Time passed and Daegil, working as a Chinese restaurant delivery man, still hangs out with pool hustlers, ambitiously asking: “Can a card sharper join you, guys?” It is Daegil’s destiny to encounter an old foe, Agwi (played by Kim Yunseok), who was crushingly defeated by Goni, and contend for victory against him. In the meantime, he turns over a new leaf from “greenhorn” to professional “card shark.” Actor Choi Seunghyun swept the New Actor Awards for <71: Into the Fire> at many film festivals, and he landed his first lead role in <Conmmitment> last year. Will he succeed in his attempt to make the transition to a ‘bona fide actor’ with his character Daegil?
I read the scenario of <Tazza> and you sometimes appear very hilarious in the movie.
T.O.P: That part made me more interested in it. (Laugh) I had been waiting for a project that would inspire me to come out of my shell. I happened to meet <Tazza> when I desperately wanted to change how I was seen by the media or by the public.
Your eyes look deeper. I suppose you probably learned many things from this movie during this filming period.
T.O.P: Thank you for saying so. (Laugh) I think my life is all about learning day by day. I feel enlightened. I tend to try to observe more and absorb more. In the movie, my character Daegil encounters many people while wandering around the country. So, I got opportunities to meet many actors and go through many situations. Shooting <Tazza> made me more mature, I believe.
The original film <Tazza: The High Rollers> was a big box-office hit that drew over 6.84 million moviegoers. That could be a little too much for you.
T.O.P: It is too much of a burden on me, indeed. I knew I had to take a big risk to get to work on this project. When I was offered to star in it, I was thinking over for half a year and met director Kang Hyungchul. He wanted to work with me because he saw something latent in me. His trust energized and encouraged me to join the cast. I really wanted to take a chance.
Were you disappointed that you didn’t have scenes with Cho Seungwoo in the movie?
T.O.P: From the very beginning I knew I had no scenes with him. So, I was not that much disappointed at not being able to meet him on the set. Needless to say, it would have been better if I could, though. Actually, I was introduced to him by an acquaintance some days ago on a certain occasion, and he gave me some words of encouragement. It was such a big boost. (Laugh)
I heard playing Daegil is quite challenging because that character is really hard to deal with.
T.O.P: He is unusual, dauntless and energetic. I would define the character as an ambitious young man who takes no account of what would happen next, and then becomes mature after tasting the bitters of life and learning to his cost about it.
As you say, he is an ambitious and mature young man. Compared to Daegil, what is your true personality like?
T.O.P: We are so alike in the process of change. I think I am changing day by day, either in a good or bad way. When I see Daegil, I feel like I see my younger self who was chasing rainbows. I feel I relate to him.
It is said that you learned many complicated Hwatu skills and practiced them very hard. I imagine it was not easy at all to get prepared to be a card shark.
T.O.P: I’d never played Hwatu until I joined this movie. I intentionally kept away from it not because it’s a gambling card game, but because I simply don’t like that kind of game itself. I learned how to play Hwatu from a magician and trained Hwatu techniques and tricks 6 hours a day for a period of 2 to 3 months. Well, it would be difficult to understand how the story goes unless you know the rules. As I learned to play Hwatu, it was really fun. (Laugh)
Do you have any memorable moment during a 5-month filming period?
T.O.P: I had a hard time trying to outgrow my former self and I am still nervous about revealing another side of myself I haven’t shown so far to the public because I am really worried about how people see me. In addition, I can’t forget romance scenes with two women (Shin Segyeong and Lee Honey) and nude scenes. (Laugh) Everyday was new to me because I could do things that I’d never done before.
What is your favorite scene or quote in this movie?
T.O.P: My favorite scene is where I am talking with Agwi (played by Kim Yunseok) at the end of the movie. It is a war of nerves in the course of gambling. The lines from that scene are very interesting too. It will be a very intriguing confrontation between Agwi, who is masterful at handling Hwatu cards, and Daegil, who’s growing from “greenhorn” to professional “card shark.”
You have very ‘erotic’ love scenes with Heo Mina (played by Shin Segyeong) and Mrs. Woo (played by Lee Honey).
T.O.P: Right. (Laugh) The two actresses feel totally different. It was my first experience playing the two-timer who was put in a delicate situation where he loves both of them. I felt weird about it because I’ve never been in love with two women at the same time. (Laugh)
Tell me what you like about the two.
T.O.P: Shin Segyeong is younger than me but more mature than her actual age. I feel that she’s a good person. I’ve got a good friend that I want to be on first-name terms with. She tends to immerse herself in her character when she acts, which is similar to me. She is feminine and sensitive, but tries not to cause harm to others or express herself overtly. On the other hand, Lee Honey is so cool. I’ve never seen such an easy-going person like her. She’s rather like my own brother? She surely has many feminine sides of herself, but she appears to be considerate of others. It is true that working with a cool actress on the set makes it easy to shoot the film.
