Last weekend, Ha Ji Won visited Singapore to promote her latest drama, “Empress Ki.” Besides meeting fans at a meet-and-greet session on September 27, Ha Ji Won also met with the local media on September 26 through a media conference.
Dressed in an elegant red dress, Ha Ji Won made her way into the ballroom through the main entrance. “Stunning” and “gorgeous” were the words that came to our minds as she moved closer. Totally opposite of her tomboyish and physically-strong drama roles, it’s no wonder that Ha Ji Won is one of the most sought-after actress with her versatility.
Below are 15 fun facts of Ha Ji Won summed up from the media conference.
Ha Ji Won’s beauty secrets:
1) Ha Ji Won: “I’m not a tomboy; I’m actually very feminine.”
2) Dietary secret when she is busy: nuts, fruits, yogurt, and mom’s homemade lunchbox.
3) De-stress strategy: music, book, a walk in nature, especially when the set is out of the city.
4) Secret to a toned and young looking body: weight-lifting, which she declares is so good that it can help lift up your hips and chin.
On “Empress Ki” and acting:
5) Her first action drama, “Damo,” was the drama that influenced her and left her loving action roles.
6) She loves being in a sageuk drama.
7) “Empress Ki” was the drama in which she was happiest.
8) Because of “Empress Ki,” she had to be on a horse for seven to eight hours, and couldn’t walk for three days thereafter.
9) Prior to “Empress Ki,” she had never worked with Joo Jin Mo and Ji Chang Wook. Using scents to describe her costars, she likened Joo Jin Mo to a “blue ocean” scent, while Ji Chang Wook was the “red sweet flower.”
10) Her secret for having such great chemistry with her co-actors: look at them lovingly with her lovely eyes.
11) She was so happy to see so many fans welcoming her at the airport that she couldn’t sleep that night.
12) She thinks Singapore’s famous crab will be best eaten with alcohol, but she couldn’t try it due to the media conference on the following day.
13) She is a huge fan of “Transformers” and can’t wait to be on Universal Studio Singapore’s Transformers ride.
14) She likes animals and wishes to go to Singapore’s Night Safari. Also shopping.
15) She will be back in Singapore on January 9 for a fan meeting!
Check out the Q&A from the media conference!
“Empress Ki” is a very long drama of 51 episodes, and has been very demanding physically and emotionally. So how did you prepare for the role of “Empress Ki”?
In fact, this was the longest drama I was involved in. With 51 episodes, it was certainly not easy for me. I’m proud of this drama. I had a lot of changes, moving from one status in society to another. I started the drama acting as a boy and then moving on to serving in the palace and eventually becoming the empress. I also acted as a mother who lost a baby and as the empress later to rule the country. There was a lot of emotion involved and it was not an easy one for me. But I must say that it was also the happiest I was involved in.
There was a lot of action scenes in the drama, in particular, archery, horse riding, and there was a scene when you had to horse-ride for 12 hours. So how did you manage?
I actually like the action parts of my role a lot. For this drama, at the beginning part, I have this scene at the shore that I have to compete with Ji Chang Wook. We were both on a horse and we probably filmed for seven to eight hours, about half a day. I must say that it was really difficult for the both of us. We had bruises all over our legs and we couldn’t walk for the next three days, so it was not easy for either of us. Other than the horse riding and other actions, I’d also learned ballet and stretching because having a role as an Empress, I have to learn the grace, the elegance, the little gestures that probably could show the elegance and also the confidence of an Empress.
The male emcee DJ Jiafa of radio Yes933 commented that Ha Ji Won was really sexy when she touched her legs while talking about her tired legs, making our Empress burst into laughter shyly.
You were stunning in the show, throughout the long period. How did you maintain your complexion, looking your best?
