Boom. One man stands in front of the camera. He’s chatting as he is touching the back of his hair that grew out behind his ears. It’s Choi Seung Hyun. Now that name is as familiar as the name TOP. He has already filmed 3 movies. He poses with his hands and feet towards the camera. He relaxes his shoulders and takes over the space. The yellow sunglasses look like it is a part of his body. He was not like this in the editor’s memory. It was when he was shooting for the cover of a movie magazine with his movie, “71: Into the Fire”. He looked a bit stiff. His piercing eyes were as sharp as an arrowhead, but his body was hardened like a stick. It was understandable. Since it was his first movie and he had to be shoulder-to-shoulder with some big actors. However, he existed in his own way, apart from them. TOP, who came down from the stage, looked like that. Like an awkward fish that just got out of the water. Of course, this is about his past. Now, he has gotten used to the environment to the point he can freely move out of the water. At least it looked like it. In an evolutionary point of view, he is very successful. Because he has survived the sudden environmental change called “Tazza-Hand of God”.
Q: You were very worried about looking too cheesy while shooting. Why is that so…
TOP: We decided to make the retro concept photoshoot more fun by putting long hair extensions on me. I always usually wore a suit during photo shoots. Since I’m trying to show my new side with this long hair, retro-style clothes, and manly faces, it’s very easy to look cheesy. So I was worried.
Q: Looking at the results, do you think they came out okay?
TOP: I think it contains various new sides of me. I don’t try new concepts very often because I want to save them. If I show too much, I could run out of it. I always save some concepts to increase the freshness of them. But I tried to unleash those concepts through ARENA. The character in this movie is very different from the characters that I have acted out before, so I was more eager to show the new sides of me. And I also thought that I should show some new stuff since I’m having a photoshoot for the first time in a while.
Q: Watching you during the photoshoot was something new. You looked a lot more relaxed than you looked when you were promoting “71:Into the Fire” a while ago.
TOP: I’ve become too relaxed now that it’s becoming a problem, haha. I fundamentally like doing photoshoots and I enjoy them. The pictures come out better when I enjoy it. I follow the given concept, but I learned how to show a more sophisticated side of me in that given concept. You have to be greedy to get good results. I actually keep my guard up to avoid getting lazy. Because if I get lazy, new things won’t be made. I always hide my cards and stay ready.
Q: Your new movie is exactly like that. It’s like you’re showing us the cards that you’ve been hiding!
TOP: When I was getting interviewed about “The Commitment”, I said that this will be the last movie to show my character and that I will be choosing a shocking, unexpected character for the next movie. While looking for it, I encountered “Tazza-Hand of God” but, I hesitated at first. Because I could be harshly criticized by the manias(fans) of the original “Tazza” comic series. But now, I don’t gravitate towards things that don’t stimulate something in me. Even though I knew that it’ll be hard, I still wanted to challenge myself. I continuously tried to draw out the sides of me that I didn’t have while filming.
Q: Daily life, delicate emotions between sexes, fights in the gambling world, humanity, etc. You had to show a wide range of things while acting. It’s completely different from your previous roles that were just mostly emotional.
TOP: Even from the moment I saw the scenario of the movie, I thought that I wouldn’t be able to do this movie without taking off a few layers of me. And because of that, I had to fight with myself a lot. If I try too hard to draw something out that I don’t have in me, the audiences will think, ‘Uh? Why is that person doing that?’ and think that I’m trying too hard, so it’ll be hard for them to focus on the movie. You must never let the audience see that. The night before we started filming, I was very troubled, thinking about that. How could I express my character more exclusively without making it banal? I thought about that a lot. I didn’t really want to draw a line to indicate how far to go, but I just wanted to take off all the layers of me.
Q: Do you like gambling?
TOP: I just don’t play games at all, including cards. I’ve never even played any electronic games since I was little. I have a serious desire to win, so I feel like I’ll see the end of it once I start. I always keep that in mind, and never play games. I practiced Hwatu very hard this time, but I have decided that I will only like it for acting purposes. I promised myself that no matter how good I get at it, I will not play Hwatu. Haha.
Q: So you don’t want to do it at all cause you get furious when you lose, right? I understand what you mean.
TOP: That’s right. I will even bet my life over it. Haha.
Q: Actually, your movie this time is like a gamble as well.
TOP: I thought that this movie will definitely be a nice growing period for me. Since I had to act out the sides of me that I’ve never shown before or didn’t exist at all, I knew that I was taking a huge risk. But because I knew that it was risky, I gravitated more towards it. Now I don’t gravitate towards things that aren’t risky.
Q: Now that you’ve finished filming the movie, in what way did you grow?