Who do you feel the most comfortable with?
T.O.P: I liked working with Shin Segyeong and Lee Honey too. Especially, I had good special memories with Yu Haejin. I keep in touch with him frequently. He is such a great actor and big senior to me, but I can get closer to him without hesitation as if we had a brotherhood. Usually, I am a shy person who hardly makes the first move. I seldom express my own opinion. I think he is well aware of it. It seems to me that we are actually fond of each other. (Laugh) We became intimate friends over a drink before the first day of shooting. I felt assured being with a veteran actor.
All BigBang members finally got together a few days ago for that concert, AIA Real Life: NOW Festival 2014.
T.O.P: We get together often between us, so the occasion was not that emotional to us. (Laugh) As we all agree, I think we are becoming mature. In the past, we were like boys who had no idea of what to do being overwhelmed by too much energy we had in us. But we feel like we are becoming artists in the true sense of the word. Each of us has our own vision that is more evident than ever. Each one’s individuality comes into focus and becomes far more pronounced, which reflects our years of experiences. As time goes on, I am more anxious to know about our future.
A lot of fans are waiting for your comeback as the whole BigBang. When are you expected to get on the stage?
T.O.P: We are writing songs and rap lyrics on our own, so we can’t come back until we get the final outcome. Most idol groups usually get to work on their songs when their comeback date is already fixed. But, we don’t come back without the end product. That’s why our comebacks tend to be delayed. I can’t give you the exact date of our next comeback, but I expect our new album to be released within this year.
BigBang members do a lot of individual activities. Can you, guys, get together often? If you do so, what do you usually do?
T.O.P: We enjoy going on a gourmet restaurant tour. We are all foodies. Far from being serious, we talk about our future plans and visions in the restaurants. (Laugh)Younger members act cute to older ones who adore them like their own little brothers. I feel like we are a real family.
How competitive is your position in YG family? You are now one of the old timers in your company.
T.O.P: Of course. We have now a lot of young guns. It is true that we are old-timers, but I don’t think we have “established a high position.” We are fellow artists that live under the same roof, literally. We and YG insiders discuss a lot about what trends we will have to suggest when BigBang comes back. We spend quite some time thinking over how to show a newer version of BigBang from the viewpoint of both senior and junior artists.
Do you have any new idol group you have your eye on?
T.O.P: Frankly, I’m only interested in Winner, a new group from our agency. (Laugh) I think an artist should build up his or her own characteristic colors. I have yet to find a new group who comes out with something brand-new and very fresh, which leaves much to be desired. I hope K-pop world to be rich in variety. Our senior artists probably share the same opinion. Isn’t it exciting when BigBang comes back at this point of time?
Can you tell me what the difference is between singer T.O.P and actor Choi Seunghyun?
T.O.P: I think there are both similarities and differences. When I break down my career into stage (music) and screen (acting), I have a music director called Yang Hyunsuk for the stage and a film director for the screen. When I am on the stage, I have no directions to follow. The only thing to do is to know what I want to deliver to the audience and show it to them on the stage for 4 minutes. On the contrary, a film director gives directions to actors. That being said, what you do on stage or on screen is playing as a singer or actor, not showing who you really are. The reason why I love music is that I have been doing it since I was little and that I know how to enjoy it. However, acting thrills me so much because the whole process of making a film, from preproduction to release, can fall apart all at once.
You have no history of winning awards after <71: Into the Fire> in 2011. You must be eager to be awarded as a 20-something actor.
T.O.P: I won 6 to 7 New Actor awards for <71: Into the Fire>. My next move to make is to win Best Supporting Actor or Best Actor awards. I think I am too young to win those awards and I have so many things to do to deserve the title. I have to show award-worthy performance. Winning those awards can be a rather big burden to me. I am a process-oriented person, not a product-oriented person.
You are in your late 20s. You should have a romantic relationship. If you do, can you go public with it?
T.O.P: I’d love to have a romantic relationship, but going public is a no-no. I have almost never been romantically involved after getting into this show business. I’ve never been spotted with someone even by close-knit friends around me. As a public figure living in a goldfish bowl, I have a duty to protect my loved one from the public eye because she could be a victim of excessive attention. The time is not ripe yet for a romantic encounter. I think I need to concentrate on my work for now. I am a hot-blooded young man, though. (Laugh)
Without going public with it, you could be caught on camera by paparazzi.
T.O.P: I am not afraid of being captured because I haven’t had such experience yet. If that happens, I would get the jitters. (Laugh)
What’s next for you as actor Choi Seunghyun and as singer T.O.P of BigBang?
T.O.P: For now I’m focusing on <Tazza>. I want to enjoy this moment of excitement with great anticipation. I haven’t decided yet on my next move. I’ve got to work on BigBang now. It’s been 9 years since we made our debut as BigBang, but I haven’t yet released my solo album. So, I’m planning to come back as a solo artist with a studio album, one of my long-cherished projects, after selecting good songs.