Well, in the 51 episodes, every week I had to fight sleepless nights because we were filming throughout the night. I definitely didn’t have enough sleep, and the only way to maintain my complexion and health was to focus a lot on my diet. I ate a lot of nuts, fruits and yogurt, and my mom made lunchbox for me. I didn’t have much time for exercise so I focused a lot on diet. Other than that, when I’m stressed, I try to heal myself with music that I like, or good books, or even some of the design magazines that I enjoy. And also because the set was away from the city, we got good, clean and fresh air in the nature. I took a walk quite a number of times to de-stress and to heal myself. I tried to sustain from these conditions while I was filming on set.
What is it about action roles that attract you?
The first role that involved a bit of action was the drama “Damo” and the role that I took up in the drama involved quite a lot of action scenes. I had to learn rhythmic gymnastic which was what the director asked me to do. I was carrying the ribbon and doing the steps 1 to 10 and after a little while, I realized that I had a knife in my hand just like the ribbon that I used in rhythmic gymnastics, I was asked to dance with the knife in front of the stuntman who would probably fall and it was really fun. So the first approach that I took to these action roles was a really fun and exciting experience for me. It was a really good start and I really felt that this is something that I could be good at, and I really enjoyed as well. Thankfully I’m very healthy, and I like exercising, and I think I do enjoy action roles.
All your roles are quite strong and not quite feminine. I’m wondering are you like that in real life or are you actually quite feminine?
If you talk to my friends who were with me through primary, middle, high school and university, they will know that I’m nowhere near all the roles I have tried usually. I am not a tomboy, but rather a quiet girl and probably one of the most feminine one out of all my friends. So my friends are like “Oh what a surprise that you are doing this!” and they always will make remarks like, “This is really not like you.” But this is something that I want to do as my career because it is something that I can be, that I am not, or probably I just long for. It is something that I want to keep doing because I enjoy it. Because it is fun and is something that I have never been before and I think I can try a lot of new things being in these roles that I have taken up. So even my fans who get to know me personally and have face to face interactions are quite surprised to see the difference in my personality, in my roles and my real life. But that is probably something I can offer to my fans as well — there is a bit of twist but I think that is probably what they want to see more out of me and I hope that is what they like me more for.
I heard that they actually call you “Muscle Queen.” Are you proud of the title and which part of your body are you most proud of?
I recommend all women to do weights. It makes me very young and seeing myself in the mirror, by doing more weights, it probably helps lift up my hips a little. And even my chin, I can really see the difference. So I can recommend everybody, please do more weights because cardio is very important, but at the same time, it is very important to have muscle in your body. So it’s quite cool to have this body even though I don’t have to eat chicken breast all the time. I thank my parents for that. I enjoy exercising more and like to show the healthy beauty that I can probably offer, and through that I can show a healthy smile, healthy acting, something that is healthy and not superficial, a little more natural.
Does it mean that your hips are what you are most proud of?
Yes. I like my arms, of course hips too.
Soompi: Are there any scenes in “Empress Ki” that you have regrets about and wished that you had done a bit better?
To be honest, I will put my everything when I’m on the set and when I’m acting. But we are all human beings, I can’t say that everything is perfect. I will see a bit of flaws here and there, but definitely I have no regret about it. I know myself that I have put everything I can put forth, that I can give. That is something I can do at least as an actor, and me giving up everything is something I should do. So there should be something I’m unhappy about, that there can be a bit of improvement, maybe that is something that makes me go forward, I can improve myself, I can be better in the future, so I’m not satisfied sometimes, but I have no regrets.
Ratings-wise, your shows have always been so successful. Is this a form of pressure or a form of motivation?
When choosing a particular role in my future production, I take a long time to consider whether it’s the right one for me, whether I will enjoy living this character for the next six to seven months when I’m involved in this drama. I think that is very important because if this plot or this character cannot move me, then I probably cannot comprehend the emotion that I felt for this character to any of the audience watching me, so this is very important. I try to act as if there is no tomorrow and I really do give my everything. The train of thought I put into selecting the role is to make sure that I can satisfy myself with it and also enjoy it.
How was it like working with the two male leads in the show? Are they very different or similar?
