this will be the same. My costars treat me like family so I think it will be a comfortable experience. So strangely, I don't feel very nervous even though it's my musical debut. Rather, I think it'll be really fun so I'm anticipating it a lot."
- Seeing your recent 'brain analysis', Jubong seemed to take up a big part of your brain.
"Jubong's portion of my brain has gotten even bigger since then. When I wake up I suddenly remember songs, and even when I'm unconscious lines from the script pop out. Even when I'm talking to the other members, I say lines from the script if a similar real life situation happened. I even ask for other schedules to be altered so that I can practice for the musical. That's how obsessed I am with it right now. Hahaha"
- The fans expectations are so high that the tickets sold out in 2 minutes the first time. What would you like to say to them?
"I hope the fans are as excited and anticipate the musical as much as I do. When I heard I would get to participate in a musical, I was excited and was confident that I could do well. But I realized how much I was lacking after beginning to rehearse. I hope all the fans enjoy the show even if it is lacking in some parts. Thank you for your encouragement.
▶ "Plenty of potential to do well in the musical as an idol star"
When the interview finished, Onew went back to talking with the production staff and actors. When the director Jang Yoon Jung called "Jubong, where are you?" she found Onew sitting cross-legged on the floor. "There you are," she said, and then started to give him directions.
Afterwards, we asked the director about Onew as a musical actor.
"Onew is like a blank piece of paper. He can perfectly absorb directions. I can see his improvement every time we rehearse. He gives 120% while rehearsing and is very devoted. His best feature is the pure image that he will be going on stage with."
Was she worried about the performance than an idol star would give?
"Jessica debuted in a musical in 'Legally Blonde' which I directed, and she did fabulously. I think it's good that idol group members try musicals. They can already sing and dance so if they practice well, they have the potential. Jessica wanted to be seen as an actor, not a member of SNSD, and Onew does as well. Onew is particularly devoted and sings well so we had no worries from the start. He doesn't have acting experience but since he came with an open mind and is so devoted, I think it will definitely work. He's definitely a sufficient actor."
source: donga | translated by filmsession @ omona_prection