[The Musical, September 2014] “The man who is off the road, Hedwig’s Kim Dongwan”
Having returned to the judgment stage known as Hedwig, Kim Dongwan says that he has now completely fallen under the spell of the character known as Hedwig. He says that now he likes “Wig in a Box” and Tommy’s “Wicked Little Town,” more than before, that they are songs that calmly recite Hedwig’s sadness and defend this woman’s struggles.
TN: I was actually going to wait to translate this after we got better scans and also after I got through all the other 2011 interviews for Hedwig Rewind, but the interview was just too wonderful to wait. And while I didn’t plan for it to work out this way, it seems kind of appropriate to read this after I just before posted his 2011 interview from the same magazine with the same interviewer. It’s long, but in my opinion, you will come out of it with a deeper impression of Kim Dongwan.
What were you thinking after yesterday’s show when you finished the last song and were walking across the house floor?
Should I walk fast, should I walk slow, if I walk too slowly, Hyesun noona (Yitzhak) will have a hard time. Should I walk a little faster. Haha. I couldn’t sleep last night so my mind is blank right now. After finishing the show and not being able to fall asleep, I think I fell asleep at around three in the morning? I fell asleep really late, but I woke up early because the kid that lives in the place upstairs from me was playing the piano.
Why couldn’t you fall asleep until that late hour? Was it because you were thinking about the show?
There was that too, but I think I can’t relax very well after doing a late show. By the way, my costume this year is a bit shocking, right? (For this season, Kim Dongwan comes out wearing a bikini-style crop top, high-waist shorts, and stockings with large polka-dots)
I guess I can say that they aren’t costumes and wigs to simply make you look pretty. (laughs)
The costume and makeup directors said this. That everyone has this obsession that Hedwig has to be pretty, but in reality, Hedwig shouldn’t be pretty. That Hedwig is a woman who has suffered neglect. So I asked them to make me look more bizarre as if I was possessed by something, and they…Haha.
What’s your impression after finishing your first show?
I couldn’t diet so even until the first show, I was like what do I do. What do I need to do to not let my flab show. I worried a lot. But when I went up on stage, I thought “Aw, screw it” and let my gut hang out. Instead of feeling embarrassed, it was a feeling of freedom? A weird confidence appeared, so even when I sat, I purposefully let the flab hang over [the top of my shorts]. Um, I feel a little apologetic to the audience. Because I showed them a flab show.
Haha. It was the first time I saw a Hedwig with flab, so I was a little surprised. And it was a celebrity of all people. I thought that maybe it was a kind of calming of the heart to reach nirvana or something. (laughs) Why couldn’t you diet?
Before doing Hedwig, I ate so much during my study abroad in Canada. And I had planned to diet during my last month of studying abroad. However, at that time of all times, I hurt my collarbone. I had fallen off my bike after riding it a bit roughly. The accident happened over the weekend, and because the doctor was off on weekends, they said I couldn’t get surgery. So for that whole day, whenever I moved there was this uneven sound, and ah, I thought I was going to die. Anyway, after that accident, I got surgery and couldn’t exercise because of the recovery.
How did going to Canada come about? I was a bit amazed when you said that you were going to go study abroad because celebrities don’t usually do that.
I decided to go suddenly at that time, so I went without any preparations. But I was forcibly racking my brains for something before that. My energy was at the lowest level and I had a thought that a problem was going to develop with my health. Because whatever I did in Seoul just runs me down, I wanted to temporarily leave, but since just idly doing nothing and coming back would be a waste of time, I decided to study abroad.
So while you were away, did you experience a change in your thinking?
Yes, I liked it because I could spend my day however I wanted to there. I went to the library, swam in the lake, had and ate barbeque..It was fun. In the future, I’m going to rest three months out of the year no matter what. Ah, are fans not going to like it if I say that I’m going to rest a couple months? I shouldn’t say what’s truly in my heart. I’ve done that too much. (laughs) I think of being a celebrity as my eternal occupation, so I’m inserting frequent commas between when I work. When I work, there are times when I lose confidence. Whether it’s physically or mentally. But whenever that happens, my manager or agency says this: Keep doing it. You can do it. If you can’t do it, make yourself do it. Saying that you can’t do it is having a dubious mind. But that, I think, is the wrong kind of thinking. When you’re having a hard time, you have to let go of work for a little bit. That way, stamina forms and ideas form, and the desire to work again forms. There are a lot of people around me who, because they don’t relieve stress in a timely manner, they say, “I’m going to quickly make money and quit.”
Your [celebrity] peers around you say that? Because they have so much stress?
Yeah. When I go out for drinks, I ask this question a lot: “If you won the lottery, what would you do?” Most say that they would quit their jobs and rest. Of course, there are many reasons for that. But one thing that is clearly true is that as time passes, whether your popularity rises or falls, one’s cachet increases. However, that cachet is not always something to be happy about. That cachet can become a stereotype towards that person, and that stereotype can constrain an artist as just this or that kind of person. But that doesn’t mean we should try to adjust the public. We are people that make a living because of the public. So I think it’s good to be forgotten even for a little while. Like I said before, three months of the year, I’m going to disappear. It seems that just after three months, I start to even miss those who don’t like me. Should I disappear to Gangwon-do next time…
You don’t have thoughts to make money and quit like other people?