I have never worked with these two actors before. Joo Jin Mo, he is my senior but he is really considerate and very kind, and he smiles a lot, making the entire set a very fun experience for me. So that is something that I appreciate a lot. For Ji Chang Wook, we didn’t expect the chemistry between us to be so great, which is good. At the beginning of the drama, we had some interaction to build up the emotions between these characters and it turned out unexpectedly well. So I think Joo Jin Mo was a little surprised to see the sudden acceleration of love between these two characters. The chemistry in terms of acting was really great for both actors, so I really appreciate that.
If you can use one word to each describe the male leads, what will it be?
If I have to put it in terms of scent because I like smelling a lot of good things, for Joo Jin Mo, I would say it is the “blue ocean” that I feel from him. And for Ji Chang Wook, probably the red flower, a flowery smell from him. You can see that they are really two opposites and they are very different and I think with these two actors, because they are different, they have their own attractiveness and a bit of charm in their own manner.
How many times have you actually been to Singapore and since you will be here for three days, what are you going to do besides working?
After this, later tonight, I think there will be very delicious dinner waiting for me. For tomorrow I hear that I will be going to the Universal Studios Singapore to meet some fans. But I’m a huge fan of “Transformers,” I hear that there is a Transformer ride and I can’t wait to get on that. And also I’m a huge fan of animals, and I heard that the Night Safari in Singapore is amazing and I’d love to visit if there is a chance.
Yesterday when I landed, I actually met a lot of fans at the airport, and I think the welcome that they gave was amazing. It’s my second time in Singapore; I was here for an event previously but I never expected this huge crowd to be waiting for me at the airport and it got me so excited and nervous that I really couldn’t sleep last night. That is something for which I really appreciate these fans.
And also yesterday when I landed, I actually went to eat crab, which is very routine. (Host: Do you like it?) I like it. It’s amazing. If I didn’t have this interview today, I will probably have a bit of alcohol. It was a pity that I couldn’t, so that is something that I really enjoy too.
And, the shopping here in Singapore, I think it is amazing. I was in the car and passing by the streets. It was really bright and tempting for me to go and see every one of the shop. I love to do a lot of things, but if I go back to Korea I have to go right to the movie set, so I think that is a little difficult for me. But I wish I can stay ten more days.
Oh, I just remembered that I will be here next January 9. I will be here meeting with fans in Singapore, so those things that I can’t do this trip, I’m looking forward to doing them next time. I’m all ready to plan in advance and hope to do all the things I can’t do on this trip.
Do you prefer a historical or modern drama?
For the historical drama, I think I’m living in fantasy sometimes as I move away from this modern lifestyle. We dress differently, we speak differently, during those times, it was probably illegal to even hold hands, so I think the emotion that is involved between actors is more passionate. Even though I may not be kissing that person, even by just holding their hands and looking at them, it’s more intimate, stronger than other roles I was involved in. This is something that is very unique about a period drama.
Do you get headache from the heavy head wear?
It is really really heavy. It is not easy to wear it yourself. The more I film this, I could… I just very glad that I didn’t hurt my neck while filming this. Yes, it was very difficult for me.
Among the many leading male actors, who do you have the most chemistry with?
That is definitely a very difficult question. I can’t really think who is better or worse. I have very good chemistry with all the actors that I was acting with. What I try to do is to really go there with an open mind, to pour myself out, and to look at the other actor with the most loving eyes I could probably give to them, they could probably think that it was very lovely and look back to me in the same way. And that’s how the chemistry probably worked out. I enjoyed working with all of them, I still keep in touch with them, I never fight with them. If I had to really point out one person, I think the others will be really….
We hope you had enjoyed the thoughtful answers from Ha Ji Won. Fans in the region, get ready to welcome her back in Singapore early next year!
“Empress Ki” is currently airing on VV Drama (StarHub TV channel 855) on every Monday to Friday at 5.45 p.m. It is also available on VV Drama on Demand (StarHub TV channel 857).
Special thanks to StarHub for inviting Soompi to cover the media conference.
This article is co-contributed by ds dreamer.