PARASITE Interview: Choi Wooshik on His Second Time Around with Bong Joon-ho

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PARASITE Interview: Choi Wooshik on His Second Time Around with Bong Joon-ho
In the two years since Choi Wooshik made his appearance in Bong Joon-ho’s Okja, the sky has been the limit.  Choi has rocketed from bit parts in television dramas, to award-winning feature performances in Set Me Free and co-starring in blockbusters like Train to Busan, to lie at the center of Director Bong’s Palme d’Or-winning masterpiece, Parasite.
 
Having graced The Lady Miz Diva with his very first overseas, English-language interview in 2017, Choi and LMD reunite to talk exclusively about his second time around with Director Bong, learning at the knee of acting legend, Song Kang-ho, and a possible place in Hollywood.
 
 
The Lady Miz Diva:  When we spoke back in 2017, it was on the occasion of your first Bong Joon-ho experience in a small role in OKJA.  You were so impressed and thankful to him for hearing you out and guiding you through your nervousness, then.  What was it like to work together the second time?
 
Choi Wooshik:  I was dead nervous when I was filming Parasite.  I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders.  But when he first approached me after OKJA, he told me I should stay skinny, because Ki-woo needs to be really skinny and kind of looking vulnerable.
 
At first, he really didn’t tell me about any information about Parasite; he just gave me a little bit of a hint.  But after that, finding out that Ki-woo plays a very important role in his family, I almost cried because it was so emotional.  And when I was reading the script, it was just amazing, the shifts of tone, and all the characters in play, it was crazy.  I felt like I was riding on a roller coaster.  {Laughs}
 
LMD:  You told me about how detailed he was even with the small part you played in OKJA.  Since there is so much more of you in this role, did he have that same level of detail and instruction for this film, or did you have more free interpretation? 
 
CW:  I mean, he’s always giving us freedom of performing our characters, but he has very compact and unique and strong storyboards.  You know he draws, right?  So, his storyboards have a lot of details that we could catch on.  
 
Also, he always mentioned that Ki-woo is not dumb: Ki-woo is a really bright kid, but he wasn’t lucky enough to get into university, or he kind of lacks of vigor.  And Ki-woo knows vigor is really important, so that’s why he pretends to be a guy with a lot of vigor, and teaching Da-hye that vigor is really important.  But he didn’t have his luck with exams, so his downfall was kind of the exams for university, but he is a really bright kid.
 
LMD:  I’m impressed by the way Bong presents Ki-woo’s family: One might expect them to be kind of sniping and mean to each other, being in such poor and run-down circumstances, but they are completely unified.  They adore and support each other.  
 
That depiction is rare because it would be so easy to play that for laughs, but that’s not what Bong does.  Not only is that great writing, it’s also excellent chemistry between the actors.
 
CW:  Right.  If you are facing some economic or money problems, you tend to be very on edge; you can’t be nice all the time.  But this family is always loving, even though they’re facing a hard time with money.  But with our family chemistry, it kind of built up just naturally.  
 
In the States, they have trailers for every actor {on movie sets}, right?  But in Korea, we don’t have any trailers; we would just stay in the same greenroom, just talking about our daily lives, like real family do.  And we would ask Song Kang-ho for advice on some hard or difficult scenes, then he would just give us advice like a real father.  He was a real father figure on the set.  I mean, Park So-dam, who plays Ki-jung, we still call him "Papa," so… {Laughs}
 
LMD:  You mentioned during a Q&A that you all had stayed on the set for two months.  What was that like?  Every day would you come in and everybody was just hanging out?
 
CW:  Exactly.  Right after you wake up, you go to the set, you get ready for your shooting, and even right before you go to sleep, we were always together, just talking about our daily lives over casual drinks sometimes, like family.
 
LMD:  In our last interview, we spoke of the difference of emotional levels between Hollywood actors and Korean actors.  You said, “Korean actors try to shake the audience’s emotions; they try so hard to express their emotions.  So, good actors in Korea, they hide their emotions, like Song Kang-ho.  When he acts, he doesn’t show his emotions, and I think people like that.”  So, tell us what you learned from working with him? 
 
CW:  Having this kind of experience on the set, it was almost like the best lesson.  It was like school, almost.  I learned many things from Song Kang-ho.  This time I learned that he’s always in character.  It’s not like method kind of style, but he tried to be very focused even though we are like laughing behind the scenes, but he’s always on point, always on the edge, focused.  So, you know, he’s one of those figures that you can just go watch him acting, and it’s like watching a five hour lesson.  
 
LMD:  A master class?
 
CW:  A master class, yeah!  {Laughs}
 
LMD:  One of favourite shots in the movie is between you and Mr. Song in the gym, after the flood, and Ki-woo and Ki-taek are talking in the dark.  Ki-woo says “Dad, I’m sorry for everything.” 
 
In that scene, I felt like I didn’t see Wooshik and Song Kang-ho anymore; you both disappeared and had transformed into father and son.  Tell us about that beautiful scene. 
 
CW:  At first, on the storyboard, or in the script, Ki-woo didn’t cry on the paper.  When I was acting, I don’t know why, but I kinda got emotional, and tears kind of welled up in my face.  But that atmosphere, I think Song just created it, and I just felt it right away, so it kinda got me very emotional; because at that point, Ki-woo is out of his mind. 
 
He’s so dedicated to the plan, when that went wrong, he’s just out of it, because, you know, when our house got flooded, the stone kind of pops up through the water, right?  That’s like him not stable.  He’s unstable.  He’s watching this heavy stone floating up in the water, so he’s not really stable.  
 
I wasn’t meant to cry in that scene, but somehow it got me emotional, and I just teared up.  But Bong loved it, Song loved it, and I think that’s like one of my favorite moments of my life, because sometimes some emotions just come; you don’t plan that, but when I was acting in that scene, it just came, and I was like, ‘Wow, I felt something weird.’
 
LMD:  So, you did disappear?
 
CW:  I think so, yeah. {Laughs}
 
LMD:  Perfect segue: What does the stone mean?  What did Ki-woo mean when he said the stone was clinging to him? 
 
CW:  You know, this movie has a lot of metaphors; like the stairs, water, the stone, and, I don’t know, it’s on individual opinions, but even Bong didn’t really give me an answer to what that stone meant.  When I was acting, I felt that stone was kind of like heavy responsibility for Ki-woo; like how he had to carry that heaviness to carry his family to a successful life.  But some say that the stone meant an apology gift. 
 
Do you know how Min, my friend, gives it to us as a gift, right?  But, to think about it, Ki-woo is not the kind of person that he would kill someone with that stone, so I think he was bringing the stone to the downstairs as a gift of apology.  So, it meant really a lot of things, but my initial thought was it was heavy responsibility.
 
LMD:  What’s next for you?
 
CW:  Right now, I’m working on this movie — I don’t know if it’s the right title, but it’s Generation of Policemen.  I have these two movies working in Korea, but definitely if I have a chance, I would have some good transition to the States.  I don’t know if this is ever going to happen, but…
 
 
This interview is cross-posted on my own site, The Diva Review. Please enjoy additional content, including exclusive photos there.
 
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Bong Joon-hoCannesChoi WooshikInterviewKorean ActorKorean CinemaParasitePark So-damSong Kang-ho

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