TOP: Honestly, I’m not sure about the appropriateness level here. Haha. As I was filming, I tried to catch all the unique features of each actors, and I was sure that I could show what I learned in the next movie. I gained a little more confidence in a good way. They say that when you work with someone, you can see the spectrum of the life they’ve lived. Through this experience, I could see their spectrum to a certain degree, and I received a lot of good energy.
Q: Since so many famous senior actors were in the movie, were you intimidated at first?
TOP: I actually gained more confidence. Through this movie, I met some deft, amazing people and that stimulated a desire to win inside of me, so I received good vibes from them. They say that there’s a war of nerves between actors during filming, and singers on the stage. But I’m not good at doing something like that. In contrast, I try to feel the good vibe of other people. I try to receive good, powerful vibes and return it to them. I did that a lot while filming this movie.
Q: “Tazza-Hand of God” is a movie for Korean Thanksgiving. When they say “A movie for Korean Thanksgiving”, that means that it’s highly anticipated. It must be a different feeling being in a movie like this.
TOP: I never actually thought about that. It still doesn’t feel real to hear things like “A movie for Korean Thanksgiving” or “Highly-anticipated film”. The movie itself was a burden to me, so I did not have the energy to think about that. Because I already knew that it was highly risky. Ham Daegil was a character from Mr. Heo Young Man’s “Tazza” series that was read and loved by many of the senior generations. I thought and thought about how I could make the character more interesting. I still feel like I was a “substitute” of Daegil that was created by Director Kang Hyung Cheol and Mr. Heo Young Man.
Q: Despite all those burden, you must feel a lot more relaxed now that you’re done filming.
TOP: Not really. My face is breaking out pretty bad right now. I usually don’t really get pimples. I was shocked when I looked at my face in the photo taken during the photoshoot. The moment before a movie’s release or an album’s release is when my skin is at its worst state. Finishing something and waiting to present it to people is the most anxious moment in the world. It’s very nerve-wrecking, and I become more sensitive. I get nervous, and I can’t sleep. So I drink a lot by myself. Right now is the most anxious time for me. Because it’s a movie that I poured out all my energy and emotions into, plus a year of my life.
Q: There’s some ‘sexuality’ in the original comics. You probably had to act that out too, and weren’t you worried as an idol?
TOP: There was never a time when I said, “I can’t do this.” The director also doesn’t really like to show things explicitly. I think he thought that since the story is already very explicit, it would make the original series ‘not-so-classy’ if we were to film it explicitly. But there are some intense scenes too. I filmed a scene where all the actors were naked, I filmed a bed scene, and I also filmed only in my underwear for the first time since I was born. Even though I’m someone that doesn’t even wear short sleeve shirts…
Q: Did you feel a sense of freedom after doing that?
TOP: No, I was so nervous. But I couldn’t even let it show. If I tense up, all the other staffs and seniors would feel that negative vibe too and feel nervous. On the outside, I acted like I was fine, but I was actually very nervous. Just like what I said, I really hate showing skin. I don’t even wear short sleeve T-shirts in the summer. But when I filmed (without clothes on), there weren’t that many thoughts in my head. Haha. Maybe this will be my first and last movie with such exposing scenes.
Q: Why are you talking so conclusively like that
TOP: There is a reason why I decided to show skin in the movie. For example, in an action movie like “The Commitment”, it would have been too much if there was a scene where they showed muscles to look cool. People might say, ‘Is he taking his clothes off to look cool in the movie?’ But in the movie, “Tazza- Hand of God”, they didn’t control the lighting to make my body look cool, it wasn’t that type of a scene. As I read the scenario, I thought that ‘the more clothes I take off, the more fun it adds
to the story’. I thought that taking the clothes off makes the movie’s plot more interesting.
Q: True. The scene where you guys play Hwatu naked symbolizes the theme of greed and doubt.
TOP: Because I felt that would be important, I gained the courage to willingly take my clothes off. Hmm.. Looking back at what I said, I feel like I talked like an actress. Haha.
Q: Haha. So you’re more focused on the character rather than the scene?
TOP: I don’t think I’ll take my clothes off if it doesn’t seem essential to the narrative of the movie. I felt that even more through this movie. I think I hate it(exposing skin) psychotically. I always wear long sleeves at home. I hate it when my skin touches objects. It’s been over 10 years since the last time I wore shorts. I wouldn’t say that I’m sensitive; I’m just very shy. To me, “showing skin” is a very embarrassing/shy act. When I was filming (the bed scene), I asked the director, “Do you want to take my underwear off too?” Haha. I thought there would be no difference in wearing underwear and not wearing underwear since I already showed my skin. Haha. It was fun though. Experiencing something like this in my life time.
Q: There are a lot of worries about the movie “Tazza-Hand of God”… Like some comments.