I don’t. It can get troubling, but it’s fun. More than people getting comfort from my singing or acting, I also get comforted myself, in whatever situation. The people who say they want to make money and quit, once they actually try that, about half are going to return.
What are you doing to do if after you leave to recharge and can’t easily get your next opportunity when you return?
If that happens, I think I’ll see it as another opportunity that has come to me and rest. They say eagles don’t flap their wings, and instead, ride the wind when it comes. It’s a story I like. If the wind doesn’t come my way, I don’t want to struggle to try and fly. Of course, I can say this because the fans are there.
What about acting in front of the fans that like me as a character that has an image that they absolutely did not expect? Specifically in this season, the houselights come on often during the show and it seems like you’d be able to see the audience really well.
I can see the audience’s faces really well this season, truly! In the movie Hedwig, when Hedwig appears, there are people that heckle her and those that pretend to be indifferent. People with those kinds of expressions are interspersed in the audience. When I see that, it’s a little scary. (laughs) Ah, I’m afraid of tomorrow’s show too…Whenever I do a show for Hedwig, I always think why did I do this. Because it’s scary. You know, it’s like the day after a night of drinking. Ah, why did I drink. I’m never going to drink again. You’re like that and then the next day you’re like “Euwahhhh!” and drink again. Hedwig is that kind of project for me.
Ah that’s right, you said that during your first interview for Hedwig, too. That you didn’t know why you said you would do Hedwig. (laughs)
At that time, I was in a situation of having a large desire to be recognized as an actor and had challenged myself with a difficult project, so I had a lot of thoughts. I wanted to show male actor Kim Dongwan on the stage. On the Hedwig stage of all things. (laughs) Now I feel that the bias towards me has disappeared slightly, so I could calm my heart and focus. Now I’m thinking about what I need to do so [Kim Dongwan] can’t be seen. That’s why I decided to challenge myself [in Hedwig] again.
Hedwig is a person who’s never had strength. She’s been suppressed and has lived marginalized. I think it would be hard to relate to her, so why are you drawn to this character?
I felt sorry for Hedwig because she was similar to me in the sense that I too smile when I’m going through situations when I’m having a hard time or am angry. Ever since I was young, I heard from my mom a lot that this was the way to win, and I thought that way too. However, it turns out that when you’re hurting, it’s right to say that you’re hurting. I especially felt it more this time for some reason. That this person, she’s really similar to me.
This time, since you’re doing this after having had various experiences abroad, there definitely seems to be things that you didn’t show before.
When I was in Whistler in Canada, there was a man who roamed that area and was a cross-dresser. One day, I was eating at a dessert store with the students from my language program, and that man was sitting at the table next to us. I kept stealing glances at him and said to myself, ‘After that man leaves, I’m gonna mention him to my friends.’ After he left, I said to them, “Did you see the guy next to us?” They went “yes” and just continued on with what they were talking about before. So I said again, “Isn’t that guy a cross-dresser?” and they said, “Yeah, you’re right. Why? Kim, do you have something to say about that man?” These friends have been trained to not think differently about people who are different from them. I clearly realized that at that time. What it means to not differentiate people. I was going to say something now, what was it…
So are you saying that because of that experience, you don’t think Hedwig is a different person from you?
No, no. Ah, there was a gay parade in Sinchon recently. As I saw the rallies that were held against, I thought, man. I’m a Christian believer and I’m not a homosexual, but I wish the issue over homosexuals would go beyond the surface. When I say this to people around me, they say, if you’re like that, your child is going to become gay. Why do they think like that when being gay isn’t some infectious disease? Anyway, because I honestly think that it’s possible that my child could be born gay, I hope that the stories of sexual minorities keep getting mentioned. Because I want my child to confidently love whomever, wherever s/he wants. In my opinion, because our society stands side-by-side, they can’t seem to stand it when somebody departs from that line. It’s not like that’s cutting in line. Ah, I think this is something that’s going to bring about hate for me. I’m not trying to attack anybody, but so many people say that my words are an attack.
I don’t really get the feeling that it’s an attack, so I wonder why people are like that. By the way, are you not going to sign with an agency?
I’m going to play for 2-3 months, so entering an agency would be a nuisance. Also, I’m now not going to do work that I won’t remember. That is, work that I’m like ‘Yeah well, might as well do it,’ I don’t want to do it if it’s possible. A certain businessman in China once said this. That I don’t want to entrust the handlebars to my life to another. To put it simply, it means to live the way you want. Even though others may say this is greedy, I’m going to live the way I want. Because I have this one life to live.
Credits: Scans (as tagged, the one that isn’t is from Name) + Kim Dongwan Tumblr (Eng Trans)
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