PARASITE Interview: Park So-dam on Failure, Family, and "Appa" Song Kang-ho

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PARASITE Interview: Park So-dam on Failure, Family, and "Appa" Song Kang-ho
After facing the rejection of 17 failed auditions a month, Park So-dam held to her dream, and is now one of South Korea’s most sought-after actresses.  Receiving worldwide acclaim for her role as the crafty, whipsmart baby sister of Parasite’s family of scammers, Park spoke exclusively with LMD about working with director Bong Joon-ho, facing failure, and calling acting legend Song Kang-ho, “Appa” {Dad}.
 
(PS:  Be warned! – Ms. Park reveals a Parasite spoiler at the end of the third question.)
 
 
The Lady Miz Diva:  Choi Wooshik told me when we interviewed for OKJA that Bong Joon-ho was the greatest Korean guy he ever met.  That Bong was so open and cool and caring about his actors, and didn’t stand on formalities: So much so, that Wooshik said “I don’t think he’s really Korean.”  What was your first experience like with director Bong?
 
Park So-dam:  For me, and any actor or actress in Korea, the name Bong Joon-ho, itself; the presence his name has for us in our profession is huge.  And when I first met him, he is also huge in person {Laughs}.  Wooshik refers to him as a “teddy bear,” in which case, I agree with him, because he has this grandiose energy and presence within him, but he still has this funny and comical and cute side of him as a person.
 
And to talk about how he is in a work setting, and on set; because I had met him many times before we started shooting, and in our normal conversation, I still found him very funny and a witty person, but on set sometimes he would even show us physically what he was looking for; whether was dancing, or moving.  
 
But sometimes when I was talking to the other actors or actresses about how to portray this character, director Bong would always come and tell me that “You are Ki-jung.”  Nothing else, “You, as a person, are Ki-jung.”  
 
Those words really meant a lot, and basically provided a strong base for me to just focus on the acting, itself.  And from that, I was able to learn how amazing he is as a director, and also as a person.
 
LMD:  Perfect segue.  Who is Ki-jung?  Please tell us how you first read the character of Ki-jung?  What were the points of her in the script that made you able to understand and create her?
 
PSd:  Ki-jung -- the facts are she’s the baby in the family, and she does sometimes come off as the most adventurous and progressive, but also very realistic out of the four Kim family members.  But in reality, she’s very saddening, sometimes, and very heart-aching, because the amount of tests and exams, and the cuts that she didn’t make.  
 
She seems like someone who’d never complain about it: Her only outlet was the little pouch that she hid on top of the toilet, with the cigarette case and the money.  But she is definitely someone who would never talk to other people about her problems, and in that sense that’s why it was heartbreaking, because she felt that her only outlet was that cigarette box and nothing else.  
 
But when Ki-jung starts going to the rich house, and takes on the role of Jessica, it was very cathartic as someone who was playing that role, because she was finally able to utilise every single skill that she had, and finally was able to use the tools that she’s been wanting to, but was never given the platform to do so.
 
LMD:  Again, perfect segue.  I was fascinated by Ki-jung because she is an amazing person: She is incredibly intelligent, talented, charming, and powerful the way she handles the Park mother and son, and their driver.  She should be a CEO somewhere with all her brains, yet she is scamming WiFi and forging documents.  I wondered why she lived like this?  Also, why she seemed pretty okay about it? 
 
Was that part of director Bong’s commentary about how it’s hard for even very bright people to get work in Korea? 
 
PSd:  Really, it’s the reality that we live in, and the society that we live in, especially in Korea, but also anywhere in the world.  Even my own brother and sisters, I’ve been on their side seeing them trying to look for a job.  I myself had to prepare for the college entrance exams, and go through auditions in addition to building portfolios.  It’s a lot.  
 
It’s not just about having a talent.  And yes, there are a lot of amazing talents out there with hopes and dreams to become amazing actors and actresses, but the reality isn’t that easy.  
 
And myself, when I graduated from college six years ago, and I decided to become a full-time actress, I would take an average of 17 auditions a month, and I would fail at all 17 of them, month after month.  I would go through slumps, and I would be depressed, and I would also think about, ‘Do I want this as a career?  Is this my future?’  
 
But I do think that Ki-jung is someone who went through that even longer than I have in my real life, and that allowed her to have been more solid background and backbone, and I think it will happen for her in the future…
 
SPOILER *****
 
{Laughs} …That bitch died though. {Laughs}  
 
***** END SPOILER
 
LMD:  I watched an interview where the idol/actor Im Siwan said that during the making of their film, {THE ATTORNEY} Mr. Song Kang-ho was very direct in his opinion of Im’s skills.  Something along the lines of, ‘Man, your acting sucks,’ and scolding him a lot. 
 
I’m guessing as you’re a wonderful actress, you didn’t have quite the same conversation, but how was he about collaborating?  Were you able to easily receive guidance from him?
 
PSd:  On set for Parasite, there wasn’t any point where Song Kang-ho told anybody else how to act, or what acting was.  He treated us as one human to another, also one actor to another.  My relationship with him has been nothing but the resemblance of a family.  It’s actually easier for Choi Wooshik and me to call him “Appa” {Dad}, instead of “Sunbae” {Senior}.
 
I truly think that he is not only someone who’s been through what I’m going through as an actor, but someone who’s not just like an acting sunbae, but more like a father figure.  And honestly, I felt very blessed and very lucky to be the first one to witness his acting in Parasite before anyone else was able to see that.
 
LMD:  You have worked with some of the greatest directors in South Korea, including several I have interviewed; director Bong, Ryoo Seung-wan, Lee Joon-ik and Zhang Lu.  
 
It is very early days for you, yet, but has working with these great artists inspired you to consider doing something in film besides acting?  Perhaps directing, writing, or producing? 
 
PSd:  Never! {Laughs} To be honest, until working on Parasite, I was still learning about being an actress:  I was just focusing on just not causing any trouble, and just getting my job, and doing my job.  But this time, on Parasite, I think I was able to see more than just my job only, and had a wider vision; so, I was actually able to see the crew, and how the team works, and who does what on set.
 
I saw director Bong, and I realise that I am never going to be capable of becoming a director.  For someone to have all these different moving parts, and to have that vision, and to have that all in his head; I don’t think that I would even dare to even attempt at becoming the director.  I don’t think I’m cut out for that.
 
LMD:  PARASITE has been a tremendous success in South Korea.  It is filled with societal messages, some not very pleasant.  What do you think audiences are reacting to so positively?
 
PSd:  People want to see it because although it’s not a pretty scene that the movie is reflecting; it still is the reality that we live in, and it just portrays and exemplifies the life that we live in as it is.  Nothing more, nothing less.
 
So, people will be able to feel -- even if it may not give the most pleasant feeling for audiences, but they can all relate to it, and they can also empathise and understand what the movie is about.  I think that’s what people are running towards.
 
 
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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