TOP: I read them but I don’t get hurt by them. Even when Bigbang released albums, there has always been hateful comments. But afterwards, I learned that people’s thoughts change over time. It’s also pretty interesting to watch that change. And I feel like I don’t have that many ‘anti’ fans up to now. Haha. Ah, this time, (while I was reading the comments) I did see that people were criticizing me for something that I’ve never been criticized for before. Haha.
Q: Musician and Actor. I think you have a good balance between the two. You’re not leaning towards one, and you’re not doing too much either.
TOP: My main profession is a musician, but I try to find a balance
between the two. I think it’s been about 8 years since I first appeared in a drama. I think I’m someone who carefully goes ‘all-in’ in one specific thing. Not someone who tries a lot of things and finds one thing. I’m the type to put a lot of effort into something and prepare heartily and sincerely one by one. So I think that I am capable of achieving that balance.
Q: The circumstances that allow you to do that must be very nice.
TOP: Well, not necessarily. I know that I should be working more at this time, but I’m the type that can’t easily put something into action. I feel like I’m always saving things. Even when I’m acting, I still sometimes watch music shows. And I watch what people these days do. I don’t really like to jump in, and I really hate showing weaknesses, so I don’t try to get involved in or jump into something that I don’t feel the need to.
Q: Because there’s a risk of losing even though you’re skilled?
TOP: I meant the exact opposite of that. I don’t really want to do things when there aren’t any “strong” ones in the field. Hmm.. Am I being too honest here? Haha. It’s my first time doing an interview in a while… So yeah, I’m someone who makes a move when I feel something stimulating inside me. I slowly became more like that. The fact that there’s a lot of risk in the movie, stimulated me even more. That made me gravitate towards the movie more.
Q: Because it’s a “High-risk, High-return” movie.
TOP: I’m still not sure about what I can get in return from the movie. Compared to the risk I’m taking, I actually don’t think that I’ll be gaining something big from it. If I don’t do well enough to deserve an applause from everyone, this is certainly a risky movie. I know well that the original series was a piece loved by a lot of people. But I still wanted to challenge myself.
Q: As I was listening to you, I noticed that you work very hard.
TOP: I try not to get lazy. Since I’m still young, I try to work while looking at the future. If I don’t take risks and try new things now, I feel like I’ll be an old-fashioned person in 10, 20, 30 years. Even if you fail, if you always look for something new, wouldn’t you be someone who can set the trend even when time passes? If one always takes the safe road without any risks, he will have no change in his life. People will certainly get sick of that person.
Q: Because it’s easy to run out of ‘change’. In that aspect, it seems like your strategy to not show yourself often because of that is not that bad.
TOP: But it’s not a very practical strategy for these days. I don’t show myself a lot also because there’s nothing to show off about me. If I was a highly confident person, I would take ‘selcas’ and post them. But I’m too strict to myself to do that. My problem is that I’m too thoughtful.
Q: You have to be thoughtful to avoid encountering external dangers. If you show/expose too much, it could make risks.
TOP: I never do anything that would lead to dangerous situations. When I rest, I seriously just stay at home. If I could have 2 weeks off to rest, I will not come outside of my house for 2 weeks. Even when I meet with my friends, I bring them to my house and drink wine together. I try not to make mistakes any where. I know that I’m like a loose cannon that is unpredictable, so I try to restrain myself even more. Haha.
Q: It must be difficult to wait.
TOP: There’s an expression, “showed all the cards one had” (meaning that one showed everything about oneself). I always have conviction that I have some cards left unused. I always try to save them. As a public artist, I can picture what I should do at this time. Because of that, I’m not anxious or anything. There are still so many things that I can show. Even with music. That’s also the reason why I have never released a solo album, even though the group, Bigbang, has been around for almost 10 years. But of course, that wasn’t the only reason – I did miss the timing to
release it since I had to promote as an actor and as Bigbang. So I am gradually collecting more cards now. And I’m also saving some songs that I have worked on.
Q: So you’re calculatingly planning to release the cards when you need them?
TOP: I’m not calculative. I’m actually a very emotional person. Honestly, I think I’m more of a coward. Since I am an emotional coward that can’t live a calculative/premeditated life, I always try to hide. I also feel like I lack some confidence inside me. Gradually, I will wait and show more things to people when I get stronger. If I were to calculate my talents and skills in percents, what I showed up to now is merely 5% of what I have in me. I know that for sure.
Q: Are you waiting for the moment of explosion after boiling up?
TOP: I like being patient. I’m actually a very enthusiastic person. But as I suppress that enthusiasm, I feel a sense of catharsis. Sometimes when I look at some people, I feel that they don’t have anything left in them because they showed too much. You can tell if you work in the same field. But I’ve always resisted those things. Even when people around me tell me to do more and try to stimulate me, I restrain myself even more. I want to show more of myself when I become more “full”.